Coronavirus: Santa Clara County to declare local health emergency, resident under quarantine shares support

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- Santa Clara County declared a local health emergency to prepare financially for an outbreak of the coronavirus.

Currently, there are two confirmed cases of the virus across the county.

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The County Public Health Department said there is no evidence of person-to-person spread of the new virus. Still, Supervisors and Public Health leaders are now taking this extra step to keep residents safe.

On Monday, the County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve the declaration for a local health emergency.

The Public Health Department said there isn't an increased risk to residents. Instead, the department believes it'll help the County more effectively respond to the outbreak financially.

In a statement to ABC7 News, the department said in part: "The declaration and proclamation do not signify any increase in risk to the residents of Santa Clara County. These actions empower the County to more effectively respond to the outbreak, seek and utilize mutual aid, potentially obtain reimbursement, and ensure that the County's public health professionals have all necessary tools at their disposal to keep the community safe."

Supervisor Cindy Chavez added, "It makes sure that we can spend resources as necessary, and make sure that we get reimbursed from the Federal and State government."

Chavez said she expected the unanimous vote. "What we all understand is- especially because we have three hospitals and we have multiple clinics- is that we want to make sure that we're providing the very best service, and giving people the very best information so they know how to protect themselves and their family."

She added, "This is really a wake-up call for all of us because it's not just viruses that are going to come from abroad, it's viruses that we have right here, right now."

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"I'm happy the government put such importance to this," Palo Alto resident Esther Tebeka told ABC7 News. "That's where China- the Chinese government failed in a way. They did not notify the population of the danger of this virus."

Tebeka and her 15-year-old daughter were visiting family in Wuhan City, when the outbreak hit.

Tebeka explained she and her daughter were there to visit Tebeka's mother who was sick, not from the Coronavirus.

Tebeka said she started to hear about Coronavirus cases around the 20th. The pair was scheduled to fly back on January 28.

She said at that point, she wasn't too alarmed. "There was even one time, CCTV had even announced that all of that were rumors," she said about early reports.

However, she started hearing news about how quickly the rate of the infected was rising.

"By the 22nd, I felt something bad was really, really going to happen," she said. "I started contacting the U.S. Consulate in Wuhan."'

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Shortly after, the City of Wuhan was put under quarantine. Tebeka initially thought it would take just a few days to pass.

Then, she said travel became prohibited across the entire city. Tebeka said an added challenge was her dietary restrictions, since her family keeps kosher.

"I started getting a little panicked. I said, I have to get out of here for one simple reason, other than anything else," she said. "Other than coronavirus itself, also the kosher food issue."

So, she contacted the U.S. Embassy.

"Constantly. I didn't give up," she said. "I kept on calling, emailing, and I did everything I could do to get us prepared to get out of there."

After all that effort, Tebeka finally got an email about flight evacuation.

"But the flight it was only going to be 230 seats," she said. "And there were thousands of Americans that needed to be evacuated."

"I got on that flight, thank God," she told ABC7 News.

The plane used for evacuation first landed in Alaska, according to Tebeka. It's where passengers were once again monitored for any symptoms, and provided food for those under quarantine.

Shortly after, the passengers were flown from Alaska to March Air Reserve Base in Southern California.

"To be honest, I don't even know where exactly we are," she said. "We flew here, we landed here, and now we're being quarantined."

Tebeka said very confidently, "We're safer to you than some people around you," considering they have had their health monitored over several weeks.

She and her daughter expect to return home to Palo Alto on Tuesday afternoon.

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