Editor’s note: The disease described in this article was referred to as the “novel coronavirus” for the several weeks since its discovery. A “coronavirus” is a specific category of many viruses. However, it has now been given an official name: “COVID-19.”
MENDOCINO Co., 3/2/20 — Though some neighboring counties have recorded isolated cases of the new coronavirus variant known as COVID-19, no cases have been founded in Mendocino County. Still, as the virus sweeps across the globe public health officials here and elsewhere continue to urge common sense precautions — chiefly the kinds of actions one might take to avoid flu: washing hand frequently, covering your cough with the crook of your elbow. and importantly “[Staying] home from work and/or school if you or your children become sick with a flu-like illness (fever and respiratory symptoms).”
The diseases, which was first documented and appears to have broken out in the Wuhan province of China, is a varient of the common coronavirus, which usually causes the common cold. This varient can cause an extreme flu-like disease in a small percentage of people, and can lead to death, though the vast majority of people who are infected will not become gravely ill or die. Additionally, it does not appear to significantly affect children, though the elderly and those with already comprised immune systems and respiratory problems are more at risk.
Today, in light of the increasing urgency of the disease, which has now claimed two lives in Washington State, and infected at least 40 people in California, the Mendocino County Health and Human Services (HHSA) released a notice (which can be read below) outlining recommended practices to stay healthy and general information about the virus as it applies to Mendocino County — thought to reiterate, no cases have been identified here so far. Adventist Health, which operates Howard Memorial Hospital in Willits, and Ukiah Valley Health Center in Ukiah, also put out a statement with recommendations and best practices. Additionally the superintendent of the Mendocino Unified School District has put out a letter (read here).
In general, it is recommended that people take precautions such as washing their hands thoroughly, avoiding close contact with sick people, and staying home from school or work if you have signs of illness, which for the coronavirus, primarily include a fever, cough, and respiratory difficulty. As such, people are also advised to prepare to stay home for an extended period if they become ill, and to contact their health providers for more information if they develop these symptoms.
Such precautions for an extended home stay are very similar to the precautions for wildfire, earthquake, and power shut off that Mendonesians have become familiar with in recent years.
The key precautions outlined by Mendocino HHSA and County Health Officer Noemi Doohan, M.D., Ph.D., are as follows:
In order to protect ourselves from COVID-19 infection, it is important to follow all of the same recommendations that are related to prevention of the spread of influenza and other preparedness response:
• Stay home from work and/or school if you or your children become sick with a flu-like illness (fever and respiratory symptoms)
• Make sure you have a supply of your routine medicine, a thermometer so you can know if you develop a fever, and have extra nonperishable food at home
• Make plans now to have the support necessary if you need to stay home due to illness; reach out to family, friends, and neighbors to offer and receive support
• Wash your hands regularly with soap and water after being in public
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
Mendocino County Health & Human Services Agency Healthy People, Healthy Communities Tammy Moss Chandler, Director Noemi Doohan, MD, PhD, County Health Officer
If you should need medical care for a respiratory illness, call ahead to your health care facility and talk by phone with your health care provider if possible.
For general health related questions or other concerns during business hours, please call Mendocino County’s Call Center at (707) 234-6052.Mendocino HHSA
The first deaths from the coronavirus in the U.S. were recently reported in the in Washington state. There have also been a number travel advisories issued by the federal government to countries with higher rates of coronavirus outbreaks. The first two United States cases of the novel coronavirus being transmitted with “unknown origin” were identified in Northern California last week. This effectively means direct transmission from people already infected within the U.S., rather than cases of people who contracted the illness in China.
These cases, along with others nationwide, indicate that the virus is being transmitted through “community transmission.” Sonoma County has reported two cases of COVID-19, one in a patient who contracted it abroad, and Humboldt County also has reported a single case, from which the patient has now recovered. Of the 40 cases in California 26 are people who became infected abroad, mostly on the Diamond Princess cruise. San Francisco, Alameda County, and Orange County have issued emergency declarations concerning the virus.
Since there have been cases community transmission identified, local public health officials are preparing for a potential further spread, and have issued public health guidance to prevent transmission, which are very similar to prevention for the seasonal flu.
Local public health agencies and hospitals have been been coordinating with state and federal agencies through February to develop local preparations and a plan to respond to the potential spread of the virus. Officials at Adventist Health and the Mendocino Coast District Hospital have also issued statements recommending health tips and addressing preparations in case the virus is reported here.
You can sign up for notifications from the CDC here. Below is the statement issued today from Mendocino County Public Health, followed by a statement from Adventist Health.
(Note: on mobile this will display as a link, follow the link for the full PDF version of this press release.)PRESS-RELEASE-COVID-19-03.02.2020
Statement from Adventist Health:
Friday, February 7, 2020 (Mendocino County) – While there are only 12 confirmed cases of the deadly Novel Coronavirus (nCoV) in the US, more than 30,000 people worldwide have been infected with the disease. In California so far, there are only six confirmed cases and none in Mendocino County, as of this writing. But in working with public health officials and with guidance from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), Adventist Health hospitals are taking necessary precautions and asking the community’s help to prevent the spread of the virus.
Beginning February 1, Adventist Health Howard Memorial and Adventist Health Ukiah Valley hospitals, including its 21 affiliated clinics will be screening visitors prior to entering their facilities including asking about recent travel and symptoms.
Those who have travelled to China in the last 14 days (or been in close contact with someone who has) and are experiencing the symptomsof fever and/or cough and shortness of breath will be given a mask and further evaluated by hospital staff to determine if they possibly have the novel coronavirus infection.
“While the risk is low, we are doing this out of an abundance of caution as the situation and what we know about the virus continues to evolve,” explains Sue Mason, infection prevention director at Adventist Health Ukiah Valley. “We have policies and procedures in place and staff are trained on what to do. As a healthcare facility, we want to minimize any risks of spreading the virus.” she added.
Linda Givens, patient care executive for Howard Memorial explains that if a patient shows up at either hospital with symptoms of novel coronavirus, they would be immediately taken to an isolation room in the hospital to prevent the disease from spreading. “We have negative pressure rooms, which are specifically designed to prevent airborne contaminants from drifting to other areas and contaminating patients, staff and sterile equipment. Once they have been isolated, we will perform some tests and if testing is positive, the patient would remain in isolation until test showed the virus had cleared out of the patient’s system,” she shares.
As the situation evolves, both hospitals are also monitoring and working closely with Mendocino County health officials and are prepared to implement additional procedures that may come recommended by the State or through the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Per the California Department of Public Health, there is no evidence of person to person transmission in the general public in California. As with any virus, including with the influenza virus during flu season, CDPH recommends the public take the following steps to prevent the spread of all respiratory viruses:
*Washing hands with soap and water.
*Avoiding touching eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
*Avoiding close contact with people who are sick is good practice to reduce the risk of infection with a number of different viruses.
*Staying away from work, school or other people when sick with respiratory symptoms like fever and cough.
Ukiah Unified School District superintendent’s letter
Dear MUSD Community,
I have received a couple of questions regarding the coronavirus and how it would affect our schools if a case was discovered in our community.
Like many of you, I have received updates from Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the California Department of Public Health, and the Mendocino County Health Department. I have also been in touch with the Mendocino County Office of Education. We have received guidance about disease prevention such as disinfecting surfaces, proper handwashing technique, not touching faces, and more. We have passed that information on to you through the K-8 Newsletter and Mendocino High School sent an email on the parent email list with this information. Our custodians are disinfecting surfaces and doorknobs on a daily basis and teachers are also disinfecting their classrooms.
If a case of coronavirus was discovered in our community, as far as a possible school closures go, we would follow the recommendations from California and County Health Departments. Parents would learn of a school closure as they normally would as if it were a weather or Power Shutoff event.
Superintendents from around the county met last Friday to discuss how and if educational services could continue in the event of an extended school closure. We will be working with the County Office of Education and internally to determine if we could somehow transition to a home based learning model. This sounds daunting for 550 students, but it is something that we are investigating. I just want to assure you that we are discussing the options. We would love for education and learning to continue during an extended school closure. So to reiterate, we don’t have a plan in place yet, but we are looking at our options.
There is a lot of information flying around on the internet and in the media and if your son/daughter is anxious or worried about the coronavirus, please let us know. In addition to our teachers, we have a full-time school counselor and a full-time school social worker to talk with students about their fears and concerns.
As always, please contact me with any questions or concerns – [email protected] or 937-5868.