Editor's note: This is an expanded and updated version of a story The Almanac posted on Feb. 28.
San Mateo County on March 2 reported the first case of a resident registering a "presumptive positive" for the coronavirus that's infected almost 90,000 people around the world. The diagnosis is pending a confirmation test from the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This came days after the county health department announced that the CDC had transferred someone who tested positive for the respiratory disease to a county hospital.
The most recent patient, who is described simply as an adult, has been hospitalized and is in isolation, according to a March 2 press release from San Mateo County Health, the county's health department. The patient has no known exposure to the virus through travel or through contact with a person confirmed to have the illness, named COVID-19, according to the department.
Symptoms of COVID-19 are like the flu, which include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Symptoms may appear in as few as two days or up to 14 days after exposure, according to the county.
The other patient, also in isolation, was transferred to the county after returning from traveling abroad, and is in good condition, officials said in the March 2 press release. The health department has not released where in the county either patient is being treated or any other information the patients.
Dr. Scott Morrow, the chief health department officer, said in the press release that the department shares "the concerns of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that we all need to be prepared for COVID-19 to spread within the United States."
He added: "To prevent any illness, follow CDC guidelines including washing your hands frequently, covering your sneeze, and staying home when sick. Also, please dust off your personal emergency plans to make sure you have proper provisions at your home including water, medications, and food."
As of March 1, there were a total of 40 people found to have the virus in California, 24 of whom had returned home from another country, according to the California Department of Public Health's website. The other 16 confirmed cases include nine that are travel-related, two due to person-to-person exposure from a close contact and three from unknown sources.
The outbreak prompted officials from San Mateo County's 23 school districts to meet with county health department officials on Feb. 28 to discuss the illness, which emerged in China late last year.
KRON 4 News reported on Feb. 27 that the districts were meeting with San Mateo County Health to "make a unified plan for how they will deal with coronavirus if it continues to spread and advance."
The county Office of Education issued an alert on its website on Feb. 26 that the "risk of exposure to this new coronavirus is increasing over time. Travelers from mainland China arriving in the United States since February 3, 2020, should be excluded from school for 14 days, beginning the day after they left China. SMCOE and San Mateo County Health are partnering to support school districts in mitigating health risks."
After the Feb. 28 meeting, County Superintendent of Schools Nancy Magee said in a phone interview that the Office of Education is still advising local districts to follow its typical guidance on cold and flu prevention practices since the risk of transmitting the virus remains low in the area.
Magee noted that the Office of Education, which plays a supporting role for local school districts, is reviewing its pandemic plans for school districts. The plan outlines different ways to deliver instructions if schools need to close because of the spread of an illness, she said. When the plan is revised it will be posted on the organization's website, an Office of Education spokesperson said.
"Unfortunately, (local) superintendents have lots of practice with school closure decisions based on (recent) smoke alerts and power outages," Magee said. "We usually work really hard to keep school open – it's a safe and supportive place for a child to be during the day, but in the case of an increasing health risk, or chance of further spread of the virus by keeping schools open, that wouldn't make any sense." She noted, though, that districts aren't considering closing schools at this point.
Schools in The Almanac's coverage area have put out advisories, through email and on their websites, that they are increasing cleanings of common areas such as bathrooms, water faucets, classrooms, doorknobs, playgrounds and cafeterias to minimize the spread of germs. They're also encouraging students and teachers to stay home when sick and frequently wash their hands with soap and water and avoid touching their nose, mouth and eyes with unwashed hands.
"The (Sequoia Union High School) District is working with county school and health officials to review protocols for schools in the event that coronavirus spreads in San Mateo County," according to a Thursday email to Menlo-Atherton High School families from the school. "We will share more information as our preparations advance."
Menlo Park school district Superintendent Erik Burmeister emailed parents on Saturday, Feb. 29, to tell them the district plans to send periodic emails when necessary and will update a webpage entitled "MPCSD COVID-19 FAQ" for up to the minute changes and direction, which includes recommendations on what you can do as a family to increase your chances of not getting sick and prepare "for eventualities that may not be within your control."
"It is normal to be fearful; however, the best response to fear is calm, information, and a focus on controlling what we can control," he wrote in the email. "As your Superintendent, I want you to know that I take nothing more seriously than the health, safety, and well being of your child. As such, please know that our staff, your elected Board officials, and I are doing everything in our power to control the things we can control in this ever changing situation. What information there is to know and steps there are to take, we know and are taking."
Las Lomitas Elementary School Superintendent Beth Polito posted an COVID-19 update to the district's website on March 2. In the update, she advises that district families who choose to keep their children home due to illness or concern about contracting an illness will be granted an excused absence. School staff will work with families regarding make up work using current absence related procedures, she said.
As of the afternoon of March 2, there were a total of nine cases of the illness in neighboring Santa Clara County.
For updates on cases of the virus in San Mateo County, go here.