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)

Tuolumne County Public Health staff announced Wednesday they have 500 doses of coronavirus vaccine on hand and plan to administer most of them by the end of this week.

The county also tallied 19 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, including 16 people in the community and three inmates at Sierra Conservation Center state prison near Jamestown. New community cases included two men and two women in their 50s; two men and three women in their 60s; and a man and a woman in their 70s.

On Tuesday, the county was investigating the death of a person who was recently hospitalized for the deadly virus. The deceased person was not identified, and no information was released about when or where the individual was when he or she died. The death will not be added to the county’s data until the investigation has been completed.

The county’s total of deaths where coronavirus was the primary or contributing cause remained at 36 on Wednesday.

In response to public complaints and questions from news media about vaccine distribution, the county Public Health Department said it was working with health care partners to coordinate continued administration of the remaining doses.

“The primary limiting factor to more rapid dispensing of vaccine at this time is the supply of vaccine itself,” the department said Wednesday.

Calaveras County is going to start COVID-19 vaccinations for people who are 75 and older beginning next week, Sam Leach, the interim county Health and Human Services Agency director, said Tuesday. As of 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, the Tuolumne County Public Health Department had no similar timetable for vaccinating individuals 75 and older to share with the public.

“A vaccine interest form has been posted to our website and we are asking only those who meet the criteria for Phase 1A to complete the form if they have not yet been in contact with Public Health to coordinate their vaccination,” Tuolumne County Public Health staff said Tuesday. “We would like to ask the public, rather than calling Public Health directly at this time, that if you fall into Phase 1B or later phases, to please continue following our website and local media for updates.”

The Tuolumne County vaccine information website is at www.tuolumnecounty.ca.gov/1317/COVID-Vaccine online.

As of Wednesday evening, Tuolumne County had counted 3,270 total cases of coronavirus since early this year, with 2,092 community cases, 1,178 inmate cases, and 36 deaths. There were 140 active coronavirus cases and three COVID positive individuals hospitalized as of Wednesday evening.

Also as of Wednesday evening, California had counted more than 2.78 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 31,100 deaths. Nationally, the pandemic had resulted in more than 23 million confirmed cases and contributed to the deaths of more than 384,275 Americans.

A new state travel advisory is in effect, and Californians should avoid non-essential travel more than 120 miles from their place of residence.

The county public health department has been approved to open testing sites at Tuolumne Memorial Hall, 18375 Fir Ave. in the town of Tuolumne, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursdays; and at Groveland Community Hall, 18720 Main Street in Groveland, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays. The first opening date for the new testing site at Tuolumne is expected to be this Thursday, Jan. 14. The first opening date for the new testing site at Groveland is expected to be next Monday, Jan. 18. Appointments can be scheduled at www.lhi.care/covidtesting or by calling (888) 634-1123.

The current regional stay home order is based on intensive care unit availability in the 12-county San Joaquin Valley region, which includes Tuolumne and Calaveras counties. ICU availability for the San Joaquin Valley region remained at 0 percent as of Wednesday, and a four-week ICU projection on a California Department of Public Health map stated “does not meet criteria to exit order.”

Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state Health and Human Services secretary, said in late December stay home order for the San Joaquin Valley region will be extended until projections from the state show ICU capacity above or equal to 15 percent. Projections will be calculated and updated daily moving forward.

“Please stay vigilant, wear a mask, wash your hands and maintain a safe social distance from others to help slow the spread and the impact to our local hospital and healthcare system,” county public health staff said.

On Tuesday, the 13-county Greater Sacramento region that includes Alpine County, which borders Calaveras and Tuolumne counties, exited its regional stay home order, said Richard O. Johnson, the Alpine County health officer.

The COVID-19 testing site at Mother Lode Fairgrounds, set up by the state and run by Optum Serve-LHI, is supposed to be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week and appointments can be scheduled by calling 888-634-1123 or online at www.lhi.care/covidtesting.

People with concerns about new or worsening symptoms can call the Adventist Health Sonora COVID-19 Triage Line at (209) 536-5166 to speak to a nurse or other clinician.

The county COVID-19 call center is open during normal office hours. People who have questions or concerns can call (209) 533-7440 for information.

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

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