Hospital
FIRST STOP For many, the Emergency Room at Healdsburg District Hospital is the only reliable place to get a Covid test, as many drug stores report test kits are running low.

Samuel J. Gleason, the young actor who heads the cast of the Raven Players’ Company this month, started feeling poorly just after Father’s Day.

“I had a cough, a scratchy throat, a headache,” he said later. “I had minor aches in certain parts of my upper and lower back. And also, just a sort of general fatigue, tiredness, not feeling great.” Having had Covid previously, Gleason took a test on June 18 and the results came in positive. He called in sick for further rehearsals of the play, and found out he wasn’t the only one.

Dance rehearsal
REHEARSAL Some members of the cast of ‘Company’ wore masks when they met to practice their steps prior to the show’s opening on July 5. (Photo by Steven David Martin)

His story was a common one in June throughout the area—fatigue, scratchy throat and a positive Covid test result, despite being fully vaccinated. So prevalent if under-reported is this latest Covid surge that CVS Pharmacy ran out of Covid test kits, as did other drug stores. Rite Aid in Healdsburg did manage to keep tests on hand, but the fact that some places did not is pretty clear evidence something’s going around.

Most of the Company cast gamely continued rehearsals, but the play—originally scheduled to open June 28—was delayed a week. According to Harry Duke, the Weeklys’ theater critic, it wasn’t the only show affected by the virus: Kinky Boots at 6th Street Playhouse and Lend Me a Tenor at Sonoma Arts Live both delayed their June openings, and the opera The Passion of Joan of Arc to be staged in Sonoma was canceled outright.

While not making the headlines it did in the early days of the pandemic, four years ago, Covid is clearly not a thing of the past. Insofar as the Healdsburg Tribune has a staff, we’ve both got it, or have had it recently.

The difficulty in finding test kits adds to the challenge of finding the exact number of cases—and even if a home test shows positive, there’s no requirement to report the results. Healdsburg District Hospital says it doesn’t have tests for the public, although if someone shows up at the Emergency Room as a patient, they can be tested.

‘Sewershed’

Covid test kit
POSITIVE The tell-tell red ‘T’ line shows the presence of the coronavirus in a home test kit. (Photo by John Cameron / Unsplash)

Absent testing information, the County of Sonoma Health Department relies on other means of charting the prevalence of the virus locally: wastewater monitoring. In this technology, wastewater (e.g. sewage) is tested for micro-organisms to help local health officials track infectious diseases.

“We have been observing an overall increasing trend in wastewater detection of Covid-19 that began early May of this year,” said Leslie Kimura, deputy public health officer for the county on June 28. “Detection in the composite of all sewer sheds peaked at 57% of its maximum historical detection on June 14th and since then has plateaued around 52%.”

Three area wastewater treatment facilities are tested—in Petaluma, Santa Rosa and Windsor—with a composite number also recorded. The local baseline number, when the maximum historical detection figure was 100% for the Windsor “sewershed,” was in February 2024. As of June 27, the most recent date published, the Windsor number is only 13%, though the other facilities test high enough to push the composite number to 56%.

Healdsburg is in the Windsor sewershed, but if the numbers are ticking down over the last month the anecdotal evidence is strong that Covid is prevalent in our community.

For most people, especially those with immunizations, the symptoms may be relatively mild—relatively being the operative word. A high fever affects some, not others; muscle aches and congestion may be experienced; some experience diarrhea and nearly everyone experiences fatigue. Symptoms can last anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks.

Kimura also notes that while not all hospitals are reporting Covid cases, those that do reported 47 Covid-19 hospitalizations in June. All cases were adults, with 77% of these cases being adults 65 or older. In June, four Covid-19 outbreaks occurred at skilled nursing and residential care facilities for the elderly, with a total number of 20 cases and contacts.

With its familiarity, and the relative mildness of symptoms for many, people should remember that Covid remains potentially serious. “Covid-19 remains one of the leading causes of premature death in Sonoma County,” Kimura said. This includes six deaths due to Covid-19 reported in June 2024.

Evolution

Part of the challenge Covid poses to health officials is that the virus evolves, with new variants slipping through the defenses human immune systems build up, including vaccination. The original SARS-CoV-2 virus that appeared late in 2019, and an early variant called Delta, have largely been replaced by the Omicron variant that appeared in southern Africa in 2021.

The latest “sublineages” are KP.2 and KP.3 which, beginning in early to mid-May, became more prevalent in Sonoma County, “making up over half of the samples tested in early June of this year,” Kimura said.

KP.3 and KP.2 are subvariants of FLiRT, named after technical names for the mutations which also stem from the Omicron variant line. Perhaps appropriately, “FLiRT variants are quite transmissible and likely contributing to the overall increasing trend in cases we’ve seen since early May,” Kimura said.

The trend is not just local. The latest Centers for Disease Control (CDC) data shows that nationally, positive Covid-19 results have risen 9%. Common symptoms remain sore throat, cough, fatigue, congestion, runny nose, fever or chills, and headache.

While symptoms improve for many after several days with plenty of rest, the CDC still advises seeking medical attention in cases of troubled breathing, confusion, persistent chest pain and the inability to stay awake.

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Christian Kallen has called Healdsburg home for over 30 years. A former travel writer and web producer, he has worked with Microsoft, Yahoo, MSNBC and other media companies, usually in an editorial capacity. He started reporting locally in 2008, moving from Patch to the Sonoma Index-Tribune to the Kenwood Press before joining the Healdsburg Tribune in 2022.

1 COMMENT

  1. Everyone I know who currently has Covid also took at least two of the mRNA injections. No one I know who has had Covid, but no mRNA injections has caught Covid again.

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