Mammoth man loses battle with COVID-19: “This loss is felt deeply by our entire community”

By: 
Wendilyn Grasseschi
Times Reporter

 

A Mammoth man has died following a struggle with complications from the COVID-19 virus. At press time, the name of the man had not been made public by officials and as such, could not be published by the Times.

His death on March 31 marked the first fatality from the COVID-19 virus in the Eastern Sierra, with 17 more locals testing positive for the disease at press time and, another 4 test results pending. Inyo County, whose border is just a few dozen miles from Mammoth, also had positive cases at press time: a total of nine cases. There had been no deaths in Inyo County due to COVID-19 at press time.

“We extend our deepest sympathies to the patient’s family and loved ones during this time of loss,” said Tom Parker, CEO of Mammoth Hospital. “This loss is deeply felt by our entire community.” 

According to Mono County Public Health Officer Dr. Thomas Boo, the local man, in his 60s, had underlying and chronic medical conditions. “In addition to being infected with COVID-19, he was known to have other chronic medical conditions,” Boo said in a March 31 news release. “He presented to Mammoth Hospital in critical condition (earlier in March). He was then transferred to another facility for further management, but his condition continued to deteriorate, and he ultimately died due to multiple complications related to COVID-19. 

A total of 84 tests from Mono County residents have been sent out, including those noted above, with 62 of those coming back negative for COVID-19.

The county health department and Mammoth Hospital have been working since the virus first appeared in the county to do what is called “contact tracing,” hoping to find out how locals contracted – and spread  – the disease; the 84 tests sent out are a reflection of that effort. 

Boo said in a message sent out to the community earlier this week that that the situation in Mono County, which has a permanent population of about 14,200 people, is “extremely alarming, suggesting that a crushing wave of very sick people is coming soon. ...The hospital continues its urgent preparations for a surge of COVID-19 victims. ...” he said. “We are all worried that a situation is coming in which there are more really ill people than the hospital can care for, and there is no place to transfer people because all the big hospital ICUs are full of COVID-19 patients. In that situation people will die because we just do not have the medical resources. The additional ventilators the hospital had ordered are apparently not coming as soon as they had been expected, because hospitals all across the country are desperately seeking ventilators. Therefore, I have put in a request for ventilators, as well as oxygen concentrators, through the California Disaster Health/Medical aid system, but I don’t when the state will be able to fulfill the request. 

"The situation is dire,” he said. 

But there is hope, he said. It lies in the everyday – and deeply, personally disruptive – actions and sacrifices that Mono County residents are already taking to “bend the curve,” he said. In fact, Mono County residents have been more successful than almost every other county in the state in practicing the state’s Stay at Home mandate and as such, in slowing down the progression of the virus through the county’s residential population. 

“...evidence indicates that Mono County residents are taking this very seriously and distancing themselves from one another to a great degree,” Boo said. “Cellular telephone mobility data show that people in Mono have decreased their mobility more than almost any other jurisdiction in the state, except for Napa County. 

“This is hard, this is deeply concerning,” he said. “But kudos to our community for doing the right thing to protect ourselves and each other. Remember, each infection prevented could save more than one life. We do not yet know just how much all our efforts to distance will slow this epidemic down. I see the week ahead and the week after that as critical to understanding what is coming and when.” 

That is why all the things Mono County residents are doing to slow the spread of the disease matter so much, he said. 

“In the Unified Town/County Incident Command (team), we are always thinking about what else we can do to encourage people to physically distance themselves from others, and to wash their hands, cover their mouths and clean common surfaces,” he said. “We are trying to respond to complaints from the community about situations that aren’t in line with the “Stay at Home” order, or people or businesses that don’t seem to get it. We encourage concerned residents to call the Emergency Operations Center at 760-932-5650 and to tell us about situations that may pose a hazard to public health. 

“And when things get worse, when the hospital begins to feel the pressure of more critically ill people and it’s getting hard to transfer to other hospitals, I expect we will ask all businesses to close and all people to curtail their activities for a little while, to try to slow the epidemic even more and buy any additional time that we can,” he said. 

“With more time, we hope to have more resources, from ventilators to tests to personal protective equipment, to better fight COVID-19."

 

For more information:

Go to: https://monocovid19-monomammoth.hub.arcgis.com

Call: 211 (English & Spanish)

Go to: MonoHealth.com/Coronavirus Facebook.com

Website: MonoHealthDepartment

Instagram.com/MonoCountyHealthDepartment

Twitter.com/CountyMono

Short-term Rental Hotline: 760-965-3670 or TOT@townofmammothlakes.ca.gov 

Emergency Operations Center: 760-932-5650 

 

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