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Colusa County Health Official: ‘People Don't Really Understand How Contagious This Is’

J. Stephen Conn
Flickr, Creative Commons

Colusa County successfully avoided becoming a coronavirus hot spot. But the agricultural county, commuting distance from Sacramento, has seen a sharp spike in recent weeks. 

NSPR's Marc Albert spoke recently with Elizabeth Kelly, Director of Colusa County Health and Human Services, asking first for the top-line numbers and concerns.

Here are highlights from their conversation. You can also listen at the top of the page.

Interview Highlights

On whether gatherings are a source of infections

That is exactly what we reported to the state. Because that has been a problem. We've had several family get-togethers with graduations, anniversary parties, barbecues. And I think when the county started to open up that just kind of let people think that everything was OK when it really had not been. I mean, the pandemic still is very present. And I also think that the increase in testing has also played a role in the numbers being reported quicker and faster as far as knowing who's got what, so to speak.

On whether ag workers have been hit particularly hard

We have not seen that as far as the ag community as of today. I'm not exactly sure why that would be if it is the case in other counties. That's just not what we're finding. Our biggest challenge, I'll be quite frank with you, is the fact that people don't really understand how contagious this is. And for an example, we did have an individual that got tested for COVID-19, didn't have their test results back, but went to different counties, doing different things, in one day, after doing some contract tracing, went to a dinner, went to a party after the dinner, and exposed people potentially as they were waiting for their test results. 

So there's just the idea that if you're getting tested for COVID-19, people need to understand you need to shelter in place until you know firmly you do not have COVID-19. If you've been asked to quarantine, they need to shelter in place and quarantine. And I think a lot of people just struggle with the idea of not being able to move around. It is very hard for most people. And I understand that. This is not an easy time for anybody. But that's part of some of the things that we've learned through our contact tracers and our case investigators. 

On the county’s contact tracing capacity

Oh, boy, I would say we are still continuing to contact trace with people. And we have probably close to 200 individuals that we've had to contact and determine the tracing of who they were with and that sort of thing. Like I said, we have 164 individuals currently quarantined and we have currently 60 cases that are in isolation that have tested positive for COVID-19. So it's been a heavy lift for our small county public health, but we have at least 15 dedicated public health employees that are between nurses and contact tracers and case investigators, and outreach, that sort of thing. It's just been ongoing and especially in the last two to three weeks, nobody took a vacation. I know everybody thought, you know, it's July 4, we took a vacation and that didn't happen.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Click the “play” button to listen to the entire interview.