San Francisco health officials are recommending the public and city departments take “aggressive” measures to prevent spread of the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.
Friday’s press conference addressing the recommendations came one day after Mayor London Breed and health officials announced The City’s first two confirmed COVID-19 cases.
The Department of Public Health has made seven recommendations they believe that if followed will slow the spread.
One recommendation includes limiting outings for people over the age of 60 and for people with underlying health issues — heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, kidney disease and weakened immune systems — and for all to avoid large gatherings.
Employers and employees are being asked to suspend nonessential travel, minimize the number of employees sitting in arm’s length and cancel large meetings and conferences.
Health officials recommend organizers of nonessential large gatherings cancel upcoming events and urge people not to attend if sick. If events are not canceled, organizers are asked to supply hand sanitizer and other hand cleaning essentials for guests.
Dr. Grant Colfax, director of the Department of Public Health, recommends that events such as basketball games and concerts at the Chase Center, for example, be canceled or postponed. He added that cannot force the arena to do so.
The City, though, is canceling its own large events, including the St. Patrick’s Day celebration scheduled for March 14.
Officials are also taking precautions at schools citywide. If a confirmed case arises at a school, the health department and school district will work together to determine the best measures going forward for students and staff. Students who are sick should not attend.
Parents who have students with chronic illnesses are advised to consult with the student’s doctor.
The City is recommending all classrooms be equipped with hand sanitizer and tissue.
School district officials closed Lowell High School Thursday after it was discovered a student’s parent was being treated for the virus.
School officials wrote on the website:
“Out of an abundance of caution and for the safety and well-being of our community, we have closed the school and all events and gatherings for the time being.”
The Public Health Department assessed the student, who is now in quarantine, though it is not yet known if the student has contracted the virus.
Health officials also recommend Muni vehicles be cleaned every day, especially at high-touch surface areas.
Long-term health care facilities must operate with a COVID-19 plan in accordance with the health department, and screening for the illness will be required of staff and visitors.
The aggressive measures are in addition to the basic recommended precautions, such as washing hands with soap for 20 seconds, covering your mouth when coughing and sneezing, staying home when sick and avoiding touching your face and shaking hands with other people.
Breed said in a statement:
“These recommendations are informed by the best public health information available and guided by experts in our own health department. They mirror the actions being taken in many other municipalities and are informed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. These are important steps to protect our public health and are concrete things all of us can do to keep our community safe.”
Earlier Friday, Vice President Mike Pence confirmed that 21 of 46 people tested for the virus aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship are infected. Of those, 19 are crew members and two are passengers.
Pence said at the press conference that the ship will be berthed at a noncommercial port over the weekend and that all remaining people on the ship will be tested, but gave no other specific details.
Some passengers who returned from a previous voyage to Mexico on that same ship were found to be infected, including a 71-year-old male from Placer County who died Wednesday morning.
Colfax said the recommendations will be in place for an initial two weeks.
Meanwhile Contra Costa County health officials announced Friday that two people infected with the virus were also passengers on the cruise ship.
Santa Clara County health officials announced four new confirmed cases on Friday as well, bringing the county’s total count up to 24.
Jerold Chinn is the San Francisco Bureau Chief of SFBay. He covers transportation and City Hall. He has spent over a decade covering transportation in San Francisco. Jerold is a native in the city and frequently takes public transit everywhere he goes. Email tips to [email protected]