County shares preparations for potential coronavirus outbreak

Coronavirus

SAN DIEGO — A Chula Vista AT&T store employee who lives Orange County has tested positive for the coronavirus, authorities announced Thursday, and city officials said the person had “close, yet minimal contact” with other people.

San Diego County health officials informed the city Wednesday that the individual had tested presumptive positive for the coronavirus, or COVID- 19. The person is a resident of another California county and had recently traveled to a high-risk region as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, according to the city. People who came into contact with the patient will be monitored for 14 days.

“The city of Chula Vista is providing this information out of an abundance of caution,” according to a statement from the city. “The city of Chula Vista believes the current risk to our community is low and will continue to coordinate with the county of San Diego to monitor the on-going situation.”

The positive test for the patient, a female AT&T employee who had recently traveled to Italy, prompted the closure of several of its retail stores in the area.

“A retail store employee in San Diego has received a `presumptive’ positive test for COVID-19,” company spokesman Fletcher Cook said in a statement. “The positive test has not yet been confirmed by the CDC. Out of an abundance of caution, yesterday we closed and deep-cleaned several stores in the area that this employee or colleagues in close contact to this employee may have visited recently. Those stores will reopen today.”

The affected stores were in Chula Vista, Escondido, San Marcos, Oceanside, National City and Vista, he said.

County officials advised all involved people to follow the CDC guidance for self-quarantine.

“If you’re sick, stay home,” San Diego County Public Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten said at a midday news briefing, adding that Eric McDonald — the county medical director of the epidemiology and immunization branch who was scheduled to speak at the news conference — had stayed home after feeling ill.

Scripps Health, which has five hospital locations in San Diego County, announced Thursday it is restricting visitor conditions at its campuses, including turning away visitors with fever or respiratory symptoms and children ages 14 and younger. The restrictions are in effect at Scripps Mercy Hospital San Diego, Scripps Mercy Hospital Chula Vista, Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla, Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas and Scripps Green Hospital in La Jolla.

The first U.S. death from the disease was reported Saturday in the Pacific Northwest. Public health officials said the victim was a man in his 50s and a resident of King County, Washington, who had underlying health issues. As of Thursday, a total of 12 people have died in the United States from the illness, including a person near Sacramento, the first U.S. death outside Washington.

“The appearance of this novel coronavirus in our community is very likely and regional efforts to prepare and respond are on the rise,” according to a San Diego County statement.

In a report from San Diego County health officials updated Friday, a total of 390 people were being monitored for the disease, but 305 of them have completed their monitoring. The remaining 85 are monitoring their health under the supervision of public health officials, Wooten said. She said remote monitoring is being done on several San Diego residents who are on the Grand Princess cruise ship, which was carrying the first person to die of the illness in California and is now being held offshore while passengers and crew are tested.

The county previously had two confirmed cases involving people who were under federal quarantine at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar following repatriation flights that arrived from Wuhan, China, on Feb. 5 and Feb. 7. Both of those patients have since been treated and released.

Test results in San Diego County are still pending for five people, including some detainees of Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Thirteen patients tested negative in the county, according to the report, for a total of 18 people tested.

The county Board of Supervisors last week unanimously reaffirmed and extended a local health emergency declaration in response to concerns about the outbreak. But county officials stressed that the risk of contracting the virus locally remains low.

On Thursday morning, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, introduced Assembly Bill 3123, which would protect workers from retaliation if they take leave during public health emergencies.

President Donald Trump gave a televised update on the outbreak Saturday, when he announced new travel restrictions involving Iran and warnings about travel to parts of Italy and South Korea, where high virus activity has been reported.

More than 95,000 cases of the illness and 3,250 deaths have been reported, with the vast majority of those in China.

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