Contra Costa Health Services confirmed its first positive case of novel (new) coronavirus, or COVID-19, involving a resident of the county at a county public health lab on Tuesday afternoon.
County officials said that while official confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention should be made available in the coming days, according to local results the patient has tested positive despite having no known travel history that would put them at risk.
“The patient, who is being treated at a hospital in the county, had no known travel history and no known contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19,” county health officials said. “CCHS is conducting a thorough investigation to identify anyone who may have had close contact with the patient.”
County officials added that most U.S. cases involve international travelers or close contact with someone who has COVID-19, but with officials have now indicated that it may be circulating throughout Northern California communities including the Bay Area.
The coronavirus outbreak began in December 2019 in Hubei Province, China, but outbreaks are now occurring in other countries around the world, with the California Department of Public Health reporting up to 53 positive cases -- 24 of which are from repatriation flights -- in communities throughout the state as of March 4.
California Department of Public Health officials say that while COVID-19 has a high transmission rate, it generally has a low mortality rate, with approximately 80% of patients who have tested positive not exhibiting symptoms that would require hospitalization.
Typically human coronaviruses cause mild-to-moderate respiratory illness with symptoms that are very similar to the flu. Common symptoms patients may experience include fever, cough and shortness of breath.
Residents who are experiencing any of these symptoms or have visited a country with widespread transmissions -- such as China, Iran, Italy or South Korea -- are encouraged to call ahead to their healthcare provider or local emergency room in order to alert them of the situation.
Residents can also call Contra Costa Public Health at 313-6740 for instructions about where to go if you do not have a healthcare provider.
"Our county's health care system is prepared to handle COVID-19," Contra Costa County Health Officer Dr. Chris Farnitano assured residents in a statement. "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 California Department of Public Health advises residents that they can minimize their risk of becoming infected or spreading COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses by practicing the following health policies:
* Thoroughly washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
* Avoiding touching eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
* Avoiding close contact with people who are sick are all ways to reduce the risk of infection with a number of different viruses.
* Staying away from work, school or other people if you become sick with respiratory symptoms like fever and cough.
In addition to Contra Costa Health Services, the San Ramon Valley Unified School continues to send out communications updating the public on the status of the coronavirus, providing tips to stay healthy and working to reassure the community.
“The SRVUSD is preparing for the potential impact that this virus may have on our school communities, and are planning for steps which will limit and slow the spread of disease in our schools. Additionally, we are in discussions about the long-term plans that may need to be in place if the situation escalates further in the coming days and weeks,” district officials said in a statement.
As with any flu season, students or staff who are sick or showing signs of illness need to stay home until they are free from fever for 24 hours without fever reducing medication and are free from symptoms.
In an effort to avoid overwhelming the medical system, district officials said they will not require notes from doctors for prolonged absences due to respiratory illnesses. Adding that absences related to the coronavirus will be excused and “student learning will be supported during such absences.”
The SRVUSD “Illness Guidelines” area available online for members of the community to review.
District officials also remind residents to not ostracize students or residents who hail from, or have recently visited, countries that have suffered more widespread transmissions of COVID-19.
“The SRVUSD reminds our families that students should not be treated differently on our campuses based on the perception of their race, country of origin, or recent travel. We also recognize that every family needs to make the decision that is best for their situation regarding their student’s attendance,” officials added.