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Ninth case of coronavirus detected in Sonoma County

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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.

Questions or concerns can be directed to the county’s 24-hour information hotline at 211 or 800-325-9604. You can also text "COVID19" to 211211 for coronavirus information.

For more stories about the coronavirus, go here.

Expanded testing detected one new case of coronavirus in Sonoma County, the county’s ninth, but a dearth of swabs used to collect samples has health care providers scrambling to share supplies and county officials seeking state and federal help.

By Thursday evening, 229 tests had been conducted in Sonoma County, yielding nine positive cases and 207 negative results. Thirteen test results were still pending, said Dr. Sundari Mase, the county’s interim public health officer.

The number of tests conducted in the county jumped 30% from Wednesday as public health officials intensify efforts to determine how quickly the virus is spreading in Sonoma County, home to a half-million people.

Gov. Gavin Newsom warned Thursday that more than half of California’s 40 million people could contract the coronavirus in the next eight weeks, according to state projections. On Thursday night he ordered every Californian to stay home indefinitely, unless they work in an essential job, to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed by patients sick with COVID-19, a respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus.

Mase, who issued a similar shelter-in-place order that took effect at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, refrained from making the same dire predictions for the spread of the virus in Sonoma County.

“Some have said 20%, some have said 40%,” Mase said.

Local officials said more tests are needed to track the path of the virus in the county, which has joined with 11 Bay Area counties to hire a high-profile research group that will model the spread of the coronavirus.

“More data is always better, and will help create a more accurate model,” county spokeswoman Jennifer Larocque said. “The more testing we can do, the better information we can have.”

A shortage of swabs, which are used to take samples of mucus and saliva from patients’ noses and throats, threatens to restrict efforts to test for the virus. Continued expansion of the county’s testing program largely depends on a federal supply chain Larocque said has only partially been opened.

Mase said Kaiser Permanente has offered to share an unknown number of swabs with other testing sites in Sonoma County.

“That’s our short-term solution,” Mase said. “Long term, we’re working with the state of California.”

County officials are also tapping state and federal elected leaders.

“We have been advocating to our elected officials to procure more swabs for the state from the federal government,” Larocque said, adding that supplies can also be obtained from the California Department of Public Health through the State Operations Center, a statewide emergency operations center.

Four entities are performing coronavirus tests in Sonoma County: LabCorp, Quest Diagnostics, Kaiser Permanente and the county’s health lab.

The tests have found nine cases of coronavirus in the county. The first two patients are believed to have contracted the virus on a cruise to Mexico. At least three are health care workers who, along with one other unidentified person, were isolated at home Monday.

Little is known about the ninth patient, revealed Thursday after the county health lab confirmed the positive test results. The patient represents the fourth case of community transmission in the county, meaning he or she didn’t contract the virus from a known source or by traveling to a known hot spot for the coronavirus.

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.

Questions or concerns can be directed to the county’s 24-hour information hotline at 211 or 800-325-9604. You can also text "COVID19" to 211211 for coronavirus information.

For more stories about the coronavirus, go here.

Mase wouldn’t provide any other information about the patient, including age, gender or whether the person had symptoms or was being treated at a local hospital, broadly citing legal constraints to protect patient privacy.

County officials expect the number of positive tests to increase, and have committed to releasing aggregate data as case numbers rise.

But more data is needed for a new front in the county’s battle against the virus: advanced disease modeling.

The county has joined 11 others in the Bay Area to hire Imperial College London to conduct hyperlocal modeling of COVID-19 spread. The university’s researchers this week issued a model projecting that up to 2.2 million people could die in the United States if the disease was allowed to run its course without intervention. The report sent shockwaves through Washington, D.C., and influenced the White House’s more aggressive approach to the virus.

“We feel very lucky to be working with them,” Larocque said.

The results of the modeling should be available in eight weeks and will be made public, Mase said. But first, Sonoma County needs more tests because the modeling is based on the existing data, and “we don’t have a lot going on in the county,” Mase said.

Neither Larocque nor Mase was able to specify how many tests they would like to see locally, nor have officials been willing to address reports of hospitals refusing to test even at-risk, symptomatic residents.

Officials wouldn’t say whether hospitals are doing what they should be doing when it comes to testing.

“What we’ve told them is that everybody who needs a test needs to be tested,” Mase said, explaining the qualifying factors, which include having contact with a person known to have COVID-19. “Anybody who comes in with symptoms should be tested first for a viral panel, influenza. If there’s no other diagnosis, they should get a COVID-19 test.”

You can reach Staff Writer Tyler Silvy at 707-526-8667 or at tyler.silvy@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @tylersilvy.

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