Local Health Officials Taking Coronavirus Threat Seriously

The World Health Organization says for the first time there are more new cases of coronavirus outside of China. County health officials are monitoring the spread of the virus, they have to be ready to respond quickly to stop it from spreading. 

“Knowing that’s a possibility, we are planning how are we going to respond in Riverside County should we start seeing increased cases,” says Barbara Cole, RN, Riverside County’s Department of Disease Control director. 

Cole says planning includes communication with staff for BNP Paribas Open, Coachella and Stagecoach Music Festivals and other events that will bring in hundreds of thousands of people to the valley from all over the world. She says travelers are screened at airports and the county is notified if they’re from a high risk area.

“Our path is to contact them, determine whether they’re  not currently well or have any symptoms, they are placed on self quarantine with us monitoring, they’re having to take their temperature and check for symptoms twice a day for 14 days post their returns, so we are tracking those individuals,” she says.

They’re also in constant communication with local hospitals to give them updates on the rapid changing situation, like staff at Eisenhower Health.

Michael Connors, RN,  an infection preventionist with Eisenhower Health says they have a plan that includes special isolation rooms at the ready and staff to contain any infectious disease, “Should we have an influx of patients we also have plans where we can take one unit of the hospital and turn it into an airborne isolation unit where we house only the coronavirus patients,” adding that is the protocol the Centers for Disease Control recommends. 

He says their bigger issue is sourcing masks and other protective gear for hospital employees, even a Walgreens in Palm Desert, shelves ware empty.

“We’re working with materials management and the state to make sure we have the supplies necessary is really our biggest challenge because with coronavirus a lot of the supplies are being hoarded and a lot come out of china and are becoming difficult to get,” says Connors. 

Connors says if you suspect you’re sick with the virus or other contagious diseases like TB, you should call your health provider or hospital before you check in so they can prepare and you don’t put others at risk.

The CDC says the following steps can prevent you and others from getting the virus:

The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, as a reminder, CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, including:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
    • CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
    • Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to  others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
    • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
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