Contra Costa County health officials announced five new cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) were confirmed countywide as of Sunday morning.
That brings the total number of confirmed cases involving county residents to nine, which included three previously new cases that were announced by Contra Costa Health Services on Friday.
“The coronavirus is here in our community. 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,” Dr. Ori Tzvieli, acting Contra Costa health officer, said in a statement on Sunday afternoon.
COVID-19, which is front of mind for people across the world, causes mild to moderate respiratory illness in most people who contract it and can be more dangerous for residents with certain underlying conditions.
CCHS officials said Sunday that four of the newly confirmed cases involve patients who are being treated at unidentified hospitals in Contra Costa County. Those patients had no international travel history nor any known contact with a confirmed case.
The fifth patient had close contact with another person who previously tested positive for COVID-19, is under self-quarantine at home under the guidance of CCHS, officials said.
Of the earlier cases from last week, one patient who tested positive remains hospitalized while the three others are isolating at home, officials said. “CCHS will not release further details about the patients to protect their medical privacy, including the names of the hospitals where they are being treated,” they added.
Government agencies and community members alike are actively working to stem the potential for spread of the coronavirus throughout the San Ramon Valley.
Friday’s new cases had county officials warning residents who are part of groups that are more susceptible to illness -- such as those with certain chronic medical conditions and the elderly -- to take extra precautions now that COVID-19 may be active in the county.
“CCHS is recommending that people who are higher risk from COVID-19, including adults over 50 and people with certain underlying medical conditions, should avoid mass gatherings, such as parades, sporting events or concerts,” county officials said in a statement.
According to county officials symptoms of the coronavirus are similar to those from the flu and include fever, cough and shortness of breath.
County officials say that some of the best ways to prevent the spread include staying home from work if you are sick, avoiding touching your face, avoiding touching eyes, nose or mouth, and practicing healthy hand habits, such as thorough hand washing.
Also, masks are for sick people, there is no evidence that masks help otherwise.
The county also recently received 300 test kits from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that it can use to detect new cases.
To help stem the potential spread of the novel coronavirus, county and local officials have taken to issuing policies and safety reminders for residents to follow in order to help keep themselves and others healthy.
“The coronavirus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person, and despite what you might hear from other sources, the risk of infection in our region remains low. The seasonal flu remains a greater risk to you and your loved ones,” San Ramon Police Capt. Denton Carlson said, trying to assure residents. “As mentioned in the messages we have distributed previously, by far, the best method to ensure your safety is through the use of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs). The most critical aspect of these NPIs is related to personal hygiene.”
Multiple San Ramon Valley agencies and organizations are working to assist in preventing the illness from spreading, most of which are enacting policies to keep residents informed on recommendations made by county health officials and the CDC.
There have been no school closures announced as of Sunday for the San Ramon Valley Unified School District, which district officials say has no confirmed cases among students, teachers or staff as of Friday.
SRVUSD officials said they have been taking their cues from the county health department and have been consistently sending out communications to community members updating them on developments.
“We are strongly encouraging everyone to follow county guidelines and we are strongly encouraging hand washing,” said Chris George, SRVUSD’s director of communications and instructional services. “We recognize that it is uncertain and somewhat scary we recognize the threat and we are going to do everything we can to keep the kids safe.”
To help keep students safe from illness, the SRVUSD has provided a comprehensive guide for students and parents to follow, that includes recommendations such as discouraging the use of shared items such as pens and other supplies and encouraging students who show any symptoms to stay home.
The district will also be enacting a more liberal attendance policy and absences due to illness will not be met with academic penalties -- i.e. participation points -- or go against perfect positive attendance awards.
A full list of recommendations and other communications provided by the SRVUSD can be found online at www.srvusd.net.
"Your cooperation is integral to the ongoing public health response to try to slow spread of this virus," Danville Councilman Newell Arnerich said in a message to residents. “It is very important as community leaders and responsible citizens that we take address the seriousness of this disease to ensure the health, safety and well-being of everyone in our community.”
San Ramon Regional Medical Center officials said their staff have enacted policies and training to prepare for a potential influx in patients and that they are committed to keeping the community safe.
“San Ramon Regional Medical Center is monitoring information from federal, state and local public health agencies for current information on the coronavirus. Our hospital has taken the appropriate steps as we have trained professionals and the necessary equipment to react accordingly,” San Ramon Regional officials said.
Employees at Bishop Ranch self-quarantine
While public officials are working to keep the public informed about the status and reality of the coronavirus, many residents remain fearful of the new virus, as was demonstrated on Thursday afternoon when some employees at Bishop Ranch in San Ramon left work early due to rumors of exposure.
According to Bishop Ranch officials, on Thursday two of their larger customers -- companies that remain unidentified -- had employees who self-quarantined due to contact with individuals who may have had exposure.
In a post published on Bishop Ranch’s Twitter account, officials said that while both companies in question have developed “significant corporate protocols” to protect against the spread of illnesses among employees in one of the cases “significant peer-to-peer communication led to employees leaving work early.”
While county officials do recommend that residents who feel sick stay home from work, Bishop Ranch officials maintain that neither company mandated that their employees leave and no confirmed cases of COVID-19 have occurred at Bishop Ranch.