Given that we do not know how long the coronavirus pandemic will remain a threat in the Bay Area — or if it may decelerate and resurge later in the year the way influenzas do — cities and counties have to begin planning for fire season in an entirely new way.
In Sonoma County, that means thinking ahead to fire-shelter situations in which the elderly and high-risk among us need to be sheltered either separately or in smaller groups, rather than on a cot in a gymnasium with hundreds of other people. As Chris Godley, director of emergency management for the county tells the Chronicle, the county is working on this and other "creative solutions," calling the new reality and the upcoming wildfire danger a "major focus" for his team.
Granted, there's a lot on everyone's mind this week and this isn't the most urgent concern at the moment, but we have to imagine that PG&E's proactive power shutoffs may also have a potential impact — though we did not see situations this past fire season where any hospitals had to lose power.
Up in Nevada County, where there still are no confirmed cases of COVID-19, residents are being advised to prepare similarly and simultaneously for both a likely outbreak and for wildfire season. Even though no large fires are burning and there is no current outbreak in the area, YubaNet advises, "Neither [fact] should keep you from preparing for both." The site is advising county residents to make co-existing wildfire and virus-lockdown preparedness plans, and stock up on supplies and medications in the event of both.
A representative for the Red Cross tells the Chronicle that before it sets up any wildfire shelters this year in an area impacted by COVID-19, it plans to screen evacuees for the coronavirus. The rep tells paper, "Our goal is to provide anyone in need after a disaster with a safe place to stay where they feel comfortable and welcomed."
As of Sunday in Sonoma County — where wildfire danger is among the most prevalent in the Bay Area — there are only five confirmed cases of COVID-19. That number is expected to rise in the coming weeks, and as the Press-Democrat reports, the county just recorded its second case of community transmission in a healthcare worker — though officials at Rohnert Park Health Center, where an employee tested positive, are saying they do not believe the employee contracted the virus at their facility.
Photo: Joanne Francis