An Employee of Mendocino County’s Beloved Skunk Train Tests Positive for COVID-19

Skunk Train Pandemic COVID

The Skunk Train chugging down the Redwood Route [Photo used with the permission of Robert Pinoli]

According to the Skunk Train’s General Manager Robert Pinoli, an employee of the railroad has tested positive for COVID-19 after falling ill and calling in sick. Pinoli said the employee has not worked since Tuesday, July 28, 2020.

Pinoli emphasized that “no contact tracing has been completed, and we will wait before speculating on the ultimate source of transmission.” Pinoli said, “We are working with Public Health and will keep the public informed as we know more.”

In light of the recent letter to Willits’s citizens regarding deficient municipal budgets, the Skunk Train’s employee testing positive for COVID-19 could amplify the city’s economic woes by diminishing customers and the revenue of the well-known tourist attraction.

Skunk Train Pandemic COVIDSince reopening and submission of the self-certification plan to Mendocino County, Pinoli said, “We have been following robust cleaning protocols, and our riders have been incredibly respectful across the board, wearing masks at all times and adhering to distancing requirements.”

Pinoli provided insight into the Skunk Train’s adoption of pandemic protocols. He explained, “As a common carrier public utility railroad, we fall under federal jurisdiction, so when the guidance came out from the Governor, we didn’t fit into any of the guidance plans. We didn’t take the easy road and pick a plan that was less restrictive, we created a hybrid of the two most restrictive plans.”

Pinoli said the ultimate goal of the guidelines was for the Skunk Train to “be safe for our staff first and foremost and guests.” He characterized the staff of the Skunk Train reopening “cautiously” and not “driven to make profits for some corporation,” but “driven by the passion I have to keep living breathing (even with a mask on) history alive.”

In spite of comments on social media, Pinoli disagreed with what he called “finger-pointing” at Mendocino County tourists. He said, “We’ve found them to be respectful, appreciative of our efforts, and compliant with our requirements.”

The Skunk Train is a mainstay of Mendocino County tourism and according to the literature on the businesses website, “The Redwood Route has been carrying trains, cargo, and passengers since 1885, through the majestic setting of Mendocino County’s ancient redwood groves.”



  • That’s a rarity — someone who tested positive for Covid and actually got sick. Or I suppose he could just have a cold or the flu and tested positive for Covid besides.

    The latter possibility is actually the greatest, because most people who have been exposed to Covid show no symptoms whatsoever.

    Considering that according to, “exponential spread,” the entire world had to have been infected by last Thanksgiving, I’d say the odds of anyone who gets tested testing positive for Covid are pretty great.

    How about a story about how, even though according to the CDC we all should have been exposed months ago, they’ve only been able to come up with a couple hundred positives out of thousands of tests?

    • Patriot in Willits

      You have some obviously flawed reasoning here. There really is such a thing as “exponential spread”, but transmission isn’t anywhere close to as fast as you think. Most of us are taking some precautions to avoid getting Covid-19, masks, social distancing, etc., which slows it down further. By the way, they keep track of the percentage of positive tests out of all tests administered, if you are interested. It varies from place to place, but here in Mendocino County, we have had only 331 positive tests and 16,599 negative ones.

      • Flawed reasoning? The CDC told us that each person would spread it to 2.2 people per day. That is the entire basis for the shut-downs, the hand washing, the masks, the social distancing — yet when you sit down and do the numbers (I used a conservative figure of 1:2 to come up with, “before Thanksgiving”) you find that, going by their numbers the entire world had to have been infected within 34 days.

        Yet when I point that out to people, the same people who are wearing masks and believing they’re actually doing something tell me, “That’s not how it works.”

        Well, if that’s not how it works, why are you wearing a mask?

        Let’s talk about some more flawed logic. The CDC has also bandied about fatality rates of between 1% and 6%. Going by a 100% infection rate by Thanksgiving of last year and an average incubation period of two weeks (I know, I know, now they’re saying 5.1 days but I was going by what they were saying a couple weeks ago, and all the 5.1 day figure does is prove my point even more), we should have had between 75 million and a half a billion deaths before last Christmas.

        It wasn’t hiding in our homes submerged in tubs of hand sanitizer breathing through straws wrapped in Lysol-soaked face masks that prevented that. Remember — none of that nonsense started until months later.

        What prevented that was the fact that exponential spread happens in a petri dish or in small pockets of tightly grouped people. It doesn’t happen in the general population — as has been proven here in Humboldt County.

        We had our first documented case Feb. 20. That person flew in on an airplane, went through the airport and went about their business for a while before finding out they had Covid. They were in contact with innumerable people, long before any precautions were being taken.

        If exponential spread were a thing, the entire population of the county should have been infected within eighteen days. Instead, nearly six months later, they’ve been able to come up barely 300 positives (using possibly flawed test kits) out of nearly 17,000 tests (I just realized those are the numbers you gave me for Mendocino but Humboldt’s are nearly identical).

        It’s not because of people taking precautions — remember, no one was taking precautions back then.

        So, at any rate, if transmission isn’t nearly as fast as they say, you don’t have exponential spread. You just have ordinary, everyday, normal spread of a virus which has proven to have a minuscule fatality rate.

        Hardly reason to act like we’re being plagued.

        • The only thing flawed are your thought processes. Your meaningless statistic of “2.2 per day” must refer to COVID-19’s R0 number. R0 (Reproduction number) is not a daily spread metric, but rather a measure of how many people a sick individual will on average spread the disease to over the course of their illness.

          Why don’t you relieve your ignorance and educate yourself on Reproduction numbers at , while the rest of us ignore your comments.

        • We will leave it up to the experts not you.

    • Patriot in Willits

      I think your premise is based on a faulty assumption. I don’t know when and in what context the CDC said that each person would spread it to 2.2 people per day, but that’s clearly wrong. If I, and millions of other people stay home most of the time, it will reduce the rate of infection. That explains why rates were much lower during the lockdown, and why they are spiking now. How else do you explain why we are doing so much worse than other countries? We have less than 4% of the world population, but about 25% of the cases of Covid.
      Most of our cases here are due to tightly-packed clusters, like church gatherings and parties, but there is some community spread. Just less here than other places, in part because we are less densely populated, but also because wearing a mask and social distancing actually help. Personally, I’m not that worried about getting infected, but I wear a mask, etc., because I don’t want to kill somebody’s grandpa.

  • My family resides in another state. Dad, Mom, all of their young kids. Positive tests and sick. But have recovered from rough time.

  • We shouldn’t have entertainment crap open! Unless we want this to just st go on and on till a vac is ready… but my child is high risk and I really want him to live as do I I’m high risk also . Let’s cut out needless action and get it managed!
    Good luck everyone and stay the heck away from me

    • First off, go get yourself a paper bag. Hold it over your face and breath deeply into it for a minute or so. I hear it stops hyperventilation.

      Better? Now let’s talk about your comment.

      “Go on and on?” It never started. Cases without illnesses equates to…nothing.

      “Until a vac is ready?” Why not use the proven, effective, safe treatments we already have in those isolated cases where someone actually gets ill from this crap?

      “…my child is high risk and I really want him to live…” Then you take the steps you think you need to to protect them. When I was doing chemotherapy I was told I was, “at high risk,” and to avoid any possible source of infection — which I did.

      I didn’t expect my friends and neighbors and everyone in the county to quit their jobs, lose their businesses and wear silly masks around for no reason just because I was at risk. That would have been extremely selfish of me.

      Which seems really weird because all I keep hearing from the maskers is how selfish the rest of us are.

      So here I am, immunocompromised, elderly, and male, all three of them high-risk categories, and I’m telling all you maskers whining about, “selfishness,” that you have it backward.

      There’s a lot less of you than us. We have lives to lead, unfettered by foolish nonsense. If you think you or your child’s life will be put in danger by going out in public, stay the fuck home.

      Don’t expect us to give up our livelihoods, our businesses, our homes, and our freedom just because you want to wander around freely when and where you shouldn’t be.

      Go home. Stay, “safe.” Leave us the fuck alone.

  • it called numbers

    he has a point. there hasn’t been a new hospitalization in weeks and weeks, also no new deaths. the virus has become less harmful

  • I feel like I need a Shower after reading some of these narrow minded comments… Once this virus ‘washes’ thru those people, we might be able to better get a handle on this.. go ahead, go get your germs, but, Please, keep them to yourself. Don’t bother with hate replies, I won’t be read this site again soon….

  • Your blind ignorance of the contagiousness of Covid-19 parrots the utter failure of the Trump/Pence regime to act quickly & decisively
    to halt the spread of the looming pandemic. An analysis of New Zealand & South Korea— early testing &! Tracing, social distancing, masks, hygiene—all coordinated on a national level— contradict your subjective and preposterous Trumpite lies & delusions. Almost 19 million cases worldwide, over 700,000 deaths & Rising— 10 times more deadly than any seasonal flu.

    • To do what you want would require suspending 5he Constitution. Not that such a little thing would faze you apparently. New Zealand and South Korea have no State’s rights -( no Cuomos, Newsomes or any of the other liberal spirits who blithely declared themselves sancturary states or cities or square blocks) New Zealand and South Korea both have immigration standards that would make liberals run screaming to their Mommies – which their citizens solidly support . Which is how they can control the spread of covid.19 while the US would still be in court trying to reverse some judge’s injunction about suspending the rules on tracing. Live by the Liberal, die by the Liberal.

      • What specifically in the US Constitution proscribes emergency pandemic measures.

        Citiations would be nice. Otherwise, the Constitution also makes no mention of wearing clothes. So being required to wear pants in public is “suspending the constitution”.

        COVID isn’t political. Well, it shouldn’t be, but apparently it is a nefarious liberal plot. !57,000 liberals were so dedicated to it they willingly died for the cause.

  • Uh, maybe I missed something along the way but what does the invective have to do with the Skunk Train?
    Not merely unattractive, the act of demeaning others unknown to oneself — the general public — did the fella even have a point other than to hurt?

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