On May 13, Plumas County received clearance from the state to move further into Stage Two of reopening the local economy.
The rural county has confirmed only four total cases of COVID-19 and has reported zero deaths connected with the virus.
NSPR’s Marc Albert spoke with Lori Beatley, health education coordinator for Plumas County’s Public Health Agency, 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.
On Plumas County’s low COVID-19 case numbers
One of the things is when COVID-19 first came to California that we were aware of, it was during the wintertime and I think that can be a factor for Plumas County. Travel to and from Plumas County is not usually that great. And we had a couple good snowstorms this last winter, which probably assisted with having less travel, people staying home. But also we're a population of basically 19,000, and 2,613 square miles. So we're kind of spread out and I think that also is a factor.
And then I think one of the big factors is that we started testing very quickly and very strongly with our health care facilities. They have been very supportive with this and worked really hard in testing and therefore, we have been able to identify the cases that we have had quickly. When we identified them we also were able to do our contact tracing investigations, and it was very quick and effective, which assists in containing any further spread of COVID-19.
On what testing is available in Plumas County
We are doing targeted testing right now, as well as those who are symptomatic. And when we do targeted testing, they don't have to be symptomatic, they can be asymptomatic. We are targeting those who are at a higher likelihood to be exposed to COVID-19. So our health care workers, our first responders, as well as those who work in industries where they work with the public on a regular basis, like the grocery clerks. Those are the ones that we're kind of targeting at this time.
In what cases asymptomatic people can be tested
Ultimately, it's up to the healthcare provider who's going to be tested and who's not going to be tested. We have had some targeted outreach where we have done populations just come through and do like a small drive-thru. But yes, overall, there would have to be a reason if you're asymptomatic in order to test that person — usually at least one other reason such as being an essential worker and dealing with the public.
On concerns about people visiting Plumas County from outside the community
There is always concern of an outbreak with increased activity into the county. And that's why one of the reasons the health officer issued the order for face covering in public was to assist in mitigating with the increased traffic into Plumas County. Plumas County is continuing to increase testing capabilities with our local healthcare facilities, and so those are all cautions that we are trying to take and still encourage the public that we're doing this together. And this is something that — it's not one person's responsibility. It's all our responsibility to be maintaining social distancing and following the guidelines issued by our governor. But yes, it does make a difference to our businesses, the tourism, and short of basically blocking the roads, we really have limited ability to enforce people not coming into our community.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Click the “play” button to listen to the entire interview.