County coronavirus cases rise to 20; 7 without known connection to other cases

March 5, 2020, 11:48 p.m.

Six new coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Santa Clara County, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 20, the Santa Clara County Public Health Department (SCCPHD) announced at a Thursday press conference. SCCPHD also released new guidance to reduce the spread of the virus.

Seven of the 20 people with confirmed cases had no known travel or direct contact with other confirmed cases. Four of the six people with newly confirmed cases are at home, and two are hospitalized, according to Santa Clara County Emergency Operations Center Director James Williams. 

The number of worldwide coronavirus cases is nearing 100,000, with at least 210 cases and 12 deaths in the U.S., according to The New York Times.

Santa Clara County Public Health Officer Sara Cody said the county should expect to see more cases.

“As we test more people, we are finding more cases, we will continue to find more cases, and we expect the case numbers to increase in the days to come,” Cody said. “Our cases to date indicate to us that the risk of exposure to the virus in our community is increasing.”

Cody also issued new guidance urging employers to take measures to decrease employee contact with large numbers of people. She recommended the postponement or cancellation of “mass gatherings” and encouraged individuals to take precautions like washing their hands to avoid further spread of the virus.

“Right now is a critical moment in our response to COVID-19 in our county,” Cody said. “If we can take these measures now, we do have the potential to slow the spread of the virus in our community.”

Cody’s announcement follows Stanford’s Tuesday recommendation to postpone or cancel events involving more than 150 participants over coronavirus concerns, notably leading to the cancellation of popular events like Grad Alumni Day and Midnight Breakfast.

Large classes like Social Dance I and II and CS 230: “Deep Learning” have also experienced schedule disruptions.

Vice Provost for Faculty Development, Teaching and Learning Sarah Church released academic guidance on Thursday, encouraging students and teaching staff who are sick or have compromised immune systems to avoid class.

“We currently expect regularly scheduled classes to continue through the remainder of the quarter, and for final exams to be administered according to the existing schedule,” Church wrote. The University has set up a website with additional guidance on winter-quarter coursework and exams.

Shifting from containment to risk-reduction

Cody said the county is shifting from a strategy of “containment,” where it focuses on identifying cases and tracing contacts, to broader strategies to reduce the spread of the virus.

“What we know now from the data that we have with the number of cases where we cannot trace the contact — that’s an indicator to us that the virus is circulating at some level in the community, and that it is increasing,” Cody said. “That is the reason for making this pivot and this change to broader strategies like canceling large events and mass gatherings.”

Cody said the county is shifting its focus from monitoring individual cases to reducing contact between people in general.

“It’s all about probabilities,” Cody said. “The smaller the number of people that gather, the better. The farther apart they are when they gather, the better. The shorter the period of time that they’re together, the better.”

Kate Selig served as the Vol. 260 editor in chief. Contact her at kselig 'at'

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