Yolo County Public Health Officer Ron Chapman has been running the show in terms of the Yolo County response to the COVID-19 threat. Last week, he issued a countywide health order for residents to shelter in place from March 19 to April 7, unless extended by the Public Health Officer.
The order limits activity, travel and business functions to only the most essential needs and is intended to slow the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19), protect those most vulnerable to the disease, and preserve local healthcare capacity.
“These are extremely difficult times. The COVID-19 virus continues to spread around the world and in our local communities,” said Yolo County Public Health Officer Dr. Ron Chapman. “We need to do everything we can to protect our most vulnerable people from the harmful impacts of the virus.”
Dr. Chapman agreed to take the Vanguard’s questions this week.
Vanguard: Is Yolo County doing all we can at this point?
Dr. Chapman: The County is working closely with our partners at the cities, hospitals, schools and non-profit organizations to protect those who are ill, prevent the spread of further illness, and provide supports to all affected by this unprecedented event. The County is doing all we can and we need the people of Yolo County to rise to the occasion and practice strict social distancing and stay at home to protect themselves, their families, and friends.
Vanguard: What are your greatest concerns locally?
Dr. Chapman: We are very concerned about the economic impacts on everybody. There are many people making huge sacrifices to reduce person to person viral spread. We are very concerned that people will not practice strict social distancing and will not stay at home. If the virus continues to rapidly spread in Yolo County we will soon see our healthcare system overwhelmed with sick people. An overwhelmed health care system will not be able to care for anyone, including people who need medical care for heart problems, cancer, car accidents or other medical problems.
Vanguard: What can the average resident do?
Dr. Chapman: The average resident can practice social distancing and follow the order to stay at home. By following these measures residents will help to slow the spread of COVID-19, protect those most likely to experience severe symptoms from the disease, and preserve local healthcare capacity. People can look out for those most in need and support the most vulnerable people in our communities.
Vanguard: Can we avoid worst case scenarios?
Dr. Chapman: Yes, by practicing social distancing and staying at home and following the order to stay at home, we can reduce the spread of illness in our community.
Vanguard: How long are we looking at?
Dr. Chapman: The length of time depends on how seriously we all take the social distancing and stay at home measures. There is no clear timeline at this point.
Vanguard: We know there is a confirmed death in Yolo. Isn’t it a flaw in the self-quarantine orders that we are not given information about who the person is, so that if we came in contact with that person we should self quarantine as opposed to self isolate?
Dr. Chapman: We are not permitted to provide specifics regarding cases (including the gender and location of an individual) as this is considered personal health information protected under HIPAA. The County Health and Human Services Agency is immediately aware of all positive cases, isolates the person, and performs a contact investigation to identify all people who have been exposed and are at risk. All people who have been exposed to a case and are considered at risk are contacted by the County and advised regarding activities and self-monitoring of symptoms. The confirmed cases which are made public are only the tip of the iceberg. Most cases are not identified as most are mild cases and it is clear that COVID-19 is being actively transmitted through community spread, which is not subject to geographic boundaries. This requires all communities and residents to take an active part in prevention by following social distancing and stay at home measures to limit the spread.
Vanguard: Is there an epicenter in Yolo County people should be aware of?
Dr. Chapman: There is no epicenter of COVID-19 in Yolo County.
Vanguard: What is being done to protect healthcare providers and first responders in Yolo County?
Dr. Chapman: Health care workers are using personal protective equipment such as masks, goggles, gloves, and gowns to care for people who are infected with Covid-19. Unfortunately, there is a shortage of masks and we need the public to not wear masks as there is no benefit to public use, and we need to reserve the valuable masks for our critical front line health care workers and first responders. Health care workers who are symptomatic after an exposure to a Covid-19 patient are prioritized for lab testing.