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LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 (coronavirus)

San Diego Declares Emergency Over Coronavirus In 'Abundance Of Caution'

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Speaker 1: 00:00 More than 300 Americans. Captain coronavirus quarantine on the cruise ship. The diamond princess are now back in the U S but they are now in another quarantine at military bases in Northern California and Texas. The state department says 14 of the transferred passengers have tested positive for the virus here in San Diego. The two week quarantine for the first group of evacuees at Miramar is set to expire this week. And the San Diego County board of supervisors is expected to ratify a public health emergency declared by County health officials in response to the coven 19 virus. And joining me is KPBS reporter Matt Hoffman. Matt, welcome. Hey Maureen, why did County health declare an emergency over covert 19?

Speaker 2: 00:45 Well, to put it simply, they say it's out of an abundance of caution and they say that the risk to the general public is still low and that they're doing this basically to help coordinate efforts, um, help it helps with mutual aid, helps with potentially getting back them, getting back some reimbursements. I'm also part of this to a script's health and sharp health care. They have prepared additional inpatient beds. Um, that kind of coincided with this announcement of this local health emergency. Uh, now you did mention it is going to have to be ratified within seven days by the board of supervisors. Uh, they're planning to vote on that on Wednesday. Now, this all coming after, uh, the CDC director Robert Redfield, he said in a CNN interview last week that he believes that the coronavirus will continue to grow inside the U S

Speaker 3: 01:24 I think this virus is probably with this beyond this season or bond beyond this year. And I think eventually the virus will find a foothold and we will get community-based transmission and uh, you can start to think of it in a sense like a seasonal flu and the only differences that we don't understand this fires

Speaker 2: 01:43 now that community based transmission, that's what health officials are worried about. That's um, people not coming back from Mohan who have the virus and they're spreading it to other people. And now there's no signs of that is happening yet here in San Diego. But health officials are certainly preparing for that. Uh, dr Nick Nicki fan TDS, the county's chief medical officer, he says that that was certainly taken into account as part of their deliberations to declare this public health emergency. The declaration is one of proactive preparation and um, we took multiple factors into consideration. The possibility that, uh, there could be further involvement of the coven virus in our community is certainly part of that deliberation. And so obviously you're seeing the CDC director, he is saying that, Hey, this is going to have community-based transmission within the United States. And then you see the County here, uh, declaring this a public health emergency, kind of getting ready for what might be coming

Speaker 1: 02:38 during the news conference about the public health emergency. We learned about a number of people who may have coronavirus who've been quarantined in their homes here in San Diego. Tell us about that.

Speaker 2: 02:49 That's a, the County handling that they're calling that sort of their community response. I'm in, basically they're monitoring people who have traveled to China or may have been around people who traveled to China, not people who were on these state department evacuation flights from Wu Han. Uh, we're talking just people who may have been, um, they said, uh, so far, this was last week on Friday they said, uh, seven County residents are persons of interests. Uh, many are testing negative, but there's still some tests pending. They're all being monitored at home. Uh, none of these people have interests, haven't had to take into the hospitals. They haven't shown any signs of the coronavirus also being called coven 19. Uh, they're also monitoring some non-residents that just happened to be in San Diego who have ties to try to, but basically they say they get about 20 to 30 people a day referred to them, um, which they consider low risk of having some sort of a tie to China either being from China or being around someone who was from China.

Speaker 2: 03:39 Um, and so far they've gotten over 170 of those people. Now many are being self quarantined. They have to self quarantine for two weeks and the county's continuing to monitor them. How does the County monitor home? Quarantines as far as I understand, it's sort of lax. And when I say lax, I mean they ask people to self report. I mean if they're starting to show some symptoms, they want them to check that or they're asking them to take their temperature while they're at home. But the County also doing some proactive measures, giving them calls, checking in on them. Uh, that's about the extent that I know 'em but it does get more, uh, intensive as the symptoms increase and they are expecting more people to be in that sort of home-based quarantine. I think it's definitely safe to say, I mean the County says they're getting 20 to 30 people a day referred to them.

Speaker 2: 04:20 You've got to think that some of those are going to have to be self quarantine. The first group of people quarantined at Miramar should be released tomorrow. What have we learned about the people who've tested positive? How many are there and how are they doing? Right. So from those evacuation flights, from Mohan China to Miramar, we've had about 230 or so people. And of those 230 people, a number of them have been sent to local hospitals after showing early signs of the virus. Uh, but to have been confirmed here in San Diego, they're both staying at UC San Diego medical center and Hillcrest. Uh, we do know that as a Friday there was an additional five people there who were under observation of, we've been told this morning they have all been cleared and they've been sent back to the military base. Tell us more about the people who are leaving quarantine at Miramar tomorrow, right tomorrow around 160 or so.

Speaker 2: 05:04 Our expected, obviously the one who tested positive is going to have to stay here at least a little bit longer. We don't know what their timetable is, but, um, I talked to somebody in the quarantine this morning who said that they're getting anxious, they're ready to go. Um, 160 or so people the CDC right now, there are some questions if, if the 14 day quarantine is a long enough incubation period, um, the CDC believes that that is right now all the data they've had, they've gotten says that 14 days is enough. If there's no signs, then they should be cleared. And I talked to the CDC this morning. They say right now their main goal is making sure these people get home safe and happy. So they're working to get these people on flights and back home. What advice does County health have for people who are concerned about the virus spreading or who maybe who are concerned that they have symptoms themselves?

Speaker 2: 05:46 Right. Well, the County really rates at the risk to the general public is low. I mean, these people that are in isolation at local hospitals, um, they're taking every precaution necessary to make sure that it doesn't spread anybody else. And this also includes healthcare workers. I mean, the world health organization's saying these people are on the front lines. I mean, we're seeing in China, some healthcare workers are dying after catching the coronavirus. So they're also concerned about that, but they don't want people to worry. Um, they have the situation under control and they want to reiterate that these are just precautions to put these uh, emergency declarations in place. Obviously though preparing for something that could happen that'd be much worse. And you, if you think you may have symptoms, just go to your regular doctor. I haven't heard any direct guidance from the County on that, but obviously I mean especially if someone has been to China or has been around people who have been to China, especially like in the Wu Han area where the coronaviruses widespread, I'm sure the Canon would want to hear from them.

Speaker 2: 06:37 Although they are reaching out to people who is to the best of their knowledge that had been to that area. So they're trying to do proactive reaching out instead of people having to come to them. And what about transmission of this disease? Is it true that you need sustained contact with someone who has Corona virus in order to get it? That's what health officials are telling us. I mean, the CDC and the County basically telling us you have to be within three to six feet of somebody, multiple times having sustained contact with them. And that has to be someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus. So, um, when people say, Oh, I'm afraid of the people at Miramar, it's just not realistic. I mean, they're nowhere near them. They're in a quarantine. I'm a County health officials and federal health officials say they posed no risk to the general public. I've been speaking with KPBS reporter Matt Hoffman. Matt. Thank you. Thanks, Maureen.

The move was taken “out of an abundance of caution” and not a response to an increased risk to residents, County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said.

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.