In the discussion of West Nile virus spraying, it seems that a number of Davis residents were caught unaware and the spraying had some impacts, from skin and eye irritation to other maladies. So that raises the question of what should have been done to have improved this communication or, conversely, was the information available and the public not paying sufficient attention to that information?
As one of our readers noted yesterday, “The mosquito abatement district has an obligation to adequately notify the public of these spray events to reduce exposure risk. It’s obvious that the current means of communication has not been adequate and more needs to be done to get the message out.”
They added, “Perhaps the City of Davis can play a role in notifying the public when a spray event is scheduled.”
A reader asked, “What other methods do you suggest the city use to notify citizens of spray nights?”
A reader responded, “Is the City doing the spraying (or responsible for requesting it)? If not, they are not responsible for doing the notification, and as they can at best only be passing on second hand information, any efforts to be involved in the notification process will only add confusion.”
So I did some looking since I am on most of the city’s press release and public release lists – exactly what did the city do and what didn’t the city do?
For example, the city of Woodland, on August 6, put out an email that announced: “The Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District has scheduled aerial spraying in Woodland on Wednesday and Thursday, August 6-7, from 8pm-midnight. For more information please visit fightthebite.net.”
The city of Davis has launched its own City of Davis Newsletter – both the Vanguard email and my personal email are on the list and they put out a newsletter as recently as July 30, but there was no mention of West Nile Spraying.
The city’s website does have a notice from July 30: “The Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District has issued a news release regarding significant West Nile Virus activity in the Davis area; West Nile Virus Activity is Intense Throughout Yolo County as 27 New Mosquito Samples Test Positive –Aerial spraying in urban areas is being considered.”
But there is no notice to tell people that spraying would occur, when it would occur, and what precautions to take. We know that the city’s webpage is not read very heavily.
Nixle is an integrated Community Information Service set up by the Davis Police Department last August.
It notes, “New and innovative ways to better communicate with the public continue to evolve and the Davis Police Department believes this service will allow our community members to stay informed in the most convenient, reliable way possible. An aware and well informed citizen base can greatly assist in crime prevention efforts. Please join us in this information sharing process and assist us by getting the word out to fellow residents, neighbors, and friends.”
While I got an alert on August 4 that someone was abducted in Santa Barbara and there was a more local alert in mid-July about a missing elderly resident, the city and police did not use Nixle to alert about spraying. I have no idea how many people would be reached, but clearly the police were able to get out the word about the resident fairly easily – the city should have been able to get out word about the spraying.
Stacey Winton, the city’s Community Partnership Coordinator, has sent out press releases to the media about things ranging from traffic alerts to construction to the fall’s recreation schedule. There was no news release about West Nile spraying.
The one place we did find notification was on August 7, where the City of Davis re-tweeted the Sac-Yolo Mosquito’s notification: “Aerial spraying is scheduled tonight in Davis/Woodland between 8pm-12am as ground spraying targets #WNv activity in Sacramento County.” And on August 5: “Aerial spraying in Davis and Woodland to combat West Nile Virus scheduled 8pm-12am Wednesday and Thursday 8/6-7. Map http://fightthebite.net .” August 4, “INTENSE WEST NILE VIRUS ACTIVITY IN YOLO COUNTY PROMPTS AERIAL SPRAYING OVER DAVIS AND WOODLAND https://nextdoor.com/city/post/6086875/ …”
However, the city has only 52 followers on its Twitter account.
Nextdoor is a neighborhood social media network. Interestingly enough, on July 30, the city warned on Nextdoor that there would be ground spraying in several locations on July 30 between 8 pm and midnight.
And on August 4, they sent out a notice: “The City was just notified that the Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District will be conducting aerial treatments for adult mosquitoes infected with West Nile virus for two consecutive nights on Wednesday, August 6 and Thursday, August 7 from approximately 8:00 pm to midnight over the cities of Davis and Woodland and the surrounding agricultural areas in Yolo County.”
Again, the question is how many people saw this? But clearly, although the city attempted to get the information out, it is unclear how many people were actually reached.
The question is: given that the city of Davis is not the principal party, are they obligated to alert their residents? I don’t know what the word obligated means at this point, but clearly both Woodland and Davis took some steps to alert their residents, I would simply argue that it was not enough and they could have done a lot more.
Hopefully this will raise the issue and the city can figure out a better response matrix and protocol for the next time this happens.
—David M. Greenwald reporting