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Sonoma County braces for post-holiday coronavirus spike, boosts virus testing

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Sergio Guzman of Santa Rosa receives a COVID-19 swab from Sonoma County Public Health nurse Devin Andrews as Nicole Callopy assists, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020 at Andy's Unity Park in Santa Rosa. At left is Adriana Andres and Ellen Armour (Kent Porter / The Press Democrat) 2020

Anticipating a surge in demand following a busy Thanksgiving holiday week, Sonoma County is expanding coronavirus testing, adding a third state-sponsored site in Petaluma as well as a third drive-thru lane at the test location at Sonoma County Fairgrounds.

With the expansion, the county expects to soon nearly double its daily testing capacity at the three public test locations to 1,155 virus tests.

Sonoma County Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase said Monday there was “a huge uptick in testing” even before the holiday, as families and friends planned to get together.

“OptumServe has been completely full, the Windsor location as well as the Santa Rosa fairgrounds location,” she said of the free testing sites provided by the state. “Now we could expect probably to see even more people who want to get a test, because they may have traveled.”

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California imposes overnight curfew to stem coronavirus

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Motorists wait in long lines to take a coronavirus test in a parking lot at Dodger Stadium, Wednesday, Nov 18, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

SACRAMENTO — California is imposing an overnight curfew for nearly all residents as the most populous state tries to head off a surge of coronavirus cases that threatens to overwhelm its health care system, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Thursday.

What officials are calling a limited stay-at-home order requires people who are not on essential errands to stay home from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. starting Saturday. The order will last until Dec. 21 but could be extended if disease trends don’t improve.

The curfew covers 94% of the state’s nearly 40 million residents, including Sonoma County. It’s in place in 41 of the state’s 58 counties that have the most significant increases in virus cases and face the most severe restrictions under California’s four-tier system for reopening the economy.

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Equity metric focused on Latino communities COVID-19 case rates fails in Sonoma County

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SANTA ROSA, Calif. (KGO) — As California continues to reopen its economy, state officials are now implementing ‘the equity metric’ in order to bring down COVID-19 rates in disadvantaged communities, hardest hit by the pandemic.

Sonoma County is the only Bay Area County still in the most restrictive purple tier, and on Tuesday, the county failed the equity metric.

County and community leaders are strategizing about how to help the Latino community, and in turn all of Sonoma County, decrease COVID cases.

KBBF radio in Santa Rosa is on the frontline of the fight. The station, 89.1FM, was the first public bilingual radio station in the country at its founding in 1973. KBBF is volunteer and donation-based, and yet it’s responsible for giving critical information to Sonoma County’s Latino community, which accounts for 54% of the county’s COVID cases.

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Coronavirus hospitalizations in Sonoma County fall to 2-month low

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The number of Sonoma County residents afflicted with the coronavirus who need hospital care has fallen to the lowest level since early July, the result of an overall infection decline and fewer new cases among vulnerable residents of area senior care homes, local health officials said Monday.

County Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase said during a press briefing the number of fresh virus infections countywide has been declining for more than a week, and that downward trend is leading to fewer hospitalizations.

The county’s elderly nursing home residents have comprised at least 80% of the 114 individuals who have died in six months from the pandemic disease, and now infection-control improvement at senior care sites is helping to curtail virus-related hospitalizations.

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Santa Rosa Police Department fined $32,000 over workplace coronavirus outbreak, detective’s death

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California’s workplace safety agency announced a $32,000 fine against the Santa Rosa Police Department on Tuesday, citing the department’s failure to safeguard its employees from the coronavirus, which afflicted at least nine Santa Rosa officers in the earliest weeks of the pandemic and killed a veteran detective.

Marylou Armer, who died March 31 from the respiratory disease, was exposed at work to a colleague who had known symptoms of COVID-19, Cal/OSHA disclosed for the first time Tuesday.

Armer, 43, was the first known California peace officer to have died from complications of the disease, and her loss marked a heart-wrenching and anxious period for Santa Rosa police, as the department faced a widening outbreak within its sworn ranks through at least mid-April.

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Sonoma County Health Officer Claims Day Cares and Schools ‘Infected’

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Sonoma County’s public health officer Dr. Sundari Mase claims there are Coronavirus outbreaks at 13 Sonoma County preschools and home-based child care centers that have infected 62 people.

The Press Democrat reports “The infections involve 25 children, mostly age 6 and younger, 27 of their family members and 10 workers at the preschools. None of the individuals diagnosed with the highly contagious infectious disease have needed to be hospitalized, county Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase said.”

Sonoma County population is 493,334. There have been 114 deaths attributable to Coronavirus in Sonoma County.

Sonoma County has conducted 160,418 coronavirus tests, with only 6,998 positives. That means of the 160,418 Sonoma County residents tested, 153,420 tested negative.

Of the 67 available ICU beds in the county, 15 are being used.

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Coronavirus outbreak at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital causes worries among employees

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Kent Porter / The Press Democrat
Kent Porter / The Press Democrat

Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital officials confirmed Tuesday that the first coronavirus cases among employees appeared in early August, weeks before the end of last week when hospital officials announced the outbreak internally to the entire team.

Hospital CEO Tyler Hedden wrote on Aug. 29 in a staff memorandum that 13 employees had contracted the virus. Then hospital officials on Monday confirmed the number of employee infections had increased to 17. On Tuesday, officials of the county’s largest hospital declined to say if more of the 2,017 workers had been diagnosed with the infectious disease or give a reason for the delay in notifying staff earlier when the outbreak began.

News of the outbreak has caused concern among some hospital employees who claim management has not been sufficiently transparent with them about the infections among colleagues.

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Little League baseball in Santa Rosa helps ease pandemic isolation

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Kent Porter / The Press Democrat
Kent Porter / The Press Democrat

The smack of a baseball landing in a worn leather glove. The ping from a line drive off a metal bat. Cries of “good cut.” Those sweet summer sounds mostly have been silenced by the coronavirus.

But not in Santa Rosa.

A handful of regional Little League teams have decided the need for young players outdoor physical activity was not only worth the potential health risk, but essential in a time when youths are cooped up at home, can’t go to school and spend far too much time with eyes glued to screens.

“It has just been an amazing blessing for everyone — the parents, kids, everyone is so happy to be out here,” said Michael Wooley, president of the Santa Rosa American Little League. “I’ve had several parents from our teams and others saying they see a spark in their kids that they haven’t seen in months.”

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Families of special education students feeling particular pain of distance learning in pandemic

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Alvin A.H. Jornada / The Press Democrat
Alvin A.H. Jornada / The Press Democrat

Rebekah Rocha is at her Windsor home doing two — or three — things at once. She’s on the phone and answering the door, all while talking to her daughter, Gigi, who is in the bathroom.

Gigi is nearly 12, the middle of Rocha and her husband Jose’s three children. Gigi was born with 5p- Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that causes delays in cognition and gross and fine motor skills, as well as in speech and language.

She had been learning to use the toilet but regressed since the coronavirus pandemic shuttered schools in March. Gigi is nonverbal and Rocha describes her as “severely handicapped,” and yet she thrived in her fifth grade class at Brooks Elementary School last year. There, she received special education support but was also integrated into a general education classroom.

Without school — without the routine, regular therapy sessions and daily socialization with peers — Gigi has struggled. And that has meant Rocha has struggled, too. A painstakingly crafted schedule for two working parents with three kids — one with special needs — started to show cracks early in the shelter in place last spring when all three kids could no longer attend school and Rocha was forced to work from home.

On this day, Rocha, principal at Cesar Chavez Language Academy in Santa Rosa, pulls the phone away from her face to give the just-arrived babysitter an update on Gigi’s progress in potty training. Rocha tells the sitter that she has been rewarding her daughter’s success on that front with small bathtub toys. She returns to the phone.

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Sonoma County hospitals in good shape for now

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Kent Porter / The Press Democrat
Kent Porter / The Press Democrat

Early during the local coronavirus pandemic, maybe 1% of the patients occupying a hospital bed at Santa Rosa Memorial and Petaluma Valley hospitals had a diagnosis of COVID-19. But that share has grown steadily, particularly in the past month, just as it has across the state.

By the Fourth of July, some 5% of patients at both hospitals, which are run by Providence St. Joseph Health Sonoma County, had the virus, said Dr. Chad Krilich, the hospitals’ chief medical officer. Now, he said, 10% of patients have the virus, though most of them are not being treated in intensive care units.

Coronavirus hospitalizations across the state have surpassed levels reached during the first wave of the virus and hospitals in some regions, particularly in Southern California and the Central Valley have been forced to transport patients to other counties, according to the California Hospital Association.

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