Tuolumne County Public Health

Tuolumne County Public Health said Friday the recent COVID-19 cases seem to stem from four separate clusters of person-to-person contact.

The agency said certain types of activities led to the transmission but they did not say what the activities were.

“A large number of tests are pending and more will be conducted in the next two weeks which may provide more information,” the news release said.

As the number of positive COVID-19 cases soared in the past week, Tuolumne County Public Health has interviewed and begun to monitor symptoms for more than 300 people.

The agency announced Thursday night that it is overwhelmed with tracing cases and has sought help from outside agencies, including tribes, other counties and the Yosemite Gateway Area Coordination Team.

Cases for seven people were announced Thursday, the largest number in one day since March when the virus was found to be in Tuolumne County.

Tuolumne County had no cases announced on Friday, while three cases were announced in Calaveras County.

Two of them live in Valley Springs, which has half of the county’s 31 cases.

The cases are unrelated, Calaveras Public Health said.

The cases involved one man and one woman between the ages of 18 to 49 years, and a man between the ages of 50-64.

One of the people diagnosed is from the Upper Highway 4 corridor, the area of the county with the second largest number of cases.

The department said in a news release, “The source of exposure for each case is being investigated.” 

“We are at an important moment in Calaveras County and across California as businesses and public spaces have reopened. As more people leave their homes, their risk of exposure and infection to COVID-19 increases. We all need to continue to do our part to keep Calaveras safe and healthy for everyone. That means following simple prevention methods such as keeping a safe distance from others when you leave your home and wearing a face covering,” said Dr. Dean Kelaita, Calaveras County health officer. 

In Tuolumne County, 12 cases were identified in the past week, bringing the county total to 22 cases.

“The lists (of contacts being identified) are not yet complete as investigations are ongoing,” said Michelle Jachetta, spokesperson for Tuolumne Public Health.

The department does not release the number of people in quarantine, but Dr. Liza Ortiz, the interim county health officer, told the Board of Supervisors earlier this month there were more than 100 and that was at a time when the caseload was much lower.

She said then the cases of an inmate at Sierra Conservation Center and a caregiver at Sierra Care Center represented a challenge because of the sheer number of people they had been around.

In the past week, the department revealed a woman had attended a baby shower and a BBQ. 

The woman’s family said she was diagnosed at Adventist Health Sonora when she sought treatment for another matter after the parties. She had no symptoms. 

Jachetta said the county’s health order specifically says gatherings of any size are not allowed. The exceptions are those that are constitutionally protected such as religious services and protests. But even those must be a quarter of a facility’s capacity or 100 people, whichever is less, and people must practice physical distancing and wear masks.

Tuolumne and Calaveras counties have been the site of several protests and other gatherings in which many people did not practice distancing or wear masks.

Asked whether Tuolumne Public Health will ask law enforcement to be more assertive in implementing the order, Jachetta said in an email, “We continue to coordinate with our law enforcement partners and solicit their support of local and state health orders and mandates. The public may voice their concerns through several avenues including the Public Health COVID Call Center, law enforcement agencies, their district supervisor or city councilmember or the governor.

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