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Sonoma County records second-biggest jump in coronavirus cases

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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.

An Oakmont resident has tested positive for COVID-19, and is among the 49 cases of the viral disease reported so far in Sonoma County.

The individual is the first confirmed case in the Oakmont Village retirement community, according to a message sent by Steve Spanier, president of the association’s board of directors, to the neighborhood’s residents Thursday. Spanier didn’t provide any demographic details about the individual, but said the virus was likely contracted while the resident traveled internationally. The individual is currently at home, and has been instructed to call an ambulance if they experience shortness of breath.

“This is far from unexpected. It was just a matter of time until COVID-19 came to Oakmont,” Spanier said in his message. “In all likelihood, even now, other Oakmont residents are active carriers.”

Spanier did not respond to a text message or phone call seeking comment late Thursday.

Also on Thursday, county officials reported 10 new cases of COVID-19 from the previous day, the second-biggest one-day jump reported so far, though officials have said they expect the number of cases to rise as testing expands.

Last week, a man in his 60s who had been hospitalized died, marking the first death caused by the disease in the county. Five people have recovered so far, leaving 43 active cases of the coronavirus, which causes the respiratory disease COVID-19.

The source of infection for 43% of the people diagnosed was still under investigation Thursday, county officials reported. They have determined that 10 cases were related to recent travel, 11 people contracted the virus through community spread and seven were infected after they came into “close contact” with a person who had the virus.

The distinction between those latter two categories is close contact means someone interacted with a person known to have tested positive, whereas community spread means that the source of the infection is suspected to come from public interaction but isn’t known.

This weekend, county health officials will undergo a contact investigation training, hosted by an expert in tracking and stopping the spread of tuberculosis. Contact investigations involve reaching out to anyone who may have been exposed to an individual who has tested positive for the virus, including family members, coworkers and acquaintances.

Of the 903 tests for COVID-19 conducted in Sonoma County, 5% have come back positive.

Three Santa Rosa police officers, a county sheriff’s deputy and at least three health care workers are among those who have tested positive for the virus.

Sonoma County Public Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase said first responders in law enforcement, fire and medical professions who show symptoms of the virus will be prioritized for testing and their results expedited.

County officials have repeatedly refused to provide demographic details about people diagnosed with the virus, citing broad patient privacy rules even as other local and state officials across the country have released such information.

Mase has said she will release more information about the people who have contracted the virus once the number of confirmed cases reaches 50.

So far, the county has seen a steady increase in the number of cases daily, Mase said. But county emergency officials and local hospitals have been preparing for the possibility of surge in cases in the coming weeks.

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 has taken measures in the hopes of preventing a major surge in cases, including the stay-at-home order that went into effect last week and ordering the closure of all parks within the county.

By early next week, she said the county will have modeling data on how many cases there could have been in the region if officials hadn’t initiated these measures.

“(It will show) what it could’ve looked like if we didn’t put these strategies in place,” Mase said. “So we may then actually be able to say, ‘Oh wow, this is what we’ve avoided.’ ”

Even with all these measures, Mase has estimated that 20% to 40% of county residents could be infected by the virus by the time the outbreak ends. Sonoma County has a population of roughly 500,000 people.

County spokeswoman Jennifer Larocque emphasized the importance of obeying the stay-at-home order. She added that the order has been in effect for only eight days, and the incubation period for the coronavirus can be longer than that, which is one potential factor in the documentation of new cases.

“People should not be discouraged with the number of cases that we’ve seen over this past week and that we may see over the next week because they may have been contracted prior to the shelter-in-place,” Larocque said.

“It’s important that we take a long-term perspective on our actions right now because they will not have immediate results. We’ll see the results of this play out in the next two weeks.”

Separately, California State Parks closed vehicle access to three more parks in Sonoma County on Thursday. Fort Ross State Historic Park, Kruse Rhododendron State Natural Reserve and Salt Point State Marine Conservation Area have been added to the eight parks that the department had previously restricted vehicle access to.

Despite the county’s order that all parks within the region would be closed starting Tuesday, State Parks said that at the moment, all noncampground outdoor areas of their parks remain open.

You can reach Staff Writer Chantelle Lee at 707-521-5337 or chantelle.lee@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @ChantelleHLee.

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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