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About this blog: So much is right — and wrong — about what is happening in Palo Alto. In this blog I want to discuss all that with you. I know many residents care about this town, and I want to explore our collective interests to help ...  (More)

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Are our cities prepared for a pandemic coronavirus problem?

Uploaded: Mar 1, 2020
I went to two parties this past weekend, and the main conversational topic at each was the coronavirus (COVID-19). People were concerned but not worried, but all had read a lot about it, and other than washing one’s hands frequently and coughing or sneezing into a tissue or one’s sweater, we were unsure what else to do. Many had tried to buy masks and hand sanitizers, but complained the store shelves were empty. We kidded about staying six feet away from each other as we talked.

But those conversations got me to thinking, what are our cities doing about the possible pandemic proportions of this virus, which statistically can spread more rapidly and kill more people than the regular flu virus.

I looked at Palo Alto’s website and there is scant local information there. A special web (www.cityofpaloalto.org/services/public_safety/plans_and_information/coronavirus.asp)
page was created and reported the following:
“The City’s Office of Emergency Services (OES) is participating in the Santa Clara County briefings as well as monitoring advisories issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). OES has also been in contact with Stanford Health Care and other hospitals and clinics to coordinate on preparation and contingency planning. The City is also in regular contact with community health care providers (hospitals and clinics).”

But here are some of the questions that I want answers to:
• Can the city help the pharmacies and stores stock up with more facemasks and hand sanitizers?
• Are ambulances a preferred way of getting medical assistance for a person with coronavirus symptoms, and is that better than my taking a spouse or friend to the nearby emergency room and sit in a waiting room full of other patients?
• Are the fire department’s ambulances equipped to take patients with coronavirus symptoms to the hospital and will those patients be isolated? And how much will an ambulance cost?
• Now is the time to plan and prepare. Has the council discussed what to do?
• Are discussions going on between the school district and the city’s Office of Emergency Services over alerts about potential virus victims? I heard rumors Saturday that two kids in Palo Alto schools had parents who were exposed to the virus. Were those children allowed to go to their classes? Who makes a decision about what the schools should do?
• Are Palo Alto City Council members aware of a possible pandemic and are they or the city manager directing the OES, the police and the fire departments on what to do? Who is really in charge of decisions in an outbreak?
• Who should residents of Palo Alto contact at City Hall if they want advice about what to do with a possible coronavirus patient? What is the direct telephone number and will a live person answer the phone? Who is that person?
• What kind of coordination is there between Stanford and the city about having people stay at home? For example, if Stanford cancels its classes, will students be walking around downtown for lunch? And will Stanford be screening its students if they want to leave the campus?
• Have city officials met with businesses in town to discuss potential problems if there is an epidemic?
• What are grocery and pharmacy stores planning to do if there is an epidemic?
• Is there a way to make it feasible for people and children to stay home a long time – away from their jobs and their schools? Is this a possibility?

All of this sounds draconian, I admit, but this virus travels fast and knows no city, county or state boundaries, so it’s a problem for everyone living here.

On Stanford’s web page, Michelle Mello, professor of law and professor of health research and policy, is a leading empirical health scholar whose research is focused on understanding the effects of law and regulation on health care delivery and population health outcomes.

She writes: “What the government did in Wuhan, China, is highly unusual; typically, isolation and quarantine orders are far narrower and better tailored to the people who have actually been exposed to the virus. It’s virtually impossible to maintain a mass quarantine for a long period because critical supplies will run out and social unrest will grow. A scenario like that in the US is highly unlikely, but it’s striking to me that there has been so little discussion of how to make it feasible for people to stay at home for extended periods of time, whether under a government order or voluntarily.”

If this epidemic expands, and I certainly hope it doesn’t, we still need a lot of advance planning and public information. We’re all in this together and we look to our local officials to help lead us to the safest approaches we need to take.

We need your support now more than ever. Can we count on you?

Comments

 +   16 people like this
Posted by Get real, a resident of Esther Clark Park,
on Mar 1, 2020 at 2:15 pm

“ Are Palo Alto City Council members aware of a possible pandemic and are they or the city manager directing the OES, the police and the fire departments on what to do? Who is really in charge of decisions in an outbreak?"
The council will not make any decisions before they hear from consultants, stakeholder groups and neighborhood activists. They may also need an IER and a traffic study before releasing any statements.
(In other words do not expect any leadership from our council".

“ What kind of coordination is there between Stanford and the city about having people stay at home? For example, if Stanford cancels its classes, will students be walking around downtown for lunch? And will Stanford be screening its students if they want to leave the campus?“
I am sure that Stanford will do a much better job handiling this situation than Palo Alto ever will. The question should be what will Palo Alto do to,prevent local residents from entering campus and spreading disease?


 +   12 people like this
Posted by Reader, a resident of Mountain View,
on Mar 1, 2020 at 2:21 pm

For such a topic, please also consider the instructive info about bureaucratic errors and unaccountable bungling internationally, posted a couple of days ago (with links) in the parallel blog essay by Doug Moran: Web Link

Also: If any of the resident PA-Weekly trolls that Doug Moran very rightly -- some might even say over-patiently -- muted from that post begin spilling over to this one as a sort of fall-back option (they have done so before), please proactively employ your editorial prerogatives to clear that stuff off of this blog. It doesn't contribute to useful discussion, and it discourages more-serious comments.


 +   12 people like this
Posted by Diana Diamond, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Mar 1, 2020 at 2:26 pm

Diana Diamond is a registered user.

Reader -

If I understand your comment (and I don't quite get it), I did not read
Doug's post and wrote this one on my own, by myself.
Diana


 +   13 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Mar 1, 2020 at 2:34 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Diana,
None of these entities are fully prepared for a pandemic. That is why individual citizens must take it upon themselves to be prepared.

This Citizen's Guide was produced by a group of Menlo Park and Atherton residents at the time of the Avian Flu epidemic.

Web Link

It has been translated into many languages and distributed around the world.

The Forward was written by Dr. David Heymann ones of the world's leading experts on infectious diseases:

"Influenza Pandemic Preparation and Response: A Citizen's
Guide describes possible consequences of an influenza
pandemic, and makes it clear that individuals
and families can and must know what to do should
a pandemic occur. It also describes how those
with this knowledge can help to educate others
in the simple measures that will mitigate and limit
the negative impact of an influenza pandemic on
the world's communities. Public health authorities
throughout the world agree that the responsibility
to respond to a public health emergency such
as pandemic influenza cannot be fully placed on
health workers and other primary responders, who
may themselves become incapacitated by illness
and death. It is thus each individual's responsibility,
alone or collectively, to plan for and respond to
a pandemic in the home and/or in the community.
Influenza Pandemic Preparation and Response: A Citizen's
Guide clearly describes, in lay terms, the actions that
each of us can take."

-David L. Heymann, M.D.
former World Health Organization, Executive Director, Communicable Diseases

I asked David to review its currency and here is his response:
From: David Heymann
Subject: RE: Pandemic Influenza Preparation and Response: A Citizen's Guide
Date: February 16, 2020 at 3:46:56 AM PST
To: Peter Carpenter

Thanks Peter " this is still a useful document " remember though that the current situation is a series of outbreaks " and epicentre in China and 25 countries with small outbreaks around imported cases, and the cruise ships. It is not clear that this will become a pandemic " see attached.

I hope you had a good stay in the UK and am sorry we missed you " when will you be back?

With best wishes to you and Jane,

DLH


Peter Carpenter
Former Director MPFPD 2002-2018
Former Executive Director, Stanford University Medical Center
Former Chair, American Foundation for Aids Research (AmFar)


 +   17 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of Barron Park,
on Mar 1, 2020 at 3:09 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

Based on my involvement with the City's Emergency Prep activities in the 200x's, I would caution against expecting much improvement in this area in the time-frame of this developing epidemic. Although there have been changes in the personnel, the biggest barrier is culture of government and especially bureaucracies.

Instead I would encourage residents can do for themselves working with each other. In 2009, Palo Alto Neighborhoods Emergency Preparedness activity tried to develop this, but preparation for earthquakes was the attention-getter.

Here are some of my notes from that time. Note that much has changed in terms of home delivery of food and of grocery pickup. However, recognize that the current systems are designed for the current (low) usage and are unlikely to scale up quickly: During an outbreak they would see great increase in demand and reduced staffing (employees sick).

"H1N1 Flu Preparation: Retailer Facilitation of Neighbor-helping-neighbor" (Web Link)
Note: This is an organized collection of bullet points from the discussions in prep for the next step (which didn't happen).


 +   10 people like this
Posted by Reader, a resident of Mountain View,
on Mar 1, 2020 at 3:35 pm

FYI, above I was only pointing out that another (and slightly earlier) PA-Weekly blog post contains substantive information relevant to your topic here -- in case you had not noticed it yet.

For example, it addresses concrete differences between this epidemic and the typical annual influenzas (to which COVID-19 is constantly being casually compared).


 +   12 people like this
Posted by Diana Diamond, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Mar 1, 2020 at 5:54 pm

Diana Diamond is a registered user.

Peter-

Yes, it may be up to us, we the people, to save ourselves from any pandemic. But, thank goodness, the federal government is trying to help, as is our state, so why not our city? These our societal and also local issues. Where can we get masks, if we really need them? If children in our scholl system have parents who mayhave been exposed to the coronavirus, is that only a school board decision, or is it a community decision affecting parents and their children in two schools and all of us in our community? We can't make decisions on these children by ourselves, we need some well-informed scientists (maybe we can get some advice from Stanford health specialists on this) to help do the best possible for the people in our community.

We are especially lucky to have talented people around. Our local city officials have an obligation to seek and rely on their talents.

Diana


 +   12 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Mar 1, 2020 at 6:49 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Diana - I think Doug accurately reflects the current capacity of the City government on this issue - a pandemic is simply beyond their skill set.

We can and should rely on the County Health Department to provide medical guidance but we have no choice but to take personal responsibility for protecting ourselves and our families.

Certain supplies are already scarce which is why disaster preparedness folks like Doug and I have pleaded with people to plan ahead.

In my opinion the best thing an individual citizen can do right now is to actually read this Citizen's Guide instead of watching TV or reading a novel:

Web Link


 +   11 people like this
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Mar 2, 2020 at 8:36 am

We already have hysteria and one thing that is sure is that it will get worse, the hysteria that is.

We have parents sending petitions to close the schools and to bring Spring Break forward.

We have Costco, TJs and other stores out of sanitizer, toilet paper and non-perishable foods. Are they for personal needs or to sell when none is available in the coming months!

What can we expect our Council to do? Can they provide sanitizer to all residents? Can they stop the stockpiling of toilet paper? Will they prevent a blackmarket in Chinese made goods when the shelves in the wholessalers are empty.

What should the schools do? Act outside the advice of the County Health Office?

What should we do? Keep calm and wash our hands.Web Link


 +   13 people like this
Posted by get real, a resident of Esther Clark Park,
on Mar 2, 2020 at 10:39 am

Stanford Theater just announced that they are cancelling their current program and staying shut until further notice:
Web Link

Ridiculous act, given that they never closed during flu season.
Good thing that they did not serbe Corona beer in the theater. So yes we do have hysteria around.


 +   10 people like this
Posted by Longtime Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Mar 2, 2020 at 11:53 am

Please correct me, if I am wrong.

My memory is the first exercise for Palo Alto E-Prep groups was a statewide event named "Golden Guardian". The emergency scenario was a National Pandemic.

The second exercise was County-wide, named "Silver Sentinel". I cannot remember the emergency scenario for that one. It could have been an earthquake.

Much information was gathered, prior to both exercises being implemented successfully, and mostly by volunteers working with the police & fire departments.


 +   11 people like this
Posted by Longtime Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Mar 2, 2020 at 12:07 pm

I forgot to mention there was talk 10 years ago of pharmacies being looted for any and all emergencies.

Maximart Pharmacy, a business around for 40+ years, just closed their doors a few months ago. They'd no longer be a target or a help, in a crisis.

But Safeway pharmacy in Midtown, was broken into recently, and not due to anything but attempted robbery of the normal sort, life in these days.

It's important to use Common Sense, regarding all flu's, both during the flu season and outside of it, as well as during other city, state or national emergencies.

We cannot depend on a nanny-government to care for us. Further, we need to know that our cell-phones may not be working either. It is what it is. We must adapt.


 +   6 people like this
Posted by Trish, a resident of University South,
on Mar 2, 2020 at 4:41 pm

Diana,

I had responded to your affirmation of having written your own words, by yourself, with a "thumbs-up" emoji- (portion removed)


 +   11 people like this
Posted by Speaking of viruses, a resident of El Carmelo School,
on Mar 2, 2020 at 6:57 pm

I advise against clicking on links to privates sites (above). If it's useful information, there are links to much safer sites.

Particularly for hosts who over-compensate for diverse opinion by censorship and outright deletion of those who point out flaws in his perception of 'logic'.


 +   8 people like this
Posted by Speaking of viruses, a resident of El Carmelo School,
on Mar 2, 2020 at 7:05 pm

Also - let me say how wonderful it is to read all the strong women bloggers on this site. The strength of their content, the openness of diverse commentary, and the way they out-click the other blog is very encouraging. Fantastic job, ladies!

Back to topic... everyone is now, at least, much better prepared for the next earthquake, with all the stocking up of emergency supplies!!


 +   3 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Mar 5, 2020 at 5:43 am

A health-worker I heard on the radio said that currently Covid-19 testing kits cost
in the thousands of dollars apiece, ( what was said was ~$3,000.00 ), so don't be
frivolous or take that lightly. Whatever the cost to be tested though, there is little
point to do that anyway unless you are at risk or in contact with people who are
at risk. If you are sick, stay away from other people as much as possible.

Masks can be helpful, mostly for sick people, to prevent them from spreading
germs. A mask will not necessarily do much to prevent one getting a cold, flu
or Coronavirus, though if a mask reduces touching of the fact maybe it is not
a bad idea, it just is not a necessity.

The biggest risk is for people who have close to severe flu-like symptoms and
other risk factors such as heart disease, high blood-pressure, diabetes, etc.

We have all heard and been told that this disease spreads much faster than
the flu, and the death rate is around 20 times worse than the flu so far - IN
CHINA, but it is still in the low single-digit percentages, affecting people in
poor health or with risk factors.

REMEMBER for 97-98% of people, and probably a bit more in the US this
will at worst be like a cold or flu. The major consequences are spreading
the disease.

Hopefully, the biggest long-term effect of this can be that we will start to be
smarter about public health and put systems in place with with diseases with
worse consequences in mind.

Let's focus on being thoughtful and considerate and on the people who are
at risk. The rest of us do not have to go overboard or crazy.

That said there are two important things I believe to keep in mind.

1. Donald Trump's attempts to cut costs in government buy getting rid of or
defunding departments that are meant to manage risks such as this was
very thoughtless and dangerous. Read Michael Lewis's "The Fifth Risk".
Also, attempts to stifle or muzzle scientists and experts from telling the
truth just make the situation worse for the most part.

2. Like the idea or the cost or not, Universal Health Care For All is something
that like vaccinations or good teaching good hygiene would benefit all of
us. It is not wise or economic to roll out health care strategies at the last
minute for a few to try to turn around something that is a global pandemic.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Censored blogs, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Mar 5, 2020 at 5:26 pm

> there is little point to do that anyway

Wrong. A couple reasons include accurately gauging baseline and/or sentinel data. There are other reasons as well. Listen to the experts, not the appointed 'leaders'.

Someone's decided they want to keep the reported numbers low.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Mar 5, 2020 at 6:07 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.


Update on Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)
March 5, 2020: New statement issued from San Mateo County Public Health Officer Dr. Scott Morrow.



Public Health Officer Statement (3/5/2020)
This is a difficult message to share, but it is important to recognize how difficult the times ahead may be and how you must now take assertive action to prepare for them. Our local situation surrounding novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is changing rapidly. COVID-19 is spreading in our community, the extent of which is unclear. It has likely been spreading for weeks, perhaps months. I have no reason to believe that how it's spreading in other counties won't be replicated to some degree here. We now all need to take assertive actions to inhibit the spread of this new virus. Some of those actions are described below. I advise that individuals, schools, business, and all other sectors of our community take immediate steps to change behaviors and take definitive action.

Our lives will be significantly disrupted by the measures needed to respond to a global pandemic. A pandemic is a global occurrence of an infectious disease. A pandemic is a disaster with unique characteristics. The two most important differences between a pandemic and other disasters are that the whole world is going through this disaster at the same time, and people may become fearful of other people. The current COVID-19 outbreak clearly has the potential to turn into a severe pandemic.

County Health continues to work with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and our state and local partners to manage testing and monitoring of persons who have been exposed to COVID-19. But our focus is rapidly changing from a containment strategy (identifying cases and contacts) to one of community mitigation"taking steps to lessen the broad impact of the disease. County Health and our public and private partners are taking steps to increase our ability to respond and are planning for a sustained response to COVID-19.

How the world operates during a pandemic is different from how the world operates normally. This is not business as usual. With a pandemic comes significant disruption to supply chains (the process of how things get from where they are made to where they are used), transportation, and travel. Even if the disease is not rapidly spreading in our area, we may face difficulty obtaining the goods and services we are accustomed to, public events may be canceled, and our ability to travel might be restricted.

San Mateo County Health continues to advise that the steps to prevent the spread of flu will also guard against the spread of COVID-19: cover your cough and sneeze, wash your hands frequently, avoid shaking hands and touching your face with unwashed hands, and if you are not feeling well or are experiencing cold, flu, or other symptoms, stay home from school or work. If you are mildly ill, there is no need to contact your primary care provider as they are very busy right now. If you are significantly ill, contact your primary care provider.

Here are the most important things for you to consider to improve your personal and organizational preparedness:

What matters most is how households, neighborhoods, community groups, businesses, and other organizations prepare. What does that mean? Preparedness equals self-sufficiency. The government will help where it can, but it may have a limited ability to respond directly to you due to the scale of the disruptions.
Individual and community preparations should focus on three tasks"reducing each person's chance of getting sick (see both individual and more general public health recommendations both above and below), helping households with basic survival needs during a pandemic, and minimizing and coping with larger disruptions in how the normal day-to-day world works.
All businesses and other organizations should now be done reviewing their continuity of operations plans for how they will operate if their employees are unable to work and how they will interact with members of the public and prepare to implement these plans soon.
All medical facilities and providers should be done reviewing their surge plans for how to handle increased numbers of patients and be prepared to implement.
Getting ready for a pandemic is largely about preparing for possible shortages. In a pandemic, supply chain disruptions are inevitable but are also unpredictable.
Since it contains vital supplies, a good start is to make sure your earthquake kit is up to date and ready to go. Of course, having supplies beyond the typical earthquake kit is a good idea. What you decide to have on hand is based on your individual and family situation and your individual preferences.
One likely shortage will be medications. You should attempt to obtain a couple of months supply for your critical medications.
If you have other critical supply needs, you should conserve them and stock up on them now.
Now is also the time to think about how you will care for loved ones at home if they or you are sick and how you would limit spread within the family.
Frequent and appropriate hand-washing is far from a perfect solution, but it's easy, under your control, and has no significant downside.
Like washing your hands, wearing a surgical mask may help a bit, but you need to know that surgical masks don't offer much protection when they are worn by people who are well. They are most helpful when worn by those who are already sick so that they are less likely to transmit the disease to others. Surgical masks and masks offering higher levels of respiratory protection are already in short supply and should be prioritized for use in health care settings.
You should use a barrier, such as a paper towel or tissue, to touch commonly touched surfaces, such as any door handles or elevator buttons.
Change from my previous message: I am now asking for the implementation of the activities below at this time.

All non-essential gatherings should be canceled, postponed, or done remotely. Unfortunately, at this time, I have no standard definition of “non-essential" or “gathering" to guide your decisions. Use your best judgement.
Stop shaking hands.
Increase in the amount of remote working or teleworking to the extent possible especially for those who appear at higher risk for developing the disease, those over the age of 60 and those with co-morbid conditions.
Under all circumstances, stop touching your face, eyes, nose, or mouth with your unwashed hands.
I am not asking for the implementation of these activities, but these are the types of activities we may need to implement in the future:

School closures. Schools are an essential gathering. School closings present a particularly vexing social distancing dilemma but may be necessary to protect public health. Once school closings occur, they may be extensive and extended.
Social distancing"staying at least 6 feet away from all other people"should be attempted where possible.
Rationing (a formal process of prioritizing distribution and use) of critical supplies may need to occur.
To get ourselves through the hard times that may be coming, your community may need volunteers. Think now about the skills you have and how you can help your community. Heed the call should volunteers be requested.
Other public health interventions that have been used with some effect in other countries include commandeering of both real or personal property, conscription, curfew, and cordons. It is unlikely that these interventions would be used here due to practical considerations.
Issues around testing for COVID-19. You may have received incorrect information from the federal and state government on March 4, 2020. San Mateo County does not currently have testing available independently of the state and CDC. The amount of testing that is available through the state and CDC is severely limited. Should testing become more widely available, testing will be prioritized based on healthcare infrastructure concerns, risk of exposure, and/or very sick hospitalized patients. Tests will not automatically be given upon request or by a physician's order. This may change as testing capacity evolves over the next few months.

Scott Morrow, MD, MPH
San Mateo County Health Officer
March 5, 2020

FAQ
WHAT IS NOVEL CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19)?

Novel coronavirus is a new respiratory virus first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China in December 2019. It has now spread to many other countries, including the USA. Technically, the virus is named SARS-CoV-2 and the disease it causes is called COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019). See information about 2019 Novel Coronavirus on the CDC website

HOW IS SAN MATEO COUNTY HEALTH RESPONDING?

San Mateo County Health officials are working closely with the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to respond to the outbreak of COVID-19. We are providing information to health care providers in our county on how to safely and effectively evaluate ill people who have symptoms. We continue to monitor the situation, work with our partners to identify any possible cases, provide information and consultation to ensure that possible cases are diagnosed and managed safely, as well as implement recommendations from the CDC. Additionally, we conduct full investigations, assist with logistics from transportation to accommodations with all positive cases.

WHAT CAN SAN MATEO COUNTY RESIDENTS/VISITORS DO TO PREVENT COVID-19?

Individuals can prevent illness:

Frequently wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds;
Always cover your cough or sneeze;
Stay home if you are sick and;
If you have recently returned from a country with ongoing COVID-19 infection, monitor your health and follow the instructions of public health officials.
Individuals can prepare for the possible disruption caused by an outbreak:
Make sure you have a supply of all essential medications for your family;
Make a child/elderly/adults with disabilities care plan if you or a care giver are sick;
Make arrangements about how your family will manage a school closure; and
Make a plan for how you can care for a sick family member without getting sick yourself.
WHERE DID COVID-19 COME FROM?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in many different types of animals including camels, cattle, cats, and bats. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can infect people and then spread between people. The animal source of COVID-19 is not known right now.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF NOVEL CORONAVIRUS?

In confirmed coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases, reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death. The most common symptoms are fever, cough, and shortness of breath. CDC believes at this time that symptoms of COVID-19 may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 days after exposure.

HOW DOES THE VIRUS SPREAD?

The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person, between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet), and via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. See How Coronavirus Spreads.

IF I HAVE A FEVER, COUGH, OR SHORTNESS OF BREATH, DO I HAVE NOVEL CORONAVIRUS?

It is cold and flu season now, and many people have symptoms of illness that are not related to COVID-19. If you have fever, cough, or shortness of breath, contact your medical provider right away and tell them about your symptoms and any recent travel. Be sure to call ahead before you visit the office, clinic, or hospital, so that the medical provider can prepare for your visit.

SHOULD I GET TESTED TO SEE IF I HAVE NOVEL CORONAVIRUS?

On March 4, 2020, CDC updated their guidelines for evaluating and reporting persons under investigation (PUI) for COVID-19 to expand testing to a wider group of symptomatic patients. To avoid overburdening our local health care system this new guidance should be interpreted with caution. We are working with CDC and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to determine how these changes will be operationalized. Once available, we will disseminate additional guidance to medical providers San Mateo County through the routine pathways.

The updated CDC guidelines expand testing to a wider group of symptomatic patients. Clinicians should use their judgment to determine if a patient has signs and symptoms compatible with COVID-19 and whether the patient should be tested. Decisions on which patients receive testing should be based on the local epidemiology of COVID-19, as well as the clinical course of illness. Most patients with confirmed COVID-19 have developed fever and/or symptoms of acute respiratory illness (e.g., cough, difficulty breathing). Clinicians are strongly encouraged to test for other causes of respiratory illness, including infections such as influenza.

Epidemiologic factors that may help guide decisions on whether to test include: any persons, including healthcare workers, who have had close contact with a laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 patient within 14 days of symptom onset, or a history of travel from affected geographic areas* within 14 days of symptom onset.

(*Affected areas are defined as geographic regions where sustained community transmission has been identified. Relevant affected areas will be defined as a country with at least a CDC Level 2 Travel Health Notice. See all COVID-19 Travel Health Notices.)
SHOULD I BE WEARING A MASK TO PREVENT GETTING NOVEL CORONAVIRUS?

Good hand washing techniques are the most effective ways to prevent yourself from getting sick. This means washing your hands often with soap and water and rub for at least 20 seconds. If you have a fever or cough, a face mask is recommended to prevent spread of germs to others around you. Currently, there is no recommendation to wear masks. However, if you choose to wear a face mask, it is important to understand that face masks are not a substitute for hand washing which is the priority.

IS IT SAFE TO TRAVEL?

CDC currently recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to China and South Korea. CDC also lists Iran, Italy, and Japan as countries where there is sustained community transmission of COVID-19 and that older adults and those with chronic medical conditions should consider postponing nonessential travel. The worldwide COVID-19 situation is evolving rapidly, and more countries may be added to these lists. Stay up to date by checking the CDC travel health notices related to this outbreak.

IS THERE A VACCINE FOR NOVEL CORONAVIRUS?

No. Efforts to develop a vaccine are underway in many places globally, but currently, there is no vaccine available to protect against novel coronavirus.

WHAT IS THE TREATMENT IF SOMEONE GETS SICK WITH NOVEL CORONAVIRUS?

The treatment right now is to take care of the symptoms. There is no specific treatment for novel coronavirus.

I'M FEELING STRESSED AND OVERWHELMED, WHOM CAN I TALK TO?

For information, referrals, and assessments for local mental health and substance use services, please contact your health insurance company to connect to a resource within your insurance company's network. For residents insured by Medi-Cal, call Behavioral Health and Recovery Services' ACCESS Call Center at (800) 686-0101.

For 24/7 confidential crisis support from local/national organizations, call (650) 579-0350 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Chat online: text “START" to 741741.

I'M A HEALTHCARE PROVIDER. WHERE CAN I FIND MORE INFORMATION?

We have information about novel coronavirus and other health alerts for clinicians here.

WHERE CAN I GET MORE INFORMATION?

You can visit San Mateo County Health's COVID-19 page or visit the CDC's website COVID-19 page You can also find more information by accessing the links listed below.

RESOURCES FOR COVID-19

Infographic Poster " COVID-19 Stop the Spread of Germs [Simplified Chinese] [Spanish]
Frequently Asked Questions and Answers from CDC [Simplified Chinese] [Spanish]
CDC COVID-19 Fact Sheet [Simplified Chinese] [Spanish]
CDC What to do if you are Sick with COVID-19 [Simplified Chinese] [Spanish]
CDC Infographic: COVID-19 Symptoms [Simplified Chinese] [Spanish]
Main CDC COVID-19 Website


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Mar 7, 2020 at 9:13 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

“When the story is written about U.S. preparedness for this, Chapter 1 will be called ‘Squandered Time.' Not just on the medical side, but on the preparedness side," she said. “What were we doing? And now, how do we make up for lost time? It's not just the kits. It's why this week we seemed so flat-footed and surprised by things like school closings. School closings were inevitable the second we had the first patients."

Web Link

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Peter comment - We as a community need to get our act together!!!

My biggest concern is not the spread of the virus, which is now inevitable, but rather our lack of community preparedness for the social strains that will accompany that spread.

We need to start today to strengthen, and sadly in most cases to create, strong neighborhood support and communication networks, create protocols to deal with food and supply shortages, create informed confidence that will reduce the probability of panic and, most important, demand that our local leaders start leading.
The County Health Officers will provide medical guidance but our Mayors, Fire Chiefs and Police Chiefs have to become very visible with clear messages so that we the people have confidence that someone is actually in charge.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Downtown North,
on Mar 8, 2020 at 11:15 pm

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

Thanks, Diana.
I have nine shows on sale at Mitchell Park Community Center between Friday and May 3.
I'm constantly updating my policy on safety, in context of the public health challenge. My most relevant comp is Stanford cancelling events in the Bing yet continuing with shows under 150 capacity in their Bing Studio.
Besides the intrinsic value of music, I believe Community events are Community building and help, albeit obliquely, in learning to work together as neighbors, community and towards local self Governance (We The People >>> We The P Funk).
I've been on this tack 25 years.
Mark Weiss
Earthwise Productions
Former candidate City Council
Web Link


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