Contra Costa County issues new guidance on coronavirus outbreak

Contra Costa County updates guidance on coronavirus outbreak
The California Department of Public Health testing for the coronavirus at its Viral and Rickettsial Disease Laboratory at 850 Marina Bay Parkway in Richmond. (Photo credit: California Department of Public Health)

In an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, Contra Costa Health Services (CCHS) is recommending the cancellation or postponement of large gatherings where “50 or more people are within arm’s length of each other,” such as concerts, sporting events, celebrations, conventions, religious services and community events.

The new public guidance issued by CCHS this afternoon follows the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors’ declaration today of a state of emergency due to the outbreak, a step that allows CCHS to mobilize county resources, accelerate emergency planning and access future reimbursement by state and federal governments.

Ten Contra Costa County residents have tested positive for novel coronavirus. Of those, four were known to have had contact with people who previously tested positive, the county said. Six had no recent history of travel outside the U.S. or known contact with a confirmed case. Additionally, three confirmed cases from outside Contra Costa have been treated at hospitals in the county.

Confirmed cases have spiked nationally in the last 10 days, from 75 on March 1 to 950 today. Thirty deaths have been reported. Globally, the virus believed to have originated in Wuhan, China has infected over 113,000 people and led to over 4,000 deaths, according to CNN.

In its guidance, CCHS also recommends canceling or postponing events attended by older adults or others at higher risk for severe illness.  Current evidence indicates that the risk of severe illness increases with age, and also for those with underlying medical problems such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer or chronic lung diseases like Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), health officials said.

In a statement, CCHS said it “understands these recommendations will impact people’s lives and disrupt plans to attend larger events.”

“We considered them carefully in consultation with the state and other counties who have taken similar actions,” health officials said. “Given that we now know coronavirus is spreading in our county, this is a critical time for each of us to do our part to protect our community.”

In addition to recommended restrictions on gatherings, CCHS is also providing new guidance to businesses and schools. Businesses should allow employees to work remotely when possible. They should also suspend nonessential employee travel and minimize or cancel meetings and workplace situations that bring people in close contact, according to CCHS. Sick employees should also be urged to stay home.

CCHS has not recommended the closure of schools. But it said it would work with school districts to determine best measures, including potential dismissals, in the case of a confirmed coronavirus case at a campus.

On Monday, WCCUSD informed parents at two elementary schools — Washington and Mira Vista — that a relative of students attending those schools had tested positive for COVID-19. The schools resumed today but the students in question will remain home until further notice, according to the school district. To date, no students or staff members have tested positive for COVID-19.

Students who are sick should not go to school, according to CCHS. Schools are encouraged to use “distance learning” and online options during this time.

CCHS is also recommending frequent cleaning of public transit stations and vehicles, and also that individuals continue to be persistent about washing their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

Full guidance provided here: