SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — City health officials unveiled a new text message alert system for local residents to receive notifications on their cell phones of the latest developments in San Francisco’s growing coronavirus outbreak.

San Francisco Department of Health Director Dr. Grant Colfax announced the city’s first confirmed coronavirus cases at a Thursday news conference. The two patients were being treated in isolation at separate hospitals. The cases were unrelated and neither person has a history of travel to coronavirus hot spots or contact with people known to be infected with the coronavirus.

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“These cases are like other cases we are seeing and are indicative of community transmission,” said Colfax.

One patient is a man in his 90’s who is in serious condition, in part due to underlying health issues. The second patient is a woman in her 40’s who is in fair condition.

Later Thursday afternoon, Lowell High School announced that the campus would be closed due to a student’s exposure to coronavirus, eventually confirming that the younger patient in her 40s was the mother of the student who had been exposed.

Those developments revealed the need for new citywide emergency alerting system that will let public health and safety officials quickly issue information and instructions via text messages about the coronavirus emergency. The system would also be used to communicate major event cancellations and public facility closures, should they be necessary.

To sign up for the service just text COVID19SF to the shortcode: 888-777.

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“Our new COVID19SF text alert system will allow us to broadly and instantly disseminate critical updates to the public,” said Mary Ellen Carroll, the executive director of the Department of Emergency Management. “At the heart of being prepared for any emergency is doing what we can beforehand to be ready, and to access information about what to do during the emergency. By texting COVID19SF to 888-777, the city will be able send official instructions and notifications about the coronavirus, and what to do if impacted by the COVID-19 virus.”

Colfax said it was important for San Francisco residents to brace for additional coronavirus cases.

“The city has been preparing for COVID-19 for many weeks and it is vital our San Francisco communities prepare, too,” he said “That means doing all we can to stay healthy by washing hands and staying home if sick, and also being prepared and informed. The new text message alert system – COVID19SF – will provide specific directions and notifications to keep everyone safe.”

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough and shortness of breath. If you have these symptoms and have recently traveled to areas with cases of COVID-19, or you have come in close contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, and now feel sick yourself, you should call your doctor and give your symptoms and travel history.


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