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Tuolumne County public health officials announced the death of the 100th resident to COVID-19 on Wednesday and released a statement reflecting on all of the lives lost over the past 18 months.

“Every person who has died during this pandemic was someone’s parent, sibling, child, friend, or neighbor,” the statement from the county Public Health Department said. “As Tuolumne County passes the 100-death mark, we want to recognize all the lives lost to the virus and the tragic impact on their loved ones and our community.”

The county’s latest reported death comes on the heels of nationwide reports that one in 500 Americans have died from coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, the statement said. As of Wednesday, more than 681,000 Americans had died of COVID-19.

The deceased individual was identified as a woman in her 70s who was unvaccinated, according to the county Public Health Department. No further information about her death, including when and where it occurred, was disclosed.

“We have the ability as individuals to reduce the burden of disease on our community,” Dr. Eric Sergienko, the acting Tuolumne County health officer, said in the statement. “Consider those actions, such as vaccination, that you can do to help us all out.”

With the predominance of the delta variant, nationwide hospitalizations and death rates have increased, Tuolumne County Public Health said. The surge is reflected in Tuolumne County’s case rate of 43 per 100,000 and the rise in local hospitalizations. 

Locally and regionally, hospitals have reached ICU capacity and have used the state health officer’s load-leveling order to move patients out of the Central Sierra region to available ICU beds.

“As we continue our fight against COVID-19, we urge the public to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and layer on safety measures such as masking in public spaces, getting tested, avoid large gatherings and staying home when sick,” Tuolumne County Public Health said. “All these acts make a difference in preventing the death of another community member.”

Data updated Wednesday showed more than half the people who live in Tuolumne County are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

As of 3 p.m. Wednesday, 50.1% of Tuolumne County’s population — 27,318 people out of 54,478 total population, including children under 12 who can’t get vaccinated yet — is now fully vaccinated, according to data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Tuolumne County passed the stubborn milestone and lags behind California, which had 69.5% fully vaccinated, and the United States, which had 54.9% fully vaccinated nationwide, according to COVID Data Tracker information collated by the CDC.

Of 18 new cases in Tuolumne County on Wednesday, four individuals were vaccinatedagainst coronavirus, according to Tuolumne County Public Health. In addition, Tuolumne County had 181 active cases, including 11 individuals hospitalized for COVID-19 on Wednesday.

The case rate average of new cases each day over the previous two weeks in Tuolumne County was 43.1 per 100,000 residents, down from 46.3 on Tuesday.

New cases in Tuolumne County were identified as one girl and three boys between 12 and 17; four women and two men between 18 and 29; one man in his 30s; one man in his 40s; three men in their 50s; one woman in her 60s; one woman in her 70s; and one woman in her 80s.

COVID-19 had contributed to the deaths of 100 individuals in Tuolumne County as of Wednesday afternoon. That total included 29 coronavirus deaths since Aug. 1, when the total was 71, with individuals in their 20s, 30s, and 40s among the recently deceased. Two of the 100 individuals who died of COVID-19 were vaccinated. The other 98 were unvaccinated.

Calaveras County has recorded 71 coronavirus deaths since the pandemic began early last year. Calaveras Public Health identified four deceased individuals Tuesday as a man in his 30s, a man in his 60s, a man in his 70s and a woman in her 80s. Calaveras authorities did not release when and where the individuals died or whether they were vaccinated.

“A recent study found that 1 in 3 people aged 18+ who tested positive for COVID-19 reported at least 1 symptom 2 months after the positive test,” the Calaveras County Public Health Division said Wednesday afternoon. “Rates were higher among those 40 and older and those with pre-existing conditions.”

Symptoms of long COVID include: fatigue, loss of taste or smell, shortness of breath, and muscle or joint aches, Calaveras Public Health said. The term “long COVID” is used to describe symptoms experienced from weeks to months by individuals recovering from COVID.

“Being fully vaccinated lowers your risk of severe symptoms, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19,” Calaveras Public Health said. “People should be vaccinated regardless of whether you already had COVID. It has not yet been shown how long you are protected from getting COVID again after you recover from COVID. Vaccination helps protect you even if you’ve already had COVID.”

A Calaveras Public Health mobile vaccination van is now offering free COVID-19 testing. Minors must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

“Please bring health insurance information if available,” the agency stated. “If you're uninsured, the government pays for your test.”

Register to reduce waiting times at https://bit.ly/3wpNEUU online. People who do not have internet access can register at the site. The vaccination van’ schedule this week includes 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday at the Valley Springs Grocery Outlet; 12:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Friday at Utica Park in Angels Camp; and 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Copperopolis Fire Protection District, 370 Main St., Copperopolis.

The biggest testing site in Tuolumne County at the Mother Lode Fairgrounds in Sonora, is supposed to be open seven days a week. The testing site is run by Logistics Health Incorporated, a subsidiary of OptumServe, which is a federal health services contractor being paid by the state of California. Testing is no longer available at Tuolumne Veterans Memorial Hall.

Testing appointments can be scheduled online at www.lhi.care/covidtesting or by calling (888) 634-1123. Testing is also available through Adventist Health Rapid Care and the hospital emergency department if you are experiencing symptoms.

Flu shot clinics hosted by the Tuolumne County Public Health Department are being planned between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Oct. 6, at Sierra Bible Church off Tuolumne Road, and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 13, at 1890 Main St. in Groveland. Tuolumne County Public Health will also offer flu shots 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Tuesdays. Call (209) 533-7401 to make appointments.

Unvaccinated people are 29 times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19 than those who are fully vaccinated, Calaveras County Public Health announced earlier this month, citing a study titled “SARS-CoV-2 Infections and Hospitalizations Among Persons Aged ≥16 Years, by Vaccination Status — Los Angeles County, California, May 1–July 25, 2021.”

“Being fully vaccinated lowers your risk of severe symptoms, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19,” the division stated. “Don’t wait. Vaccinate.”

Anyone 12 and older is eligible for the COVID vaccine. Individuals may register for notification of upcoming clinics and schedule appointments on MyTurn at https://myturn.ca.gov/ or by calling (833) 422-4255. For Information on the various avenues to obtain a vaccination in Tuolumne County, visit www.tuolumnecounty.ca.gov/1317/COVID-Vaccine online.

“As we continue to experience an extremely high rate of new cases daily, Public Health continues to strongly encourage everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated,” Tuolumne County Public Health stated Wednesday.

Wearing masks in public, keeping social distance, avoiding crowds, washing hands, and staying home when sick will help slow the spread of the virus, county Public Health said.

“If you receive a positive test result, please isolate at home and our Public Health team will reach out to you as soon as possible,” the department stated Wednesday.

For information and guidance on isolation and quarantine, visit https://bit.ly/3sf3bGM online.

Testing

When you should get tested: Five days after travel or close contact with others outside your household; as soon as possible if experiencing symptoms; and/or every 14 to 28 days if regularly working with the public.

Testing is available from:

• Local health care providers;

• Adventist Health Sonora, call first: (209) 536-5166;

• Rite Aid at 855 Mono Way, Sonora: www.riteaid.com/pharmacy/services/covid-19-testing

• Mother Lode Fairgrounds, 220 Southgate Drive, Sonora  — 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week. Appointments are recommended and can be scheduled at www.lhi.care/covidtesting or by calling (888) 634-1123.

Vaccinations

• Book vaccine appointments at https://myturn.ca.gov or call (833) 422-4255.

• Homebound residents in Tuolumne County can contact health@tuolumnecounty.ca.gov or (209) 533-7440 for a mobile vaccination appointment. They or their caretakers can also go to https://myturn.ca.gov and select “homebound.”

• CVS and Rite Aid stores in Tuolumne and Calaveras counties: sign up at https://www.cvs.com/immunizations/covid-19-vaccine or www.riteaid.com/pharmacy/covid-qualifier

• Adventist Health Sonora: find more information at www.adventisthealthsonora.org/covidvaccine or call (209) 536-5165.

• The Safeway pharmacy: register at mhealthsystem.com/3127tuolumne or call (209) 533-7812.

• The Save Mart pharmacy: register at https://savemartluckysched.rxtouch.com/smsched/program/covid19/Patient/Advisory or call (209) 536-1118 for Sonora store.

• Twain Harte Pharmacy: call (209) 586-3225 for information and appointments.

• Groveland Pharmacy: call (209) 962-5211 for information and appointments.

• Information on VA Clinic vaccinations: https://www.va.gov/health-care/covid-19-vaccine

Contact Guy McCarthy at gmccarthy@uniondemocrat.net or 770-0405. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.

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