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Mendocino County was one of the first in California assigned to the Yellow Tier (least restrictive) with less than 15 new Covid cases per week. We had no one in our hospitals most days, and deaths were rare. Over 59.6% of our community has now received at least one dose of vaccine.
A lot has changed in the last two weeks. New cases have nearly tripled, and more are in the hospital. We see this pattern in a surge. Testing is way down, crippling our ability to quarantine and blinding us to the spread of disease and the increase of variants in our community; this hurts our most vulnerable and essential workers who have not been able to get vaccinated.
This past week President Biden and Governor Newsome announced that some people might not need masks since vaccines are effective. So, many people, employers, and store owners want to stop following the State and County mandates that are still in force. Yet masks have proven effective from operating rooms to industry. They are cheap, effective, and accessible. Wearing a mask prevents the disease from spreading to those still at risk.
As the Public Health Officer for Mendocino County, I have been asked what we should do now?
Here are my thoughts:
- There is science behind the statements made by the President, the Governor, and the CDC. These statements should give us HOPE but not be taken as the WHOLE TRUTH.
- There are many unanswered questions like how long do these vaccines last? How effective are they for the elderly or ill? How effective are they against the new variants? Do they prevent transmission?
- Ending the mask requirement may be ok for some now, but not for all.
- There is now a danger of surge, which could cripple our economy just as we are trying to get back to normal.
We are living in 2 worlds, one for those who are vaccinated and are very safe. Another world (over half in Mendocino County) exists for those who are not fully vaccinated – for various reasons. Some have not been able to get a vaccine due to transportation or work. Some are suspicious of the health system, the government, fear being fired or being deported. And some still fear side-effects of vaccination more than Covid, which has claimed over 3 million lives worldwide, almost 600 thousand in the US, and 49 of our Mendocino County neighbors.
We continue making vaccinations available to all. My advice is to GET VACCINATED and wear your MASKS in public, inside or outside, when you cannot keep 6 feet of distance from others who are not part of your household and may unwittingly carry this deadly virus.
Have parties and events outside as much as possible. Keep the numbers low and eat outside 6 feet apart.
TEST often (I recommend monthly) whether or not you are vaccinated– especially before big events (graduation or other celebrations) or travel (and upon return). Testing helps us know what is happening in our community and makes disease control possible. And if you are called for an abnormal result, please cooperate to protect yourself and your loved ones so the County can offer services you may need.
Working together, our County will keep the spread of COVID down, and we will be able to return to work and play soon.
Andrew Coren, M.D.
Mendocino County Health Officer