Who gets the COVID-19 test in Merced County?

In an effort to wring from the Merced Sun-Star’s Thursday, March 20th story, ”Coronavirus response efforts increase in Merced County,” what useful news its 37 column inches might contain, we came up with this assertion in the 25th graph by Interem County Health Officer Dr. Kenneth Bird.

Public Health labs remain the only facilities available to test for the virus, but the county has ample coronavirus test kits at this time.

But the story begins:

While there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus in Merced County as of March 10, COVID-19 is at the forefront of discussions among local government officials this week.

We note that according to the Internet, the last meeting of the county Emergency Medical Care Committee was held 11 months ago.

If a normally intelligent person in a vulnerable group can get through the political platitudes and PR flack between graph 1 and graph 25 and maintain consciousness, he might ask, “But have any of these alleged tests been used?” Or, a person in such a group who has called the county Department of Public Health  might ask, “What does it take to get such a test?”

One criterion seems to be travel. But what if you have been infected by someone else, who has traveled to a coastal county where four cases have been confirmed and county health officials say they expect more soon.

Evidently, in Merced County, according to our screening-by-phone with the Merced county health department, if you didn’t do the traveling, you don’t get tested. This is confirmed in the 12th graph, where Bird is reported to have told the Merced County Board of Supervisors that the county is monitoring 16 individuals "in self-isoluation due to travel."

So, to repeat the question: For whom among the  citizens of Merced County are the tests being stockpiled?

Perhaps the public, as the newspaper did, should ask County Director of Public Health, Rebecca Nanyonjo-Kemp, formerly the public health director for Princess Cruises. They should do so in the  hope she doesn’t continue along the sleezy ethical lines of her former employers, who will continue to offer cruises despite a blunt warning from Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases:

“Just don’t get on a cruise ship.”

Local politicians urge the public to remain calm and heed only information provided by the county health department.

But we have questions.

For example, Where is the most likely entry point of the virus into the county? We strongly doubt that Merced Mayor Mike Murphy’s “proactive” planning will include a focus on this possibility.

Our guess is UC Merced because so many of its non-tenured faculty commute from Fresno and because a growing number of its faculty and staff are involved in medical training and research.

In fact, given UCM’s record of suppressing negative stories, we may never know – nor may its students,

faculty and staff ever know – when the virus hit the campus. Are any of the 16 reported self-isolates connected to the university?

Meanwhile, we can hardly wait for UCM’s ingenious bobcatflacksters to use the COVID-19 pandemic as an argument for a UC Merced medical school.

A comic interlude that made the front page in this unfocused story (does the reporter have a fever?) is about Atwater. That city has not only declared an emergency but appointed a belligerent local osteopath/orthopedic surgeon as "voluntary medical advisor to the city." Atwater donut-shop politics chooses the nuclear option once again.