Law enforcement, health officials form COVID-19 task force in Madera County

MADERA, Calif. (KFSN) -- At a time when the lines of public safety and public health blur, a task force, comprised of law enforcement and health officials in Madera County, is actively combating the coronavirus.

"We deal with crime all the time, so we're looking at COVID as the suspect," said Madera County Sheriff Jay Varney.

As director of the Office of Emergency Services for the county, Sheriff Varney deployed a Rapid Contact Tracing Team. Each COVID-19 positive result launches a new investigation.

"We start with the COVID positive people, we work out from there of who's had close contact."

Within 15 minutes, the team not only makes contact with the infected person, but the additional layer of anyone who may have come into contact with them to get them into isolation.

On top of interviews, public health nurses follow up with those in isolation twice per day. Since Madera County announced its first case on March 7, more than 600 tests have been conducted.

The number of those infected has plateaued, staying below 40, but that doesn't mean efforts will change.

"We're also making plans for the potential of surge. We're mindful that over the holiday weekend, there was probably more gathering and interaction between folks," said Sara Bosse, director at Madera County Public Health.

Those considered to be a vulnerable population are housed in contracted hotels.

"We do have some homeless folks that we've housed that are not symptomatic," Varney said.

Much like law enforcement is enhanced by community support, Sheriff Varney says you can do your part to stop the spread. Popular dining areas now sit empty, face masks and gloves are worn for essential errands and people are maintaining their social distance.

Businesses are also doing their part to comply, either closing or modifying operations.

So far, the county has responded to 82 complaint calls, ranging from large gatherings to nonessential businesses operating.

Since the initial outbreak, all Valley counties have been in constant communication with each other. While they may not deploy the same task force, best practices are being shared.
Copyright © 2020 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.