Straight From the Source, Your Questions Answered About COVID-19

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Recap

A special appreciation to Dr. Aimee Sisson, Dr. Ken Cutler, and Harry Weis for serving as our local healthcare experts. This community conversation was jam-packed with great data and new information about the novel coronavirus. Below are key points, and there were many, brought up during the meeting. Also find a link to the recording — in the spirit of spreading confirmed information, we encourage you to share this enlightening community conference call in your circles.

Also be sure to check out our latest news story on the Tahoe region’s gradual reopening, Tahoe on Precipice of Phased Reopening.

Key points shared:

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  • As of April 29, Tahoe Forest Health System has tested approximately 590 patients, with 56 testing positive for COVID-19. TFHS is planning for a careful and gradual 4 to 6 week expansion of hospital services.
  • Placer, Nevada, and El Dorado counties are relaxing local health orders, and are now looking to California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s statewide guidance. Dr. Cutler explained it: “We can be more strict at the local level, but we can’t be really more lax than the state order.”
  • The Tahoe area likely peaked between March 31 and April 3; Placer saw a jump of 30 cases during that range, Nevada saw 10, and Washoe, 72. Our region accounts for 7.5% of Placer County’s positive COVID-19 cases.
  • A new testing facility is opening the week of May 4 in Kings Beach, which will be able to test 132 people for COVID-19 each day.
  • Contact tracing is the next hurdle to overcome, and Nevada and Placer counties are working on increasing their numbers of trained staff to be able to handle tracing infected and potentially infected cases. Dr. Sisson said, “If we do want to safely reopen without getting a surge in cases, it’s imperative that we have more public health staff who can rapidly find the contacts of confirmed cases and separate them, get them tested, and make sure the disease cannot spread beyond those initial cases.”
  • How to deal with contact tracing of tourists is an issue that is being explored. One idea is an opt-in app, where people would elect to share their location information with public health officials.
  • There’s no specific infected population number in Tahoe/Truckee, because with the up-to-now limited testing capacity, officials have been operating in the dark, and “we know that we have missed cases,” said Dr. Sisson. However, Weis said the hospital’s  service area includes roughly 35,000 to 40,000 people. He offered up a personal estimate of 2,000 to 5,000 people infected. Based on his numbers, we calculate that would mean a 12.5% infection rate. 
  • There’s up to a 20% false negative rate with coronavirus testing, according to Harry Weis.
  • Two audience members had questions about Tahoe visitors and second homeowners. (We encourage you to watch/read about our previous Tahoe Talks, Pumping the Brakes on STRs and Visitors During the Coronavirus Crisis.)
  • Dr. Sisson broke down what Newsom’s statewide four-stage relaxation would look like.
    1. Stage one is our current phase, where only essential workers continue to work in their places of employment.
    2. Stage two allows lower-risk workplaces to reopen, including curbside retail like manufacturing, offices, and some open public spaces (parks, trails that have been closed).
    3. The third stage allows more local flexibility: Higher risk businesses such as hair and nail salons, movie theaters, and gyms reopen. This timeline is likely months away rather than weeks.
    4. Stage four won’t happen until effective therapeutics are available. This phase will essentially roll back California’s “stay at home order” completely.

A notable closer from Dr. Sisson: “What happens next is determined by us. It’s determined by how well we adhere to the stay at home orders and it’s also determined by how we behave when those stay at home orders start to be relaxed. I know people are antsy to get out, for one thing. I know people also need to earn a living and we’re very cognizant of that but if we do not reopen carefully and if we do not adhere to shelter in place or stay at home orders while they’re still in effect, we very well could have another peak. And that peak would likely be larger than the peak that we’ve experienced because people have been so supportive of the stay at home orders. I know it’s hard, I know there are so many sacrifices that are being made — I want to express my gratitude for that and I want to emphasize that it will continue to be important to adhere to sheltering in place.”

See the full conference call video here.

Future Topics

Here’s a running list of potential future topics. We welcome your ideas! 

  • Second homeowners in the age of coronavirus
  • Struggles with rents and mortgages
  • New business models and ideas
  • How to handle kids while you’re on a conference call
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