Coronavirus: Hearst Castle CA reports tour guide outbreak


Tracy Kosinski, tour guide at Hearst Castle in San Simeon, wears a mask as she gives a virtual art and architecture tour to third graders in October 2020. Face coverings are mandatory for docents in June 2022 due to a pair of COVID-19 outbreaks.

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Hearst Castle tour guides and ticket takers are required to wear face masks for the next week or so due to a recent coronavirus outbreak at the newly reopened state park.

Members of those two task forces reported enough confirmed cases of COVID-19 that the California State Parks District that oversees the castle had to report the outbreaks to the state, according to district superintendent Dan Falat. coast of San Luis Obispo.

The former San Simeon estate of media mogul William Randolph Hearst reopened to the public on May 11 after being closed for more than two years due to the coronavirus pandemic and repairs to the access road between the center of home of the castle and the hill enclosure.

Between that date and May 27, when the last reporting period ended, 22 cases of COVID-19 were reported across the district, Falat said, 12 involving the guide section and seven at the ticket office.

He confirmed on May 31 that the district had reached the threshold for notifying an outbreak to the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA).

That trigger point for reporting and initiating protective actions, Falat said, is having three instances within a single unit of people working together and sharing spaces, such as the ticketing area or the trailer. of the guide.

Falat said he was not personally aware that any of Castle’s ill staff needed to be admitted to hospital, although employees are not required to report it to the district.

According to Falat, most of those staff members tested positive for COVID-19 soon after the castle reopened.

While individual coronavirus cases had been reported in the other San Luis Obispo Coastal District workgroups, Falat said, none of those sections had reached the three-case threshold. He estimated that the district has about 500 employees and oversees another 500 volunteers.

Before masking and other requirements can be lifted in individual task forces, he said: “We must have had no case reports within 14 days.”

COVID-19 Protocols at Hearst Castle

According to Falat, as soon as the number of COVID-19 cases involving Hearst Castle staff reached the notification threshold, management “took all necessary precautions” designed to contain outbreaks, as required by the State.

These measures include requiring employees in affected units to wear face coverings when indoors or in situations where they cannot follow social distancing guidelines.

The district should also require weekly rapid antigen tests for every employee in these units, provide personal protective equipment such as masks and hand sanitizer, and maintain multiple hand sanitizer stations.

Employees should be encouraged to create as much social distancing as possible outdoors and indoors, Falat added.

Additionally, the district should immediately send anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 home and then require them to self-quarantine and not return to work until their symptoms resolve and subsequent testing for COVID-19 continues. viruses come back negative.

Some of these measures have been in place since the start of the pandemic.

“We encourage everyone to wear masks if they wish, regardless of their vaccination status,” Falat said. “We trust the process and follow the protocols to the letter of the law.”

Privacy laws have made it difficult to keep other employees fully informed, Falat said, “but the goal is to make sure people are informed when needed.”

Notifying guests who might have been on tours with guides who later tested positive for COVID-19 has been nearly impossible so far, he said, because case-finding protocols don’t cover those situations. .

Falat’s office accumulates case information throughout the week, tracks employees who have indicated they are sick, and reports confirmed COVID-19 cases to the state each Monday.

The pandemic “is a moving target,” Falat said. “We will receive reports from employees who say they feel sick, but they never test positive for the virus.”

In addition to the required actions, “we are looking at all the alternatives that exist, other things that we can do to make sure that we reduce the cases and reduce the risk,” the superintendent said. “So we do those things too.”

Falat said on June 3 that no new coronavirus cases had been reported to him in the past week.

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Kathe Tanner has been writing about the people and places of North Shore SLO County since 1981, first as a columnist and then as a journalist. During her career, she has been a bakery owner, public relations manager, radio host, trail guide and jewelry designer. She’s been a Cambria resident for over four decades, and if it’s in town, Kathe knows it.