A fourth coronavirus death, and an interim health official for Butte County

With coronavirus cases and deaths on the rise, Yuba-Sutter doctor steps in as public health officer

(Image courtesy of Centers for Disease Control & Prevention)

Butte County is sharing a public health officer with two other counties as the Public Health Department seeks a replacement for Dr. Andy Miller.

Public Health Director Danette York told the Chico News & Review that Dr. Ngoc-Phuong Luu, the health officer for both Yuba and Sutter counties, is serving as interim public health officer for Butte County. The position also makes Luu the public health officer for each of our county’s cities, York said.

When Miller resigned—as the CN&R reported first, on May 15—after 3-1/2 years, Public Health announced he would remain with the county through July 10. (He worked through June, per the CN&R’s report). Miller had actually served as interim Yuba-Sutter health officer before Luu’s hiring in January.

Dr. Ngoc-Phuong Luu (photo courtesy of Yuba County)

“She’s extremely busy, as you can imagine, with COVID-19,” York said about Luu. “Adding us on as interim increased her already full workload. She’s doing everything remote for us, and we try to do as much as we can with our public health nurses and our operations section team, then just keep her updated on any new and emerging issues—not just COVID.”

Coronavirus, though, has been of foremost concern the past week. Today (July 8), the county announced the fourth death due to the virus, a person “in their 70s” with underlying health issues. As of Tuesday afternoon (July 7), Butte County had 275 positive tests from COVID-19. More than half, 142, have come in a 13-day span, since June 25, with the biggest spike—62 new cases—happening over the three-day July 4 weekend.

State law gives public health officers significant authority, particularly in crisis situations. They can declare public health emergencies, such as Miller did for coronavirus, and order measures such as quarantines. In its announcement of the resignation, the county stressed the importance of getting a replacement in place by fall in the event of the pandemic continuing into the cold-weather months as health officials predict.

York said the county is recruiting for Miller’s position and “hopefully we’ll have a new replacement soon.”

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