Mariposa County leaders say preparation for other disasters has helped with COVID-19 response

MARIPOSA COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- A new COVID-19 testing site near Bootjack opened to the public for the first time Tuesday, by appointment only.

It's part of a partnership with the state and OptumServe that will allow more than 130 people to be swabbed every day.

Officials say that far surpasses recommendations for a community of this size, but they're also encouraging residents from neighboring areas to take advantage.

Jerry Rankin and his wife drove from Oakhurst for the test and had high praise for Mariposa County's response to the pandemic.

Rankin says, "This is one of the most efficiently run counties in California."
Local leaders say they've learned from several past disasters, including fires and floods.

The Sheriff's Office assumed the county's Office of Emergency Services planning and response role in 2014 and focused on training for all departments, along with increased communication.

Residents were quickly alerted about stay at home orders by call, text, and email using the same system that saved lives during the Detwiler fire three years ago.

Sheriff Doug Binnewies says, "The communities really appreciate that. They like to get timely information, and they want to know what's going on so they can respond appropriately."

Binnewies also credits the county's health officer, Dr. Eric Sergienko, with taking the coronavirus seriously since learning about it in late December. Staff members were prepared when the first patient tested positive last Tuesday.

Dr. Sergienko says, "We were able to isolate her, and then do rapid contact tracing on her close contacts, and because of that we were able to identify a fairly large cluster that included 13 people who eventually tested positive for COVID-19."
The county has also been using an app to help track risk factors among its employees, which will be shared with businesses as more of them prepare to open later this week.

Officials are collaborating on plans for the eventual return of tourists as well.

Dr. Sergienko explains "We're working as an area coordination team with Madera and Tuolumne counties, along with Yosemite National Park. So we're moving forward as a three-county, one park area, rather than moving forward as a single county."

Officials say while they're proud of the county's response, it does not take away from the financial pain the community is feeling. Economic recovery plans will also be key moving forward.

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