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April 6, 2021 – Today’s news regarding Nevada County’s case count was not good, far from it. With the distinct possibility of moving backwards into the most restrictive Purple Tier as soon as next week, local public health officials sounded the alarm.

“With certain restaurants and bars fully open–in defiance of health orders–large gatherings of people from multiple households and mask-burning demonstrations during a global pandemic, cases will increase. County officials attribute the case rise to local, organized opposition to proven public health prevention methods, particularly in Western Nevada County,” a county update stated.

Why would a fully open bar or restaurant jeopardize a whole county’s progress?

Because settings where mask wearing and physical distancing are challenging, can affect the community, according to a CDC report published yesterday. “Forty-six cases of COVID-19 were linked to an indoor bar opening event that occurred during February 2021 in a rural Illinois county. Event patrons were linked to secondary cases among household, long-term care facility, and school contacts, resulting in one hospitalization and one school closure affecting 650 students.(9,100 lost person-days of school)”

One event, at one bar.

Reality check

Local health officials, generally mild-mannered and cautious in their statements, were clear about the consequences of increased case numbers for Nevada County. “Communities that have strictly adhered to guidelines are opening up, while Nevada County is at risk of moving backward,” said Nevada County Public Health Director Jill Blake. We know how COVID-19 spreads, and we know how to prevent the spread. The science is clear,” Blake said. “When we say that the virus is ‘widespread’ in our community, we mean just that: it’s everywhere. We’re seeing it in schools, workplaces, social settings, and businesses. The virus continues to be transmitted through unmasked gatherings, whether that’s in a restaurant, a bar, a workplace, or a private home.”

“This is an alarming trend,” said Nevada County Public Health Officer Dr. Scott Kellermann. “And this data is from the week before Spring Break and the Easter holiday. We have yet to see the result of gatherings that may have taken place last week. We are in a race against time regarding the variants. If we adhere to the guidelines of masking and distancing and get immunized – we will win. You all are aware that through working together, much has been accomplished by this community. We need to do that now. We all have a part to play. We can do better.”

Reopening on June 15? Not so fast.

Today, as the bleak news for Nevada County was released, the state announced June 15th as the target date to exit the tier system and reopen all businesses and activities fully – under two conditions: If vaccine supply is sufficient for Californians 16 years and older who wish to be inoculated; and if hospitalization rates are stable and low. The mask mandate will remain in place past that date, according to state officials. As of today, the state’s 7-day positivity rate is 1.6%.

Western Nevada County, especially Grass Valley and south county are bucking the statewide trend, dragging Truckee, Nevada City and the rest of the county into more restrictions if this trend holds.

Nevada County Public Health has opened vaccine eligibility to anyone 16 and over for their Whispering Pines Grass Valley clinics, which use the Pfizer vaccine. Appointments can be made on MyTurn.CA.Gov; new appointments are added every Friday at noon. Vaccine appointments through other local vaccine providers can be found at www.MyNevadaCounty.com/GetVaccinated.