The county gave an update on its COVID-19 numbers Wednesday night, bringing back into focus the pandemic that’s in some ways taken a backseat while local residents grapple with its second fire of the year. While Sonoma County’s virus case statistics have been steadily improving, the evacuation of a sizable number of Sonoma County residents leaves some unknowns for how case rates may fluctuate in the weeks ahead.
As of Tuesday night, the county has 7,528 total virus cases, with 1,253 cases active and 6,153 recovered. There have been 122 deaths.
The county remains in the state’s purple tier, making it the only county in the Bay Area to still be marked as having “widespread” transmission of the virus. During the state’s weekly Tuesday evaluation of where counties in California stand when it comes to virus metrics, the only other Bay Area county in the purple tier, Contra Costa, was bumped to the red tier, denoting “substantial” virus spread. If a county stays on a lower tier for two weeks (if Sonoma County were to move to the red tier, for example), new business sectors are allowed to open and some additional health order restrictions may be loosened.
The tier designation is based on two metrics — new positive cases per day per 100,000 residents and test positivity rate.
As of Sept. 30, the daily case rate for Sonoma County is 7.8 new cases per day per 100,000 people, which is slightly above the lower than 7 cases per 100,000 that would allow the county to move into the red tier designation. The county has a 4% test positivity rate, which is below the percentage required to move down to the state’s red tier. Counties must meet both metrics in order to be reclassified.
However, as county case numbers are reaching levels that point toward Sonoma County being classified as only having “substantial” virus spread, tens of thousands of people residing in the county have had to evacuate their homes due to the Glass Fire.
“As we face yet another wildfire, this time with tens of thousands of evacuees, it’s important to remember the basics when evacuating during COVID-19,” Sonoma County Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase said. “Though it becomes more difficult to do, we strongly urge you to remember the fundamentals of COVID-19 safety and all of the mitigation measures we’ve been talking about. Wear a face covering whenever possible. Keep your distance from others, at least six feet away from non-household members if at all possible. Wash your hands often, clean surfaces and follow all of the general hygiene measures we’ve been talking about all along.”
For those who may be evacuated to someone else’s house, Mase urged people to remember to wear a face covering in shared spaces, disinfect surfaces after use, maintain distance and, if possible, have the person stay in a separate room and use a separate bathroom.
“We’ve had even more evacuations in this last week and I think we need to be really careful about ensuring that anybody who evacuated and who feels ill in any way should get tested, go see your doctor. People who worry that they may have been exposed because they evacuated should make an appointment with OptumServe and get tested, and have a heightened awareness for the possibility of an increase in cases as a result of these evacuations,” Mase said.
According to Mase, everybody who comes through the county’s evacuation points is screened for virus symptoms and, if they show signs of possibly having the virus, a rapid-response test is administered.
“We’re thinking that we have done a fairly good job of screening out those people who could actually be COVID cases in the shelters,” she said.
While virus test processing has slowed down over the past few days due to county staff being displaced by the fire, Mase said that the county is now back to operating at 100%.
“We’re waiting to hear from the state whether, as a result of our decreased capacity to test and run the specifics, whether they may change the way they do the assessment for Sonoma County,” Mase said when asked if the temporary dip in health department staffing will result in Sonoma County not being reevaluated for a tier-change next week.