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This transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. (NIAID/TNS)

Calaveras County Public Health staff confirmed three more deaths due to COVID-19 and five new cases on Tuesday, the same day the county Board of Supervisors appointed an interim health officer, Dr. Paul Beatty.

The deceased individuals were identified as two women and one man, all over age 65. Two of the three deaths were linked to the coronavirus outbreak among residents at Avalon Health Care in San Andreas, where 16 people had died due to COVID-19 as of Tuesday afternoon.

“Despite our best efforts to prevent COVID-19 from being introduced into our facility, we can confirm that we have had a total of 64 residents test positive for the virus since the beginning of the pandemic,” the company that runs the nursing home said in a statement dated Monday this week.

Calaveras public health staff continue to work with Avalon infection control staff to monitor and track new cases of COVID-19 among residents and staff. There have been a total of 21 confirmed deaths related to COVID-19 counted in Calaveras County.

The five new cases of coronavirus in Calaveras County included two women and one man 18 to 49 years old, and two men over age 65.

As of Tuesday, Calaveras public health staff had counted 347 confirmed cases of COVID-19, seven active cases and 319 individuals recovered.

Beatty replaces Dr. Dean Kelaita, who resigned earlier this month and said he was doing so due to politics interfering with his job. Beatty attended medical school at Michigan State University, completed his residency in California, and moved to Calaveras County in 1982. Beatty lost his home during the 2015 Butte Fire that burned 110 square miles, destroyed more than 800 homes and other structures, and killed two residents. Beatty has since rebuilt in Calaveras County.

Tuolumne County public health staff counted four new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, with 19 individuals described as active cases, and warned a significant increase in coronavirus cases noted in the past 10 days appears to be continuing.

All four new cases were in isolation. One person who was hospitalized with COVID-19 was discharged and isolating at home. Three people who were previously isolated had recovered. There were seven new cases counted in Tuolumne County on Monday. 

There were 21 new cases counted in Tuolumne County last week. A second consecutive week with that many or more cases will push Tuolumne County into a substantial risk, more restrictive category on a statewide Blueprint for a Safer Economy scale, county public health staff said.

New cases in Tuolumne County this week and last week represent both person-to-person spread, where the source of infection is known, and community spread, where it is not, county public health staff said. Some of the new cases counted in the past week have included individuals connected with two known clusters at unidentified businesses in the county.

As of Tuesday, 279 cases of COVID-19 had been counted in Tuolumne County since March, with 242 individuals recovered, one individual hospitalized, and four deaths.

No-cost COVID-19 testing is available at Frogtown outside Angels Camp five days a week, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday. The test site at Calaveras County Fairgrounds offers testing for anyone age 3 and older, accompanied by a parent or guardian. Walk-in opportunities for testing are limited. Appointments can be scheduled ahead of time at www.lhicare.com/covidtesting online.

The Frogtown testing site will move to the Mother Lode Fairgrounds in Sonora next week. The move is expected to happen Sunday, Nov. 1, to Monday, Nov. 2, with a start date for appointments and testing on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3. Testing site hours of operation in Sonora are expected to remain 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday. Anyone who wants to be tested for COVID-19 can register online or call (888) 634-1123.

Local, state and federal public health authorities have warned this flu season could strain healthcare resources in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Getting a flu vaccine will not protect anyone against COVID-19, but it can reduce an individual’s risk of flu illness, hospitalization, and death.

Free flu shots are available at the Tuolumne County Health Department building at 20111 Cedar Road North, Sonora, 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Tuesdays for anyone 2 and older. Face coverings are required, social distancing guidelines must be followed, and all visitors will be screened for symptoms of COVID-19. Public health staff urge anyone with questions to call (209) 533-7401.

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

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