First confirmed novel coronavirus case in Tulare County triggers emergency declaration

Local News

County health officials say there still is no reason to panic

VISALIA, California (KGPE) — Tulare County health officials were still mum on details on the Central Valley’s latest confirmed novel coronavirus case, but Thursday they tried to calm public fears after revealing the patient had been showing symptoms in a number of public places.

The Tulare County Health and Human Services Agency announced the case late Wednesday night. Karen Elliott, the public health director, said the county lab confirmed it around 6:30 p.m. after the patient took a test at Sierra View Hospital in Porterville.

The patient is reported to be in stable condition and is now isolating at home. The patient also is said to not be a part of a vulnerable population, like those over the age of 60.

It’s still not clear how they contracted the virus, also known as COVID-19.

“This is a person that was not identified coming off a cruise ship or being in contact with someone who may have had the virus. We are still investigating that,” Elliott said.

Part of that investigation includes figuring out when the patient started showing symptoms, tracking where they’ve been, and seeing who they might have been in close contact with.

As the investigation continues, Elliott announced the department has recommended all events in the county should at least postpone for the rest of the month. If not postpone or cancel, then at least provide more hand wash and sanitizer stations at the events. Also, promote social distancing of at least six feet.

Organizers of IrishFest, a St. Patrick’s Day event in Visalia that was supposed to happen on Saturday followed the call and postponed their event for the time being.

Despite all of this, Elliott and other health officials Thursday are still calling on the community to remain calm.

“Let me emphasize that we have a resilient and close community. It’s important for our community members to understand that this is a complex situation. We are working with all our local partners,” Elliott said.

Visalia Unified cancels majority of upcoming events

One of those partners is the Visalia Unified School District. Supt. Tamara Ravilin said the school district has been keeping track of and distributing novel coronavirus information since January.

“I used to say we were looking at it day-by-day, now I say every couple of hours as we reassess where we are,” Ravilin said.

With the number of cancellations the last 24 hours, as well as the new state guidance to cancel or postpone events with 250 or more people, Visalia Unified decided to cancel events from Friday to April 30. Ravilin said the decision to cancel was made before the school district was aware of Tulare County’s first case.

The canceled events include field trips, open houses, and athletic tournaments. However, all CIF league games are still on the calendar.

“We do understand some of the surrounding districts in the Central Valley have started to cancel all high school athletic events,” Ravilin said. “We will continue to work with our county health officer to determine if that’s the direction we should go.”

An emergency declaration

Tulare County Supervisor Amy Shuklian, the vice-chair of the board of supervisors, said the board is executing an emergency declaration to hopefully get more resources into the community.

“What that will allow us is to leverage resources, such as may be additional staffing should we need it,” Shuklian said. “Also, reimbursement, should we get more cases and [it becomes] a cost to the county.”

That declaration will be ratified at the board’s next meeting on Tuesday.

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