June 11, 2020, Fort Detrick, Maryland, USA: Colorized scanning electron micrograph of a cell heavily infected with SARS-CoV-2 virus particles (orange/red), isolated from a patient sample. The image was captured at the NIAID Integrated Research Facility (IRF). (NIAID via ZUMA Wire/TNS)

Three more people in Tuolumne County died of COVID-19 over the weekend, the county Public Health Department reported on Monday, bringing the county’s total of deaths where coronavirus was the primary or contributing cause to 36.

All three were reportedly men and either hospitalized or at a “local care facility,” though the specific facility was not identified. One was in his 60s, one was in his 70s and one was in his 80s, the department said.

The rising death toll in Tuolumne County this winter season corresponds with a grim milestone statewide, as more than 30,000 Californians have now died with coronavirus contributing or causing their deaths, with more than 10,000 of those deaths recorded since early December.

Ten COVID-related deaths that occurred in November and December were announced on Friday by the county Public Health Department, which cited the delayed notification on a report from the California Department of Public Health that identified 13 potential deaths in the final two months of last year that weren’t previously known.

Public health officials investigated the deaths and determined that COVID-19 was the primary or contributing cause for 10 of them, so they were added to the county’s coronavirus death toll that was at 23 prior to Friday.

“The ten additional deaths that were reported were investigated, which includes a death certificate review,” Michelle Jachetta, the county public health director, said on Monday. “As we released in Friday’s statement, those deaths were identified as those in which COVID was the primary or contributing cause of death.”

Some of the 10 individuals were residents of care facilities, and some were not, Jachetta said Monday. Some passed away at private residences or at a hospital.

“I cannot speculate as to whether or not someone would have died had they not acquired COVID-19, as I don’t know each individual’s detailed medical history,” Jachetta said. “I can only restate that COVID is listed as either the primary or a contributing factor to their passing.”

As of Monday evening, California had counted more than 2.7 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 30,000 deaths. Nationally, the pandemic had resulted in more than 22.5 million confirmed cases and contributed to the deaths of more than 375,800 Americans.

Also Monday, the county Public Health Department counted 45 new community cases and 11 new Sierra Conservation Center state prison inmate cases since Saturday. 

New community cases include five women and one man in their 50s; one woman and three men in their 60s; four women in their 70s; one man in his 80s; and a woman in her 90s.

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

Vaccine distribution in the county continues according to state and federal guidelines, county public health staff said. A county vaccine information website is at online.

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 or by calling (888) 634-1123.

Since early this year, there have been 2,067 community cases of COVID-19, and 1,169 inmate cases counted in the county. There were 156 active cases of coronavirus in the county as of Monday evening. Six individuals with coronavirus were hospitalized in the county.

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 Monday, 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.

As of Monday evening, the county had counted 3,268 total cases of coronavirus since early this year, with 1,875 individual cases described as recovered. The state has changed a process in the infectious disease reporting system CalREDIE, which may cause delays in the county’s case reporting, county public health staff said earlier this month.

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

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 or 770-0405. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.

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