Inyo County Heads To State Watchlist

Staff Writer

Inyo County’s recent spike in COVID-19 cases has resulted in Inyo exceeding more than one of the state’s metrics used to determine whether a county is placed on the monitoring list and the county will likely be added to that list this week.

The likely addition of Inyo County to the list follows a sharp, large increase in Covid-19 cases in Inyo County over the past few weeks and, a sharp, large increase in the number of deaths in the county as well, many of those rising from the Bishop Care Center; 39 in total. There had also been five deaths in the county from Covid-19 as of last Friday, Aug. 14, county officials said.

That means the county will join Mono County on the state’s dreaded Monitoring Watch List, which will trigger a closure of some indoor businesses, such as gyms and personal service businesses just as it did in Mono County.

Also impacted are school districts, which are now required to open with distance learning.

Dr. James Richardson, Inyo County Public Health officer, already had issued a recommendation to local school superintendents on Aug. 13, to open with distance learning after closely reviewing the county’s local data, as well as national data trends indicating a 90% increase in Covid-19 case positivity rates in children.

During the meeting with superintendents, Richardson emphasized that “with the safety of children and teachers at stake, it is too risky to allow schools to reopen for full or partial in-person instruction. This is the case for both north and south county districts. The only way to allow in-per- son instruction would be to ensure that we have disease activity controlled in the community; which we do not have at this time. It is still essential that we get the virus under control because, as the risk goes up, our safety profile continues to go down.”

Things changed fast, and in the wrong direction, for Inyo County over the past few weeks.

Following a relatively stable period in positive cases over the past few months, Inyo County’s Public Health Division of Health and Human Services was notified on Aug. 14 of the likelihood that the county will be officially placed on the list this week because as of Friday, Aug. 14, Inyo County had 65 active Covid-19 positive individuals, 39 of whom are Bishop Care Center residents or employees.

Independent of the Bishop Care Center cases, the county also witnessed an increased rate of community transmission, officials said, with the local increase in numbers resulting in Inyo County exceeding the state metric rate of greater than 100 cases per 100,000 people over the past 14 days and, a positivity rate of greater than eight percent for the past nine days.

The number of Covid-19 positive patients that have been admitted to Northern Inyo Hospital over the past week has also increased concern regarding impacts to Inyo’s health care infrastructure, officials said.

Also as of Aug. 14, Inyo County had 127 positive test results, 2,940 negative test results and 638 pending results.

Cases with pending results are monitored by medical staff ordering the test; Inyo County Public Health monitors pending results identified as high probability individuals.

The county’s current data would have already resulted in Inyo’s placement on the monitoring list already had the state not placed a hold on adding or removing counties from the list. However, Public Health was notified this week that the state was likely to resume activity beginning next week.

Once the county is placed on the monitoring list, the following industries will be added to the list of businesses that must close indoor operations, but are able to modify to operate outside or by pick-up:
• Gyms and fitness centers
• Personal care services, like nail salons and body waxing
• Hair salons and barbershops
• Places of worship and cultural ceremonies, like weddings and funerals
•Offices for non-critical infrastructure sectors
• Shopping malls