Details emerge on two San Benito coronavirus cases

Unidentified male had been in Wuhan, China, and surrounding areas visiting family Jan. 18-24. His wife started to exhibit symptoms five days after he returned.

More details on the two cases of coronavirus in San Benito County were shared at a Feb. 2 press conference. Both patients were transferred out of the county for medical care early on Feb. 3.

The unidentified male county resident who tested positive for coronavirus and later transmitted the virus to his wife had been in Wuhan, China, and surrounding areas visiting family between Jan. 18 and 24, San Benito County Health Officer Dr. Martin Fenstersheib said at the press conference.

The male resident returned to the U.S. via San Francisco International Airport. He was screened and determined to be healthy and nonsymptomatic, Fenstersheib said. But the following day, he developed a low-grade fever and cough, and isolated himself with his wife at their home.

Fenstersheib did not disclose in what part of San Benito County the couple live, but said they have not stepped out of their home. 

“We have been following him on a regular basis, calling him everyday seeing how he is doing,” Fenstersheib said. “He’s stayed in his home with his wife.”

The wife began to exhibit symptoms five days after her husband returned from China. Both tested positive for the virus on Feb. 2.

The two San Benito cases are the 10th and 11th confirmed cases in the United States, and the fifth and sixth in California, according to news reports. Approximately 360 people have died from the virus in China.

San Benito County is following protocols set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which include isolation at home, testing, and continuous evaluation, Fenstersheib said.

“As far as I’m concerned at the present time there is absolutely no risk to the community in San Benito from coronavirus from these confirmed cases,” Fenstersheib said.

Because it’s a new virus, Fenstersheib said the county and CDC are trying to learn from this case to better understand how to treat it. He said it most likely gets transmitted person-to-person via “droplet spreads” such as coughing on someone. He also said it’s not yet known how long the couple will stay in isolation after symptoms are no longer present. 

“Once you do get confirmed or infected, how long do you keep that virus in you before you are okay and safe to venture out? We don’t know that,” Fenstersheib said, adding that the CDC is testing infected people every other day to see if the virus is being shed. 


Noe Magaña

Noe Magaña is BenitoLink Co-Editor and Content Manager. He joined BenitoLink as reporter intern and was soon brought on staff as a BenitoLink reporter. He also experiments with videography and photography. He is a San Benito High School alumnus with a bachelor's in journalism from San Jose State and a Liberal Arts Associate's Degree from Gavilan College. Noe also attended San Jose City College and was the managing editor for the City College Times, the school's newspaper. He was a reporter and later a copy editor for San Jose State's Spartan Daily. He is a USC Center for Health Journalism 2020 California Fellow.