Q&A: Glenn County Director Of Emergency Operations On County’s Response To COVID-19

May 21, 2020

There have been 12 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Glenn County as of May 21 and no deaths. 

The small, rural county has moved into phase two of reopening after receiving local variance approval from the state last week.

NSPR’s Marc Albert spoke with Amy Travis, director of the Glenn County Emergency Operations Center, about how the county has been responding to the pandemic. Highlights from their conversation are below. Listen to the full interview at the top of the page.

Interview Highlights

On Glenn County’s low COVID-19 case numbers

We've been very fortunate in our community to have a low number of cases. We continue to have a low number of cases. I believe that's because of our rural nature. We're very spread out. We don't have a lot of mass transit usage. And so that really contributes to limiting the spread of the disease. 

On the community’s receptiveness to social distancing measures early on

About a month ago, I believe the community was really pulling together and wanted to do what was thought to be the right thing, which was to social distance and to stay at home, except for essential business and essential work. I believe those attitudes have changed over time. We did what we needed to do to flatten the curve and prepare our healthcare systems and I believe the attitude has changed slightly and people are ready to go continue on with normal life.

On two Glenn County shops where infected employees interacted with the public

We had two neighboring stores located in Orland where there were staff members that did come down with the COVID illness. And most of the exposures that we have traced since then have been amongst family members. So most of it's been very sustained contact. There was one non-family member that has been infected by the COVID-19 that had sustained long duration contact at the store. So what we are really noticing with the virus is that it really is those long, sustained interactions, very close contact rather than short duration contacts, that you normally see at a store.

On how many people were potentially exposed by the store employees

We were able to make contact with over 150 people that had either had contact with one of the cases directly, or had contact through the store. Our public health nursing staff is monitoring all of those individuals, checking on them daily, to ensure that they do not see any symptoms arise, don't have any temperature, etc. So we're able to continue that monitoring until they've reached their 14 days from their last exposure. Some of those people have chosen to be tested, some have not, and it's definitely optional until the point where you have symptoms and then it's highly recommended by medical staff to get tested.

On whether they feel out of the woods with the store incident

We are quickly approaching that 14-day mark. We will be there by the weekend. So we only have a couple days left. And typically you start seeing the cases arise earlier in that 14-day period. So usually that three to seven days, 10 being more the max, 14's just a safety precaution. And so we have not seen any additional cases popping up, which is very good news. So we believe that we have been able to isolate and keep that from continuing to spread in the community.

On the range of illness severity seen in COVID-19 patients

It's a very interesting virus because some people have no symptoms at all, some people have very limited symptoms and then some people have very severe symptoms. One of our cases is hospitalized from this — actually two of them have been — from this exposure link. One has been discharged and is recovering fully, and one is still hospitalized. Again, it's the older age groups, those over 65 years of age and those with underlying chronic conditions, that we're seeing have the more severe illness.

On concerns as restrictions ease

We do anticipate we will see more cases as more people are out and about in the community. That's to be anticipated. And again, it's just protecting yourself when you're out, social distancing and hand washing to really prevent that spread of disease. However, I think it's really important that we do continue daily life and we start rebuilding our economy. That's going to have more long-lasting health effects on our community if we don't continue rebuilding our economy.

On financial challenges for rural hospitals

Small, rural hospitals throughout the country are barely making ends meet before the pandemic. And so we have a very sensitive system, our healthcare system, and it's very difficult for these hospitals to see a decrease in their number of patients — that is a decrease in revenue that keeps that hospital operating. Here in Glenn County, Glenn Medical Center is operating at about a third of their normal daily census of patients. And so you know, you got to think that's a lot less revenue. And then we're also seeing a change in health-seeking behaviors, so people aren't going in for preventative check-ups, preventative surgeries, preventive medicine. And so that is an extreme decrease in that revenue, which keeps those hospitals going.

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