County Supervisors, and heads of about a dozen county departments on the front lines in dealing with the COVID -19 crisis yesterday morning held a press conference on county government’s efforts to respond to the expanding public health emergency. Reporter Mike Lipsitz files this report…
The primary message from yesterday’s press conference was for the pubic to do the right thing. Board Chair Curt Hagman urged that everyone protect themselves and keep from spreading the virus to your friends, coworkers and loved ones. Stay home, observe social distancing, and isolate yourself if you suspect you may be infected.
County Public Health Director Trudy Raymundo, reported 38 confirmed cases of novel Coronavirus and one death. She emphasized that the core mission of her department is to protect the two million residents. Testing remains a top priority because, she said, “we know that we do not understand the extent or the magnitude of this disease right now in our county simply because our test capacity has been limited.” A pilot appointment only, drive-through test event will be held tomorrow. The when and where will be announced on the county’s COVID-19 website wp.sbcounty.gov/dph/coronavirus. Because of the limited number of tests (about 400), only those who meet certain criteria will be given an appointment. Those criteria and an application for the test may be found at the county’s Covid-19 website as well. Tests are taking five to seven days for results to come back except in critical circumstances where immediate results are called for. More test sites will be established throughout the county. The county has established a COVID-19 public hotline at 909-387-3911 for general, non-medial information and online at https//BIT.LY/SANCOVID.
Board Chair Curt Hagman said county hospitals are prepared. County is not sharing locations of those who have contracted the virus. There are plenty of supplies; don’t hoard, allow supply chains to catch up. County services are all operating. Do your part, heed the orders to stay home and observe recommended practices. Test kits are in short supply. The county has administered just 460 tests thus far.
Concerning short term vacation rentals, County Public Health Director Trudy Raymundo said the order prohibiting such rentals is being amended for clarity. She emphasized that the governor’s order is to stay home. that means your home and not someone else’s home. That is part of an effort to flatten the curve of new infections by practicing social distancing.
Dr. Webster Wong, Chief of Medical Staff at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center, said, “We are preparing for the unexpected and to respond to any surge of sick patients.” As for medical advice to prevent the spread of this virus, Dr. Wong advised everyone to:
• Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and warm water.
• If you can’t wash your hands, use hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.
• Use social distancing of at least six feet because the virus is easily spread; it can survive in the air or on surfaces for long periods of time.
• Do not touch your face especially with unclean hands.
• Cough or sneeze into a tissue or your elbow.
• If you have cough, fever, or have been exposed to someone with the virus but do not have breathing problems, stay at home in isolation, rest, hydrate, control your fever with medication.
• If you have these symptoms and have an underlying medical condition such as diabetes, COPD, heart disease, unstable asthma or are immunocompromised, please call Arrowhead Regional Medical Center or the County Health Department to be screened. I
• And if you have any of the above conditions, and have breathing problems, go to the emergency room,
Dr. Rodney Borger, Chair of Emergency Medicine at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center, said his department regularly prepares for disasters including global pandemics. He reassured the public that there is a strong plan and that “together we will get through this.” They are preparing to rapidly increase hospital capacity with a goal of 30 to 50 percent. A high-level viral containment unit has been established. A number of things are in short supply, masks, gowns, gloves, and tests are in limited supply. By mid-April, ARMC aims to have sufficient quantities of tests and same day results.
County Fire Chief Dan Munsey said the outbreak is much like a fire. His department is working closely with other departments. Calls to 911 are segregated with suspected COVID-19 cases handled separately. All fire personnel are closely monitored several times a day. Responders have the equipment needed, although much of it is in short supply. When you call 911, suspected cases are asked to wait outside the building for protection of first responders. Fire departments throughout the district are working together.
Supervisor Jose Gonzales addressed Spanish speakers advising everyone to observe recommended practices such as social distancing, hand washing and other strategies to slow the spread of the virus.
Ted Alejandre, County Superintendent of Schools representing 33 school districts and over 400,000 students, 19,000 teachers and other administrators and employees, said all schools are closed until May 1, but the county continues efforts to see that students continue to learn as well as receive nutritional support. The schools are attempting to leverage best practices for continued learning.
Daniel Munoz, County Director of the Office of Emergency Services, plays a critical-behind-the scenes support for the agencies involved in the crisis. OES helps coordinate all the first responders and others involved.
County Sheriff John McMahon reported procedures at county jails have changed in response to the outbreak. New detainees are tested and isolated if showing any signs of the virus. Bookings are down approximately 18 percent since the crisis began presumably because of fewer people on the streets and other reasons. The sheriff’s department continues to maintain public safety.