(Editor's note: This story has been updated from that which appeared in this week's Gustine Press-Standard and West Side Index.)
The number of COVID-19 cases confirmed in the city of Newman reached seven earlier this week, according to Stanislaus County public health officials, while Merced County on Monday reported six cases in the Gustine community.
Merced County Sheriff's Department Sgt. Delray Shelton, who is assisting the county's public health department, told Mattos Newspapers Thursday that the six cases attributed to Gustine involved a single household in Gustine and were detected in the early stages of the crisis. He said those cases have been cleared - meaning that those involved have recovered - and that as of Thursday morning Gustine had no known active cases.
Shelton and Nicole Cortez, an operations section chief alternate for the county, told Mattos Newspapers that COVID-19 statistics being reported for the Gustine community reflect cases within the city limits.
Gustine City Manager Doug Dunford, however, continued Thursday to maintain that the cases involved were in fact not within the city limits.
Dunford said he does not believe the mapping techniques being used by the county accurately reflect city versus rural unincorporated area addresses.
That dispute aside, Dunford said, it is only a matter of time before the virus surfaces in Gustine proper if it has not done so already. He emphasized the importance of residents continuing their diligence in preventing the spread of COVID-19 through continued social distancing, staying at home for all but essential business, regular hand-washing and other precautionary measures.
The first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the city of Newman was announced in the April 4 daily update issued by Stanislaus County public health officials. At that time - and continuing in daily reports through Monday, April 13 - the county indicated only that Newman had one to four confirmed cases rather than specifying a number.
As of Tuesday afternoon, however, Newman was shown to have reached seven confirmed cases.
City Manager Michael Holland said he had no information beyond the total number of reported cases.
Holland said he did not know if common denominators or links were involved in the Newman cases, or if they were unrelated to one another - a scenario which he said would of even greater concern.
The increase in cases underscores the need for continued diligence and precautions, he emphasized.
"We will be reminding people that this coronavirus is highly contagious and we need to take it seriously to protect our community," Holland stated.
Stanislaus County reports case numbers by city, and by the unincorporated county area as a whole.
As of Tuesday morning, Merced County had reported 74 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with three deaths.
Stanislaus County had 163 confirmed cases as of late Tuesday afternoon. Earlier Tuesday, the county reported its third and fourth deaths related to the virus.