SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A rural Northern California county that had been one of the state’s two counties without any reported coronavirus cases now has at least five, prompting the county to temporarily rescind its orders allowing the reopening of restaurants, shopping and other services.
Lassen County, home to about 30,000 people, had reported no coronavirus cases until May 22. There were five known cases as of Wednesday afternoon, with 222 tests pending results. In total, at least 814 people had been tested, according to county data.
The county began reopening businesses under state guidance on May 11. It is now the first county to revoke its attestation to the state that it can safely reopen.
“We were fully aware of the risk that the virus could come to our community from people visiting people living in infected areas outside of our county or people visiting our county. Unfortunately, this did happen and we now have a serious problem. We need to contain the spread of the virus in Lassen County now,” Dr. Kenneth Korver, the county’s public health officer, wrote Tuesday in a public health order.
In response, the county is no longer allowing dining in at restaurants, in-store shopping, hair salon services or religious services for at least seven days, Korver said.
Kate Folmar, a spokeswoman for the California Health and Human Services Agency, said Lassen County’s response to the cases demonstrates how the state’s system is supposed to work.
“Lassen County saw a change in their data, and their public health officer decided to slow its reopenings. In this new normal, local public health officers are the best first line of defense and best able to assess the facts on the ground,” she said in a statement.
Many of California’s rural, northern counties have seen few coronavirus cases, and they were among the first to receive approval from the state to begin reopening businesses. Forty-seven of the state’s 58 counties, including Lassen, have now been given state approval to move more quickly into reopening. They can get that approval based on hospitalizations, positive test rates or total case loads, but they must submit plans explaining how they would respond if an outbreak occurred.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.