CORONAVIRUS

Nurses from the Bristol-Burlington Health District collects a patient's nasal swab at Bristol Hospital's drive-through coronavirus specimen collection station. The station has collected over 120 samples on previous days but, due to a scarcity of specimen collection kits, the hospital collects 40 tests a day. (Mark Mirko/Hartford Courant/TNS)

Calaveras County recorded eight new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, an increase Public Health officials called “alarming.”

Dr. Dean Kelaita, Calaveras County health officer, said this is the largest single-day increase since the first cases were diagnosed in March. In all, 40 cases have been diagnosed with half of them being in Valley Springs. Seventeen people have recovered.

Two new cases were reported in Tuolumne County. One was a man in his 30s and a woman in her 50s. They are isolating at home.

At least one of the cases, and possibly both, are not considered to be from the four clusters that have been identified. That brings Tuolumne County’s case load to 30.

Nineteen people are in isolation, one in the hospital and 3,446 people tested.

Kelaita said he’s not ordering business closures in Calaveras County but may be forced to if people do not follow the guidelines of limiting gatherings, wearing face masks and maintaining social distance.

“What we are seeing in Calaveras County is the beginning of a significant outbreak of COVID-19 in several regions of our community. Widespread community transmission is now taking place in the Valley Springs area, and other locations are also reporting increasing disease activity,” Kelaita said. “If things continue at this rate, we are in very serious risk of overwhelming our local hospital and limited ICU capacity.” 

Mark Twain Hospital in San Andreas has five ICU beds and 25 acute care beds, according to its website. The health department did not report conditions on any of the people still suffering from the virus.  

Kelaita said neighboring San Joaquin County reported 294 new cases on Monday alone and 133 are hospitalized there.

The increases were attributed to social gatherings and people not following guidelines such as wearing masks in public.

“We are at an important moment in Calaveras County where we need to take immediate action to slow the spread of COVID-19. Businesses that have reopened must closely adhere to health directives,” Kelaita said. 

He said masks, handwashing and staying home are “simple and scientifically effective methods” to stem transmission.

“If our community can do these simple actions every day, we can beat this pandemic and protect the most vulnerable members of our community,” Kelaita said. 

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