STOCKTON — San Joaquin County health officials said no shelter in place is planned at the moment, despite the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 exposure increasing over the weekend.
Dr. Maggie Park, public health officer for San Joaquin County Public Health Services, told the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors at its special meeting that as of Tuesday morning, the number of confirmed cases had increased to 13.
Park would not disclose in which communities the 13 patients live, citing patient privacy laws, even after a request of the information from Supervisor Tom Patti.
A county resident who emailed their public comment to supervisors also asked for additional information as to where the patients reside, but board chair Kathy Miller said the county was restricted in disclosing that information.
The announcement of increased cases comes as supervisors unanimously approved declaring a local health emergency in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
In addition Parks said there is no plan to implement a shelter in place ordinance similar to what has been done in the Bay Area this week.
“With all the messaging going out, folks are really heeding advice from the governor and CDC,” she said. “No one wants to shake my hand, no one wants to come within six feet of me. My street where I live is very quiet. People are taking this seriously and they understand the concept of flattening the curve.”
The counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara all agreed to initiate shelter in place, requiring residents to stay in their homes unless absolutely necessary. The shelter in place took effect at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.
Park said her decision not to recommend a shelter in place was a result of comparing timelines between San Joaquin County and the six counties under ordinance in the Bay Area.
She said the hub of concern to call for shelter in place is in Santa Clara County, where 138 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed.
According to Santa Clara County’s webpage, there have been four deaths related to coronavirus, and 17 of the cases reported there were due to international travel.
Another people in that county contracted the virus through household contact, and 63 are presumed to have contracted it through community transmission. Another 52 people are hospitalized, according to Santa Clara County data.
That county had 13 confirmed cases on March 2, Park said, the same number San Joaquin County had as of March 17.
She added that San Joaquin County’s first confirmed case of coronavirus was not announced until March 10, and by March 12, the county had a total of three. By that date, she said Santa Clara County’s numbers were already in double digits.
“As the public follows (CDC and California Department of Public Health) guidelines, my hope is that we’ll see our own flattening of the curve without a shelter in place,” Park said. “Nothing is off the table, but we’re having a different (case) rate than the Bay Area.”
Of the 13 cases of coronavirus here in San Joaquin County, Park said three were a result of international travel, while two were due to household exposure, and two more were through community transmission.
Along with the increase of confirmed cases in the county, San Joaquin General Hospital executive director David Culbertson said that some of his staff has reported exposure to the coronavirus.
He did not disclose how many of his staff had been exposed, but said about half of them have tested negative for the virus, and another half is awaiting test results.
Park added that county health officials are performing 60 coronavirus tests a day, but only on those who have consulted with their primary care physician and have been recommended for testing because they show symptoms.
Asymptomatic residents cannot be tested, she said.
“We have not had to turn down any doctor who wanted to test a patient,” she said. “And although people are hearing that they can be tested when they want to, that is not the case in reality. There is a finite number of testing kits.”
Park said the county is bound to run out of testing kits if cases begin to increase as they have in the Bay Area.
However, she said private companies like LabCorp and Qwest have begun offering testing facilities for health care providers and insurance carriers to assist in relieving patient loads.
Culbertson added that San Joaquin General Hospital has instituted a drive-through testing clinic that is by appointment only and for those who have also consulted with their doctors. Again, asymptomatic residents cannot be tested.
He said 25 people were tested Monday.
Other county departments also reported increased activity within the last week after President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency.
Dan Burch, San Joaquin County Emergency Medical Services administrator, said his agency is monitoring hospital activity and is prepared to provide respirators currently in storage to sites that need additional equipment. County EMS has already provided portable beds to St. Joseph’s Hospital and SJGH.
Sherry Lima, director of San Joaquin County Office of Emergency Services, said her department has set up a joint information system consisting of public information officers from each city, hospital and various agencies in the county.
The joint information system will work around the clock to provide updated information regarding the coronavirus to county residents as best it can, and in different languages, she said, at www.sjready.gov.
Zienna Blackwell-Rodriguez, director of Public Health Services, said all services for veterans — including those who need to travel to Palo Alto for medical purposes — have been converted to Telehealth, the distribution of services and information through electronic communication.
“I cannot reiterate enough that while this is a public health emergency, this is not just a health industry crisis,” she said. “We need all hands on deck in the community and county to help us do what we can to prevent the spread of this virus.”