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Santa Clara County warns those over 50 or with medical conditions to avoid large crowds

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How To Reduce Your Risk

Local health officials urge practicing good hygiene to reduce the risk of becoming infected with a respiratory virus, such as the flu or coronavirus. This includes:

• Washing hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
• Avoid touching your eyes and face
• Cough or sneeze into your sleeved elbow
• Stay home when ill
• Get a flu shot, and it’s not too late this season

Source: Sonoma County Department of Health Services


For more information, go to sonomacounty.ca.gov/Health/Information-About-Coronavirus.

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For more stories about the coronavirus, go here.

The impact of the coronavirus outbreak that has alarmed health officials worldwide took on new urgency Tuesday as Santa Clara County announced two new cases in people without known exposure risk and warned residents over 50 or in poor health to avoid large public gatherings.

County officials said people are progressively more vulnerable to the disease as they age and if they have other health problems. And because the disease is primarily spread through contact with infected people, they urged people at highest risk to avoid events like parades, sporting events and concerts where many people are within arm’s length.

“The risk increases with age,” said Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara County’s Health Officer. “We are recommending people at higher risk avoid mass gatherings.”

Santa Clara County’s warning goes farther than those of other Bay Area counties, which have had fewer cases of the disease officially called COVID-19, and generally advised residents to regularly wash hands, avoid sick people and to stay home if not well.

There are now 11 cases in Santa Clara County, which announced its first case Jan. 31. Of the nine known cases before Tuesday, four involved recent travelers to China, where the outbreak originated in December, three involved close contacts of infected people and two had no known risk factors and are believed to have involved community spread.

“Due to our almost daily increase in cases, the Public Health Department is issuing new guidance today to protect the health of vulnerable individuals,” Cody said. “We ask for the public’s help in sharing these new recommendations, staying calm, and following prior guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control.”

Health officials added that the advice to avoid large gatherings does not include typical office environments, grocery stores or shopping centers, where it is unusual for large numbers of people to be within arm’s length of one another.

At the SAP Center, where the San Jose Sharks were to play a game Tuesday night, management said in a statement that “at this time we have not received any information about the coronavirus that would indicate a need to alter any of our operating procedures.

“SAP Center Management takes this matter seriously and will continue to monitor the situation as more information becomes available,” the statement continued. “Our history of hosting safe and successful events is exceptional.”

The county health department also advised that organizations serving the elderly and medically vulnerable cancel gatherings such as bingo or movie screenings and be extra vigilant about cleaning shared surfaces such as doorknobs and keyboards and screening visitors for symptoms.

“Information about risk factors for COVID-19 infection is evolving, but the best evidence currently available makes clear that risk of severe illness begins to increase at age 50 for those who contract COVID-19, and increases with age,” the health department said, adding that 80-year-old person is at greater risk than a 70-year-old person. “The highest risk group are persons age 80 and over.

“Persons with underlying medical problems also are likely at higher risk for severe disease, including persons with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, or chronic lung diseases like COPD, as well as those who are immunocompromised.”

Santa Clara County has more confirmed coronavirus cases than other Bay Area counties. Solano County, which includes Travis Air Force Base where many Americans were quarantined after evacuating from China or a cruise ship off Japan, has three confirmed cases, one of which may have been community spread. Contra Costa County also has three cases.

How To Reduce Your Risk

Local health officials urge practicing good hygiene to reduce the risk of becoming infected with a respiratory virus, such as the flu or coronavirus. This includes:

• Washing hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
• Avoid touching your eyes and face
• Cough or sneeze into your sleeved elbow
• Stay home when ill
• Get a flu shot, and it’s not too late this season

Source: Sonoma County Department of Health Services


For more information, go to sonomacounty.ca.gov/Health/Information-About-Coronavirus.

_____

For more stories about the coronavirus, go here.

“We are not where Santa Clara is at,” said Will Harper, a spokesman for Contra Costa Health Services, which on Monday advised residents that measures such as canceling public events, avoiding large gatherings, working from home and school closure may be needed in the future. “Sounds like Santa Clara is going a step beyond what we’ve said.”

Alameda County on Monday reported it has two presumed cases involving health care workers who are self-isolating at home that are awaiting confirmation. San Benito County has had two cases, involving a husband who had traveled to China and his wife who caught it from him.

Santa Clara County’s warning about the virus comes amid continued global alarm over the virus that first appeared in central China in December and has since spread to at least 48 countries including the U.S.

According to the World Health Organization, there are now more than 90,000 confirmed infections worldwide and at least 3,110 deaths. Most of those are in China, where the number of reported cases has been shrinking. Outside of China, the largest number of cases have been in South Korea, Iran and Italy.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tallied 60 cases nationwide as of Tuesday morning in a dozen states, including 22 that were travel-related, 11 that were transmitted person to person and 27 that remain under investigation. By Tuesday afternoon the U.S. death toll had climbed to nine, all in the state of Washington, where most of the fatalities were associated with a nursing home near Seattle.

As of Monday, the California Department of Public Health had counted a total of 43 positive cases in the state: 24 from repatriation flights returning U.S. citizens overseas from China and other areas where the virus has spread rapidly.

The other 19 confirmed cases in California — which do not include the latest from Santa Clara County — include 10 that are travel related, two due to person-to-person exposure from family contact, three due to person-to-person exposure in a health care facility and four from unknown sources.

Santa Clara County officials said the latest cases involved county residents but had little information about them, including their ages and genders.

County officials stressed that they are trying to provide reasonable guidance to residents based on evolving knowledge about the new coronavirus.

“Now is not the time to panic, nor is it time to shoot from the hip,” County Executive Jeff Smith said. “We have to have measured responses based on facts.”

Added Health Officer Cody: “We are doing our very best, that I can assure you.”

Ethan Baron, Jason Green and Sal Pizarro contributed to this story.

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