NorCal prepares for outbreak
Troubling report suggests the virus may be circulating in the community
In a troubling turn in the nation’s fight against the novel coronavirus that has killed thousands and alarmed health officials and investors around the world, a second U.S. case of unknown origin was confirmed Friday in Santa
The case in a patient a nurse said is now at El Camino Hospital is the second in the Bay Area this week in which the infected person had no known exposure to the disease either through travel overseas or another infected person.
“This new case indicates that there is evidence of community transmission but the extent is still not clear,” said Dr. Sara Cody, Health Officer for Santa Clara County and Director of the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department. “I understand this may be concerning to hear, but this is what we
have been preparing for. Now we need to start taking additional actions to slow down the spread of the disease.”
The infected patient is an older adult woman with chronic health conditions who was hospitalized for a respiratory illness, county officials said. Her infectious disease physician contacted the Public Health Department to discuss the case and request testing for the novel coronavirus.
The Santa Clara County Public Health Laboratory received the specimens Thursday and performed the testing. Since receiving the results last night, the department has been working to identify contacts and understand the extent of exposures.
This case is important, county officials said, “because it signals that now is the time to change course.”
Public health measures taken so far such as isolation, quarantine, contract tracing and travel restrictions have helped to slow the spread of the disease, they said, and will continue, as will tracing of close contacts of the infected.
“Since the disease is here, an important priority for the department will be to conduct community surveillance to determine the extent of local transmission,” county health officials said. “Since the County Public Health Laboratory has the ability to run the test, the department can quickly evaluate what is happening in our community.”
Santa Clara County health officials had no further details about the infected person. The Washington Post, citing an unnamed source, reported that it is a 65-year-old person.
The news comes after health officials Wednesday confirmed that a woman in Solano County also had become infected with no known exposure to the disease through travel to China where the outbreak was first reported or other overseas hotspots, the first such U.S. case.
This would be the 63rd confirmed case in the U.S. Of those, 44 were people who had been aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship and repatriated to the U.S., three were repatriated from Wuhan, 12 were people who had recently traveled in China and two caught it from a close family member. This week’s two cases in Solano and Santa Clara counties involved people with no known exposure risk.
It is also the third case of the novel coronavirus disease, known as COVID-19, in Santa Clara County. County officials announced their first case, and the first in Northern California, on Jan. 31. That involved a local man who had recently returned from travel to China.
That patient never required hospitalization and was monitored and treated at home. County health officials declared him fully recovered Feb. 20.
The second Santa Clara County case involved a woman who also had recently returned from travel in China and was visiting relatives in the county. She was confirmed infected Feb. 2 but did not require hospitalization and has been described in good condition. County officials said Friday that she remains under observation with restricted travel at home.
The only other confirmed cases in the South Bay were a San Benito County couple in which county officials said Feb. 2 that the husband had been declared sick upon returning from travel from China and his wife caught the disease from him, marking the first case of person-to-person transmission in California.
They couple were briefly hospitalized in San Francisco but released in good condition Feb. 14. San Benito County health officials had no update on their status Friday.
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said in a statement Friday that “the most important thing for us to do is to prepare and be vigilant, consistent with the best advice of medical and public health experts.”
“This isn’t a time to panic or to react to rumors — let’s focus on what the science is telling us and respond with level heads,” Liccardo said.
The El Camino nurse, who did not want to be identified, said staff were frustrated and worried about the lack of available tests from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as protective gear such as n 95 respirator masks to protect health care workers treating the sick. The nurse said a doctor and several emergency room staff have been quarantined.
“We’re in Silicon Valley, the richest economy in the world and we don’t have enough N 95 masks,” “It’s insanity. Everybody is worried about it. I’m just worried about containment.