Coronavirus cell

Elizabeth Fischer uses an electron microscope to capture images of the coronavirus, which is about 10,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair. (Elizabeth Fischer/KHN/TNS)

Cases of COVID-19 are surging again Tuolumne County, with the daily rate of new infections more than doubling in the past two weeks and a 149th coronavirus death counted Tuesday.

The Tuolumne County Public Health Department was so overwhelmed by the increase it has started using “virtual agents” to contact individuals who have tested positive for the potentially deadly disease.

There were 94 new COVID-19 cases reported Tuesday, including two inmates at the Sierra Conservation Center state prison outside Jamestown. Sixty-two of the new cases were unvaccinated individuals. There were 298 active cases in the county, with 10 individuals hospitalized, seven of them unvaccinated.

The county Public Health Department identified the person whose death was announced Tuesday as an unvaccinated woman in her 60s, though it did not provide any details on when or where she died. It was the first death in the county attributed to the virus since Dec. 10.

Meanwhile, the county’s daily case rate continued climbing on Tuesday to 46.4 per 100,000 residents averaged over the previous two weeks. That was up from 37 per 100,000 on Monday and 17.1 per 100,000 two weeks earlier on Dec. 21.

Whether all the new cases were due to spread of the more-contagious omicron variant or not, the county Public Health Department was reminding people that the agency’s pandemic response team continues case investigation and contact tracing efforts.

“Due to the large increase in cases that we are experiencing, we will not reach everyone,” the agency said Tuesday in an update. “If you receive a positive test result, you will likely receive a text or email from a ‘Virtual Agent’ to make contact and provide some information on what to do next. You can help slow the spread of COVID-19 by responding to texts, calls, or emails, and self-isolating when you have symptoms or a positive test result.”

It’s also crucial to notify any close contacts you’ve had from two days before you became ill or got tested, the department said. Any close contacts should follow current quarantine guidance and get tested three days to five days after exposure.

“If you are at high risk of severe disease or hospitalization, you can contact your doctor to discuss potential treatment options,” the department said. “If you are not symptomatic, have not tested positive for COVID-19 recently, and are not in quarantine, get vaccinated or boosted.”

New community cases Tuesday in Tuolumne County were identified as four girls and two boys under age 12; two girls and one boy between 12 and 17; eight women and five men between 18 and 29; 14 women and 10 men in their 30s; 10 women and eight men in their 40s; eight women and two men in their 50s; five women and five men in their 60s; two women and two men in their 70s; one man in his 80s; and one woman and two men age 90 or older.

The California Department of Public Health issued updated isolation and quarantine guidelines for the public and for healthcare personnel over the past weekend. The updated Tuolumne County local health order for isolation and quarantine can be viewed at https://bit.ly/3FVT0gz online.

Cal/OSHA Emergency Temporary Standards are still in effect in the workplace, Tuolumne County Public Health said Tuesday.

The COVID-19 testing site at Mother Lode Fairgrounds off Stockton Road in Sonora is supposed to be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week. The 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.

For testing appointments at other locations, Tuolumne County Public Health has urged people to visit https://lhi.care/covidtesting online or visit a pharmacy that offers testing.

Also Tuesday, the Calaveras County Public Health Division added 39 new cases of COVID-19. Calaveras County’s coronavirus death toll was at 94, with its two most recent deaths counted Dec. 29. Its public health division does not publicly disclose vaccination status of new cases or deaths.

The Tuolumne County Public Health Department has been reminding people that booster shots are available and recommended for anyone 16 and older. The agency emphasized that ages 16 and 17 should get Pfizer boosters only.

“It is recommended to get a booster shot as soon as you’re eligible,” Tuolumne County Public Health said. “If you got a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, get a booster after six months. If you got a J&J vaccine, get a booster after two months. Your booster shot can be a different vaccine than you received before as long as you’ve completed your original vaccination series.”

For more about booster eligibility visit www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/COVID-19/Vaccine-Booster-QA.aspx 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.

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

• 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 (209) 770-0405. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.