An Orange County resident who works at a Chula Vista AT&T store has tested positive for coronavirus, and county officials said Thursday five other employees have been quarantined.
San Diego County health officials confirmed that the individual had tested positive for the new COVID-19 strain of the virus after traveling to Italy, returning to work and feeling sick.
Officials said there is no indication that the virus is spreading in the San Diego region, but warned it is just a matter of time and urged residents to have two to three weeks of food, water and medicine on hand in case of quarantine.
“All health care systems are preparing for the next phase, which is the community spread,” said Dr. Francesca Torrianai, director of the infection prevention program at UC San Diego Health, at a press conference at the county operations center in Kearny Mesa.
Officials urged residents to wash hands frequently, disinfect surfaces, get a flu shot to build general immunity, and generally prepare as they would for the possibility of an earthquake or wildfire.
“There is not a reason to panic, but we want to be vigilant,” said Supervisor Greg Cox.
Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer, said that her laboratory is prepared to quickly test for coronavirus. The lab has over 400 coronavirus test kits on hand and is getting more.
She said 85 county residents who traveled to infected areas are being monitored now, and another 339 were monitored and completed their quarantines without developing the illness.
“We are prepared and conducting enhanced surveillance for this new virus, just as we do for other communicable diseases,” Wooten said.
San Diego County Superintendent of Schools Paul Gothold said schools are sharing information and making plans in case a “pandemic response” is necessary, but noted that “our charge under state law is to stay open as long as our sites remain safe for students and staff.”
Jaymie Bradford, executive vice president of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, said employers should urge sick employees to stay home, cross-train staff and be as accommodating as possible.
“Employers should be flexible and prepare for a fluid and quickly changing situation,” she said.
AT&T said it temporarily closed retail stores in Chula Vista, Escondido, San Marcos, Oceanside, National City and Vista on Wednesday for disinfecting.
“A retail store employee in San Diego has received a presumptive positive test for COVID-19. The positive test has not yet been confirmed by the CDC,” company spokesman Fletcher Cook said in a statement. “Out of an abundance of caution, yesterday we closed and deep-cleaned several stores in the area that this employee or colleagues in close contact to this employee may have visited recently. Those stores will reopen today.”
Scripps Health announced Thursday that as a precaution amid the coronavirus outbreak it will not allow visitors with fever or respiratory symptoms into its San Diego-area hospitals. Children under 15 who are not patients or have appointments will also not be allowed to enter.
As of Wednesday night, 11 people had died in the United States from the illness. One death was in Sacramento, but all the rest are connected with a nursing home outside of Seattle.
The county Board of Supervisors last week unanimously reaffirmed and extended a local health emergency declaration in response to concerns about the outbreak.
Updated at 3:50 p.m., Thursday, March 5, 2020
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