At the Feb. 27 Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital Board of Directors meeting, two concerns came to light surrounding the coronavirus (COVID-19). The first is that San Benito County is no more prepared to test people for the virus than the rest of the state is. The second is that a single case of the virus was discovered in Solano County. That case was unrelated to travel and it is unknown how the person became infected. San Benito County had two confirmed cases of coronavirus in early February.
San Benito County Public Health Services Deputy Director Lynn Mello reported on COVID-19 at the meeting. She said that 85% of people exposed to the virus have only experienced mild to no symptoms. Of concern locally, the health department has taken infection control measures to deal with an influenza outbreak at the Mabie Northside Skilled Nursing Facility, which has been closed since it flooded in December. The facility enacted visitor restrictions to prevent further infection.
“We worked very diligently to try to contain this flu outbreak,” Mello said. “While coronavirus and the flu were happening in our community, the CDC sent a couple epidemiologists from Atlanta to help us with our protocols to work with the infection control team at the hospital to make sure they were ready for any more coronavirus patients that might show up. They reassured the staff and management that the hospital was ready.”
Mello said the health department is carrying on monitoring procedures for COVID-19. She had taken part in a conference call with Gov. Gavin Newsom earlier in the day.
“The emphasis was in prioritizing testing,” Mello said. “We’ve been sending our tests to Atlanta because there hasn’t been the capacity locally to test. Today, we were told we will have the capacity to test locally and that it’s a priority and that those testing supplies are going to be readily available to the local health jurisdictions.”
During the Feb. 27 conference call, Newsom said the state is monitoring 8,400 people for the coronavirus, a day after the Solano County patient was identified as the first coronavirus case in the U.S. from unknown origin.
Newsom also said California had only 200 testing kits for COVID-19.
“That is simply inadequate to do justice to the kind of testing we need,” said Newsom.
He said the number of available kits from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will be “exponentially expanded” starting the afternoon of Feb. 27.
There is some concern about the possibility that COVID-19 could be transmitted on objects, packages from China in particular. Mello said it is not well known how long the virus can remain viable on packages.
“We don’t know, this is a new virus,” she said, adding that the public probably doesn’t need to be concerned about packages arriving from Amazon or China (Amazon recently banned over 1 million products that claimed to protect against or cure COVID-19).
“The CDC has recommendations for cleaning and they recommend using disinfectants that cover the whole family of coronavirus, but we just don’t know how long it will live,” she said.
According to the CDC, it is currently unclear if a person can get COVID-19 “by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.”
China Post Tracking, which is owned by the State Post Bureau of the People’s Republic of China, said the e-commerce industry has been severely affected by the virus. In its official statement, China Post Tracking said, “Many overseas buyers, worried about being infected by the virus, have rejected the packages shipped from China. While many others have sent emails asking the sellers whether their goods are affected by the pneumonia virus or if it’s safe to receive packages from China. Can you get Novel Coronavirus from receiving a package from China? The answer is ‘no.’”
As of Feb. 28, COVID-19 has infected 84,077 people worldwide and there have been 2,876 deaths. A study that appears in the Journal of Hospital Infection states, “Human coronaviruses can remain infectious on inanimate surfaces at room temperature for up to nine days. At a temperature of 30°C [86°F] or more, the duration of persistence is shorter. Veterinary coronaviruses have been shown to persist for 28 days.”
The study also concluded that the best way to “inactivate” the virus is to apply either hydrogen peroxide, ethanol or household bleach.
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