UPDATE, 5 p.m.: A little while after this story was posted, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a press release with a little more information. That’s appended below.
Though they are declining to release much more specific information about the newly diagnosed COVID-19 patient in Humboldt County, local public health officials want to assure the public that there is no cause for panic.
Dr. Teresa Frankovich, the county’s public health officer, told the Outpost that the two local people who are currently in self-isolation in their home – one of whom was officially confirmed to have contracted the virus, the other showing symptoms – traveled back to Humboldt County from mainland China near the end of January. They hadn’t visited Hubei Province, the epicenter of the epidemic.
Frankovich said that the people in question have been “extremely conscientious and compliant,” and have, throughout, taken every care to prevent the virus’s possible spread.
At the same time, Frankovich declined to release information about the ages or sexes of the patients, or what part of the county they live in, how they traveled back to Humboldt or when, precisely, they presented themselves to the hospital.
“It’s not just an issue of patient confidentiality, but the truth of the matter is that it’s really not relevant,” Frankovich said. “Obviously people are interested in knowing because they’re concerned about whether they may have been exposed in their community. The messaging we want people to hear is that we are reaching out to anyone who is a close contact, who would be considered at risk. So if [people] were not contacted, they should be reassured by that.”
Frankovich did say that she believed that the people went to the hospital “within the last week or so,” and that the health department received confirmation of the positive test for the virus yesterday afternoon.
She said that the patients took their high-risk status into consideration when they went to the hospital for care. They wore surgical masks, and awareness of the patients’ at-risk status allowed hospital staff to get them out of the waiting room, and also take precautions to protect themselves from potential infection.
Frankovich said that there’s no medical reason for the patients to be out of their home and in care at the moment. Public health staff are checking on their condition frequently, and she said that the general public has no reason to fear coming into contact with them while they are still potentially infectious.
“These people were not out circulating in our community,” Frankovich said. “They’re extremely conscientious and very compliant with all that we’ve asked of them. Really, it’s not an easy thing for anyone, obviously. They have been excellent about this, and because they have the community has really not been placed at risk because of them.”
Press release from the Department of Heath and Human Services:
The Department of Health & Human Services Public Health Branch recently announced the first confirmed case of novel coronavirus in Humboldt County. The ill individual and close contact continue to do well and are self-isolating at home while being monitored for symptoms by the Public Health Communicable Disease Surveillance and Control Unit.
There have been many questions asked in the past 24 hours about isolation, quarantine, symptoms and risk. We hope the information below is helpful.
What does “isolation” mean? When individuals show signs and symptoms of illness, or test positive for COVID-19, but do not require hospital care, they are placed on home-isolation. They monitor their temperature twice daily and also monitor for symptoms. Public Health is in contact with these individuals at least once a day. Home-isolated individuals are instructed to contact Public Health or their health care provider if they have any worsening of their symptoms before accessing medical care so that they can be managed safely in the health care setting. While in isolation, they are able to leave their home only for medical care.
What does “quarantine” mean? When individuals are not currently symptomatic, but have risk factors for developing COVID-19 (such as travel to China or close contact with a confirmed case), Public Health works with the California Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and determines the appropriate level of monitoring for their level of risk. All individuals monitor for fever and other symptoms. If they develop either, they contact Public Health or their medical provider before accessing care so that they may be safely managed in the health care setting.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19? As with many other respiratory viruses, including influenza, the symptoms of COVID-19 infection are:
Fever (100.4 F or higher)
Shortness of breath.
Public Health wants you to know:
Community members are being contacted if they are a close contact of a confirmed case
The ill individuals have not been circulating in our community while infectious
According to CDC, there is currently no evidence of community-level transmission occurring in the U.S. This means that only individuals who have traveled to China or have been close contacts of a confirmed case are at higher risk of illness. These individuals are then being monitored by Public Health.
For more information about COVID-19, please call Public Health during normal business hours at 707-445-6200, or visit Humboldt Health Alert at www.humboldtgov.org/HumboldtHealthAlert.