Coronavirus outbreak: 2 Bay Area healthcare workers test 'presumptive positive' for COVID-19, officials say

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Monday, March 2, 2020
2 Bay Area healthcare workers test 'presumptive positive' for COVID-19, officials say
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Solano County health officials said two health care workers tested positive for coronavirus at the state level, the CDC still needs to confirm the results.

Solano County Health Officer Bela Matyas said two health care workers tested positive for novel coronavirus at the state level, the CDC still needs to confirm the results.

Matyas said the two health care workers were exposed to a coronavirus patient while at the NorthBay VacaValley Hospital. That patient is currently being treated at UC Davis.

The two health care workers are being quarantined at home. One lives in Solano County, the other lives in Alameda County.

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Matyas said Solano County health care workers will now wear protective gear when seeing any patient who comes in with a respiratory illness, not just patients that have recently traveled. "What's new is that we're asking them to take droplet precautions, protect against droplets, for anyone that comes into the community that has lower respiratory infections," Matyas said.

He also added, health care workers have not shied away from treating any patient that may or may not have the virus.

"The healthcare workers of today I think recognize this is a part of their job. And the truth be told, coronavirus is not that scary. If you look at the disease, how it passes person-to-person, what kind of symptoms it causes, it is in very many respects what we see with influenza," Matyas said.

He said since SARS, our technology has advanced and allowed us to test for the virus quicker. "I think one of the stories that's been lost in this is how quickly we developed a test for it. Back about 20 years ago when we had SARS, it took much much longer. We didn't have the same technologies that we have today so we're able to move much more quickly today than we've been able to in the past," Matyas said.

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Right now officials are looking into who the health care workers had contact with including, patients, family members, and coworkers.

Also in Solano County, those currently under quarantine at Travis Air Force Base get to go home tomorrow. They were passengers of the Diamond Princess cruise ship which had hundreds of confirmed cases of the coronavirus on board in the beginning of February.

Unfortunately Rick and his wife Aldeana Saber were sent to quarantine at a military base in San Antonio, Texas, not Travis. "We have seen a few people be a little bit scared, perhaps rightfully so. But I think most of us in our complex of 144 are pretty realistic thinkers and I don't think any of us want to be back in our community with any potential for spreading the contagion," Saber said.

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"Exuberant, we're totally prepared to be back in society as we know it," Rick Saber said. He's in high spirits and said the CDC has taken exceptionally good care of them. "They have done wonders to try and make it as comfortable as they can and we've been in absolute comfort," Saber said.

Rick has been sharing his journey since it first started when they docked in Yokohama on February 3rd. He said when they evacuated the ship and boarded the evacuation plane it was only then they were told they were heading to a military base in San Antonio, Texas, not Travis.

To make matters worse, his wife Aldeana slipped and fell while departing the plane in the hangar. "She went down, so she's in a cast and she broke her wrist- that's the only real negative," Saber said.

Overall he said this experience has brought them a lot closer. "If anything it bonded my wife and I closer because we just faced it with all the realities that was necessary," Saber said.

The Sabers will be able to leave as soon as noon tomorrow.

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Alameda and Solano County residents should take these precautions to stop the spread of germs and prevent respiratory illnesses:

  • Wash hands with liquid soap and water and rub for at least 20 seconds
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing
  • Refrain from touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Get a flu shot to protect yourself and others from the flu, which has similar symptoms to COVID-19.
  • Officials say, "People who are well and healthy do not need to use a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory illnesses. A facemask can be worn for those who are coughing or sneezing to protect others from getting sick."

    "We remain actively involved with federal, state, and regional colleagues to ensure alignment with evolving guidance on protecting the health of our community and our health care workforce," said Colleen Chawla, Director, Alameda County Health Care Services Agency. "This is a community effort and we will need broad partnership. Our public health team will work with health care providers, schools, workplaces, community organizations, and others to mitigate the health and human impacts of this virus."

    Stay with ABC7 News for this developing story.