Santa Clara County health officials announced this afternoon (Feb. 28) they have confirmed a third case of coronavirus in the county — an older woman being treated at El Camino Hospital in Mountain View who differs from the two previously identified cases because she “does not have a travel history nor any known contact with a traveler or infected person.”
“This new case indicates that there is evidence of community transmission but the extent is still not clear,” said Dr. Sara Cody, Health Officer for Santa Clara County and Director of the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department.
This Santa Clara County case comes a day after state officials said a woman hospitalized at UC-Davis Health Center in Sacramento had contracted the illness after no known contact.
The Santa Clara County woman has chronic health conditions and had been hospitalized with a respiratory illness, the county Public Health Department said in a statement. El Camino Hospital released a statement confirming they are treating the patient but provided no other details due to confidentiality laws.
The county tested her specimens Thursday at the request of the woman’s infectious disease physician and the department is now trying to identify contacts she may have had, officials said.
The county, as a matter of policy, does not reveal the city in which the victim lives. The woman was in El Camino’s Critical Care Unit last night.
The case of the infected woman marks an escalation of the worldwide outbreak in the U.S. because it means the virus could spread beyond the reach of preventative measures like quarantines, though state health officials said that was inevitable and that the risk of widespread transmission remains low.
Cody said this new case should change how people are thinking about this outbreak.
“Start thinking about family preparedness and what you might need to do if you need to stay home for a little while. And for communities, we need to prepare for the possibility of further spread of the virus,” Cody said.
“Schools should plan for absenteeism and explore options for learning at home and enhance cleaning their surfaces,” she said. “Businesses wherever possible can replace in-person meetings with video or telephone conferences and increase tele-working options as well as modified absentee policy, and of course enhance cleaning of surfaces.”
When asked if parents should keep children in school and whether businesses should keep their employees working, Cody said, “At this point, we don’t have any recommendations for staying home from school or work unless you’re sick. Certainly if anyone is sick they should stay home from work or school.”
“Again, this is an evolving situation and we’re learning more, but for now what we would like businesses and schools to do is to start preparing and thinking about what if would be like if there were a large number of children who needed to be home or teachers that need to be called.”
Cody said people should be particularly mindful to keep their hands washed and continually refrain from touching their mouths, eyes or nose, as the virus can spread through such touching.
Dr. Christopher Braden, deputy director at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, said the virus can remain on a surface for several days but is susceptible to most hygiene products like gel hand sanitizers.
California public health officials on Friday said 8,700 people are self-monitoring after arriving on commercial flights from China through Los Angeles and San Francisco. That’s up from the 8,400 that Gov. Gavin Newsom cited on Thursday, though officials said the number increases daily as more flights arrive.
— From staff and wire reports