Tulare County may bring back 'stay at home' orders if COVID-19 case continues to surge

VISALIA, Calif. (KFSN) -- Tulare County wrapped up another tough week, with 922 more positive COVID-19 cases.

The South Valley now looks to reverse a grim outlook in its battle against the coronavirus.

Tulare County officials sounded the alarm, saying 'stay at home' orders could be brought back if the surge of COVID-19 cases can't be stifled.

"What we do in these next three weeks will determine our immediate future as far as being able to dial up re-opening or incurring more dial-backs," said supervisor Amy Shuklian.

In the past three weeks, the number of positive cases in Tulare County has gone from 160.2 per 100,000 residents to 329.3 cases. That is a 105% increase.

"This is an alarming trend that if allowed to continue, may result in additional businesses and entertainment sectors needing to be closed, as well as impacting the ability of our schools to return students to the classroom," said Health & Human Services Agency Director Timothy Lutz

Kaweah Delta CEO Gary Herbst described an exhausted and decimated workforce.

"We've had more than 150 of our employees that have contracted the virus, many of them front-line workers that are taking care of these patients. Today I have 50 nurses that are quarantined at home," he said.

Tulare County is one of 19 counties ordered by the state to eliminate indoor services at restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues because of rising COVID-19 rates.

Governor Newsom indicated agencies like Alcohol Beverage Control and Cal/OSHA would help enforce those orders.

"I don't want to have to change gears and become an enforcement arm but I will say this - as your sheriff, I will assist any code compliance officer, any law enforcement agency that comes into the area for those who are in flagrant disregard," said Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux.

Sheriff Boudreaux said just 13 of the almost 1,000 inmates inside the Tulare County Jail have tested positive.

Medical experts had hoped the coronavirus would behave like a flu virus and cases would decrease under the summer heat.

"What we see now is the reality and the reality is that heat does not seem to be lessening the infection so we're going to have to stay vigilant," said Dr. Sharon Minnick with the HHSA.

Nursing homes served as a major source of the initial COVID-19 surge in the south valley but now they represent 15% of the total positive cases.

For more news coverage on the coronavirus and COVID-19 go to ABC30.com/coronavirus
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