The announcement of two confirmed cases of the coronavirus known as COVID-19 in Stanislaus County earlier this week prompted a wave of event cancellations and a declaration from the county banning large gatherings.
On Wednesday, the Stanislaus County Health Services Agency reported two county residents had tested positive for the virus. As of Friday morning, there have not been any further positive tests, though 21 individuals are awaiting results. The health department is monitoring 35 people.
The Stanislaus County Health Services Agency has issued an order prohibiting all indoor and outdoor gatherings of more than 1,000 people starting on Monday and continuing through the end of March. The order could extend into April if needed.
Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an order banning gatherings of 250 people or more. The California Public Health Department stated small gatherings in venues that do not allow for social distancing of at least six feet should be postponed or canceled. People with a higher risk for a more severe case of COVID -19 should avoid gatherings of 10 or more people.
Organizations and school districts across the county began canceling events before the county ban.
The City of Turlock made an announcement on Friday that many activities around town will be suspended for the foreseeable future. All activities at Pedretti Park, Turlock Regional Sports Complex and Soderquist Field will be suspended, including practices, hourly rentals, tournaments and league play. All activities at the Senior Center will be suspended, including the Pop-Up Library and Senior Citizen activities. All park rentals will be canceled. Parks will remain open, however, users are encouraged to consider the recommendations from county health regarding community gatherings. Recreation classes and the drop-in program at the Marty Yerby Center will also be suspended. City Hall will remain open and the buses will maintain the regular schedule.
CANCELED DUE TO CORONAVIRUS CONCERNS:
· Turlock Police and Fire school tours and ride-a-longs
· Sports events at Pedretti Park, Turlock Regional Sports Complex and Soderquist Field
· All high school sports competitions in Stanislaus County
· All activities at the Turlock Senior Center
· All City of Turlock park rentals
· All City of Turlock Recreation classes and the drop-in program at the Marty Yerby Center
· Coffee with the Turlock Police Chief
· State of Stanislaus County address
· Jessica’s House support groups
· TUSD Festival on the Green
· Stanislaus State fundraiser Vines 2020 — Wine, Brew & Bites
· Turlock Concert Association’s Orquesta Dharma concert
· Central Valley Senior Showcase basketball tournament (postponed)
· THS Relay for Life tri-tip drive-thru fundraiser
· Carnegie Arts Center’s Family Friday event for March
· LightBox Theatre Company’s production of “Treasure Island Bistro” at the Carnegie Arts Center
· The Turlock Historical Society’s “Turlock and the Roaring ‘20s” presentation
· All Modesto Junior College athletic and community events
· All Stanislaus County library branch programs
· Modesto Nuts professional baseball start of season (postponed)
· Assemblymember Heath Flora’s March and April Mobile District Office hours
· Hughson Fruit and Nut Festival
· All events at The State Theatre in Modesto
· Gallo Center for the Arts performances by Everclear, Josh Turner, Central West Ballet, Bonnie Raitt, Gladys Knight, Ladies of Laughter, Straight No Chaser, The Tap Pack and Bandstand
Turlock Unified School District officials met with the Stanislaus County Superintendent of Schools and the Stanislaus County Public Health Officer to discuss next steps regarding the possibility of temporarily suspending school. The decision was made to keep all the schools in Turlock open at this time.
“We recognize that this is an ever-changing situation, and we will continue to keep schools open as long as we believe it is safe for students and staff,” said TUSD Superintendent Dana Salles Trevethan. “Should you elect to keep your student at home, we respect your family’s decision; however, at this time we expect healthy students to attend school. In the meantime, in order to prevent the spread of the flu and other viruses, please practice good hygiene including handwashing for 20 seconds, use of hand sanitizer, coughing or sneezing into your sleeve or tissue, and remaining at home if you are sick with a fever and other flu-like symptoms.”
Stan State and UC Merced made the announcements Thursday that the campuses would be transitioning to online classes.
“In response to the increasing number of confirmed cases in and around our region and in light of the fact that many of our sister CSU campuses are currently taking actions to mitigate risk, we have secured approval from the Chancellor’s Office and support from our Academic Senate to take a phased approach to a suspension of face-to-face classes at both our Turlock and Stockton campuses,” Stan State officials wrote in an online statement. “To be clear, our campus currently remains safe. The following measures are being taken to mitigate risk to protect the health of our students, faculty and staff and to limit the spread of the COVID-19 within our campus communities.”
“While we are not aware of any Merced County cases of COVID-19, at UC Merced we are taking all necessary precautions to protect our students, faculty and staff — including familiarizing ourselves with the amazing work of Mercy Medical Center, Merced County health officials and our city partners,” said Nathan Brostrom, interim chancellor of UC Merced. “We are moving toward remote delivery of coursework and considering other ways to reduce face to face contact on campus, while still maintaining the essential services that resident students need to be healthy and safe and continue their education.”
The two positive cases of COVID-19 in Stanislaus County were both men, one of whom came into contact with the virus on a Grand Princess cruise to Mexico and the other was from community transmission. The health department is working to determine the source of the individual’s infection and is conducting contact investigations for both.
The news of two positive cases in the county sparked a flood of shopping in the region, with consumers wiping out supplies of hand sanitizer, bottled water and toilet paper. A Turlock Costco employee said the store had sold out of toilet paper within 10 minutes of opening on Thursday and by midday the store was out of bottled water, rubbing alcohol and vinegar.
The wave of buying led the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office to issue a warning on price gouging.
“The price gouging law protects people impacted by an emergency from illegal price gouging on supplies and services,” District Attorney Birgit Fladager said in a released statement. “We will review any complaint carefully in order to protect our citizens in this time of declared emergency.”
California Penal Code Section 396 generally prohibits charging a price that exceeds, by more than 10 percent, the price of an item before a state or local declaration of emergency. This law applies to those who sell food, emergency supplies, medical supplies, gasoline, transportation, hotel accommodations, among other items and services. Violators of the price gouging statute are subject to criminal prosecution that can result in a one-year imprisonment in county jail and/or a fine of up to $10,000. The Attorney General’s Office and District Attorney’s Office may enforce this statute.
There are many factors that go into evaluating whether the price gouging prohibitions have been violated. The fact that a price has increased or is greater than what other similar establishments charge is not the sole determining factor. Often there are legitimate reasons that may justify a price increase. Complaints can be made to the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office by emailing at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Emanuel Medical Center is taking steps to make sure they are prepared for the possibility that coronavirus could start to appear in the community.
“Emanuel Medical Center is monitoring information from federal, state and local public health agencies for current information on the coronavirus,” said Krista Deans, the communications manager for Tenet Healthcare’s Northern California Group. “Our hospital has taken the appropriate steps, including constructing designated screening areas, and we have trained professionals and the necessary equipment to react accordingly. As with any communicable disease, as our patients enter the hospital in areas such as emergency department or registration, hospital staff are questioning all of their recent travel and detailing symptoms. We evaluate relevant symptom criteria and implement contact airborne isolation, if required, without delay. Our clinical teams are in constant review of infection prevention processes and update patient screenings as recommended by the CDC.
“We have changed the way our hospitals are accessed to further increase our efforts to protect patients, visitors and employees,” Deans said. “We have created hand sanitization stations and are limiting access points to our hospitals to fewer entrances and exits for closer monitoring and evaluation. Emanuel Medical Center is committed to keeping our patients, our staff and our community safe.”
On Thursday, Gov. Newsom issued a new executive order further enhancing California’s ability to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The governor’s order: waives the one-week waiting period for people who are unemployed and/or disabled as a result of COVID-19; delays the deadline for state tax filing by 60 days for individuals and businesses unable to file on time based on compliance with public health requirements related to COVID-19 filings; directs residents to follow public health directives and guidance, including canceling large non-essential gatherings that do not meet state criteria; readies the state to commandeer property for temporary residences and medical facilities for quarantining, isolating or treating individuals; allows local or state legislative bodies to hold meetings via teleconference and to make meetings accessible electronically; and allows local and state emergency administrators to act quickly to protect public health.
The California Department of Public Health reported there are 247 positive cases of COVID-19 in the state as of Friday. There have been five deaths, which includes one non-California resident.
Of the 247 cases, 24 were from repatriated flights and 65 were travel related, according to the CDC. Fifty-two people were infected from person-to-person contact and 56 were from community transmission. The remaining 50 cases are under investigation.
The state health department issued guidelines on Friday for entertainment venues, including casinos, theme parks and theaters. Casinos should: take steps to limit the number of customers in single room/space to 250 or less; increase frequency of cleaning of chips, shuffling machines, and other objects utilized in games; increase frequency of cleaning and/or disposal of playing cards; ensure that social distancing standards are met for non-family members and make clear that family members can participate in activities together, stand in line together etc.; and eliminate events/marketing that target individuals that are at higher risk of serious illness for COVID-19.
Theme parks and attractions are being asked to: ensure that social distancing standards are met for non-family members and make clear that family members can participate in activities together, stand in line together etc.; increase spacing of show times to allow for more thorough cleaning of a single room or space and social distancing during show times; increase number of hand washing or sanitizing stations; eliminate events/marketing that target individuals that are at higher risk of serious illness for COVID-19; extend hours to allow for staggering of attendance; and limit attendance as necessary to reduce outdoor/indoor crowding.
The health department recommended that theaters: keep attendance under 250 persons per individual theater and ensure that social distancing of six feet per person for non-family members is maintained and make clear that family members can sit together, stand in line together etc.; suspend reserved seating to allow patrons to self-separate; reduce capacity to 50-60 percent per showing; sanitize seats and tray tables between showings; increase spacing between show times to allow for more thorough cleaning of individual theaters; and have ushers monitor social distancing practices in theaters and encourage additional distance between guests as appropriate.
The new virus comes from a large family of what are known as coronaviruses, some causing nothing worse than a cold, but others cause more serious illnesses such as SARS. It causes cold- and flu-like symptoms, including cough and fever, and in more severe cases, shortness of breath. It can worsen to pneumonia, which can be fatal. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that symptoms can appear as quick as two days and up to 14 days after exposure. The average time before symptoms start to show is five days.
The virus has proven to be especially virulent for people over 60 years old and people with underlying health conditions, like heart and lung issues, diabetes, asthma, cancer, and auto immune diseases.
The viruses are common in many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats and it’s rare that animal coronaviruses can infect people and then spread between people, such as the case with this current coronavirus.
First detected in December, the virus is believed to have originated in a type of wild animal sold at a Wuhan, China market.
The CDC said person-to-person spread occurs mainly via respiratory droplets from when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza and other respiratory pathogens spread. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. It’s currently unclear if a person can get the novel coronavirus by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.
President Donald Trump on Friday declared the coronavirus pandemic a national emergency to free up money and resources to fight the outbreak, and then threw his support behind an aid package from Congress that is on track to provide direct relief to Americans.
From the Rose Garden, Trump said, “I am officially declaring a national emergency," unleashing as much as $50 billion for state and local governments to respond to the crisis.
Trump also announced a range of executive actions, including a new public-private partnership to expand coronavirus testing capabilities with drive-through locations, as Washington tries to subdue the new virus whose spread is roiling markets, shuttering institutions and disrupting the lives of everyday Americans.
As the House prepared to vote late Friday, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi trumpeted the hard-fought package that will provide free testing, sick pay for workers, enhanced unemployment benefits and bolstered food programs.
“We did what we said we were going to do: Put families first,” said Pelosi, flanked by Democratic lawmakers, including many freshmen.
The American Medical Association said the emergency declaration would help ensure America's health care system has sufficient resources to properly respond to the ongoing outbreak.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, infectious disease chief at the National Institutes of Health, said more tests would be available over the next week, but warned, “We still have a long way to go.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.