By José A. Álvarez, County of San Diego Communications Office
Photo, courtesy County of San Diego: County Microbiologist Jovan Shepherd prepares a specimen for testing of the novel coronavirus.
March 5, 2020 (San Diego) -- Be informed. Be prepared.
That’s what County and local health officials, business and school leaders want area residents to do should the novel coronavirus be detected in the region.
“It’s important for everyone to educate themselves and their family and be prepared in case the new coronavirus makes its way to San Diego County,” said Chairman Greg Cox, County Board of Supervisors. “It’s also important for people not to panic as the risk for this new virus and the disease that it causes continues to be low.”
County health officials have been busy urging residents, local municipalities, schools, businesses and community and religious organizations to prepare for a potential outbreak of the novel coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19.
Working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the California Department of Public Health, and the local medical community, the County Health and Human Services Agency has a plan in place to identify, isolate, inform and investigate a possible case of this respiratory illness.
“We are prepared and conducting enhanced surveillance for this new virus, just as we do for other communicable diseases,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer, at a news conference with local elected officials, school and business leaders. “We’re in communication with all the appropriate entities and have a response plan to deal with any potential case or outbreak.”
However, County and local leaders are urging their respective organizations to be prepared if the new coronavirus appears locally. Below is a list of things to do based on current CDC recommendations.
What Residents Can Expect If They Come Down With COVID-19
Patients with confirmed COVID-19 infection have reported symptoms ranging from mild to severe respiratory illness. Symptoms generally include:
- shortness of breath/difficulty breathing
At this time, the CDC believes that symptoms of COVID-19 may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure.
What Residents Can Do to Prepare for COVID-19
It’s important for the public to be prepared should a COVID-19 outbreak occur in San Diego County. To limit the spread of infection, you should:
- Wash your hands often to help protect you from germs.
- Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, if soap and water are not available. It should contain at least 60% alcohol.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- If you are sick, stay home and keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, then wash your hands.
- Practice other good health habits. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritious food.
Also, it is essential to plan now for community transmission of COVID-19 in our region. Here are guidelines to prepare your home or office for coronavirus: https://www.gloves.com/pages/covid-19-endemic-homes-workplaces-schools-s... Please note these following important tips to help residents prepare to respond to this public health threat.
- Store a two-week supply of food, beverages and water, including food for family pets. Ensure an adequate supply of prescribed and routine medications are on hand.
- Plan ways to care for those who are at greater risk for serious complications and who will take care of sick family members.
- If you have family members with increased risk of getting seriously sick, check with your medical providers about symptoms and treatment.
- Create an emergency contact list of family and friends, teachers and employers.
- Have a plan in case your school, child care, or employer closes temporarily.
- Talk with your children, family, and friends about what to do if an outbreak occurs and what each person would need.
Planning now helps you act more effectively to protect you and your family if COVID-19 does occur locally.
How Schools Can Prepare for Novel Coronavirus
Child care settings and schools can take steps to help stop or slow the spread of COVID-19:
- Review, update and implement emergency operations plans in collaboration with the local health department and other relevant partners.
- Make sure the plan includes strategies to reduce the spread of a wide variety of infectious diseases.
- Monitor student and staff absences and alert local health officials of a spike of absences due to respiratory illnesses.
- Ensure they know what to do, such as staying home when sick and appropriately covering coughs and sneezes.
- Frequently clean surfaces such as doorknobs and desktops.
How Businesses Can Protect Their Employees from COVID-19
The CDC has issued the following interim guidance that may help prevent workplace exposures to COVID-19 should there be widespread exposures and community outbreaks:
- Encourage sick employees to stay home if they have symptoms of acute respiratory illness.
- Make sure your sick leave policies are flexible and consistent with public health guidance and that employees are aware of them.
- Have a plan in place should a large number of employees get sick or need to work from home.
- Sick leave policies should be flexible and permit employees to stay home if they need to care for a sick family member.
- If an employee shows up to work sick or becomes sick during work hours, separate them and send them home.
- Encourage sneezing and coughing etiquette and hand hygiene by all employees.
- Perform routine cleaning of all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, countertops and doorknobs.
Health officials emphasized that all county residents have a role to play in preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the region. If you have questions about COVID-19, call 2-1-1 to speak with a specially trained operator or visit www.coronavirus-sd.com.