NorCal woman infected by possible community spread of coronavirus

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FAIRFIELD, Calif. (KRON) – Solano County health officials confirmed that a woman contracted the coronavirus from unknown origins, the first in the country, KRON4 reported.

The county declared a local emergency after the woman tested positive for the deadly virus.

The woman lives in Solano County, home to the Travis Air Force Base where dozens of people infected in China or on cruise ships have been treated. But Sonia Angell, director of the California Department of Public Health, said there was no evidence the woman had any connection to the base.

“We don’t know what their exposure was,” Dr. Bela Matyas said. “So at this point we don’t know where the patient was exposed.”

The woman initially sought treatment at VacaValley Hospital in Vacaville. She was there for only three days before being transferred to UC Davis Medical Center, but never showed signs of the coronavirus.

The patient was brought to UC Davis Medical Center on Feb. 19.

“Because the patient did not initially meet the criteria for coronavirus testing, the patient was not in airborne isolation at North Bay or at UC Davis,” Matyas said. “Which means that there were multiple health care personnel who were exposed to the individual.”

Hospital officials say dozens of VacaValley Hospital employees as well as those at UC Davis Medical Center were potentially exposed to the coronavirus. They are now being tracked by local health officials and the CDC.

“They are being identified and their risk for exposure is being assessed and they are being put into categories that are appropriate,” Matyas said. “Some are under isolation, some of them will be under quarantine, some of them represent too low of a risk to warrant either of those two approaches.”

UC Davis released a statement regarding the incident.

Officials said because of the precautions that were taken, there doesn’t appear to be a risk of exposure at the medical center.

There hasn’t been a confirmed coronavirus case in Yolo County or at the UC Davis main campus. But campus officials say three people from campus who had been living in Kearney Hall, a student housing residence, are currently in isolation.

The CDC is testing one of them for the deadly virus, while the other two are not being tested because they aren’t show any symptoms.

As a result of this community contact, local officials are switch the way they attack the coronavirus from containment to mitigation.

“We recognize if we do have community spread, it becomes necessary to take more aggressive protection of resources hospitals and other facilities,” Matyas said. “So we are suggesting they adopt more aggressive prevention stance towards individuals who don’t meet coronavirus risk conditions but are community acquired respiratory disease.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom declined comment when asked by reporters to name the community in Solano County the woman was from but urged people to take precautions while emphasizing that the risks to public health were low. He said there was no need to declare a public health emergency.

It took four days before the CDC heeded a request to test the patient for COVID-19, according to an email sent to employees Wednesday by the hospital’s interim CEO, Brad Simmons, and David Lubarsky, CEO of UC Davis Health.

The NorthBay Healthcare group told the public that all of their hospitals, including the one were the person initially stayed, were operating under normal circumstances in a press release on Thursday.

“We are taking this situation seriously and are taking steps necessary to protect the health and safety of Solano County residents,” said Dr. Bela Matyas, Solano County Health Officer. “It is important to recognize that we have moved from containment to mitigation. We are investigating potential exposures and ensuring that proper evaluation and care are provided if they become sick.”

In their statement the hospital assured that all precautions had been taken in identifying anyone who might have been exposed. According to Steve Huddleston, vice president of public affairs for NorthBay Healthcare Group, dozens of employees have been identified to have been in contact with the woman are being asked to stay home and monitor themselves while the id process continues.

Vacaville Fire Chief Kris Concerpcion confirmed that they were diverting patients away from Northbay Medical Center in Fairfeld and Vacavalley Hospital in Vacaville around 2 p.m. while the hospital conducting its investigation.

Read the full statement below.

Statement from Aimee Brewer President, NorthBay Healthcare Group

Thursday, February 27, 2020

First and foremost, we want to assure the community and our patients that both of our hospitals are open, operating safely and delivering the same high quality of care that those who have long trusted us, expect us to provide

Both NorthBay Medical Center and NorthBay VacaValley Hospital are operating under normal operations and are meeting the needs of our patients.

On Wednesday, immediately after learning that a former patient taken to UC Davis Medical Center had been tested by the CDC and found to be carrying the coronavirus, we launched a meticulous tracing of anyone in our Vacaville hospital who may have had any contact with that patient.

From patient’s arrival in the emergency department, until the transfer to UC Davis Medical Center, we promptly identified these employees. Those that met the moderate or high risk categories were asked to stay home and monitor themselves for any sign of COVID-19. Our approach is the same as we regularly manage other diseases that require airborne precautions and monitoring.

As for the patient’s care in NorthBay VacaValley Hospital, at no time did the patient fit the existing CDC criteria for COVID-19, and therefore a test was not immediately administered.

During the course of the three-day stay, the patient’s condition worsened, prompting our physicians to seek transfer to UC Davis where a higher level of monitoring and care could be delivered. The patient was transported via ambulance.

As you will learn today we continue to work very closely with county and state public health officials, UC Davis, as well as the CDC, and thank them for their coordination and assistance.

We are very proud of our health care team who provided excellent care to this patient while in our hospital, and proud of all who responded in the last two days to manage possible employee exposures.

“We understand the concern from our community because of the unknowns regarding this new virus. We are working with our local, state and federal partners to prepare for situations that may arise,” added Dr. Matyas. “We want to remind individuals that this virus does not discriminate, and people should not be excluded from activities based on their race or country of origin.” 

Governor Gavin Newsom held a press conference Thursday with health officials and the director of California’s Office of Emergency Services updating the public on the state’s response to the ourbreak.

It was revealed that there are currently 28 confirmed cases in California, more testing kits are arriving from the CDC and the state will advance its testing protocols to give the state further access to coronavirus testing.

Despite the precautions, the California Dept. of Public Heath says the risk to the general population is low.

The patient in Solano County is the first known case to to have contracted the virus without traveling to a foreign county, or been in contact with someone with a confirmed case.

“At this time, the patient’s exposure is unknown,” the CDC said in a statement to KRON4. “It’s possible this could be an instance of community spread of COVID-19, which would be the first time this has happened in the United States.”

All of the 59 other cases in the U.S. had traveled from abroad or had been in close contact with those who traveled. Health officials have been on high alert for so-called community spread.

Earlier U.S. cases included 14 in people who traveled back from outbreak areas in China, or their spouses; three people who were evacuated from the central China city of Wuhan; and 42 American passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship who were evacuated by the federal government to the U.S. from where the ship was docked in Japan.

Some of those evacuated were taken to Travis Air Force Base, which is in Solano County. A number of the earlier cases have been in California, including among some of the people taken to Travis and one in which a traveler who returned to San Benito County spread it to a spouse.

A situation that prompted Governor Newsom to say that it “is not surprising” that a case has popped up in Solano County and that he expected a new case to happen sooner.

California officials have been preparing for the possibility that community spread of the virus might first surface there.

The outbreak, which began in China, has infected tens of thousands of people in more than three dozen countries, with the vast majority in mainland China.

The new virus is a member of the coronavirus family that can cause colds or more serious illnesses such as SARS and MERS.

The virus can cause fever, coughing, wheezing and pneumonia. Health officials think it spreads mainly from droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how the flu spreads.

Officials are advising people to take steps to avoid infection with coronavirus or other respiratory infections like a cold or the flu, including washing hands with soap and water and avoiding close contact with people who are sick.

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