2020 - what a year!
The year began like most years; the laboratory collected ticks for disease surveillance, the technicians checked seasonal sources for mosquito larvae, and several staff members presented research at the 2020 Mosquito and Vector Control Association of California Annual Conference in San Diego.
It wasn't long, though, until things took a turn for the worse. In March, we began to get very concerned about the growing COVID-19 pandemic. The District's annual open house was canceled, as well as the American Mosquito Control Association Annual Conference, which many staff members were scheduled to attend. By April, the situation had gotten even more concerning, and we began taking steps to reduce the risk of transmission between our staff and the public, including closing the office to visitors and suspending resident service requests that required technicians to enter homes.
In May, something happened that none of us had on our 2020 bingo cards: media reports of 'murder hornets' caused a stir among county residents, resulting in a variety of interesting specimens being turned in for identification. Fortunately, none of the samples contained any Asian giant hornets, and to date there has been no sign of these large wasps anywhere in the US other than extreme northwest Washington. We hope this will remain true for many years to come.
The summer was relatively uneventful, but in September West Nile virus was detected in a dead crow collected in South San Francisco. This was the first detection of WNV in the county since 2018. The laboratory staff sprang into action to trap and test mosquitoes in the area where the bird was collected, and were relieved to find no West Nile virus in any mosquito samples.
In October, District Manager Dr. Chindi Peavey retired and Assistant Manager Brian Weber took her place. That month the laboratory also said farewell to Vector Ecologist Tina Sebay, who had been with the District more than 15 years. She was replaced in December by Arielle Crews, who interned with the District laboratory in 2019.
Rain was late to arrive in San Mateo County last year, and it was November before we experienced any significant rainfall. Since we depend on seasonal rainfall to flush creeks and stormwater systems, this meant that the summer mosquito season was prolonged, and seasonal staff were asked to stay on board late into the fall to keep the stormwater season mosquito-free.
Now that 2020 is over, we're looking forward to the coming year. We don't know what challenges it will hold, but 2020 has shown us just how hardworking, determined, and adaptable our staff can be.
2020 - what a year!