Report of county’s first possible coronavirus case at Contra Costa Regional Medical Center raises concerns, questions

It takes CDC five to seven days to confirm; protocols in place for dealing with patients and protecting medical staff

Coronavirus. CDC image.

By Allen Payton

2-15-20 UPDATE: “We still have no confirmed cases in Contra Costa,” said Will Harper, Acting Communications Officer for Contra Costa Public Health.

In an announcement on the Contra Costa Health Services website, entitled Novel Coronavirus, Information for People Living in Contra Costa County, states: “Contra Costa residents are at low risk of becoming infected. Only people who recently traveled to China or have had close contact with someone who became ill with the novel coronavirus after recent travel in China could be exposed.”

The statement also includes, “As of Feb. 5, there have been 12 confirmed cases in the United States, including four in Northern California. There are currently no confirmed cases in Contra Costa County.”

However, that could have changed as of Friday, Feb. 7.

A report of a possible, first coronavirus case at the Contra Costa Regional Medical Center in Martinez has raised concerns and questions for county staff.

According to sources who have chosen to remain anonymous, a Martinez resident who returned from China on Wednesday, Feb. 5 was brought to the hospital and admitted on Friday, Feb. 7 by her husband. He said she was very sick and concerned it might be from the Coronavirus. The woman is currently in the intensive care unit.

The case has medical staff concerned with what is being done with quarantining the husband, who could have been exposed for two to three days, and for the medical staff, to protect them from contracting the virus.

“All I can say is, at this point we have no confirmed cases of coronavirus in Contra Costa,” said Will Harper, Acting Communications Officer for Contra Costa Public Health.

When asked how long it takes to confirm, he responded, “It has been taking the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) about five to seven days.”

So, medical staff at the county’s public hospital may not know until sometime this week if the woman has the virus.

Harper was then asked if there are protocols in place for dealing with patients, their families and medical staff.

“We do have protocols in place about isolating for a suspect case, for both the patient and that staff has the proper protective gear,” he stated. “Our public health division, when there is a confirmed case, will do a contact investigation. They go and contact the person who has the contagious virus.”

“There are procedures in place to both protect hospital staff and for patients,” Harper reiterated. “But, as for dealing with the immediate family members, we can’t talk about specific patients, because of patient privacy. In terms of the public health role, when there is a suspected case that is not confirmed, public health contacts the person and the family and encourages them to stay at home as much as possible and monitor themselves for symptoms. It can go beyond the family, with a co-worker who has had contact. Anyone who has had contact with someone who possibly has the virus.”

When asked why the coronavirus is getting so much attention, he responded, “This is a new virus, we haven’t seen it before, and there is no human immunity or vaccine for. So, the public worries, understandably.”

“So, we’re taking it very seriously,” Harper added.

The CC Health Services statement continues with the following information:

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and public health agencies across the U.S. are monitoring this new disease. Contra Costa Health Services is working closely with its partners and other health systems to track the situation locally.

Hospitals in the county, including Contra Costa Regional Medical Center & Health Centers, are asking patients about symptoms of coronavirus and recent travel to China. People calling 911 will also be asked about their symptoms and recent travel to China. Contra Costa Health Services has sent information about coronavirus to local medical providers, ambulance paramedics and schools.

Symptoms of this illness include fever, cough and difficulty breathing.

If you have these symptoms AND have been in China within the past 14 days or have been in close contact with someone who has been in the area, seek medical care right away.

  • Call ahead before going to see a doctor or emergency room – call Contra Costa Public Heath at 925-313-6740 for instructions about where to go if you do not have a healthcare provider.
  • If you have a mask to wear over your mouth and nose, please wear it as you present to your health care provider or clinic. If not, please ask for one upon your arrival.
  • Tell them your symptoms and that you were in China

As this is an unusual situation, information could change rapidly. This page will be updated as more information becomes available.”

Please check back later for updates to this report.

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