County Residents Brace for Coronavirus

By Joel Umanzor Jr. | Image via CDC

Contra Costa County residents are continuing to brace for the impact of the novel coronavirus.

Contra Costa Health Services (CCHS) said that as of March 8, there have been nine reported cases of COVID-19 in the county with five new cases confirmed.

According to the CCHS, four of the individuals are being treated at hospitals in the county. The fifth person, who had come into close contact with someone else who had contracted the virus, is in home isolation.

Medical privacy laws prevent CCHS from divulging details about the patients.

This comes as the Grand Princess Cruise ship docked at the Port of Oakland to assist the 21 people testing positive for the virus, 19 are crew members and two are passengers.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of March 8, there have been 423 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in 35 states, with 19 deaths.

CCHS Officer Dr. Ori Tzvieli has advised that precautions should be taken depending on the individual’s level of risk.

“If you are eldery you should be more cautious. If you have chronic medical conditions, you should be more cautious,” Tzvieli said at a CCHS virus update briefing late last week.

“That’s sort of where we’re at now. We are not recommending wholesale cancellation,” he said. “We have talked to employers, given some guidance about allowing employees more liberal sick-leave policies. We really want people who are sick not to come to work. That’s one of the most important things.”

Tzvieli also said county health officials are recommending more telecommuting and working from home, if possible. “This is a time to stay home and make sure to protect your community,” he said.

Dr. Chris Farnitano, also a CCHS officer, said in late February that county health officials have been active in preparing to contain the virus.

“Our county’s healthcare system is prepared to handle COVID-19,” he said. “We have been working with our hospital partners to follow safety protocols to keep patients and healthcare workers safe and minimize the risk of the virus spreading in Contra Costa.”

The CCHS cited “good hygiene” as one of the critical ways that county residents can reduce their risk of being exposed to this respiratory illness.

CCHS recommended that people wash their hands for 20 seconds with soap and water, use alcohol-based sanitizer when soap and water are not available, cover their mouths while coughing or sneezing, and stay home from work or school if they are sick.

According to Tzvieli, the focus should be on protecting those who would be affected most by the virus in the county.

“The coronavirus is here in our community. As we ramp up our testing, we expect to identify more cases,” Tzvieli said. “But there is still a lot we can do to slow down the spread and protect our most vulnerable.”

The CCHS last week also reminded residents that masks are for those who have already been exposed to the virus to prevent them from giving it to someone else. Wearing a mask is not an effective way of lowering the risk of contracting the virus.

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