Merced County Times Newspaper
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Merced, Los Banos both at 38 COVID-19 cases

County total of active cases now at 60

On Monday, an additional COVID-19 testing site opened to all Merced County residents who would like to be tested. Due to expected high demand, testing availability was changed to by appointment only in order to prevent unnecessarily-long wait times for clients. Walk-ins will not be accepted at this time.

The new test site, which was made possible thanks to a partnership with the State of California and OptumServe (a private health services company contracted by the State), will be one of 80 locations across the State and will allow for more than 100 additional tests a day for the community. The site does not include antibody testing at this time.

Appointments at the testing site will be scheduled Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Merced County Fairgrounds located at 900 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Merced. A soft opening of the site was held Thursday and Friday and provided testing for first responders, health care personnel, and a limited number of individuals from the public.

As of 4 p.m. Sunday, May 3, 2020, there are 142 confirmed cases (60 active) of COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) in Merced County. Of that number, 79 have recovered and three have died. (The “Recovered” category in this report was reduced from 80 to 79 due to one of the recovered individuals again becoming symptomatic and re-testing positive for COVID-19.)

  • Notes:
    *Total confirmed cases include total recovered and total deaths.
    **Recovered defined as symptom free with no medication for 72 hours.
    ***Healthcare exposure includes exposure in and out of jurisdiction.
    East Merced County includes: Atwater, Ballico, Bear Creek, Calpack, Cressey, Delhi, El Nido, Hilmar, Irwin, Le Grand, Livingston, Merced, Planada, Snelling, Stevinson, Tuttle, and Winton
    West Merced County includes: Dos Palos, Gustine, Los Banos, Santa Nella, and Volta
Community-Specific Reporting

Due to privacy laws, Merced County had not released a community-specific breakdown of positive cases until Monday, April 13. Due to a relatively low number of positive cases and the size of some of our cities and unincorporated communities, previously releasing those numbers could have been an identifying factor and a breach of patient confidentiality. Furthermore, releasing that type of data could have also created a false sense of security in communities without confirmed cases, leading to greater spread of COVID-19. However, similar to other neighboring counties, Merced County has now reached a high enough case total that patient confidentiality is no longer considered a major risk for communities that have five or more cases. For that reason, we are now releasing community-specific numbers for those that have five or more cases:

  • Notes:
    *Only communities with five or more cases are reported in this graph. The figures in this chart represent confirmed cases, which includes active cases, recoveries, and deaths.

Based on information provided by individuals who test positive, Public Health staff will continue to assess risks of exposure and contact any affected individuals.

Due to privacy laws, the Public Health Department cannot release identifying information related to positive cases.

In California, there are 53,949 confirmed cases and 2,190 deaths.

RECENT ACTIVITIES & UPDATES:
  • Merced County Public Health continues to coordinate with federal, state and local partners to further prepare us for future impacts. This includes working with the California Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to monitor COVID-19.
  • In coordination with the Merced County Office of Emergency Services, situational status calls continued this week with local government agencies, schools, and healthcare professionals in our community.
  • COVID-19 Testing Available to All Merced County Residents: Thanks to a partnership with the State and OptumServe (a private health services company contracted by the State), a new testing site will open at the Merced County Fairgrounds at 900 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way in Merced on Monday, May 4. The new testing site will allow for more than 100 additional tests a day. The site will be available from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. Due to expected high demand, testing availability was changed to by appointment only in order to prevent unnecessarily-long wait times for clients. Walk-ins will not be accepted at this time.
  • The Merced County COVID-19 information webpage, www.countyofmerced.com/coronavirus, continues to be updated on a daily basis.
  • The Merced County Office of Emergency Services and Merced County Department of Public Health proclaimed a local and public health emergency March 13 in order to help address the outbreak. The Board of Supervisors ratified those actions during a March 16 special meeting.
  • On March 19, Governor Gavin Newsom announced Executive Order N-33-20, asking California residents to stay at home. On March 20, Merced County’s Health Officer also issued an Order directing County residents to remain in their places of residence except to perform or receive essential services.
  • The Merced County Public Health Department Operations Center was activated Jan. 27, 2020 (98 days) in order to prepare for COVID-19 in and around our community. The Merced County Emergency Operations Center and Human Services Agency Department Operations Center are also currently active.
COVID-19 TESTING UPDATE:
  • COVID-19 Testing Available for All Merced County Residents:
    • Merced County Fairgrounds: 900 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Merced
    • 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday—Friday
    • Register at www.lhi.care/covidtesting or by calling 1-888-634-1123
    • Due to expected high demand, testing availability was changed to by appointment only in order to prevent unnecessarily-long wait times for clients. Walk-ins will not be accepted at this time.
  • Within the public health system, every person who has met CDC criteria for severe disease within Merced County has been tested.
  • As of Friday, May 1, 2,435 tests have been performed in Merced County: 2,127 negatives, 136 positives, and 172 still pending. These figures include testing through both the commercial and public health lab systems. These numbers will be updated again Monday.
  • Public Health is actively identifying other methods to enhance testing capability for providers throughout the community and increase testing county-wide. We will continue to be notified should positive tests come through either system (public health or commercial).
  • In late March, Merced County opened two “mobile specimen collection sites” for COVID-19 in order to streamline testing capabilities. Initially, there will be two collection days per week, one on the westside of the County, and one on the eastside of the County. Each site will remain  open for four hours per day. Additional hours per day and days per week may become more frequent if supply and personnel availability increase.
    • PLEASE NOTE: Use of these mobile specimen collection sites are by appointment only, and you must have a prescription from a physician and prior approval from the Merced County Department of Public Health. If you do not have a provider and have symptoms call 209-381-1180 for a phone consultation. Anyone without prior approval will not be tested. Locations will be provided to clients once appointments are made. Call 209-381-1180 for more information.
COVID-19 SYMPTOMS AND PRECAUTIONS:
  • Coronavirus symptoms include: mild to severe respiratory illness, fever, cough, difficulty breathing, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, and loss of taste or smell. If symptoms develop, individuals should stay at home to limit exposure to others.
  • Anyone who has had contact with a person with possible COVID-19 infection and has the above symptoms should call his/her local health department/health care provider immediately.
  • Do not go to your provider’s office without calling ahead. Do not call 911 for suspected COVID-19 unless you are having a medical emergency.
  • During the flu season, there are steps you can take to protect your health and the health of those around you:
    • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water for 20 seconds.
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
    • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
    • Stay away from work, school or other people if you become sick with respiratory symptoms such as fever and cough.
    • Cover sneezes or coughs with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

For additional information pertaining to COVID-19, please visit the Department’s resource website at www.countyofmerced.com/coronavirus or call the Merced County Public Health Department Information Line at 209-381-1180 (English, Spanish, Hmong).

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