The death toll from COVID-19 rose to five people this week in Stanislaus County, just as officials ease some of the restrictions, which will allow for more outdoor activities, drive-in church services and automated car washes.
The deceased was an adult female with an underlying medical condition, according to the Stanislaus County Health Services Agency. No other details, including her name, age and hometown are being released.
“Our heartfelt condolences are extended to the families and friends who have lost a loved one,” says Dr. Julie Vaishampayan, Stanislaus County Public Health Officer. “As we look to start expanding activities in the next few weeks, we need to ensure that we continue to protect our most vulnerable, those who are at higher risk for severe disease if they become ill with COVID-19.”
The first death in Stanislaus County happened on April 10. The second was on April 11 and the third and fourth were both on April 14. All five of the deceased had underlying health issues, according to the SCHSA.
As of Friday afternoon, Stanislaus County has 264 positive cases, which is an increase of 13 from the day prior. Sixty people are in the hospital and the rest are at their homes. A total of 187 people in the county have recovered from the virus. There have been 3,979 negative tests.
Direct person to person contact remains the highest form of transmission in the county, accounting for 159 cases. Community transmission resulted in 89 cases. Travel was responsible for 15 cases and one case is under investigation.
Modesto has the most cases at 93, followed by the unincorporated areas of the county at 48. Ceres has 31 cases, followed by Patterson with 28 and Turlock 27. Riverbank has 11, Newman nine, Waterford seven, and Oakdale and Hughson each have five.
Of the 264 cases, 13 are among children up to the age of 17 years; 140 cases in 18 to 49 years; 68 for those 50 to 64 years; and 43 among those 65 years or older. Males had 142 cases and females 122.
The amendment to the public health order, which went into effect at 5 a.m. Friday, will allow for more outdoor activities, but still requires people to maintain social distancing of at least six feet.
Dr. Vaishampayan said the decision was made to amend the public health order when looking at three different components — the available hospital beds, the ability to conduct more contact investigations and the warmer weather, which helps kill the virus on surfaces.
"This is a balancing act," Dr. Vaishampayan said.
"These conversations and decision points always start with data," said Stanislaus County Board Supervisor Kristin Olsen. "They always start with science ... what makes sense at this time and what doesn't make sense."
The amended order cannot supersede Gov. Gavin Newsom's executive order for the state. Rather, Olsen said the modifications are consistent with the statewide order and something other counties have been implementing.
The amended order will allow for parks, golf courses and gun and archery ranges to reopen. Playground equipment can be used, but only if social distancing is practiced. Children should not be playing with other children who do not rely in the same household. Tennis, pickleball, basketball and volleyball courts may remain open for use by members of the same household only.
Stanislaus County Sheriff Jeff Dirkse said Woodward and Modesto reservoirs will remain closed for the next couple of weeks, because of staffing reassignments, but will eventually open. Once open, lakes and reservoirs may be used by watercraft for recreational use, such as fishing and water-skiing. Congregating on the shore is prohibited and picnicking and camping are not allowed.
Stanislaus County will not be disinfecting any playground equipment and will only be cleaning and disinfecting the restrooms at the parks twice a week.
The City of Turlock is planning a phased approach to reopening some public spaces. As of Friday, the city reopened public spaces, like walking and biking paths and dog parks, however, the playgrounds, restrooms, tennis, volleyball, basketball and other similar courts will remain closed at this time.
"The city encourages everyone who wishes to visit a park to utilize one near their residence," the city stated in a news release. "This will help comply with the social distancing order and not overload any one city park. Please take your own hand sanitizer with you when utilizing the above-named spaces and locations."
The amended order also allows for drive-in church services, with parishioners remaining in their vehicles. It also allows for automated car washes to reopen.
The SCHSA is partnering with Verily's Baseline COVID-19 Program to offer drive-through testing to residents. The testing is not just open to anyone arriving at the site. residents can screen their symptoms and, if eligible, can make an appointment for testing at the Salida Library online by using the Baseline COVID-19 Program online screener and appointment scheduling system found at www.projectbaseline.com/COVID19.
This program is first focusing on high-risk populations as advised by national guidelines.
Dr. Vaishampayan said the drive through testing has time slots available for up to 200 people per day.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified the most common symptoms of COVID-19 as fever, dry cough, fatigue, muscle aches, headaches, loss of sense of smell and/or taste and shortness of breath.
Severe cases of COVID-19 might experience difficulty breathing, pain or pressure in the chest, confusion or inability to arouse, and bluish lips or face. If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and may have had contact with a person with COVID-19, or recently traveled to countries with apparent community spread, call your healthcare provider or local public health department first before seeking medical care so that appropriate precautions can be taken.
The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet). This occurs through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Older adults and people who have severe underlying chronic medical conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes seem to be at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19 illness.
As Stanislaus County Public Health continues to work with the Emergency Operation Center in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic locally, it is critical that individuals and organizations take critical steps in slowing the spread of the virus by following all applicable guidance and recommendations, including:
· Practice social distancing which means stay at least 6 feet away from others.
· Avoid ALL non-essential activities that involve close contact with the general public
· Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol for at least 20 seconds
· Limit close contact with people who are sick. Try to stay at least 6 feet away from someone who is sick
· Routinely clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces
· Do not share objects such as utensils, cups, food, and drink
People can receive updates about COVID-19 in Stanislaus County by texting STANCOVID19 (all caps) to 888777 to receive updates from the Stanislaus County Office of Emergency Services.