Public Health Emergency Declared in Riverside County Over Coronavirus

A patient with coronavirus is being treated at Eisenhower Health in Rancho Mirage, Riverside County health officials reported.

Coronavirus up close

Riverside County Health Officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser declared a local public health emergency Sunday amid news of the county's first locally acquired case of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus.

County officials said a patient who tested positive is being treated at Eisenhower Health in Rancho Mirage. It is the second case of the disease recorded in Riverside County, according to the Riverside University Health
System; a former cruise ship passenger from Riverside County was diagnosed recently and is recovering at a Northern California medical facility.

"The patient is in isolation and Eisenhower staff have taken appropriate precautions in the treatment of this patient. No further information about the patient will be provided at this time," an Eisenhower
spokesperson said.

At a news conference Sunday, Kaiser said, "I don't have any evidence that the exposure is wide-ranging, so go about your business. Do what you would normally do. Take the precautions you would normally take."

He said county officials were investigating where the patient may have contracted the virus.

"We're looking in the community to see if anybody may have been placed at risk," Kaiser said. "I should note that those people are subject to

He added that the patient has "no known connection to Riverside County schools."

On Friday, it was announced that an employee at Murrieta Valley High School who recently traveled to a country with a known COVID-19 outbreak is ill and was being tested for the novel coronavirus. That news prompted the closure of the school until the testing is complete, according to the Murrieta Valley Unified School District.

In addition to the school employee "public health officials have also issued exclusion orders to 71 students instructing them to self quarantine," the district announced Friday night. The students may have come into contact with the sick individual and the order was given to prevent students and school personnel from becoming ill, according to district officials.

Last week, Riverside County health and elected officials sought to quell public concerns about the outbreak, noting that plans for the Coachella Valley's upcoming major music festivals are still moving forward.

Sunday, Kaiser said that officials had not yet definitely decided whether every upcoming event in the Coachella Valley will move forward, some of which attract thousands of attendees from all over the world.

"Some events that are lower risk may still be able to take place with appropriate precautions for attendees and the venue. Some, however, may not. We'll be looking at these on a case-to-case basis, judging the risk and figuring out what we can do about it," he said.

Petitions on for the cancellation of the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament in Indian Wells, which begins on Monday, and the Coachella Valley Arts and Music Festival, which takes place in April, have together garnered thousands of signatures.

A petition on the same site against the cancellation of the Coachella festival received more than 700 signatures by Sunday afternoon.

In a statement posted to Facebook, Palm Springs Mayor Pro Tem Christy Holstege urged against hastily cancelling major events simply due to panic and said any decision should be left to public health officials.

"So many local businesses, workers, and our main tourism economy depend on making most of their money for the year in season, especially in April. We should proactively plan and focus on public safety but we shouldn't jump to rash conclusions not based on science and shut down thousands of jobs that people depend on and millions of dollars in our economy," she said

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said precautions
that can prevent the spread of the respiratory virus include:
   -- avoiding close contact with people who are sick;
   -- staying home when sick;
   -- covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue; and
   -- frequent hand washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors will vote on whether to ratify the public health emergency proclamation at its Tuesday meeting.

The state of Los Angeles and Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego
counties have already declared public health emergencies.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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