CORONAVIRUS

Nurses from the Bristol-Burlington Health District collects a patient's nasal swab at Bristol Hospital's drive-through coronavirus specimen collection station. The station has collected over 120 samples on previous days but, due to a scarcity of specimen collection kits, the hospital collects 40 tests a day. (Mark Mirko/Hartford Courant/TNS)

Tuolumne County could now be days away from having to shut down additional types of businesses and not being able to open schools for in-person education after eight new cases of COVID-19 were reported Thursday afternoon.

The new cases brought the county’s total to 57 over the past two weeks, but the county must remain below 53 new cases over that time period to avoid being placed on the California Department of Public Health’s “watch list.”

Counties are placed on the list if they exceed the limits for any of five factors the state monitors, which includes 100 new cases per 100,000 people over 14 days. The population for Tuolumne County that the state uses is 52,351, so it must stay below 53 new cases.

Other metrics that the state watches include hospitalizations, hospital bed availability and positivity rate, all of which the county is below the state-determined thresholds.

If the county remains on the list for three straight days, the state will order it to shut down businesses and activities that include gyms, places of worship, cultural ceremonies like weddings and funerals, offices for noncritical industries, and personal care services, such as nail salons, body waxing, and tattoo parlors. 

Schools also can’t open for in-person education for counties that are on the list for three or more consecutive days, Tuolumne County Health Officer Dr. Liza Ortiz said earlier this week.

The list included 36 out of the 58 counties in the state as of Thursday, though Butte, Kern and Mono had all been on it for less than three days.

Counties can get off the list by remaining under the state’s thresholds for another three consecutive days.

Due to a delay in state reporting, the county Public Health Department stated on Thursday the county will likely have a few additional days before being placed on the list.

“No action will be taken until we are officially on the list and have gone through the established process with the state,” the department said in its daily update on Thursday.

The total number of cases that the county has reported since the pandemic began was 117 as of Thursday afternoon, with six hospitalized, 27 in isolation and 84 recovered.

One of the new cases identified on Thursday was hospitalized, according to the department. Adventist Health Sonora has six intensive care unit beds, but it’s unknown if any of them are being occupied.

Contact Alex MacLean at amaclean@uniondemocrat.net or (209) 768-5175.

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