County monitoring 3 people for coronavirus

Health and Human Services Agency says residents are self-isolating in their homes but none have symptoms; risk to the general public remains low

By Reggie Ellis

@Reggie_SGN

TULARE COUNTY – The risk of contracting the coronavirus in Tulare County remains low but local health officials are monitoring three residents who have either traveled to or come in contact with someone who has traveled to China.

The Tulare County Department of Public Health announced last week that it is in daily contact with three individuals who traveled through China or spent time with someone who did within a 14-day window of returning to the U.S. The three residents do not have symptoms and are self-isolating from the general public in their homes as the health officials follow procedures laid out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). The number was as high as nine people, but only three have yet to pass the 14-day monitoring period.

“We do have [three] individuals on self-isolation due to risk factors of travel to an area of risk or contact with someone who has traveled to an area of risk,” Tulare County Public Health Officer Karen Haught said. “There are no confirmed COVID-19 cases in Tulare County at this time and immediate health risk to Tulare County residents is low.”

COVID-19 is the official name of this strain of coronavirus which began as an outbreak of respiratory illness in Wuhan, China in December 2019. Confirmed cases of COVID-19 range from mild illness to severe illness and death. Elliott said Tulare County Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) will be updating its website www.tchhsa.org/ncov at the end of each week with the number of individuals who are self-monitoring. Statewide, more than 9,100 people returning on flights to SFO and LAX are self-monitoring.

If you have traveled to an area of risk or you have close contact with someone who has traveled to an area of risk, and you live in or visiting Tulare County, please immediately call the Public Health Communicable Disease telephone line by calling 2-1-1, which will place you in contact with an individual who will assess your situation and immediately restrict activities outside your home. Public Health Branch staff can assist you with next steps, which would include calling ahead to the nearest emergency medical facility to receive assistance. Forty-three people in California have tested positive for COVID-19.

Last week, CDPH announced the Tulare County Department of Public Health’s laboratory in Tulare as one of 10 COVID-19 testing facilities in the state. The testing kits arrived on Friday and additional test kits arrived over the weekend. The CDPH Laboratory will provide diagnostic testing within a 48-hour turnaround time for samples from Kern, Kings, Fresno, Madera and Tulare counties. Other testing sites include CDPH labs in Richmond, Alameda, Contra Costa, Sacramento, Santa Clara, Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego County. More public health labs will soon be able to test, ramping up to a total of 20 public health labs in California in the coming weeks.

“The availability to test at California’s public health laboratories is a significant step forward in our ability to respond rapidly to this evolving situation,” said Dr. Sonia Angell, Director of the California Department of Public Health and State Health Officer. “As we face the likelihood of community transmission here in California, having this resource where we need it, is essential to better inform public health response and protect our communities.”

On Saturday, a local resident requested to be tested for coronavirus at Adventist Health Tulare. Tammie Weyker-Adkins, spokesperson for Tulare County HHSA, confirmed that the test came back negative.

California health officials were on heightened alert last week when the CDC announced on Feb. 28 that an individual in Santa Clara County tested positive for COVID-19. The individual had no known exposure to the virus through travel or close contact with a known infected individual, making it the second possible instance of COVID-19 community transmission in California.

Previously known instances of person-to-person transmission in the United States include one instance in Chicago, Ill., and one in San Benito County, Calif. Both cases were after close, prolonged interaction with a family member who returned from Wuhan, China and had tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by novel coronavirus. As of press time, California has had 10 travel-related cases, five close contact case, and four community transmission.

California has prepared for the potential spread of diseases, such as H1N1, in the past and is prepared and actively responding to the potential community spread of COVID-19. Contact tracing in this case has already begun.

The health risk from novel coronavirus to the general public remains low at this time. While COVID-19 has a high transmission rate, it has a low mortality rate. From the international data we have, of those who have tested positive for COVID-19, approximately 80 percent do not exhibit symptoms that would require hospitalization. As of press time, there have been six deaths related to COVID-19 in the United States.

“This is a fluid situation but we have plans and protocols in place for public health events like this to protect the health and safety of Californians and the state’s visitors,” said Dr. Sonia Angell, Director of the California Department of Public Health and State Health Officer. “We are actively working with the CDC, with local governments, health facilities, and health care providers across the state to respond as new cases are identified.”

The California Department of Public Health will not be providing additional information about this patient due to patient confidentiality. For more information about novel coronavirus, please visit www.cdph.ca.gov.

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