March 25, 2020 – A letter by a property management company reminding residents of an apartment complex on Sutton Way in Grass Valley to follow state and local shelter in place rules was widely shared on social media these past few days. It wasn’t the sensible guidelines to residents in the memo that sparked extensive sharing in social media groups. The memo indicated a resident of the apartment complex had tested “positive” for COVID-19 and the affected household was in self-quarantine “mode.” As of publication time, neither Public Health nor other agencies have been able to confirm that statement.


After receiving numerous copies of the memo addressed to residents in the Sutton area apartments, we reached out to the property management company for clarification. Michael Burke, a Vice President with AWI Management Corporation is the author of the memo. He stated the main goal was to emphasize current CDC and state guidelines and declined to provide details on the alleged COVID-19 case, saying his job was to focus on the well-being of their renters.

We made inquiries to local and state public health agencies trying to confirm the case. While agencies cannot provide details on positive cases for medical privacy reasons, we were led to believe that no case in that area has been reported. We also contacted local health care providers and received the same answer.

Grass Valley emergency services saw the social media posts and tried to independently confirm the case. Their concern was both for the patient and residents of the apartment building. After an extensive investigation, Grass Valley Police and Fire have been unable to confirm the existence of a COVID-19 “positive” resident in the apartment complex.

According to the California Department of Public Health, “Positive and negative COVID-19 Public Health Laboratory test results will be reported through the local Public Health Laboratory. Laboratory test turn-around time from specimen receipt to result is approximately 48 hours.”

Social media amplification vs trusted sources

Social media can be a great tool to spread information fast among a diverse group of people. Unfortunately, the same goes for not so factual statements. A well-meaning “heads up” can create confusion especially in this fast-moving environment.

Before sharing and amplifying posts, please check the Nevada County COVID-19 site: the state COVID-19 response site or the California Department of Public Health COVID-19 updates: Your local media outlets continue to provide you with factual news as well.