Lincoln prepared for Swine Flu - if it hits

By: Gus Thompson and Brandon Darnell
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Although swine flu has not yet hit Placer County, that’s not stopping Lincoln residents from being prepared. The fastest-selling items in Lincoln Medical Supply are N95 masks, which resemble dust masks but have special filters to protect against airborne diseases like swine flu, said store manager Pete Leonard. In the past two weeks, Lincoln Medical Supply has sold out of the masks three times, Leonard said. Each time the masks are delivered, they sell out in about half a day. “We could have sold many more,” Leonard said, adding the problem is getting them from the distributors, who have run out. A shipment of 200 came in Monday and half of them were gone by Monday afternoon. Leonard said he expected to sell out of his remaining stock very quickly, with calls coming in every day requesting the masks. “It’s just so hard to get them,” Leonard said. When Leonard called one of his normal distributors, he was told that 140 cases of about 500 masks each were on backorder. Despite the sharp increase in sales of N95 masks, Lincoln police Chief Brian Vizzusi said there hasn’t been a need to set up an emergency-operations center. “(Fire) Chief Dave Whitt and I are monitoring the situation and we are in contact with Placer County Health and Human Services, as well as other police and fire chiefs in the area,” Vizzusi said. At the county level, officials are being cautious but not overly so. Unlike the state prison system and some other California counties, Placer County Jail was allowing visitors Monday in the face of swine flu concerns. Capt. George Malim, jail commander, said none of the inmates in the main jail or minimum-security annex had been diagnosed with the illness and the Sheriff’s Department was taking precautions that didn’t include turning away visitors. Ventura, Tulare and Merced counties have all temporarily banned visits. Visits at all state prisons were suspended on Sunday. The state decision followed a possible case of swine flu being suspected at the Centinela State Prison in Imperial County. The state prison’s acting chief physician executive Dr. Steven Ritter told the Associated Press that the closed doors statewide are a precautionary measure to protect the public, prisoners and prison staff. Lawyer, medical and social worker visits will continue. Malim said visits would continue to be allowed for the 550 inmates under Placer County supervision. The main jail on Richardson Drive in North Auburn has visitors and inmates separated by glass partitions and contacting each other by phone, he noted. The Sheriff’s Department has greater concerns at the smaller minimum-security facility, where the partitions aren’t in place, Malim said. While there had been no confirmed cases of swine flu in Placer County by late Monday, the county elections division is reminding residents that they still have time to request vote-by-mail ballots that would keep them away from public polling places. Requests for vote-by-mail ballots can be received by the elections division up to 5 p.m. Tuesday. Vote-by-mail ballots may be issued over the counter at the elections division office through May 19. Jim Gadney, county health assistant director, said Monday that the good news is that Placer has no documented cases. No new tests of samples from the county have tested positive. “And it’s also good news that we’re finding the virus is not moving at an unrealistic pace,” Gadney said. “It’s not progressing alarmingly swiftly.”