Abby Marizette, dispatcher III at the Santa Cruz Regional 911 Center, deals with 911 calls for Watsonville Police Wednesday morning where protocol has changed due to coronavirus calls. — Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY—The World Health Organization on Wednesday classified COVID-19 as a pandemic, as lawmakers and leaders worldwide grapple with rapidly growing numbers of cases.

There are now more than 118,000 cases in 114 countries, and 4,291 people have died. Thousands more have been hospitalized, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom told the media Wednesday.

Adhanom said WHO expects the number of cases, deaths and affected countries will climb even higher.

“WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock and we are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction,” he said.

Locally, educators, elected officials and medical professionals are also looking for ways to limit the virus’s spread since two confirmed cases in Santa Cruz County were recently announced.

Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency on Monday released a set of “social distancing guidelines,” and a similar list for businesses, both of which recommend limiting large gatherings and letting employees work from home, among other things.

In an email on Wednesday, Cabrillo College Assistant Superintendent of Instruction Katherine Welch told instructors to begin transitioning away from in-person classes.

“At this time, we are asking faculty to transition to online classes as soon as possible,” Welch wrote.

“For each face-to-face class, the instructor will need to determine how content can be delivered and outcomes accomplished to make it possible for students to complete this semester in these unusual circumstances,” she said.

Cabrillo spokeswoman Kristin Fabos said Wednesday that classes were continuing as scheduled. She did not give a timeline for the transition to online classes.

UC Santa Cruz suspended most of its in-person classes on Tuesday.

Capitola/Soquel Little League has cancelled its Sunday opening day ceremony.

School districts throughout Santa Cruz County have cancelled field trips outside the county.

Pajaro Valley Unified School District Superintendent Michelle Rodriguez on Tuesday issued a set of cleaning and sanitizing requirements for school employees, most of which must be completed at least daily.

Dennis Kidd, the general manager of the Santa Cruz Regional 911 center, said that all employees there are required to sanitize their hands before they enter the workspace. They have also been instructed to avoid switching workstations, and to use a protective cover for their keyboards.

“Of course, if someone gets sick, they are not coming to work,” Kidd said.

Dispatchers are also more careful when they send emergency workers on an emergency call, Kidd said.

This includes asking if the caller, or anyone in their family, has been in contact with someone with COVID-19. They also ask if they have a fever.

A ‘yes’ answer for either question means that the emergency responders will wear personal protective gear, and ask the caller to meet them at the door, Kidd said. 

“We’re trying to help them understand the exposure they are walking in to,” he said.

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General assignment reporter, covering nearly every beat. I specialize in feature stories, but equally skilled in hard and spot news. Pajaronian/Good Times/Press Banner reporter honored by CSBA.


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