Mendocino County ramps up testing as California delays National Guard aid to Round Valley

The California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services is weighing a National Guard deployment of medical supplies and assistance to Mendocino County, where six residents of the Round Valley Indian Reservation recently tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, according to county CEO Carmel Angelo.

The California National Guard was scheduled to deliver four emergency surge tents, testing supplies and additional staff for testing and contact tracing to the Round Valley area on Tuesday. But on Monday night, the county received word from the state that the aid had been postponed and possibly canceled.

“They decided they wanted to wait until we got more test results before they deployed their assets,” Angelo said.

The California Governor’s Office Emergency Services has not returned a request for comment.

Public health officials and the Round Valley Indian Health Center in Covelo are working together to test people who may have had contact with the infected patients.

The county has set up a drive-thru testing site in Covelo, near the Round Valley reservation, which has tested about 160 residents in the area, Angelo said. The tests are being processed by the Sonoma County Public Health lab. Angelo said she expects the lab to return results for 10% of those tests by Tuesday.

The county plans to test around 100 more people on Wednesday.

The outbreak on the Round Valley reservation was traced to a tribal member who recently traveled to the Bay Area, Angelo said. That person likely spread the virus to four members of their household and another person in a separate home who had contact with them.

All six members are in stable condition and isolating at home.

Round Valley Indian Tribes could not be reached for comment.

Native Americans as a whole are at higher risk of infectious disease. During the H1N1 outbreak in 2009, the indigenous population died by the virus at a rate four times higher than other ethnic groups, according to a study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Navajo Nation, the country’s largest tribal territory, has reported almost 1,800 coronavirus cases and 59 deaths.

In a livestreamed message last week, Mendocino County’s Interim Health Officer Dr. Noemi Doohan expressed “great gratitude” to the Round Valley clinic and Round Valley Indian Tribal Council for their collaboration with county health officials.

Jim Russ, president of the council and executive director of the clinic, appeared on the livestream with Doohan and said the tribal leaders “took (the pandemic) seriously from the beginning,” declaring a state of emergency in the reservation on March 18.

As of Tuesday, there were a total of 11 confirmed cases in Mendocino County.

Ethan Varian

Housing and homelessness, The Press Democrat 

I've lived in California for most of my life, and it's hard for me to remember when the state hasn't been in a housing crisis. Here in Sonoma County, sharply rising housing costs and increasing homelessness are reshaping what was long considered the Bay Area’s “affordable” region. As The Press Democrat’s housing and homelessness reporter, I aim to cover how officials, advocates, developers and residents are reacting to and experiencing the ongoing crisis.

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