Mendocino County to require masks, allows more outdoor activities

Mendocino County residents will be required to wear masks in public as of May 1, according to a new health order issued Friday that also allows some outdoor recreation and relaxes guidelines for some gatherings.|

Six Round Valley residents have now tested positive for the coronavirus, representing more than half the confirmed cases in Mendocino County, public health officials said Friday night.

None of the six cases - five from the same household, plus a person in a separate home who had contact with them - is considered serious and all are self-isolating safely at home, said county spokeswoman Sarah Dukett. County public health officials and the Round Valley Indian Health Center in Covelo are working together to trace people who may have had contact with the infected patients and test them for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

The six Round Valley cases, three of which were announced Friday, bring Mendocino County’s total to 11 in a population of 89,000.

In a livestreamed message, 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, who is 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.

The tribal clinic has been testing members for the infection and providing staffers with protective equipment, he said.

Also on Friday, Doohan said Mendocino County residents soon will be required to wear masks in public to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, as some regulations were eased Friday in anticipation of a broader relaxation of social limits early next month.

Doohan said that “in early May we will be working toward limited reopening” in step with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s initiatives to revive the state’s crippled economy.

“We need to make sure that we keep our county safe” by limiting transmission of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus, and by “supporting social distancing,” Doohan said in a livestreamed message.

Doohan said the mask mandate, which she said she was considering on Monday, requires people to wear facial covering in any building or any enclosed space, except their home, and in any place outdoors where they cannot keep 6 feet away from other people at all times.

It exempts children under 2 and says masks are “recommended but optional” for children ages 2 to 12.

While the other rule changes were effective immediately, the mask requirement was set to take effect May 1 “to allow time for the general public and employers to procure appropriate facial coverings,” a county press release said.

The order also allows business owners and operators to refuse admission or service to any customer who refuses to wear a facial covering.

Friday’s orders, the fourth version of the county’s stay-in-place mandate, also relaxed two regulations, a move Doohan said was “meant to give us a bit of freedom until early May.”

Residents may now drive up to 20 ?miles from their homes for recreation, instead of the previous limit to go by foot or bicycle or “the shortest distance possible.”

“This is because we know the weather is becoming beautiful and we really want people to recreate outside and be able to safely,” Doohan said.

The social restrictions “may be very inconvenient,” Russ acknowledged.

“I’ve already heard the rumblings that everybody’s going stir crazy with cabin fever,” he said.

The other change permitted singing during livestreamed events with precautions to avoid virus transmission, such as singing behind a Plexiglas screen. The previous order, which limited singing to four people, was based on an episode in Washington state in which 40 chorus members got sick and two died despite practicing social distancing, Doohan said.

Staff Writers Julie Johnson and Chantelle Lee contributed to this report. ?You can reach Staff Writers Guy Kovner at 707-521-5457 or or Lori A. Carter at 707-521-5470 or

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