MAMMOTH LAKES, Calif. (AP) — California has placed Mono County on its coronavirus watch list due to a surge in cases in Mammoth Lakes, a center for tourism and outdoor recreation in the eastern Sierra Nevada.
The surge is largely linked to the town’s restaurants, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.
The state is closely monitoring case numbers and places counties on the watch list of infections are too high, triggering increased restrictions in an effort to prevent local health systems from being overwhelmed. More than 30 of 58 counties are on the list.
Mono County, with about 14,200 residents, has far fewer cases than the state’s major population centers but had 40 people test positive for the virus over the last two weeks, raising the infection rate to 8.03% and the seven-day average from July 12 to July 19 to 11.32%, the Times said. One person is hospitalized.
Overall, 84 people have tested positive, including 79 in Mammoth Lakes, and there’s been one death.
The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.
For most people, the new 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.
Restaurants have been connected to 65% of the new confirmed cases, according to the county.
The coronavirus has an incubation period up to 14 days so it’s possible some of the increase dates to the Independence Day holiday, but authorities do not point to that period exclusively.
“We don’t believe July 4 was a primary catalyst, just a considerable number of visitors seeking solace in the Eastern Sierra,” public information officer Stuart Brown told the Times.
Restaurant workers will now have to wear personal protective equipment such as surgical or N95 masks, instead of simple cloth face coverings, at least 30% of employees must be tested between July 22 and July 28, and all must be screened prior to each shift.
Lack of compliance will lead to orders closing establishments starting with a 72-hour period and lengthening for repeated violations.
Many other California counties are trying to put some bite behind public health orders as hospitalizations and positive tests for the coronavirus continue rising in many parts of the state.
On Wednesday, California surpassed New York as the state with the most confirmed cases. Another 12,000 cases were added Thursday, bringing the state total to 425,000. The 157 deaths reported Wednesday marked the state’s highest daily total.