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19 answers from Sacramento County health officials including why you should help an elderly friend grocery shop | Coronavirus FAQ

This morning we sent the Sacramento County Dept. of Public Health a list of questions - ours and yours - about its coronavirus response. Here are their answers.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Public agencies are responding to the coronavirus threat differently from state to state and even county to county.  Here in Sacramento, we're seeing a different response from other areas in California.  For instance, the Golden State Warriors will play in front of empty seats Wednesday night, while thousands of fans will cheer on the Sacramento Kings.

On Wednesday morning we sent a list of questions to the Sacramento County Department of Public Health to get a better understanding of its response and philosophy to battling coronavirus.  The questions and answers below have been edited only for grammar and clarity.

TESTING QUESTIONS

1. How many testing kits are in-county now?
Sacramento County Department of Public Health: The County currently has 20 test kits to use per day.

2. How many are coming?
(The county said it will get back to us with an answer.  We'll update this when we get the answer.)

3. What is the current turnaround time between the collection of a sample and receipt of results?
Results take 24-48 hours to return.

4. Can anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms or suspected exposure get a test if they want it? If so, how?
Currently, we are not testing anyone with cold/flu symptoms, rather recommending they stay home until they’ve been symptom-free for 72 hours, or seven days after symptoms started (whichever is longer).

5. We have seen several communities establish drive-through testing programs. Can Sacramento residents expect this service to be offered?
Sacramento County is having community spread cases – meaning, cases of unknown origin. Community spread requires the following of mitigation strategies: If sick, with any cold-like illness, stay home to prevent the spread of germs. If symptoms worsen, call your healthcare provider or urgent care clinic ahead of time so they can prepare for your care. Only call 911 or go to the emergency room if you are extremely sick or your life is in imminent danger. Please see additional details: https://www.saccounty.net/news/latest-news/Pages/County-Announces-New-Mitigation-Efforts-COVID-19.aspx

RESOURCES FROM ABC10:

EVENT QUESTIONS

6. Has the county considered a ban on large events (similar to those now in place in Santa Clara and San Francisco counties) and what circumstances, if any, would make that action more likely to occur in Sacramento?
At this time, Sacramento County Public Health has not advised the cancellation of large public events - it would be up to the event promoter and venue. However, this is constantly being evaluated.

7. What do you say to people who wonder why Sacramento is not taking this action already?
The County has been and continues to weigh the potential benefits to the community’s health against the disruptive effects that those recommendations could have. The County’s recommendations are based on the best information we have at this time.

8. What are the health department’s current recommendations to event organizers?
Currently, we are only making recommendations to individuals about health and safety practices, not event organizers

RELATED: Why Sacramento County is moving from 'containment' to 'mitigation' to control coronavirus

NURSING HOMES

9. What is the current number of positive tests originating from nursing homes and/or senior facilities in the county?
To manage resources efficiently and to protect health confidentiality, Sacramento County Public Health will not release information about residents in quarantine, under investigation or the subsequent testing.

10.  Will the county be able to share more specifics about the fatality announced yesterday and if so, when?
For health confidentiality, in compliance with HIPPA, Sacramento County Public Health does not release location information of individuals.

11. Is the county considering any restrictions on access to nursing homes and/or senior facilities?
Sacramento County is working to share the guidance from CDPH: https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/Guidance.aspx  As well, right now, we must all work to protect the most vulnerable populations from exposure to the virus. It is critical that everyone:

  • Urge those age 60 and older and anyone with an underlying medical condition to stay away from large gatherings.
  • If you have any cold-like symptoms, do not have any contact, or at least maintain a six feet distance, with anyone in the high-risk category (60 and older or those with medical conditions).

12. What is the current guidance for these facilities? Can we have a copy of the information being posted at these facilities, which Dr. Beilenson mentioned in our interview yesterday?
Answer: https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/Guidance.aspx

RELATED: Seniors have higher chance of getting coronavirus. So how are nursing homes preparing?

CASES 

13. What is the current number of confirmed cases in Sacramento? How many tests are pending?
10 confirmed cases in Sacramento County.  To manage resources efficiently and to protect health confidentiality, Sacramento County Public Health will not release information about residents in quarantine, under investigation or the subsequent testing.

14. Are patients who were placed under 14-day quarantine before the change to a mitigation-focused approach supposed to complete the 14 days of quarantine? Or are they free to return to normal life after symptoms clear?
The new strategy ends 14-day quarantines for those that were identified strictly as having contact with a known infected person. However, anyone feeling ill, with any symptoms, should stay home from work or school until free of symptoms for 72 hours or after seven days from the start of symptoms, whichever is longer.

AT-RISK POPULATION 

15. What specific guidance would you give to vulnerable populations (elderly, existing health issues)?
Stay away from large gatherings or anyone with symptoms of a cold or flu:

  1. Do not host guests/visitors or gather with other high-risk persons
  2. Try and send someone not in the high-risk category out to do grocery shopping or go in off-peak hours, stocking up for 2-3 weeks
  3. If you begin to show symptoms, call your health provider
  4. If you become severely ill, go to the hospital

16. Should at-risk people avoid going to public spaces/events? Should they avoid travel outside the home?
Yes to both, see above.

17. Should non-symptomatic people avoid contact with people in the at-risk categories?
The best practice is to maintain social distance from anyone in the high-risk population – at least six feet but recommended to steer completely clear if possible.

18. Does the WHO’s declaration of a COVID-19 pandemic change the county’s approach to addressing the spread of the virus in any way and how?
 A Pandemic declaration does not speak to disease severity, rather its reach. This declaration supports Sacramento County’s move to mitigation.

  • The goal is to help the public understand that there will be more cases, but that 80 percent will have mild or no symptoms.
  • This is a shift to focus on the protection of the high-risk population and address the surge of patients entering the hospitals
  • There is not the first pandemic we’ve seen and overcome – it is important the entire community works together to slow and eliminate the spread.

SCHOOLS/COLLEGES/UNIVERSITIES 

19. We have seen different approaches to addressing the outbreak among the area’s academic institutions. Does the county intend to make a unified set of recommendations about how these institutions should operate?
Sacramento County is working to share the guidance from CDPH: https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/Guidance.aspx

COVID19 BACKGROUND

According to the CDC, coronavirus (COVID-19) is a family of viruses that is spreadable from person to person. Coronavirus is believed to have been first detected in a seafood market in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. If someone is sick with coronavirus, the symptoms they may show include mild to severe respiratory illness, cough, and difficulty breathing.

Currently, there is no vaccine; however, the CDC suggests the following precautions, along with any other respiratory illness:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds.

WHY HEALTH OFFICIALS ARE SO CONCERNED

Some people have compared the low overall death toll to the flu's high annual death toll in the United States as a reason not to be concerned about COVID-19, however, doctors and health officials are concerned for three main reasons:

  1. There's no vaccine yet and won't be one for until early 2021, at the soonest. Scientists are still researching what other medications could help patients. 
  2. Some people have built up immunity to the flu, but few have immunity to COVID-19 version of coronavirus
  3. Both the flu and COVID-19 are spread by droplets, but COVID-19 might be spread in the air. Scientists are researching exactly how COVID-19 spreads.

HEAR FROM DOCTORS:

Dr. Payal Kohli, a cardiologist & doctor of internal medicine, spoke with ABC10's Walt Gray about the novel coronavirus, those most at risk, vaccine timeline, & more.

Dr. Dean Blumberg, the Chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at UC Davis, answered some FAQs from ABC10 viewers about the coronavirus: