Last week, the first cases of novel coronavirus arrived in California, with a reported four people with the illness being monitored in the Bay Area. Two of the patients are from San Benito County but were transferred to the University of California, San Francisco, for treatment Monday.
According to the county’s health department, no cases have been reported so far in San Mateo County.
"Our health care facilities are operating normally, though with heightened awareness,” San Mateo County Health Officer Scott Morrow wrote in a statement.
Coronavirus, which originated in the city of Wuhan in China, has now killed more than 400 people worldwide. The World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a “public health emergency” and the U.S. State Department issued a Level 4 travel warning, advising Americans not to travel to China.
The two Bay Area cases are a man and a woman from neighboring Santa Clara County each of whom recently visited China. According to Santa Clara County health officials, neither is sick enough to be hospitalized nor to have spread the virus to anyone else. San Mateo County officials maintain that the risk to residents is low.
"The news of the first confirmed case of novel coronavirus in the Bay Area is both concerning and expected. I agree with my colleagues in Santa Clara County that a single case does not affect the overall risk to the residents of our region,” Morrow wrote.
At nearby San Francisco International Airport, travelers arriving from China are being screened for the illness. Airlines announced they have begun canceling flights to China this week and expect the cancellations to remain in place through spring. The U.S. Health and Human Services Department announced over the weekend that foreign nationals who have recently traveled to China won’t be allowed into the United States at this time.
Local groups are taking guidance from the county as to how to prepare should Coastside residents be affected and say that flu season is a parallel concern. Cabrillo Unified School District Superintendent Sean McPhetridge said the district will release safety information regarding coronavirus to parents and community members this week.
On its website, the San Mateo Health Department lists information about the virus and preventative measures residents can take. They suggest treating the virus similarly to the flu.
“... Avoid contact with sick individuals, wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds, and get a flu shot,” the health department wrote. “Because the symptoms caused by this novel coronavirus are similar to those caused by the flu, it is another important reason to get a flu shot.”
At Half Moon Bay’s Senior Coastsiders, Executive Director Sandra Winter said she and her staff rely on direction from the county to guide health protocols and make sure all their residents have access to health providers and care.
“I think people are more concerned about things like the flu,” Winter said. “We do have a flu clinic and recommend that all adults get vaccinated.”