SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — Though Santa Clara County health officials are reporting no cases of the Wuhan coronavirus in the area as of Tuesday, they are preparing with rapid response teams in the event that it does arrive in the Bay Area.
The county Public Health Department has formed two quick-response teams in case the coronavirus shows up in northern California. The department is also urging patients who fear they may be showing symptoms to call the doctor or 911 first before showing up to the emergency room.
“If someone has symptoms and has traveled or been to China in the last 14 days, then they would want to call their healthcare provider and talk it through,” said Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara County public health officer.
“What we have done is assemble a team just to handle calls from healthcare providers with a patient of concern that they want to discuss,” Cody said.
As the virus outbreak worsens, federal officials are warning against any non-essential travel to China. United Airlines suspended two dozen flights between the U.S. and Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai between Feb. 1 through Feb. 8. They cited a “significant decline in demand” in doing so.
According to CBS News, the White House is considering suspending all commercial flights to and from mainland China.
The virus as of Tuesday evening had claimed 132 lives in China and the number or worldwide cases is reported to be over 5,900. The outbreak is impacting at least 16 countries.
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For Silicon Valley companies with business in China, the wheels of commerce have slowed significantly.
“We cannot take for granted that out citizens are safe and our economy is immune from the global epidemic,” said Carl Guardino, CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has expanded health screenings to checkpoints at 20 U.S. airports and border crossings where the warnings have sunk in for passengers.
“I’ll take whatever precautions I can. I’ll wear a face mask on the plane and use sanitizers on my hands and hope for the best,” said Bryan Southard at Mineta San Jose International Airport.
“I feel a little more safe having it. I know it’s not 100%, but I think it would be unwise not to take whatever precaution I can,” said Miguel Jimenez.
In the international terminal at San Francisco International Airport on Tuesday, it wasn’t hard to find travelers returning from or leaving for flights wearing face masks. Several airport workers, including China AIrlines employees at check-in counters and flight attendants, were also wearing masks.
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“Everybody’s kind of nervous, and people are buying masks,” said traveler Helen Hsieh of Palo Alto.”
Abby Alfonso of Daly City is leaving for the Philippines for about a month. “I think it’s just important that everyone takes extra precautions, especially around crowded places like airports, it’s never too bad to be safe,” Alfonso said.
Health officials say it is not necessary to wear masks, but it is more important to take precautions like washing your hands and avoid contact with sick people.
Health officials again reiterated and emphasized to those who are concerned they are sick: call the doctor and call 911, don’t go to the emergency room because you could potentially spread the disease to everyone you come in contact with.
KPIX 5’s Devin Fehely and Betty Yu contributed to this report.