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Yuba-Sutter counties top state, nation in coronavirus positivity rate

"The community now is really the first responder." The lone hospital in the two counties implore communities to follow public health guidelines.

SUTTER COUNTY, Calif. — The lone hospital serving Yuba and Sutter counties is in overdrive as coronavirus cases stretch staff and resources thin.

Hospital leaders at Adventist Health + Rideout said they're immensely proud of dedicated staff who return to work despite exhaustion and sickness to serve their community, but they were also somber about the reality they face.

"As I stand here today, Yuba and Sutter county are the hotspot- not just in California but in the nation," said Rick Rawson, President of Adventist Health + Rideout.

The latest seven-day positivity rate in Sutter county is 25.7% and in Yuba county it is 20.5%, both the highest in the California according to state data.

That means one in every four people tested in Sutter County and one of every five in Yuba County have tested positive for COVID-19 within a week.

Rideout leadership said the massive surge of coronavirus patients has forced them to cancel elective surgeries so they can free up staff to work the emergency department. They also launched a program to provide acute care in people's homes to free up limited beds. Currently, 100 front line workers are sick or under quarantine- further limiting staffing and resources.

Cyndy Gordon, Rideout's Patient Care Executive, said coronavirus patients are coming in sicker, and their stays in the Intensive Care Unit can last weeks, whereas the average stay is typically 3 to 4 days.

Gordon said she's proud of staff doing everything in their power to save lives and grateful for the communities' support, but they can't stop the surge on its own.

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"The community, now, is really the first responder in this fight against the pandemic," she said. 

Hospital leadership is imploring people to wear a mask, social distance, and stay home when sick.  

Dr. Kamara Graham, the Emergency Department Director, said she understands pandemic fatigue is real, and that some people long to see family and friends and get back to normal. But she said the longer people ignore health guidelines, the longer the crisis will be.

"If we rally together as a community, we can stop it. When we take a stand, and we do the things that we need to do, then we will get through this much quicker," Graham said.

In Mid-October, the hospital had treated 10 to 15 COVID-19 patients. On Tuesday, the hospital treated 62 COVID-19 patients, and at least 16 had to wait for Emergency Room beds. 

Graham said transfers are not readily available as other hospitals are also near capacity. She also noted that the majority of coronavirus cases have been family members that were admitted together after a gathering. With Christmas around the corner, she expects the surge will keep peaking. 

Yuba County spokesman Russ Brown said contract tracing shows spread quickly infects family members, and some who were asymptomatic spread it to other social groups. He said there's a reason why the two counties have such high positivity rates.

"We have a lot of people who taking care, following the guidelines of social distancing and masking and staying home if sick, and we also have a good cross section who are simply not," he said.

Brown said politicization of public health guidelines is translating into more coronavirus cases.

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