Increase In County COVID-19 Testing Reveals Record Escalation In Those Infected

After months of turning residents seeking to be tested for COVID-19 away, San Bernardino County public health officials are now urging as many people as possible to undergo testing for the potentially fatal malady.
Nevertheless, county officials continue to send mixed signals with regard to the public health crisis that has gripped the nation for more than eight months, including ones that seem to indicate the county no longer wants its residents to undergo testing.
The disease is exhibiting a resurgence locally, at the state level and nationally, prompting state and national leaders as well as health professionals to call for a return to the isolation and self-quarantining that was advocated last spring as a means to check the spread of the condition. Paradoxically, county officials are on the brink of suing the State of California in an effort to thwart Governor Gavin Newsom’s coronavirus-related mandates, which include a statewide curfew and the continued closures of certain businesses.
San Bernardino County got off on the wrong foot even before the COVID-19 crisis began in earnest in March. Trudy Raymundo served as the director of the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health for nearly a decade, but had no expertise whatsoever with regard to medical or public health issues, having been put in place because of her putative skill in accounting and ability to keep a governmental division functioning within a budget. Because she was out of her depth in dealing with issues of medical science, Raymundo failed to recognize the seriousness of the approaching situation, and failed to use the leverage of the county’s size and spending power early to secure a sufficient quantity of the reagent and materials needed to carry out testing of the county’s population to chart the spread of the contagion in its early stages. This prevented tens of thousands of county residents who in March, April and May believed they might be infected from being tested. This left the county’s various medical professionals in both the private and public sectors flying blind in the initial stages of the disease’s onslaught.
Overwhelmed by the challenges the pandemic presented, Raymundo was practically paralyzed in her function as the county’s director of public health. With Raymundo essentially dysfunctional for a month-and-a-half, county officials at last in May recognized she was unequal to the task before her, and she was induced to resign.
After the State of California initiated a rating system that used a host of criteria to determine the level of threat each county was under and granted those counties evincing lower rates of infection a reprieve from the measures intended to slow the spread of the condition while keeping in place the more intensified restrictions in those counties where the infection rates and resultant deaths were spiking, San Bernardino County has been unable to create a break in the infection or death rates that would allow it to be removed from the state’s watchlist and proceed with the opening of those businesses or operations which medical professionals believe are breeding spots for the pandemic’s advance.
The state, seeking to incentivize testing, offered those counties that yet remained under the highest degree of restriction a bonus in the form of a less austere formula in calculating what the overall level of COVID-19-related danger the county was in if it upped its testing numbers. Between October 18 and November 16, San Bernardino County doubled the number of residents it was testing on a weekly basis compared to what it had been doing previously. Shortly after that, a surge in the disease nationwide manifested, including within San Bernardino County. The combination of the increase in the actual number of cases and the more thorough testing made San Bernardino County appear to be a coronavirus hotspot. Over the two-day period of Tuesday and Wednesday, November 17 and 18, San Bernardino County’s total number of COVID-19 cases grew by 3,369 – 1,756 on Tuesday, the biggest one day jump in county cases since the crisis began and 1,613 cases on Wednesday, the second-highest one-day increase. Having spent more than a week encouraging county residents to get tested, the county this week reversed course, having calculated that increased testing is resulting in evidence of an infection rate zooming out of control in the county, which, once documented, is giving the State of California further reason to keep the county under the highest level of restriction.
San Bernardino County, the fifth largest county in California population-wise, on Wednesday eclipsed Riverside County as the California county with the second highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases. At that point, Los Angeles County, the largest jurisdiction population-wise in the Golden State, held the dubious distinction of having the most COVID-19 cases, at 344,741. San Bernardino County, at 2.2 million, has one-fifth the population of Los Angeles County, with 10.1 million people within its confines. Yet the 78,298 confirmed coronavirus cases in San Bernardino County indicates that per capita, San Bernardino County is more heavily infected than Los Angeles County. In Riverside County, which has a population of 2.5 million, there were 77,636 confirmed cases, meaning that San Bernardino County has a higher degree of infection per capita than its immediate neighbor to the south, as well.
San Bernardino County’s sudden aversion to testing was demonstrated by the Sentinel’s efforts to wring from the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health the locations where the testing of county residents is being carried out. Multiple calls to the department’s spokeswoman, Lana Culp, together with an email requesting the test site locations, times and reservations protocols elicited no response whatsoever this week.
Indeed, the county, after seeking to cooperate with the state and Governor Newsom in the effort to have the COVID-19 restrictions it is being subjected to lessened, has now reversed course. The board of supervisors has asked County Counsel Michelle Blakemore to prepare a lawsuit, naming the state and Governor Newsom, which is to challenge the state’s coronavirus reopening plan and the criteria used in keeping San Benardino County in the most-restrictive category for the last three months.
Though she is bound to comply with the board’s direction, Blakemore has privately, the Sentinel was informed, ridiculed the board, in particular Supervisors Robert Lovingood, Janice Rutherford and Chairman Curt Hagman, as being childish and delusional in their desire to launch a legal action that is consigned to failure even before it will be filed.

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