With 24 County Virus Deaths, Only One Of Every 266 Residents Has Been Tested

As the Easter weekend is approaching, less than 0.38 percent of the San Bernardino County’s population – roughly one out of every 266 people – has been tested to see if they had contracted the coronavirus. That is, 8,265 people had been tested. Of those, 729 were confirmed to be infected as of just after 4 p.m. today, April 10. The latest figures were that 24 residents of the county up to this point have perished as a consequence of the disease or its complications.
Early in the week there was alarm over the situation at the Reche Canyon Rehabilitation & Health Care Center in Colton, where it was reported that eight residents and seven employees at the care home had tested positive for COVID-19. One of those resident had died, according to the County Department of Public Health.
The development at Reche Canyon Rehabilitation & Health Care Center was as of today a less serious manifestation of what had occurred at the Cedar Mountain Post-Acute Rehabilitation facility in Yucaipa, where a total of 75 residents and employees are confirmed to have tested positive for the coronavirus, with five residents there having expired since the beginning of March.
The spate of infections and fatalities at the Reche Canyon Rehabilitation and Cedar Mountain locations prompted Governor Gavin Newsom during a press conference on April 4 to bestow upon San Bernardino County the dubitable distinction of being considered one of four nursing home “hot spots” in California.
The County Department of Public Health has established a multi-agency Nursing Facilities Task Force aimed at mitigating the spread of the coronavirus among the county’s most vulnerable residents, and its acting chief health officer has issued an order requiring nursing facilities to take multiple steps to protect their elderly and health-compromised clients.
There are 171 state-licensed nursing facilities in San Bernardino County caring for at least 6,600 of the county’s most at-risk residents, according to the Department of Public Health.
The San Bernardino County Fire Department formed a coronavirus pandemic incident command team on March 6 in an effort to ensure that there would be coordination and adequate communication between the county’s various fire departments, and provide for a sharing of resources and personnel in the event that one or more of the departments were hit with a rash of infections among their personnel. Eighteen departments are involved in the team. It was announced this week that because of the sheer number of personnel involved, the Emergency Operations Center on 5th Street in downtown San Bernardino can no longer adequately accommodate them. As a consequence, and to allow social distancing between the command team’s members, the headquarters for the operations was moved to a larger facility at San Bernardino International Airport.
An example of the coordination the command team is involved in is the detailing of the Yermo/Calico Volunteer Fire Department and the Marine Corps Logistics Base Fire Department to expand their operational footprint to include Daggett, an unincorporated community about 10 miles east of Barstow.
That redeployment was necessitated by one of the volunteer firefighters with the Daggett Fire Department, an all-volunteer organization, having tested positive for the disease on Sunday. Reports were that he had shown symptoms of the disease several days previously. Those he came into contact with, including other volunteers with the fire department, have been sequestered or quarantined, putting the fire department temporarily out of commission.
The Daggett Fire Department is a creature of the Daggett Community Services District, offering fire prevention and suppression service to a roughly 25-square mile area that encompasses the town/environs of Daggett with a population of 227 along Interstate 40  and the Barstow/Daggett Airport. The district board held an emergency meeting Monday, at which it directed that operations of the 10-person volunteer fire department be suspended.
On Tuesday, April 7, San Bernardino County Public Health Officer Dr. Erin Gustafson ordered county residents to cover their faces in public to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The order carried the weight of law, effective the following day, Wednesday, April 8, such that going about with one’s nose and mouth uncovered in public was deemed a crime punishable by up to a $1,000 fine or imprisonment up to 90 days, or both.
There was widespread compliance with the law, though there were occasional individuals who were seen publicly without covering.
A statement was made late Wednesday that the sheriff’s department would not strictly enforce Gustafson’s mandate, but that voluntary compliance by the county’s population was yet expected.
Similarly, an earlier announced ban on any sort of religious services to be carried out during Passover, which began on April 8 at sunset and ends on April 16, as well as over the Easter Holiday, including Mass held on Holy Thursday, Holy Friday as well as on Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday, has been set aside. That prohibition was followed with dire warnings of draconian enforcement action, which was subsequently leavened.
County health officials on Wednesday April 8 relented from the earlier restriction, saying that drive-in religious services that had previously been planned could proceed, with the proviso that congregants or Mass/Eucharistic celebrants maintain social distancing to remain far enough apart to prevent the spreading of the virus. The county in a release said the proceedings could go on, since a complete stoppage created “unintended consequences and hardships.”
Yesterday, 20 trailers supplied by the State of California arrived at Glen Helen Regional Park. The trailers are being prepared to house that portion of the county’s homeless population who have contracted the coronavirus.
Following the county’s coronavirus testing debacle that resulted in unknown numbers of county residents complying with the San Bernardino County Public Health Department’s instructions to apply for testing that took place at the Orange Show grounds in San Bernardino on March 26 only to be turned away, the county is making an effort to undo that disappointment. Some 380 to 400 county residents who applied to be tested more than two weeks ago were given appointments for screening, while others, including those who met the criteria to qualify for testing, including the presence of fever, a persistent cough and shortness of breath and who fell within the priority standard of those 65 years of age or older were not granted appointments or were turned away. The county has declined to disclose how many sought appointments for the March 26 testing and how many were denied those appointments.
There has been considerable criticism of the San Bernardino County Public Health Department’s failure to institute a comprehensive testing procedure of the county’s residents. Likewise, local and regional medical service providers have not been able to stay ahead of the curve in surveying the lion’s share of their patients to see if they have contracted the disease and are either enduring its symptoms or are carriers evincing no signs of the condition. These shortcomings have been attributed to the dearth of testing supplies nationally, including reagents needed to process serology tests or swabbings taken of mouth or nasal tissues to determine the presence of coronavirus antibodies in suspected victims of the disease.
In the aftermath of the Sentinel’s publicizing of the March 26 testing offered by the county, it received numerous irate phone calls from readers complaining that they were denied tests. The Sentinel is cautiously reporting that the county is again offering free testing to county residents.
“We understand the high demand for COVID-19 testing in our county and we are making every effort to organize drive-through events throughout the county,” San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors Chairman Curt Hagman stated in a press release that went out today. “We are working closely with state and federal partners and exploring all avenues to increase testing capacity, despite a nationwide challenge with shortage of supplies.”
According to the county, testing clinics will be held tomorrow, Saturday April 11 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m at Crafton Hills College, 11711 Sand Canyon Road in Yucaipa; on Tuesday, April 14 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Montclair Place, 5060 E. Montclair Plaza Lane in Montclair; a week from today, on Friday, April 17 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Fox Farm Lot, 41850 Garstin Drive in Big Bear Lake; on Wednesday, April 22 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Copper Mountain College, 6162 Rotary Way in Joshua Tree; and on Monday, April 27 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at LoanMart Field, formerly known as Quakes Stadium, at 8408 Rochester Avenue in Rancho Cucamonga.
The testing is to be done by appointment only to residents who have had symptoms of COVID-19 including fever, cough and shortness of breath. To obtain an appointment, call 909-387-3911 or consult the internet site sbcovid19.com. Sentinel readers should be advised that the Sentinel is not in any way involved in this testing opportunity other than providing public notice that it is taking place. Appointments are not guaranteed, even for those who have symptoms of the condition, based upon past experience.
Testing is free and does not require health insurance. It is anticipated that these will be drive-through events, where those to be tested will not need leave their vehicles.
The county has indicated it will offer future testing clinics prior to the elapsing of April at locations yet to be announced in Twentynine Palms, San Bernardino and Victorville.

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