SANTA CLARA (CBS SF) — Santa Clara County health officials announced aggressive new measures Tuesday to slow the spread of coronavirus as two additional patients were diagnosed with the disease.

“We’ve identified two new cases of coronavirus in our county which brings the total number of cases to 11,” said Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara County’s top public health official.

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Dr. Cody urges people over the age of 50 to avoid large public gatherings like parades, concerts and sporting events where they might be in close contact with people infected with the virus.

People over the age of 50 and people with pre-existing medical conditions have proven especially vulnerable to the virus, Dr. Cody says.

Meanwhile, Berkeley city officials announced their first case of coronavirus — a resident had been exposed to the disease while traveling overseas. The city reported that the resident returned to Berkeley from Italy on Feb. 23. Concerned about the possible exposure while abroad, the resident self-quarantined at home voluntarily.

“While the risk of infection remains low, the expanded presence of the virus in our community is a reality we should all prepare for,” said Dr. Lisa Hernandez. “There are steps that all of us in the community can take now to improve basic hygiene and also prepare for a wider spread in the future.”

“Due to our almost daily increase in cases, the public health Department is issuing new guidance today to protect the health of vulnerable individuals,” she said. “We ask for the public’s help in sharing these new recommendations, staying calm, and following prior guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control.”

Cody said an investigation was underway to determine how the two individuals contracted the COVID-19 strain of the coronavirus.

At this time, health officials said, only two cases have been determined to be from community transmission; four were travel related; three were close contacts to known cases; and the two new cases remain under investigation.

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Dr. George Han, Deputy Health Officer for the County of Santa Clara, tried to quell fears saying that most cases are mild and recoverable. So far there have been more than 100 cases in the United States with nine reported deaths all in Washington state associated with an elder care facility.

“It is important to remember that, for about 80% of the population, this disease will be mild. While many persons in our community may get sick, the vast majority will recover,” Han said. “The added measures are being used to protect those in our community who are likely at greatest risk for having severe disease.”

  • The County Public Health Department is recommending that organizations that primarily serve seniors or medically vulnerable individuals:
  • Cancel mass gatherings (e.g., a large bingo gathering, movie screening, etc.)
  • Ensure they are extra vigilant in following recommendations regarding cleaning of high touch surfaces, including counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, tablets, and bedside tables.
  • Take all necessary measures to ensure all employees, visitors, and persons served who are experiencing any symptoms of illness stay home and avoid contact with others
  • Employ enhanced screening of visitors, staff, and residents for symptoms of acute respiratory illness (e.g., fever, cough, difficulty breathing).

Privately, local governments and school systems have expressed frustration with the lack of clear guidelines and guidance from the county health department in the event of scenarios like a known infection at a school.

“It’s a fluid situation that we’re learning at as we go. And there was certainly no manual that was written for this specifically,” said Superintendent Mariann Engle with the Mt. Pleasant Elementary School District.

The San Jose City Council is also considering either cancelling or discouraging large public gathering if the outbreak worsens.

“These are the kind of practical things we can do to try to stem the spread of this disease. We know that there’s going to be more cases,” said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo.

Dr. Cody says the health department is doing the best it can to respond to a newly emergent virus and expanding outbreak.

“This is a brand-new infection that the entire world has only being dealing with for a few months. This is unprecedented. So, there’s never been guidance written around schools for coronavirus,” Dr. Cody said.

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KPIX 5’s Devin Fehely contributed to this report.