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Finding Reasons to Be Optimistic – Fort Bragg Advocate-News

By on March 23, 2021 0

To help keep the Mendocino Coast community informed of coronavirus updates, Dr. William Miller, Chief of Staff, Mendocino Coast District Hospital; and Tabatha Miller, Fort Bragg City Manager (no relation), have teamed up for The Miller Report, a hyperlocal weekly column on the progress of COVID-19 within our community.

MCDH Chief of Staff, Dr. William Miller

The deployment of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID vaccines has gone much more smoothly than many other aspects of the fight against this pandemic so far. The process, from FDA emergency use approval to distribution to states, counties, and finally to healthcare facilities, happened very quickly.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Pfizer is expected to distribute 25 million doses in the United States by the end of the year and Moderna will add another 20 million. While 45 million is a lot, there are 330 million Americans. California, with its population of just under 40 million, has received around 350,000 doses so far. Thus, these initial doses must be distributed according to a rational strategy.

This phased strategy is dictated by the California Department of Public Health, aided by CDC and FDA recommendations. The focus is first on the areas of the state hardest hit by the pandemic. The strategy prioritizes healthcare workers caring for patients with COVID-19 and includes many others, such as emergency first responders. Care home staff and residents also have priority.

Next come other health care workers who, while they may not directly care for patients with COVID-19, are nonetheless very important to the functioning of the entire health care system. Soon after, the vaccine will be made available to the general public, starting with those most at risk.

I asked Dr. Andy Coren, our Mendocino County Health Officer, to share his perspective on the process.

“(Our health department) is working carefully on the ethical timeline required by the state, prioritizing the most vulnerable and frontline health care workers and emergency service first responders,” a Koren said.

He shared that they are starting to make plans to set up mass vaccination clinics once the vaccine doses are made available to the general public. While it’s still too early to tell when that will happen, Coren assured me that the prioritization process is done carefully to ensure fair and ethical distribution.

Two weeks ago, we began administering the first doses of the vaccine to our own frontline staff at Adventist Health Mendocino Coast Hospital. We have now been able to vaccinate most hospital and clinic staff as well as doctors, offering it to those who want it.

Since I am one of the doctors helping treat COVID patients, I received my vaccine on December 18th. The side effects experienced by those who have received it so far have all been minimal, mostly muscle pain for about two days. That’s the desired effect because it takes an inflammatory response to trigger the immune system to produce antibodies, so that’s a good thing. A booster injection is necessary in 3 weeks for Pfizer and 4 weeks for Moderna to bring the protection rate to approximately 95%.

This vaccine is likely to be a game-changer as we enter the new year – and is certainly cause for celebration.

Fort Bragg City Manager, Tabatha Miller

Tuesday Testing: On Tuesday, I participated in weekly COVID-19 surveillance testing at Veteran’s Hall at 360 N. Harrison Street here in Fort Bragg. It is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and operated by OptumServe’s traveling second crew. OptumServe also performs daily monitoring tests at Ukiah at the Redwood Empire Fair Grounds.

From what I’m told, it gets busy at 9am, slows down in the late morning and early afternoon but picks up in the late afternoon when people leave work. I have to say that my experience was quick and painless. I registered online at and other than some confusion about booking an appointment, it was relatively easy.

By the way, at the moment you cannot make an appointment for Fort Bragg, you just have to show up. Also note, this was only a swab of my nostrils and not the deep dive. Excluding the 10 minutes I chatted (outside, wearing masks and social distancing) with Police Chief Naulty and Mayor Norvell, whom I met at Veteran’s Hall, it took approximately 10 minutes.

It is important to participate in local monitoring tests. To keep it, at least 165 tests must be carried out every Tuesday. So if you haven’t already done so, sign up and get into the habit of regularly testing every other Tuesday.

Business Grants and Loans: Also on Tuesday, I also participated in a webinar for the $500 million California Small Business COVID-19 Relief Grant Program. The program announced by Governor Newsom on December 4 opens applications for the first round on December 30 at 6 a.m. and closes on January 8 at 11:59 p.m.

Grant funding ranges from $5,000 to $25,000, depending on gross revenue. The second round of distributions will follow with application dates to be announced. Qualified candidates who applied in the first round will be automatically entered into the second round without having to reapply. The two rounds of funding total approximately $237.5 million. The program is not “first come, first served”, but grants will be distributed based on program priority factors.

Qualifying small businesses, including for-profit business entities and nonprofit organizations (registered as 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(6)) with annual gross revenue of $2.5 million or less and operating in California with a physical address in California. For more information and to apply online, go to

Locally here in the city, we are eagerly awaiting a response from the California Department of Housing and Community Development regarding our pending request for $500,000 to fund a business assistance loan program and an additional $117,000 to fund a financial assistance program for micro-enterprises. We expect the program to be funded and available for application in January 2021. A press release will announce the opening of the program.

Recent sewer test results: The city’s sewer COVID-19 test results for Dec. 16 reflect the highest concentrations to date of the two strains of the virus tested locally. It also matched the number of current positive cases — 30 — reported by Mendocino on the same date for ZIP code 95437. (It’s one of the highest numbers reported for 95437 to date).

The Dec. 22 report’s findings were lower and consistent with the reduced number of 14 active COVID-10 cases in the 95437 ZIP code as reported by the county.

Although the strength and presence of COVID-19 in sewers are useful for gathering long-term information, they do not provide any information to help identify who is positive for COVID-19. I would like to remind everyone that ZIP Code 95437 has a population of approximately 15,000, while the city limits and city sewer area is approximately 7,500.

As you welcome in 2021, please stay safe.