Update from Placer County Public Health – Efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19
Published Aug. 10, 2021
Placer County, like other counties in California, has seen a steep rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations with the increased prevalence of the Delta variant.
“There is no one simple solution in our community’s fight against this disease,” said interim Health Officer Dr. Rob Oldham. “Multiple layers of prevention strategies all play an important role in helping us reduce illness and suffering, keep our economy and schools humming, and moving forward in the ways we all want.”
Learn more about four key areas of current focus from Placer County Public Health: Vaccination, masking, testing and tracing.
- Vaccination remains the most important and most effective tool to curb the spread of COVID-19, preserve our health care system capacity and avoid severe illness. Public Health continues to support efforts to grow vaccination access.
While there is emerging evidence about how vaccinated individuals may spread the virus to others if they are infected with COVID-19, the odds of vaccinated individuals getting sick in the first place remains far lower than those who are unvaccinated. In Placer County, the case rates among unvaccinated individuals have recently been about five times those of vaccinated individuals. Post-vaccination hospitalization or death from COVID-19 are even more uncommon. COVID-19 vaccines are widely available.
Individuals can access vaccination:
- Through health care providers, pharmacies, in-home vaccination for the homebound, and mobile community clinics run by Public Health and other partners. Visit myturn.ca.gov and www.placer.ca.gov/vaccineclinics to view many options.
- Information regarding mobile vaccine opportunities; gift cards; and resources to promote vaccination are available here through the Sleeves Up Placer campaign.
Businesses and employers also have resources to promote vaccination – and reduce the likelihood of outbreaks that could impact operations – by:
- Supporting workplace-based vaccination events by requesting a mobile clinic or helping employees with transportation.
- Building employees’ understanding of paid sick leave that can be used for vaccination appointments or time off due to side effects.
- Find some frequently asked questions about workplace safety standards here.
- The state has recommended universal indoor masking regardless of vaccination status, and Placer County Public Health is encouraging residents to use high-quality masks, and is supporting efforts to get more high-quality masks out in the community.
“With the much higher viral load of the Delta variant, mask quality becomes even more important. Earlier in the pandemic, there were supply chain issues for higher-quality surgical, KN95 and N95 masks, but this is no longer the case,” said Oldham. “These masks are now widely available at drug stores, online and other retailers, and offer strong protection against COVID-19.”
Find more information here.
The state is providing a one-month supply of N95 respirators to interested small businesses via this link. Placer County is offering its supplies of children’s surgical masks to school districts who need them.
Public Health will also be working on renewed efforts with community partners to distribute more high-quality masks to at-risk community members with limited resources, in collaboration with the Placer Community Foundation’s Mask Up Placer campaign.
- Placer County Public Health is promoting current testing resources to the public and key stakeholders while supporting expansion of test availability, including rapid tests, across the county.
Placer County has secured ongoing 5-day operations of the county’s two OptumServe sites, as the state had intended to reduce them to 2-day sites. These sites offer free, non-invasive PCR testing to any Placer County resident, with turnaround generally under two days, and the county has reinvigorated advertisement. As demand grows, the county will also advocate for additional lanes and/or hours.
Public Health is also seeking to expand access to both PCR and rapid testing by:
- Working with local school districts to support them in accessing state testing resources to prevent and manage outbreaks.
- Supporting businesses and organizations who wish to establish regular antigen or PCR testing for employees.
- Working with community-based organizations to improve access to rapid testing among the most vulnerable.
Rapid antigen tests are less reliable at detecting COVID-19 in individuals with low viral loads compared to PCR tests, but the Delta variant has a higher viral load with a reduced incubation period compared to past strains. The speed and convenience of the tests also make them more accessible to many.
“Rapid tests can be a powerful tool, and with Delta it’s one we are trying to get in more people’s hands,” Oldham said.
- Placer County Public Health is adjusting contact tracing staffing to support our ability to attempt case interviews and reach contacts in a timely manner. Timely quarantine and isolation can help slow the spread.
Throughout the pandemic, Public Health has been one of few counties in the state that has hired its own temporary workforce, creating jobs for people in our own community. This has also enabled the county to be more flexible in ramping tracing efforts up and down throughout the pandemic in response to surges, while those counties who are fully reliant on state staffing support or county staff from other departments have had their tracing efforts limited by availability.
While staffing had declined with lower case rates in spring, Public Health is adjusting staffing models to meet the demands of the most recent surge. Interviews can also be prioritized based on a variety of factors to maximize impact. Answering texts or calls from Public Health’s home-grown workforce is a crucial step. Individuals who have tested positive and wish to begin notifying their contacts anonymously can do so through tellyourcontacts.org.
All individuals who are tested for COVID-19 are encouraged to provide a cell phone number at their testing location for notification purposes.
“We have the staff, but we also need the public’s help and understanding in participating in case interviews. We know it can be awkward or uncomfortable to receive a phone call after you test positive – but know that the person on the other end of the line is a community member like you, and is here to help,” said Oldham. “Answering their questions can help us protect your loved ones.”