FAIRFIELD (CBS SF) — Health officials in Solano County are determining how to process those who have come into contact with a coronavirus patient who acquired the virus within the community, becoming the first in the U.S. to contract it from an unknown source.
County health officials said it was not known where the unidentified patient, a woman, first became exposed. Originally she was hospitalized at North Bay Medical Center in Fairfield. When her condition became worse, she was transferred to UC Davis Health Center in Sacramento.
Four days later, she tested positive for COVID-19. She had not been tested before because she did not have any of the risk factors such as travel to China or known exposure to people with the virus.
“Because the patient did not initially meet the criteria for coronavirus testing, the patient was not in airborne isolation at North Bay or at UC Davis initially, which means there were multiple health care personnel who were exposed to the individual,” said Solano County Public Health Officer Dr. Bela T. Matyas. “At both hospitals, we are at present aggressively evaluating everyone who may have had contact with this patient.”
It’s estimated the number of people who did come in contact with the patient was in the dozens but less than 100, according to Steve Huddleston, spokesman for North Bay Medical Center.
State health officials say they have identified the people the patient came in contact with. They are monitoring those people.
The CDC is sending 10 staffers to help state and county officials trace the infected woman’s contacts.
Depending on the risk factors of the people who were in contact with the Solano County patients, Matyas said some of them would be placed under isolation, some others may be quarantined, and others may not face any restrictions.
“The disease has been evolving since it was first described. This has been a very dynamic and rapidly changing disease that we have been dealing with,” said Matyas.
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Matyas said it was not unexpected that someone with the coronavirus unknowingly contracted it from another person who may not have been showing any symptoms.
“Most respiratory diseases that we experience come with range of symptoms from asymptomatic to very severe, and it’s very unusual for a respiratory disease not to have some element of transmission from people that are either not showing symptoms or showing very mild symptoms,” said Matyas. “So this type of spread is not at all unusual and is something that we’ve been expecting and we’ve been planning for.”
Matyas echoed the statements from state and national health officials that the risk of contracting the virus is low, despite the discovery of the infected patient in the county. “We want to assure community members that the health risk for acquiring coronavirus in Solano County remains very, very, low,” said Matyas.
Solano County on Thursday declared a local emergency and the county’s health department said it was activating its operations center to bolster its efforts to identify, screen and follow up with people potentially exposed to the virus. “This has been a very dynamic and rapidly-changing disease that we’ve been dealing with,” said Matyas.
Matyas said the county is prepared to manage the situation, saying it was “fortuitous” that Solano County was asked to assist in repatriation efforts for coronavirus patients quarantined at Travis Air Force Base.
“Our hospitals, and our personnel, and our public health officials have been very aware and very comfortable in dealing with coronavirus for quite a while now,” he said. “So when this occurred we were able to just step up and do what was necessary to address the problem as efficiently as possible.”
Two colleges in Sacramento have sent home two students for self-quarantine after they came into contact with the infected woman. It is believed those two students were working as healthcare providers and treated the woman at Vacavalley Hospital.
Vacaville residents are worried and question if the virus is already in the community.
“I’m just here to drop off records. And it’s like, ‘Oh, do I want to go in there?'” said area resident Barbara Newmeyer.
“My wife is on dialysis. She’s hooked up to equipment. I’m scared to death,” said Vacaville resident Brian Oppendike.
At UC Davis, three students are currently under isolation for possibly contracting the virus.
Officials say the three students are roommates who live at a residential hall on campus. One of those students is undergoing testing by the CDC and remains isolated at home.
Yolo County health officials say the county will be using the same quarantine and isolation protocols for the student like it would for any other infectious disease.
“In this county, in Yolo County, in the city of Davis, on the UC Davis campus, there’s no evidence for the spread of the coronavirus. There’s no evidence of the transmission of the virus,” said Yolo County Health Officer Dr. Ron Chapman.
In response to the quarantine, UC Davis administrators say they are taking extra efforts to sanitize living and dining areas around campus.
Health officials maintain the best way to help stop the spread of coronavirus is to follow the same practices to stop the spread of colds and flu.
Da Lin contributed to this story.