Five more coronavirus deaths in Sonoma County, lifts pandemic death toll to 98 victims

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With five additional victims of the coronavirus, Sonoma County’s pandemic death toll stands two short of 100 people.

Each of the latest fatalities involved people 65 or older with underlying medical issues who were residents of area senior care homes, county public health officials said Wednesday. One was a man who died Sept.1 at a local hospital, while the other four were women who lived in skilled nursing homes and died there between Sept. 1 and Sept. 4.

That means at least 80 of 98 local victims of COVID-19 were residents of either nursing homes or residential care centers, which include assisted or senior living sites and board and care homes.

As fatalities connected with the infectious disease continue to mount, Dr. Sundari Mase, the county’s health officer, on Wednesday warned that the early start of wildfire season and its related hardships of poor air quality, electrical blackouts and evacuations increase the risk of further spread of the coronavirus. She said even as many residents grapple with those challenges they need to be mindful of the highly contagious pandemic disease.

“Unfortunately we still have months of fire season ahead of us and we need to do all that we can to lower (virus) transmission rates, even if we have to evacuate or stay indoors because of smoke,” Mase said.

During public health announcements made via Facebook Live, Mase said juggling the ongoing pandemic and wildfire safety will require diligent planning on the part of local residents. She reminded people to be sure there fire evacuation “go bags” contain facial coverings and hand sanitizer.

“Carry your face covering with you at all times when you leave the house,” she said. “You never know when you’ll be in a situation where you are within six fee of other people that are not part of your household.”

Mase urged residents to take public health safety precautions, if they decide to stay with extended family or friends during blackouts or evacuations. The key ones she cited are wearing facial coverings, staying in a separate bedroom and using a separate bathroom, if possible, when temporarily living with friends or relatives.

Separately, the county reported Wednesday the fewest new daily coronavirus cases — 41 — in more than a month. The same day a week ago the county reported 150 new infections. Overall, county public health officials reported 6,488 COVID-19 cases, as of Wednesday night, since the pandemic started in mid-March. Of the tally, 4,347 people have recovered from the virus, while 2,043 residents continue to struggle with it.

Although daily infections dipped, Mase said more time is needed to determine if new local cases actually are trending downward. Sometimes the number of cases added a day is affected by delays in reporting them.

The county’s COVID-19 new case rate per 100,000 residents continues to be twice the threshold for moving to a lower level of business restrictions, under the state’s new four-tier commercial reopening plan. Sonoma County remains in the widespread virus transmission stage, or the tier with most limitations for businesses.

The county’s new daily case rate per 100,000 residents stands at 13 and the local coronavirus test positivity rate is 11.5%, according to the latest county public health data. They are the two benchmarks state officials are using to judge virus spread in each county and each locale’s readiness for business activities with fewer limitations.

In order to advance to the next stage, Sonoma County would have to bring its average daily virus case rate per 100,000 residents down to 7. It also would need its virus test positivity percentage, the share of all tests that come back positive, to drop under 7%.

State officials reassess the two public health metrics every Tuesday in all 58 California counties. And each time a county misses the mark on either one to progress to a less restrictive business operating stage, it must wait at least three more weeks before it can advance.

You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 707-521-5213 or On Twitter @pressreno.

Track coronavirus cases in Sonoma County, across California, the United States and around the world here.

For more stories about the coronavirus, go here.

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