Rural northern California is seeing a troubling rise in Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations, an alarming trend that comes as residents and businesses continue to protest against safety measures and vaccinations – with one Mendocino cafe threatening to charge customers $5 for wearing a mask.
While the region makes up a small proportion of the state’s population, the growth in its caseload has been considerable, and comes at a time when the state overall is enjoying some of the lowest rates of Covid in the country. After largely avoiding the worst of the pandemic, a block of far northern California counties now leads the state with nearly 40 cases per 100,000 residents over the past week, according to statistics maintained by the Los Angeles Times. Tehama county ranked the highest in the LA Times case ratings with 139 cases per 100,000 residents. Meanwhile 10 of the 21 total Covid deaths in nearby Siskiyou county have occurred since the beginning of May.
The region has long been one of the most forceful in its pushback against measures such as masks, business restrictions and vaccine mandates – and the protests have only continued to gain steam. A cafe in the town of Mendocino made headlines after announcing it will charge customers a $5 fee if they order while wearing a mask. It also threatened to charge $5 to anyone “caught bragging about your vaccine”.
“It’s about time the proponents of these ineffective government measures start paying for the collateral damage they have collectively caused,” the cafe owner Chris Castleman told NBC News. He also offered a 50% discount to customers who threw their masks in the trash.
George Rutherford, a professor of epidemiology at the University of California, San Francisco, said the current situation feels inevitable. “I was waiting for this to happen,” he said, adding that the outbreaks mirror trends occurring in southern and eastern Oregon, just north of California’s border. “It shows you where vaccination is lagging and transmission is taking place.”
Read more of Erin McCormick’s report from Berkeley: ‘Waiting to happen’: the California region where masks are taboo – and cases are rising
The Victorian government in Australia will now require people to check in at retail stores and supermarkets regardless of the length of time they spend in the store, as new data reveals a huge increase in check-ins to the Service Victoria app once the state forced businesses to begin using it.
As part of the extension of the lockdown in Melbourne, the acting premier, James Merlino, announced on Wednesday that supermarkets and retailers would be required to make everyone check in when they entered into the store. Previously it was only a recommendation.
After the state recorded a number of Covid-19 transmissions at retail stores where the contacts had “fleeting” contact, Victoria’s chief health officer, Prof Brett Sutton, said the change was to ensure records of everyone at potential exposure sites were complete.
“We are in a position now where the Victorian community is motivated to do the right thing and they understand the importance of contact tracing in this space,” he said.
“And even though we have been doing really well in identifying people at all exposure sites, I think everyone recognises that we have to do absolutely everything in our power to be able to chase down every single person who may be exposed because it is that one person who is not found who may be the one who spreads it.”
The Victorian government launched its Covid QR-code check-in app, Service Victoria, at the end of November 2020 but continued to allow hospitality venues to to use their own QR-code systems to record people visiting.
Read more of Josh Taylor’s report here: Victoria makes Covid check-in mandatory at shops after transmissions from ‘fleeting’ visits