NorCal pre­pares for out­break

Trou­bling re­port sug­gests the virus may be cir­cu­lat­ing in the com­mu­nity

Times-Herald (Vallejo) - - FRONT PAGE - By John Wool­folk

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

Clara County.

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.

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