SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — A new case of coronavirus in Santa Clara County, the county’s third case, became the second instance in the U.S. of community transmission of the virus from an unknown origin.

The county health department said this latest coronavirus case – an woman with chronic health conditions – has no known connection to travel in countries most affected by the virus or close contact with a known infected individual.

The development indicates the virus spreading among two separate populations within Northern California. In a prepared statement, county health officials declared that “now is the time to prepare for the possibility of widespread community transmission.”

“Her physician called us on Wednesday night to discuss the case and to request testing for the novel coronavirus,” said Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara County Public Health Director at a Friday afternoon press conference. “Our County of Santa Clara Public Health Laboratory received the specimens the very next morning and performed the testing. Since receiving the results last night, we’ve been working to identify the woman’s contacts and to understand who she might have exposed while contagious.”

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“This new case indicates that there is evidence of community transmission but the extent is still not clear. I understand this may be concerning to hear, but this is what we have been preparing for. Now we need to start taking additional actions to slow down the spread of the disease,” said Cody. 

“We do need everyone to start thinking about what actions they can take now so we can be prepared for the possibility of further spread of the virus in our community.”

The county issued the following actions to help slow down the spread of the virus:

For individuals:

  • Keep your hands clean. It is one of the most important steps you can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. And always need to cover your cough and stay home when you are sick.
  • Today, start working on not touching your face because one way viruses spread is when you touch your own mouth, nose or eyes.
  • Since we know the disease is here, we all need to stay away from people who are sick.
  • Start thinking about family preparedness, how to take care of sick family while not getting infected. Think about a room to isolate a sick person.

For community/groups:

  • Schools: should plan for absenteeism and explore options for tele-learning and enhance surface cleaning.
  • Businesses: whenever possible, can replace in-person meetings with video or telephone conferences and increase teleworking options and modify absenteeism policies and also enhance surface cleaning.

In addition to the new case of unknown origin in Santa Clara County, the Palo Alto Unified School District issued an announcement on Friday stating that a parent of two students may have been exposed to the coronavirus.

Out of an abundance of caution, the district sent the two students home. They will be kept home away from school until more information is provided. One student attends Palo Alto High School, while the other is a student at JSL Middle School.

On Wednesday, it was announced that a coronavirus patient in Solano County contracted the virus through community transmission – the first known instance in the U.S. An additional Solano County case was announced Friday, but health officials noted that patient was a Travis AFB evacuee and passenger from the Diamond Princess cruise ship.

Of the two other patients in Santa Clara County with coronavirus, one has recovered after being self-quarantined at home and has returned to normal activities. The second was still being treated as of last week. Both had traveled to the U.S. from China.

As of Friday, there have been about 84,000 cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus worldwide resulting in more than 2,800 deaths, with the vast majority in China. No deaths have been reported in at least 63 coronavirus cases in the U.S.

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