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Three Santa Rosa police officers, Sonoma County sheriff's deputy test positive for coronavirus

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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.

Three Santa Rosa police officers and a Sonoma County sheriff’s deputy have tested positive for COVID-19 and are among the 34 cases of the viral disease reported so far in Sonoma County, law enforcement officials said Tuesday.

All four tested positive for coronavirus in the past week — including one whose test was confirmed Tuesday afternoon. They are in isolation, at least one at a local hospital, officials said. One of the three officers had “minimal” contact with the public recently and the others had no contact, while the deputy had recently returned from a vacation, officials said.

“Right now, our thoughts are with them as they recover,” Santa Rosa Police Chief Ray Navarro said during a news briefing Tuesday.

The recent cases emerged as health officials around California continued to warn of a coming surge in illnesses, as transmission of coronavirus involving those who are unprotected — and perhaps asymptomatic — continues.

In Sonoma County, officials are honing in on alternative sites that can be converted to house nonacute patients, once local hospitals reach capacity, Emergency Management Director Chris Godley said.

Godley said the county would need about 500 additional beds for a moderate-to-severe outbreak.

Sonoma County Health Officer Sundari Mase said she hoped that aggressive steps taken to curb the spread of the virus, including a shelter-in-place order issued last week and, more recently, closure of all parks in the county, might mitigate the surge.

She also said she spoke Tuesday with law enforcement chiefs and urged them to follow up on reports of “nonessential” businesses that had remained in operation in violation of the preventive order to “see if there is any need for them to gently nudge” those found out of compliance to align with new regulations and close.

Godley said it was mostly a question of continuing to educate the public.

“It’s really looking at the spirit of the public health order,” he said. “Why are we doing this? It’s not just a zoning or a building code. It’s a life-safety impact.”

Sonoma County has lost one resident to the virus, which has killed more than 700 people in the United States, including 50 in California, according to the New York Times.

Two of the 34 people confirmed positive through testing have recovered, leaving 31 active cases, officials said.

The sheriff’s deputy sought testing last week after returning from vacation.

He has not returned to work since arriving home and is in stable condition at a local hospital, department spokesman Sgt. Juan Valencia said.

The three Santa Rosa officers were tested after they began feeling sick — two of them Friday and one earlier this week, Navarro said.

One was in a patrol position and had “minimal contact with the public,” Navarro said. The second worked inside the police department and had no contact with the public, and the third is a detective who had no public interaction in recent weeks, he said.

Six other department employees, both sworn and civilian, were self-quarantined, either because they are showing signs of illness or because they may have been exposed to the virus, though one later tested negative for the virus, city officials said.

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.

Another was to be tested, while four others were awaiting guidance from their health care providers, a city spokeswoman said.

The Police Department had made significant changes to reduce the risk of the virus spreading within the department and to the community, including eliminating in-person responses to certain property crimes, like petty thefts and forgeries, and other minor incidents, like some city ordinance violations and noninjury vehicle collisions, according to the department website.

Navarro said the department has shifted to online or telephone reporting, instead, and is using teleconferencing for employee meetings.

Only essential staff are reporting for duty, and they are being issued personal protective equipment, Navarro said.

The lobby also is closed to the public.

Mase and Godley both said they are hoping the county’s patient numbers stay low long enough to receive additional test kits and supplies — principally cotton swabs needed to collect secretions for testing — as well as protective gear for medical workers, which are in poor supply.

But they are working quickly to identify alternative treatment sites for nonacute cases. Godley said he hopes the list of candidates can be narrowed down in a few days.

Projections still prove elusive, in terms of how many people might become sick. Though computer modeling specific to the county’s population and preventive measures is underway, it is currently unclear “what might be coming our way,” Godley said.

Based on historic epidemics and the likelihood of unidentified cases in the population, it was expected there would be “this spike — this sudden and dramatic rise in the number of individuals that are not only infected but of course the number that are going to be seeking medical care and hospitalization,” Godley said.

The county has 746 beds between all of its combined hospitals.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has said the state in total needs another 50,000 beds that are likely to be divided among different kinds of settings, including hotels and motels.

Supervisors Shirlee Zane and David Rabbitt have said potential sites locally include Sonoma State University dormitories and the Santa Rosa Veterans’ Memorial Building.

Godley said individual hospitals also would be working to expand their own capacity, in part by canceling elective surgeries, turning examining rooms into treatment rooms, and converting gurneys to patient beds, “that kind of thing.”

But the county’s three largest hospitals have been unwilling to provide details about their surge planning so far.

The Press Democrat on Monday and Tuesday asked representatives of Kaiser Permanente, Santa Rosa Memorial and Sutter Health for specific information regarding preparations for a surge in cases, including the number of beds available and specifically set aside for COVID-19 patients, as well as the number of negative pressure rooms and ventilators needed to provide care.

They also were asked how many coronavirus patients they were anticipating as the pandemic continues to grow.

None provided those details. Healdsburg District Hospital said it would provide information Wednesday on its plans for handling an influx of COVID-19 patients.

Staff Writer Martin Espinoza contributed to this report. You can reach Staff Writers Mary Callahan at 707-521-5249 or mary.callahan@pressdemocrt.com and Chantelle Lee at 707-521-5337 or chantelle.lee@pressdemocrat.com.

The Press Democrat wants to know what stories you see emerging and what you're experiencing locally during the shelter-in-place order. Reach out to us at coronavirus@pressdemocrat.com.

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