22 new coronavirus cases mainly a result of increased testing efforts, Sonoma County officials say
A one-day spike of 22 new coronavirus cases announced late Thursday was mainly the result of Sonoma County’s successful efforts tracking, monitoring and testing people known to have had contact with other residents who have tested positive, officials said Friday.
The largest single-day jump in cases since the pandemic began brought the total number of cases in the county up to 216 on Thursday, and the county reported one additional case late Friday night. But Sonoma County Public Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase said in a media briefing that the spike did not indicate an increase in community transmission, which has remained low in the region.
“I’m happy to say that the majority of the cases that we’ve identified in the last 24 hours are from our intensive contact tracing and testing,” Mase said in a Facebook Live video Friday to update county residents on the coronavirus situation. “We still have very few cases of community transmission.”
Mase said during the media briefing that the county targeted some people for proactive testing because they were “high risk” for contracting the coronavirus since they were exposed to someone who had the virus. Public health officials said 20 of the 22 cases on Thursday were the result of close contact with a confirmed coronavirus case. The remaining two are still under investigation.
On Friday, the county reported that 217 residents have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Two residents have died, 93 have recovered and 122 of them are sick or asymptomatic but still infectious.
Nearly half of the cases were traced to close contact with another confirmed case of COVID-19, according to county data. About 19% of the cases are travel-related and 16% are classified as community spread. The remaining 18% of the cases are still under investigation.
The county has conducted 5,140 tests, and 96% of them have produced negative results. Officials will continue ramping up testing efforts this weekend, through a drive-thru testing program that starts Saturday and is available by apointment only.
Officials plan to test 200 people each day for the next several weeks. For now, only health care workers - both with and without symptoms - can schedule appointments by calling 707-565-4667. The testing site will be in the parking lot of the county’s public health lab at 3313 Chanate Road in Santa Rosa.
Eventually, Mase said the program will expand to include other people who are high risk, including first responders with symptoms and people age 65 and older with underlying health conditions with or without symptoms.
Positive cases identified through Saturday’s expanded testing will require more outreach, testing and monitoring, as the county then sets out to determine who else might have been exposed. Mase said her team has been aggressively recruiting nurses from other departments and is also training a crew of paramedics to do the screening.
Volunteers are being used to make phone calls to those who have been exposed to the virus and doing a lot of the data entry, much of which can be done at home, Mase said. Community clinic sites throughout the county will also be used as the county expands testing to include a larger segment of the population.
“So we do have a whole bunch of people who’ve stepped up, but we do need more staffing if we’re going to do this,” Mase said during the briefing.
Also on Friday, Mase said she plans to loosen some of the county’s shelter-in-place restrictions, starting with reopening parts of local parks as early as next week.
Once the order is issued, Sonoma County will join Lake and Mendocino counties in permitting a soft closure of local parks. Lake and Mendocino counties previously modified their health orders to allow residents to walk, bike or jog through parks. Activities that don’t abide by social distancing guidelines, though, such as picnics or soccer games, are still not permitted at the parks.
Mase couldn’t comment on the details of Sonoma County’s expected new health order, but said it will hopefully allow residents to have “some limited use of the parks.”
“People are going to be able to enjoy the parks, but the physical and social distancing will still be in place,” Mase said, adding that people will be required to wear face coverings as well. “We’re working on the order and we’re planning to get them out next week.”
You can reach Staff Writer Chantelle Lee at 707-521-5337 or email@example.com. On Twitter @ChantelleHLee.