REGION — The San Diego County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted on March 10 to continue the recently declared local health emergency in response to the deadly coronavirus and to form a subcommittee to handle related challenges.
County public health officials updated the board on their efforts to test everyone who may have been exposed to the virus and educate the public on how to stop the spread.
Helen Robbins-Meyer, county chief administrative officer, said while it’s clear that COVID-19 cases have increased, the county “is working around the clock to meet the challenges associated with this.”
Supervisors Greg Cox and Nathan Fletcher will lead the subcommittee.
“This virus poses a new and dangerous challenge to our region and we need to take different and more enhanced approaches for dealing with it,” said Cox, board chairman.
Supervisor Dianne Jacob suggested that Cox’s experience with the National Association of Counties made him a good choice, while Fletcher’s time in state Legislature was a plus.
Along with forming a subcommittee and declaring a local emergency last month, the county has also taken the following steps:
• Establishing an incident command incident and activating the Emergency Operations Center to “Level 3” for a minor or limited emergency;
• Placing 86 hand-washing stations throughout the county, and offering help to 18 cities in the region;
• Creating a website—coronavirus-sd.com—to provide information for the public and offer resources, including alert posters in multiple languages;
• Extending public outreach through social media and planned public service announcements on local radio stations, and;
• Providing outreach to the homeless community, with help from other service providers and the Regional Task Force on the homeless, including the distribution of personal hygiene kits.
County Health Officer Wilma Wooten told the board that even with an increasing number of cases globally—with travel being a key factor in the spread—the general public’s health risk is considered low.
Wooten stressed that it was important for residents to take measures to prevent the spread of disease, including washing hands for at least 20 seconds or using at least 60% alcohol sanitizer, avoid touching one’s face, keeping a safe physical distance from others and frequently cleaning touched surfaces, such as phones or computer keyboards.
San Diego County reports first local coronavirus case
REGION — San Diego County health officials on March 9 confirmed the county’s first presumptive positive case of coronavirus in a local resident.
The case is considered a presumptive positive until test results are confirmed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s health officers said the patient is a woman in her 50s, and the infection is related to “overseas travel.”
County officials did not specify what country the patient had visited, but the location did not subject her to automatic 14-day quarantine when she returned — an indication she did not travel to high-danger countries such as China or northern Italy.
Wooten said the patient is hospitalized and “doing well.” She said health officials are continuing to investigate to determine who may have come into contact with the woman.
Dr. Eric McDonald of the county’s Epidemiology Immunization Branch said there is a “household contact,” and that person is under a self-quarantine, and some health care workers may have been exposed.
McDonald said the patient became sick and was hospitalized, and eventually met the criteria to be tested for coronavirus, leading to a positive result.
He said there is not believed to have been any contact with the “general public.”
Although the patient is considered the county’s first coronavirus case, the illness has had a presence in the San Diego area.
Last week, authorities confirmed that a person who works at an AT&T retail store in Chula Vista had tested positive for the illness, prompting the temporary closure of some AT&T stores in the area.
The county also had two previous coronavirus cases from among more than 200 people who were being housed under quarantine at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar after being evacuated from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. Those two patients have both since recovered.
In the coming days, MCAS Miramar is expected to again become a quarantine location, this time for some of the California resident passengers aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship that docked Monday in Oakland.
The ship had been offshore pending test results that showed at least 21 of the 3,000 people aboard had tested positive for the illness.
At least 1,000 of the passengers are California residents, and they will be held under a 14-day quarantine.
Encinitas City Council will meet as scheduled
The City of Encinitas is closely monitoring the emergence and spread of the coronavirus and taking steps to provide the public and city employees information on how to help mitigate the risk of exposure, according to a recent release.
Firefighters and paramedics will also receive personal protective equipment and a new response plan has been adopted in the event that they encounter patients infected by the coronavirus.
City officials have also implemented “No Handshaking Zones” at all customer service counters while making hand sanitizers available in all public areas.
Currently, the California Department of Public Health is not recommending the cancellation of public events. Accordingly, Encinitas City Council meetings and Commission meetings remain scheduled as planned.
Regarding upcoming special events, including the Encinitas Half Marathon on May 29, and the Spring Street Fair on April 25 and 26, Encinitas will follow the California Department of Public Health’s recommendations for these upcoming special events. Specifically, while the events are not canceled, Californians who are at a higher risk of COVID-19 should avoid close contact with people who are sick and stay away from large gatherings and crowds, according to the CDHP website.
Del Mar Fairgrounds, North Coast Repertory plan business as usual
Two of North County’s primary entertainment centers, Del Mar Fairgrounds and North Coast Repertory Theatre, have announced that events and performances will continue as scheduled for the near future.
North Coast Repertory Theatre Artistic Director David Ellenstein and its Managing Director Bill Kerlin, noted that “recent updates on the novel coronavirus by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been a growing source of concern for all of us. While the uncertainty around the virus and its possible impact in the USA is certainly unsettling, it is important to know and understand the facts and not to overreact to fear-based scenarios.”
A release from the 22nd District Agricultural Association, overseers of the Fairgrounds, announced:
“We do not plan to cancel any upcoming events. There is no higher priority than the safety of our patrons and our Fairgrounds family. In light of the recent coronavirus outbreak, we are proactively taking steps to ensure the highest level of safety and cleanliness standards throughout our facilities.”
Additional cleanliness steps being taken by the Fairgrounds crews include:
• Elevated daily cleaning practices throughout our facility.
• Expanded signage encouraging people to wash their hands.
• Antibacterial and antimicrobial cleaning solutions used facility-wide.
• Additional hand sanitizing stations and temporary washing sinks will be available at all upcoming events.
Carlsbad addresses coronavirus
By Steve Puterski
The rapid spread of the coronavirus has gripped the country and world, leading to 4,589 total deaths, 66,702 recoveries and 124,910 reported cases as of March 11.
And even though large events such as Coachella, NCAA conference basketball tournaments and others are not admitting spectators or canceling altogether, both the City of Carlsbad and San Diego County are on alert.
To date, only one suspected local case of the COVID-19 virus has been identified in San Diego County, according to David Harrison, the city’s emergency preparedness manager reported during the March 10 City Council meeting.
“We’ve engaged with other agencies to plan our response,” Harrison said. “We’ve communicated personal responsibility and lessons learned (from other outbreaks).
Harrison, along with Carlsbad Fire Chief Mike Calderwood, said the city has been aggressive in its outreach, especially with senior citizens, who are 60 and older are much more susceptible to contract and die from the virus.
Citing the Centers for Disease Control, Harrison said it is recommended for residents to wash their hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds, several times per day, and to cover their mouths when sneezing or coughing. The virus can spread through droplets from saliva, so keeping a safe distance is also recommended.
Calderwood said the fire department practices “keep the dime,” maintaining a minimum distance of 10-feet away from individuals displaying symptoms. However, firefighters are also certified paramedics and frequently required to engage in close contact with patients.
Calderwood noted the department has other protocols in place to protect first responders. Additionally, Carlsbad has also been in contact with county departments, receiving regular reports monitoring the situation.
“They are using the techniques they were taught,” Calderwood said. “If you ‘keep the dime,’ it gives you extra caution.”
So far, San Diego County has yet to see any outbreaks, unlike areas such as New Rochelle, N.Y., which has instituted a one-mile containment area from the epicenter, according to the New Rochelle website and media reports.
“Raising situational awareness is very important,” Harrison said. “Be mindful of your environment and symptoms of respiratory illness.”