Tuolumne County experienced its biggest increase in COVID-19 cases Thursday when seven people were diagnosed.
That means the caseload has doubled in a week to 22.
Dr. Liza Ortiz, the county health officer, said in a news release, “This rapid increase in cases is in line with the increase being experienced throughout the state, importantly in our neighboring valley counties. Based on our investigations and disease surveillance, it is clear that Tuolumne County is experiencing community transmission of the virus.”
She said if the trend continues it may be necessary to close businesses again and stop certain activities to mitigate the spread of the disease.
The new cases are men aged 38 and 40, and women aged 21, 30, 7, 10, and 4.
Ortiz said it has become especially important for people to follow the basic rules - wear masks, stay home, stay six feet apart, avoid gatherings and wash hands.
She said face masks are a legal mandate, not a suggestion.
“We continue to strongly encourage the public to adhere to this mandate, and to respect businesses and facilities who are following the mandate and are requiring their customers and clients to do the same,” she said.
Also, any gathering of people from different households increases the risk of the virus spreading.
“It is important that people not attend gatherings with people outside of their households, even private gatherings. It is not advisable for people to participate in protests, spend time in crowds or crowded areas, or travel outside of their community. Participating in such activity puts this community at further risk,” she said.
She said several of the recent cases were from people who attended some sort of gathering.
Three cases were announced over the weekend — a 30-year-old man, a 70-year-old woman and a 64-year-old woman. Health officials said the woman attended a baby shower and a BBQ and, although the woman is in isolation, some of the people who attended the parties are not cooperating with a quarantine order.
A family member of the woman, who did not want to be identified for fear of reprisal from some in the community, said the woman did not know she was positive until after the parties when she sought treatment at Adventist Health for another matter.
She did not show any symptoms for COVID-19, the family member said. The hospital did a precautionary test as part of her treatment for the other issue, the family member said.
Other recent cases were a 59-year-old man whose results were announced June 13 and a woman who is a caregiver at Sierra Care Center. That case was announced June 10.
A 30-year-old man was identified Wednesday as the 15th confirmed case and he was isolated at home as of Wednesday afternoon. On Tuesday, an 86-year-old man was hospitalized and a 34-year-old woman was isolating at home.
Also testing positive recently was an inmate at Sierra Conservation Center.
As of Thursday, 12 people were in isolation. The health department is not releasing information on the number of people in quarantine or where the people with the virus live.
The caseload for contact tracing is so great, Ortiz said, Tuolumne County has asked for help from other counties, tribal partners and the Yosemite Gateway Area Coordination Team.
She said she has been questioned about the limited information on each case, but that is because this involves personal information about someone’s health.
“A person’s health status often changes throughout the progression of the disease,” she said. The people have experienced a range of symptoms in 18 cases known to be contracted locally, from no symptoms to severe requiring medical attention or hospitalization.
“We do report whether individuals are isolating at home, if they are hospitalized, when they have recovered, or if they have passed away,” she said. “Thankfully, we have not yet had any COVID-related deaths in Tuolumne County.”
The test facility in Angels Camp announced Thursday they will no longer take walk-ins due to the high number of people being tested.
Appointments can be made at www.LHI.care/covidtesting or by calling (888) 634-1123.
In all 2,770 people in Tuolumne County have been tested.