3.15 press conference

Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Chair Susan Gorin speaks at a press conference on March 15.

In a press conference at noon on March 15, county officials confirmed that the first case of community spread of COVID-19. The infected individual is an employee of Rohnert Park Medical Center, and individuals who have been in contact with that person are in the process of being notified, according to interim-public health officer Dr. Sundari Mase. Another person who has been in direct contact with the infected subject has been tested and is in self-quarantine.

Since that time, a second case of community spread was identified on Sunday afternoon. A third case was listed by socoemergency.org on Monday.

“We are now taking all necessary precautions to make sure to prevent further spread,” she said. “All staff members and patients will be notified over next few days. These persons will all be contacted to see if they are well, and to self-quarantine if they are asymptomatic. If they are symptomatic, they should seek care and get tested if needed.”

Dr. Mase declined to answer repeated questions about the person’s job, where they might have been in the county or whether they were symptomatic, citing HIPAA rules.

The person was found via the recent increased surveillance testing program, which Mase started on March 12. The positive test was found on March 14. Mase stated that as of Friday, 60 surveillance tests had been completed.

While the positive test was the only new information shared at the press conference, Mase reiterated the recent actions taken from her office, including the banning of all gathering of 250 people or more and suggesting that gatherings of 10 people or more with any vulnerable individuals also be cancelled or postponed. She also stated that she believed all “non-essential” gatherings should be postponed.

 “Anyone who is ill should call their primary care physician to see if they need to be seen. Stay at home; don’t go to work or other public venues. Our public health lab is up and running and our commercial labs — Quest and LabCorp — have been quality ensured by CDC and are up and running. Our healthcare workers are prepared,” she said.

Other speakers included chair of the Board of Supervisors Susan Gorin, Director of Emergency Services Chris Godley, Sonoma County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Steve Herrington and supervisor Shirlee Zane.

Zane and Gorin both discussed the need to support friends and neighbors, especially members of the senior or vulnerable community. They also offered up a variety of mental health resources for people who may be feeling frightened, depressed or anxious over the pandemic.

Gorin also made a case against the hoarding of goods. “Please avoid hoarding,” she said. “We know from the examples from other counties that there is plenty of food, toilet paper and other necessities, but only if you avoid hoarding. Don’t stockpile, but it is good to have extra if you’re going to be in your house for a couple of days. Also, this virus not spread through water system. Don’t hoard or stockpile bottles of water, the water is safe to drink.”

There will be another Town Hall on Tuesday, March 17 to address additional questions. The English language version will be available from 7 to 8 p.m. on KRCB radio (90.9 and 91.1, and channel 22 on television), as well as live streamed on the KRCB Facebook page.

The Spanish-language version will take place from 6 to 7 p.m.

Herrington stated that Governor Gavin Newsom’s declaration on Friday, which gave schools “the flexibility to modify their calendars without financial penalty,” is the reason that many chose to shutter. However, there will be a meeting Monday to help start plotting the course for the future of the school year, including graduation.

Questions were briefly allowed at the end of the statements. Gorin didn’t commit to banning or restricting evictions during the emergency, but said they would follow the governor’s directions on the matter.

While the plan is to continue surveillance testing, there is no current plan to implement widespread testing of non-symptomatic individuals. When asked if this was due to ongoing test shortages, Mase replied that it was based on CDC recommendations.

“In disease surveillance and control, we aim services at persons most at risk,” Mase said. “The chance asymptomatic have infected others is low, so we’re focusing efforts on highest impact activities.”

All speakers reiterated the best places to get information were the socoermgency.org website, by dialing 211, or texting 898211, along with the county’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

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