How Santa Cruz And Monterey Counties Are Preparing For COVID-19

Mar 5, 2020

There are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Santa Cruz or Monterey counties, but local health officials are still preparing. Twelve counties in California have reported cases of the virus. On Wednesday, the first death occurred in the state.

Health officials in Santa Cruz County do expect COVID-19 to make its way into the community. With that in mind, they've declared a local health emergency, which gives the county access to funding to help fight the outbreak. Supervisors are slated to ratify the declaration during their meeting on March 10. 

I reached Brenda Brenner by phone. She’s the senior health services manager of Emergency Medical Services for the county. 

“We're moving in the direction of helping people become prepared for the eventuality that this disease is going to have community-wide spread,” said Brenner.

Brenner says the outbreak has the potential to turn into a pandemic. That’s when a new virus spreads worldwide and no one is immune. The county is working with the medical community to be prepared for the worst. They’re asking medical facilities to review their surge plans. 

“Which is when they get a lot more patients than they would normally on a day-to-day basis,” said Brenner.  

Farther south in Monterey County, the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula (CHOMP), is one of the places that could see a lot more patients when the virus becomes more widespread.

Martha Blum is the medical director of infection prevention at CHOMP. She says educating doctors about the novel virus is key. Blum says they’re also practicing scenarios similar to what they did in 2009 during the swine flu pandemic, and in 2014 during the Ebola outbreak. 

“So we're going through many of the same drills and many of the same preparations,” Blum said.

Blum recommends that if you think you have symptoms, you should first call your medical provider by telephone.

“The vast majority of people who will have COVID-19 will have mild symptoms, which would not necessarily require hospitalization,” said Blum.

She says hospitals will only admit people with severe disease who are unable to breathe.

“They may require intravenous medications, they're unable to care for themselves at home or have severe symptoms perhaps related to underlying medical conditions. Only those people would be admitted to the hospital,” said Blum.

If you’re worried you might have the virus, Blum adds, you can’t just get tested.  

Instead, your doctor would have to contact local public health authorities, who speak with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and together they determine whether or not your case meets the criteria for testing.  

Local officials are preparing for impacts beyond the medical community - disruptions in transportation and travel.

Again, Brenda Brenner from Emergency Medical Services in Santa Cruz County. She says be prepared for certain goods to not be available in supermarkets. 

“We don't see these things as imminent, but just as people would in preparing for an earthquake or other type of a disaster, it's a good idea to be thinking about that,” said Brenner. 

California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency Wednesday. The proclamation includes protections against price gouging, offers more assistance to local governments and allows health care workers to come from out of state.

Newsom also requested the Legislature make up to $20 million available to respond to the spread of COVID-19.