With a huge jump in COVID-19 cases on Tuesday and over the last two weeks, Tulare County Health and Human Services Director Tim Lutz stated its important the county remains vigilant so it can maintain control of its recovery for the coronavirus.
That was the message Lutz gave to the Tulare County Board of Supervisors at their meeting on Tuesday.
There was a huge jump in the number of COVID-19 cases reported on Tuesday. The department reported there have been a total of 3,434 COVID-19 cases in Tulare County. That's an increase of 257 over the 3,177 cases the department reported on Monday.
And there was also a huge increase in the number of active COVID-19 cases in Tulare County. The department reported 753 active cases on Tuesday, an increase of 139 over the 614 that was reported on Monday. Before Tuesday, the number of active cases in Tulare County had been steadily going down.
The department also reported three more deaths due to COVID-19 on Tuesday, bringing the total of deaths due to COVID-19 in Tulare County to 116.
The department did report the number of recoveries continues to increase. The department reported there have been 2,565 people in Tulare County who have recovered after testing positive for COVID-19, an increase of 115 over the 2,450 recoveries that was reported on Monday.
When it comes to the last 14 days, the number of cases has increased from 103.3 per 100,000 to 200.2 per 100,000 which is way above what the state would like to see which is 25 per 100,000.
But while Tulare County is on the state watch list, it continues to receive a variance from the state, allowing it to continue to move forward with re-opening its economy.
“We are consistent with other variance counties in what we're allowing,” said Lutz about the county re-opening.
But he added he doesn't want to get to the point where “we have to close something.” Governor Gavin Newsom on Monday said he didn't rule out a similar shutdown as the one when he ordered a shutdown on March 19 if necessary.
And Lutz said the county doesn't want to be in a situation in which it loses control of its recovery to the state. “Let's keep our local control, let's keep our local response,” Lutz said.
One area that would help the county keep local control while he admitted has become a hot button issue is people wearing face coverings, Lutz said. Governor Gavin Newsom issued an order last week requiring Californians to wear face coverings in public. “Reducing person-to-person spread is important,” said Lutz when it came to wearing masks.
And he admitted the increase in cases is due to increased “community activity” which leads to that person-to-person spread.
He said cases in nursing homes, in places such as food processing plants and businesses in general have also been causes of the increase in cases. And the Porterville Recorder continues to receive anonymous tips of cases happening at local businesses.
Lutz said the county has been in discussion with the state about the cases at nursing homes and food processing plants.
He added Linwood Meadows nursing home continues to have more cases — an additional 19 over the last two weeks. And another outbreak has been reported at Visalia's Kaweah Manor — 16 cases, Lutz said.
And of the number of deaths in Tulare County before the three deaths were reported on Tuesday, 91 of the 113 deaths were attributed to nursing homes.
“We all expected we were going to see an increase,” said Lutz about the number of cases. But Lutz said what's concerning is the speed in which they are happening.
California has a new metric which measures how the reproduction of the virus is increasing. Less than 1 means a decrease, more than 1 means an increase. Tulare County is at 1.16 while the state is at 1.06.
There's also a concern about business, particularly restaurants and bars, not following the guidelines when it comes to reopening. Of the 700 restaurants in Tulare County only 267 — 38 percent — have filed the paperwork to state they're following the guidelines. Lutz said the department will reach out to those businesses to provide them whatever help they need in meeting the guidelines.
And Lutz said the department has received calls and e-mails from those who state there are restaurants and bars who are “flagrantly” violating social distancing requirements.
Lutz said the COVID-19 alternative site at Porterville Developmental Center still hasn't received any patients and a “soft closing” of the facility could be done on June 30. But he said the facility could be reopened if needed.
As far as testing, the county is meeting one state standard, but failing in another. Tulare County is within 80 percent of the number of tests the state wants as its at 90 percent at both of its testing sites in Dinuba and the Porterville Veterans Hall.
He said those sites are beginning to schedule 144 appointments a day to account for no-shows so they will can do the capacity of 132 tests per day. He also said the county will work to provide testing at work sites such as for farm workers who can't make it to the testing sites.
But the county now doesn't meet the state standard of having a positivity rate of less than 8 percent. The state has reported 10.6 of the county's tests are coming back positive while the county is now reporting its now above the threshold at 9 percent. The county and state do have different standards on calculating the positivity rate.
On its map, the department is no longer providing a specific number of cases for Porterville or Southeastern Tulare County. There have been about 300 cases in Southeastern Tulare County, which includes Porterville.
The department reported that has been 62 cases in Pixley, 17 cases in Tipton 15 cases in Terra Bella. The official tally for Lindsay is 179 cases.
There have been 508 cases in Dinuba and 525 cases in Tulare. There have been 35 cases in Strathmore, seven cases in foothill/mountain communities, 40 cases in Exeter, 105 cases in Earlimart, 11 cases in Richgrove, 12 cases in Goshen, 21 cases in Traver, 33 cases in Woodlake, 145 cases in Orosi, 11 cases in the Reedley area and 11 cases in Orange Cove.
Visalia has been divided into two regions with 409 cases in one region and 339 cases in the other region.
There have been 42 cases reported as travel-related, 1,563 cases due to person-to-person contact and 1,829 cases under investigation.
There have been 370 cases ages 0-17, 496 cases ages 18-25, 844 cases ages 26-40, 1,125 cases ages 41-64 and 599 cases ages 65 and older.
The number of people in self-quarantine in Tulare County who are being monitored by public health officials remained about the same at 986.
There are 49 hospitalizations due to COVID-19 in Tulare County. Of the 49 hospitalizations, 10 are in intensive care. The department reported there are 420 confirmed COVID-19 cases in nursing homes in Tulare County.
With a population of about 470,000 people, Tulare County has more than 6.8 cases per 1,000, or .68 percent.
As of Monday, the doubling time — the amount of days it would take for cases to double — had been increase in Tulare County as it was up to 27.1 days, meaning the curve in cases was remaining flat. But with the surge in cases on Tuesday, that doubling time should come down.
As of 5 p.m. Monday, Sierra View Medical Center reported it had 69 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 17 inpatient COVID-19 cases. Sierra View has had 13 deaths due to COVID-19.
The hospital reported it has had 1,822 tests done as of Monday while there have been 8,137 tests done at the Tulare County testing lab.