April 10, 2020 Moonshine Minutes
Hi everyone. I’m Becca Loux, reporter and editor for Moonshine Ink.
Our latest online exclusive looks into Tahoe as a coronavirus “hotbed.” We investigate whether “the spike” is coming, on its way, or already here. Spoiler alert: nobody knows for sure.
In fact, right here on KTKE, Tahoe Forest Health Systems CEO Harry Weis said on April 1 that Tahoe could have a “very large impact” from the pandemic, and was at that time “nine times hotter than the state of California.” Whether those numbers would go up or down was anybody’s guess.
The Truckee area is still seeing a higher ratio of positive cases to its population. These projections come from a variety of reasons: day- and overnight-travelers like short-term rental users and second homeowners, international travelers coming home, folks coming to ski… all this back and forth before the stay-at-home directive came into play.
But just the other day Weis optimistically told Moonshine that we could be moving away from that trajectory thanks to people abiding by the stay-at-home directive.
He said: “Last Thursday [back] to the previous Thursday we saw [about] a 71% growth rate in positive COVID lab tests. Now, since last Thursday, it’s been moving upward much more slowly, and so as we look at the days in April … we’re cooling off a little bit [compared to] California versus the U.S. average and definitely versus New York and New Jersey and even Michigan.”
Dr. Aimee Sisson, public health officer for Placer County, is still concerned Tahoe could be a hotbed for cases, and she said she’s worried about the region’s limited healthcare system capacity.
Whether Tahoe does indeed spike in COVID cases now, later, or eventually, healthcare and government officials in our region are looking at plans A through Z to try and handle any potential onslaught. Additional beds, coordination with other hospitals … and possibly the construction of a new facility for low-acuity inpatient care. But both Weis and Sisson said this idea would be a last resort.
Sisson said: “As you can imagine, it’s a rather complex endeavor to create a hospital out of nothing.”
Other soldiers in the war against the novel coronavirus include Tahoe Forest Health’s first COVID patient who’s hooked up to a ventilator. We spoke with this man’s wife, who asked that she and her husband remain anonymous. She described to us the days leading up to his hospitalization:
“He was three to four days, maybe five days, into a cold, and he started coughing funny. I sat him down [and said], I gotta tell you, that cough doesn’t sound right to me, it doesn’t sound good … That is the telltale sound: it’s very dry, it’s like a seal barking kind of a sound. And that was what [he] was doing.”
She took him to the ER on March 29, and hasn’t spoken to him since the 30th. But she gets regular updates from the doctors and knows her husband is practicing breathing techniques through straws. In a recent emotional moment, he managed to write out “Truckee Strong” on a piece of paper. His efforts were captured on camera, and the photo can be seen on our website and has been widely shared on social media.
His wife’s message to the community is that we’re all in this together.
As far as continuing community efforts to social distance and stay at home, Dr. Sisson with Placer County said people really need to double down on their needs versus wants. Things like not grocery shopping every day or even every week, or cooking at home instead of picking up takeout.
She said, “We’ve been encouraging people to take this seriously for months, and I think there’s conflicting messages coming from different levels of government and that has not helped. If we wait for more people to die or more people to become infected, then we’ve missed an opportunity to slow this virus down. I would just encourage people to stay home, not to wait for their friends to get sick and die before they take this seriously. Look at Italy, look at New York, this is serious, and now is the time to act.”
Read the full story, Tahoe Peak or Plateau, at moonshineink.com/coronavirus.
And don’t forget, our next print edition comes out Monday, so when you do go out for your grocery trips or hiking adventures, swing by a Moon box and pick up our paper.
Until then, stay healthy, and stay tuned.