Novel coronavirus infection risk ‘elevated’ in Tulare County, but still not high-risk

Local News

VISALIA, California (KSEE) — Even before novel coronavirus cases were confirmed in the Central Valley, health departments have been monitoring the risk of infection for their communities.

Tulare County continues to lead the case count, going from one to seven in a week — including the valley’s person-to-person case. While the risk of infection is no longer low, health officials say it’s not classified as high.

“We’re elevated from low-risk,” said Tammie Weyker-Adkins, public information officer for the Tulare County Health and Human Services Agency. “So, if there are non-essential gatherings that people are thinking of going to, we’d really ask for them to consider staying home.”

Madera County is currently reassessing its risk after confirming a second case Thursday. Fresno County, meanwhile, maintains risk is still low after reporting three travel-related cases.

A number of the Tulare County cases first sought treatment at Kaweah Delta Medical Center in Visalia.

The hospital continues to ramp up efforts to screen patients. Starting Monday, all emergency department patients will first be screened in a tent. Those with respiratory illness symptoms will then be taken to a second tent.

From those patients, anyone suspected of having COVID-19 will be taken to a third tent where a nasal swab will be taken to be submitted for testing at the county public health lab.

“Our tents out here are designed to address the stable patient who does not immediately need any emergent services,” Dr. Kona Seng, medical director for the hospital’s department of emergency medicine, said. “We’re attempting to isolate and achieve better containment that way.”

Despite an elevated risk, Tulare County still hasn’t recommended resident shelter in place like the city of Fresno did.

But, health officials are ready to do that if needed.

“I can’t foresee the future, but we’ll definitely do what’s best for the community in this crisis,” said Weyker-Adkins.

Tulare County’s public health lab is among seven across the state testing for COVID-19. Weyker-Adkins said once a test gets to the lab, the turnaround time is between 12-to-24 hours.

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