In declaring a state of emergency for Contra Costa County, the Board of Supervisors emphasized that “everyone plays an important role” in slowing the spread of the coronavirus.
Supervisor Karen Mitchoff, representing District 4, couldn’t emphasize enough that residents need to pay attention to this ever-changing situation. She noted that county staff is working overtime and on weekends to address this situation.
“Take this seriously and follow all the precautions that have been mentioned on television, radio and the Internet,” said Mitchoff. “If you are sick, don’t come to work. Anything that needs to get done, someone else at work can do it, or you can do on the computer (from home).”
Thirty-four county residents have tested positive for COVID-19 as of March 16.
“We expect this number to go up,’’ said county spokesman Scott Alonso, who declined to specify where the cases are located.
The county Health Services’ website includes an additional case, with one non-county resident who was transported immediately from the Grand Princess to a county hospital for treatment after the ship docked in Oakland.
The March 10 county emergency declaration ensures that potential state and federal assistance is accessible locally if the changing situation related to the outbreak worsens.
“The coronavirus is here in our community,” said Dr. Ori Tzvieli, acting health officer for the county. “As we ramp up our testing, we expect to identify more cases. But there is still a lot we can do to slow down the spread and protect our most vulnerable.”
The newly confirmed cases follow the March 3 announcement of the first confirmed local patient with community transmitted novel coronavirus. The adult with underlying health conditions didn’t have any known travel history or contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19.
All the cases come on the heels of revelations that hospitals in the county had received three patients from outside the area who were suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19. These were among travelers routed through federal quarantine at Travis Air Force Base from the Diamond Princess. As of March 11, only one of those individuals remained in an area hospital and was no longer symptomatic. The other two were discharged in early March.
The seriousness of the coronavirus situation and actions in surrounding counties further spurred the supervisors’ resolution.
According to the proposed resolution, local health officials also have determined “there is now a shortage of personal protective equipment, including specifically surgical masks, which are typically issued to patients who present with viral symptoms, as a means to prevent transmission.”
The resolution states: “Hand sanitizer is also in short supply. Health Services has searched for and been unable to obtain supplies of these materials locally.”
It also notes that staff has identified the Strategic National Stockpile as a potential source of assistance from the federal government should the state of California request it.
Hospitals in the county, including Contra Costa Regional Medical Center & Health Centers, are now screening patients with symptoms for potential exposure to COVID-19. However, concerned residents should contact their personal physicians, their health plans or the county’s advice nurse (800-495-8885) before going to any emergency room or urgent care facility.
Will Harper, county Health Services’ acting communication officer, said 700-800 test kits were on hand in early March, and 30 to 40 patients could be tested per day if necessary. However, he emphasized they would only test the most seriously ill or those who are truly symptomatic of the virus.
In this unusual situation, information could change rapidly. Local updates on the coronavirus and recommended guidelines from health officials can be found at coronavirus.cchealth.org.