Albany County’s COVID-19 numbers continue to rise, with yet another death blamed on the virus.
Albany County Executive Dan McCoy on Saturday said a woman in her 90s, who was a resident of an undisclosed congregate setting, died. She is the 140th person in the county to succumb since the outbreak.
The number of confirmed coronavirus infections in Los Angeles County swelled significantly this week — the result, officials said, of a sizable backlog in the reporting of test results because of technical glitches.
While the full extent of the problem, and how much it will ultimately affect the county’s COVID-19 case counts, remains to be seen. Public health officials said Thursday that they’ve addressed the issues, though they expect to receive more accumulated results in the coming days.
Of the 3,600 new cases reported in the county Thursday, officials said roughly 2,000 were from the backlog.
“In addition to processing issues in the state’s reporting system that resulted in a large volume of duplicate records being sent to L.A. County, the COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated a real-time build out of reportable disease surveillance systems that were not initially set up for the sheer volume of data nor the real-time demand for highly processed data necessary to respond to COVID-19,” the county Department of Public Health told The Times in a statement. “As we build out additional capacities and solutions while continuing to process, sometimes there are technical issues with one of the numerous functionalities in the pipelines.”
Reporting issues have popped up periodically throughout the pandemic. The most significant snafu came to light in August, when state officials announced that a series of data failures had created a backlog of 250,000 to 300,000 test results in California.
While always essential, access to complete, trustworthy data is all the more vital now as California works to ward off the kinds of coronavirus surges that are striking many other states.
Already, more than 893,000 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in California — the most of any state — and over 17,200 people have died from the disease.
L.A. County alone accounts for more than 294,000 cases and is nearing 7,000 deaths.
Separate from the data issues, the county has also seen a slight uptick in its daily number of reported cases since mid-September, “and this is a cause for some worry,” Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said earlier this week.
The latest data logjam comes as L.A. County is looking to relax some coronavirus-related restrictions to bring local rules in line with wider state guidelines.
The changes, expected to be incorporated into a revised health officer order Friday, would eliminate a requirement that customers at wineries and breweries make reservations, remove the food service requirement for wineries, and allow family entertainment centers to reopen outdoor attractions such as go-kart tracks, miniature golf courses and batting cages.
State officials also announced this week that all personal care services — which include hair removal and massage and tattoo parlors — will now be allowed to resume modified indoor operations.
Officials also said that all L.A. County schools will be allowed to bring on campus up to 25% of their
Health board members in Idaho’s third most populated county voted to repeal a local mask mandate despite pleas from medical experts and a worsening COVID-19 outbreak in the state, The Associated Press reports.
The Panhandle Health District board voted 4-3 to rescind the face mask mandate in Kootenai County on Thursday, even as health officials warned about overwhelmed hospitals and staff shortages. The mandate was put into effect in July but was never enforced by the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office.
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On Wednesday, Kootenai Health, a hospital in Coeur d’Alene, announced it was 99 percent full and may have to transfer patients to centers as far away as Seattle.
“We’re facing staff shortages, and we have a lot of physician fatigue. This has been going on for seven months — we’re tired,” Panhandle Health District epidemiologist Jeff Lee told board members ahead of the vote.
Lee introduced doctors who testified before the board about how masks work to slow the spread of the virus and the serious health threats COVID-19 poses to those who become infected.
But the board went on to drop the mask mandate anyway, with one board member saying he personally doesn’t care if residents wear masks.
“If they want to be dumb enough to walk around and expose themselves and others, that’s fine with me,” board member Walt Kirby said, according to AP. “Nobody’s wearing the damned mask anyway…I’m sitting back and watching them catch it and die. Hopefully I’ll live through it.”
Meanwhile, another board member denied the existence of COVID-19 altogether.
“Something’s making these people sick, and I’m pretty sure it’s not coronavirus, so the question that you should be asking is, ‘What’s making them sick?” he told medical professionals who testified, according to AP.
Health board member Glen Bailey acknowledged masks work in curbing the spread of the virus but introduced the motion to rescind the requirement and proposed to make it a recommendation instead.
“I agree we have a problem with this virus, but at the same time I object to the mandate the board passed because it restricts people’s right of choice and ability to comply or not comply under penalty of law,” Bailey said, according to the Spokesman-Review.
The vote comes as Idaho is experiencing its worst COVID-19 outbreak since the pandemic began. The state reported nearly 1,000 new cases Thursday and has confirmed a total of more than 56,600 with at least 553 deaths.
Public health officials have emphasized for months the importance of face coverings in the fight against the coronavirus crisis, and most states and local governments have mandated masks be worn in public.
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An Idaho county health board on Thursday voted to overturn a mandatory mask mandate just one day after the area’s main hospital reported that it was at 99 percent capacity amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The board struck down the mandate in a 4-3 decision Thursday, with the county now recommending residents wear masks without imposing fines for noncompliance.
According to the Spokesman-Review, the mandate was first implemented in Kootenai County in July following a spike in COVID-19 cases. However, the outlet reported that the mandate was largely ignored and not properly enforced by local authorities.
Health board member Glen Bailey had proposed ending the mandate, arguing that it “restricts people’s right of choice and ability to comply or not comply under penalty of law,” according to the Spokesman-Review.
The decision came after officials from area hospital Kootenai Health on Wednesday issued a press release saying that it was almost at capacity, adding that nearby hospitals were also almost full and would not accept new patients.
The press release added that based on tests at Kootenai Health, the county is “seeing the highest rate of positivity since the start of the pandemic,” and that it was “looking at hospitals beyond our normal transfer area to see what is available” to accommodate additional patients.
“Our hospitals, health district and emergency responders are relying on our community for support,” the statement read. “The best way forward is to keep up with efforts that will flatten the uptick in cases in our region.”
The press release then outlined several actions it recommended for people to help stem the spread of COVID-19 in the area, including wearing face masks around people outside of one’s household, washing hands for at least 20 seconds, avoiding public areas and cleaning frequently touched surfaces often.
Amid public backlash on the health board’s decision, the Panhandle Health District issued a public statement alerting people that its coronavirus hotline “is mainly staffed with volunteers that have nothing to do with the Board’s decisions.”
“They manage their fair share of angry callers with grace and patience, but please direct comments about the board meeting to the board,” the notice said.
Idaho has been one of several states experiencing spikes in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, with the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare reporting 950 newly confirmed cases on Thursday, bringing the state’s confirmed case total to 56,600.
Kootenai County is now in the Panhandle Health District’s highest risk coronavirus category. According to The New York York Times COVID-19 database, the county had 96 newly confirmed coronavirus cases on Thursday, bringing the total to 3,724 infections and 48 deaths.
Boise, Idaho — Moments after hearing an Idaho hospital was overwhelmed by
“Most of our medical surgical beds at Kootenai Health are full,” Panhandle Health District epidemiologist Jeff Lee told board members in the state’s third most populated county.
The hospital in Coeur d’Alene reached 99% capacity a day earlier, even after doubling up patients in rooms and buying more hospital beds. Idaho is one of several states where a surge of COVID-19 infections is overwhelming hospitals, likely in part because cooler weather is sending people indoors, U.S. health officials said.
“We’re facing staff shortages, and we have a lot of physician fatigue. This has been going on for seven months — we’re tired,” Lee said.
He introduced several doctors who testified about the struggle COVID-19 patients face, the burden on hospitals and how masks reduce the spread of the virus.
But the board voted 4-3 to end the mask mandate. Board members overseeing the operations of Idaho’s public health districts are appointed by county commissioners and not required to have any medical experience.
Board member Walt Kirby said he was giving up on the idea of controlling the spread of coronavirus.
“I personally do not care whether anybody wears a mask or not. If they want to be dumb enough to walk around and expose themselves and others, that’s fine with me,” Kirby said. “Nobody’s wearing the damned mask anyway… I’m sitting back and watching them catch it and die. Hopefully I’ll live through it.”
Another member, Allen Banks, denied COVID-19 exists.
“Something’s making these people sick, and I’m pretty sure that it’s not coronavirus, so the question that you should be asking is, ‘What’s making them sick?'” he told the medical professionals who testified.
Similar scenes — with doctors and nurses asking officials for help, only to be met with reluctance or even open skepticism — have played out across the conservative state. Idaho is sixth in the nation for new coronavirus cases per capita, with the average number of confirmed cases increasing by more than 55% every day over the past two weeks.
Still, Republican Gov. Brad Little has declined to issue a statewide mask mandate or limit crowd sizes beyond requiring social distancing at large events and in businesses, which is seldom enforced. Instead, Little has left it up to local health departments and school districts to make the tough decisions that sometimes come with blowback from the public.
In the southern city of Twin Falls, hospital officials told health board members this week that they too were
HARFORD COUNTY, MD — Harford County Public Schools is expected to release data Friday showing where suspected cases of the coronavirus are within the school system.
“HCPS will post an updated COVID-19 Dashboard on Friday of each week, beginning this Friday, October 23, 2020, that will notify our community about how schools and offices are impacted by community transmission,” Jillian Lader, spokesperson for Harford County Public Schools (HCPS), told Patch.
At the Oct. 12 school board meeting, administrators said 12 HCPS employees had tested positive for the virus, and no students had. On Monday, Superintendent Sean Bulson told WBFF there were still zero students who had contracted the virus.
If a student or staff member at HCPS has an illness that is like coronavirus, officials say there is a protocol to communicate that with those who may be at risk.
Notification Of Potential Exposure
“When the school system is notified about a positive case of COVID-19 or students/staff display COVID like illness as per the Maryland Department of Health Decision Aid, the school nurse works with the staff and family to identify close contacts (as defined by the Centers for Disease Control),” Lader said in a statement to Patch.
Close contacts are defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as those who have been within 6 feet of an infected person for at least a cumulative total of 15 minutes over a 24-hour period. The contact must come two days before the onset of illness or two days before a test was collected, in the case of an asymptomatic person who is now isolated.
Once potential contacts are identified, Lader said: “School nurses work in collaboration with our local health department to institute appropriate isolation/quarantine procedures.”
Below is the “decision aid” to guide school systems through how to handle potential infections of the coronavirus. It was released by the Maryland Department of Health and Maryland State Department of Education.
“We believe we have a very safe plan, but everyone needs to do their part and stay safe,” HCPS Superintendent Sean Bulson told WBFF this week about the return to in-person learning. “There have been modifications for everything.”
Kindergarten, first and second-grade students and special education students as well as some other special populations returned to school Monday, Oct. 19.
“We just need to watch our numbers,” Bulson told WBFF on Monday, noting while some adults had tested positive in the school system, no students had tested positive for the virus.
If people are potentially exposed to the virus, he said they are isolated.
“They are sent home to get tested, then we do all the contact tracing,” Bulson told WBFF, saying potential close contacts receive both a phone call and a letter to notify them. A negative test result is required before returning to school, he said.
The plan is to bring in grades three through five starting Nov. 2 for in-person learning.
PIERCE COUNTY, WA — New data shows that flu activity remains low across Pierce County and Washington state, a rare spot of good news amid the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the latest data for the week ending Oct. 10, in Pierce County:
Flu activity was low.
Less than 1 percent of emergency room visits or urgent cares were for flu-like infections.
No hospitals reported admitting patients with the flu or flu-like illnesses.
Just 1.0 percent of flu tests came back positive.
There have been no flu outbreaks at long-term care facilities.
So far this year, no Pierce County residents have died from the flu.
Data for the whole state is similarly optimistic: there have been no deadly cases of the flu in Washington yet this season, and flu activity remains low statewide.
Data on infections takes about two weeks for experts to verify, so information past Oct. 10 has not yet been released, but data will be coming regularly as the season progresses. Experts with the Tacoma – Pierce County Health Department have promised weekly updates on the flu situation on their blog, not just because of the danger of the flu, but because of the danger a heavy flu season poses alongside the coronavirus pandemic.
Washington’s top health officials say, in the middle of a pandemic, the last thing our medical system needs is an influx of flu patients.
“The potential for a severe influenza season, or even an average influenza season, compounding the COVID outbreak is very, very disturbing and worrisome,” said King County Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin.
More: Health Experts: Now ‘More Important Than Ever’ To Get Flu Vaccine
To alleviate that fear, health officials continue to tout the importance of the flu vaccine. Guidance from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention shows the best time to get vaccinated is between September and October, though if the flu season persists past October it’s never too late to get the vaccine.
“We’re getting used to wearing masks to reduce the spread of COVID-19—and masks can help reduce the spread of flu, too. But it’s still important to get a flu shot.” writes Nigel Turner Division Director for the Tacoma- Pierce County Health Department’s Communicable Disease Department. “It’s the best tool we have to protect ourselves and those around us from the flu.”
Find more information on this year’s flu season on the Washington State Department of Health’s website.
This article originally appeared on the Bonney Lake-Sumner Patch
Although Los Angeles County remains rooted in the most restrictive tier of California’s coronavirus reopening road map, officials this week announced plans to relax some requirements on businesses to bring the county’s standards in line with wider state guidelines.
The changes — expected this week — will allow family entertainment centers to open outdoors; eliminate a requirement that customers at wineries and breweries make reservations; and remove the food requirement for wineries.
“I hope this provides much-needed relief and respite for residents who are looking for some activities outside of their homes,” Kathryn Barger, chairwoman of the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, said during a briefing Wednesday.
“These updates will also bring more employees back to work,” she said — a pivotal development in a region where the unemployment rate has been estimated at 16%.
Barger also said county schools are in line to welcome back more students for in-person instruction.
According to the supervisor, schools have been allowed to bring up to 10% of students back on campus at a time if the students have special needs, such as those with disabilities or who are learning English.
“We will now increase to 25% capacity for high-needs students so more children and youth can have access to their teachers and the on-site support systems that are so critical for their growth and for their education,” Barger said.
It is unclear when that change will go into effect. But as L.A. County remains in Tier 1 of the state’s four-tier reopening plan — also called the purple tier, which indicates widespread risk of community coronavirus transmission — campuses cannot reopen for all students.
The county’s spot in the state’s most stringent tier also prevents wider economic reopenings. Under the purple category, many businesses and public facilities either cannot operate indoors or can do so only at a strictly limited capacity.
Counties land in the purple tier if they have more than seven new coronavirus cases per 100,000 people per day or a test positivity rate of more than 8%.
As of Wednesday, L.A. County’s case rate remained above the threshold required to move down into the red tier.
“I think many of us are discouraged that we haven’t yet reduced our case rate enough to move to Tier 2,” L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Wednesday. “I do want to note that we do have the tools in hand to drive transmission rates down in our communities. Not only do we want to eventually progress into less restrictive tiers, but we want to be able to continue to keep businesses and institutions open.”
Ferrer announced 33 new COVID-19 deaths in the county, raising the total toll to 6,944, as well as 510 new cases for a total of 290,486.
But she cautioned that “some significant
Marin County is looking for the coronavirus in a surprising place: wastewater.
People infected with COVID-19 shed the virus in their feces, and wastewater sampling can gauge the overall prevalence of inefection in a community and identify an outbreak before individuals display symptoms.
If numbers continue to increase, the county could reinstate restrictions that were lifted in recent months. The seven-day average in new cases recently has exceeded 10 new infections per 100,000 residents.
“It’s not a good place to be,” Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich (D) said during a news conference Wednesday.
Contact tracers have found that the virus is spreading at social gatherings, including those among family members, and at religious institutions, officials said.
County Health Officer Travis Gayles urged residents not to “let their guard down” with physical distancing or mask-wearing when gathering with relatives or close friends.
Recent data also shows that an increase in young residents testing positive has plateaued, giving way to a slight uptick in older adults contracting the virus. The trend “gives us pause,” Gayles said, as older adults are susceptible to more serious effects of the virus.
Nursing homes, however, have not seen a resurgence of the virus, he said.
“We don’t want to walk anything back,” Gayles said. “[But] if the numbers don’t improve . . . we’ll likely need to have closures.”
While the county has seen a slight rise in infections, the number of new cases across Maryland, Virginia and D.C. has ticked downward for about a week.
The greater Washington region on Wednesday recorded 1,563 new coronavirus cases and 38 additional deaths. Virginia added 1,018 new cases and 30 deaths, Maryland added 492 cases and eight deaths, and D.C. added 53 cases and no deaths.
The rolling seven-day average of new infections across the region stood at 1,692 cases on Wednesday. That’s down from a recent peak of 1,801 average daily cases on Oct. 14.
The number of new reported fatalities across the region tied Tuesday’s death toll — the most in a single day since Sept. 22 — led by statewide increases in Virginia. Virginia Health Department officials this week said the increase isn’t evidence of a surge in new deaths, but rather the result of waiting for death certificates to be prepared and for the data to be entered into a state database.
Dana Hedgpeth contributed to this report.