SANTA CRUZ COUNTY—Since COVID-19 was first identified in Wuhan, China in late December, healthcare professionals, elected leaders and everyday citizens around the world have been looking for answers and trying to unsnarl the constantly-changing situation.
There are now more than 118,000 cases in 114 countries, and at least 4,200 people have died. Thousands more have been hospitalized, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom told the media Wednesday.
The WHO classified COVID-19 as a pandemic, as lawmakers and leaders worldwide grapple with rapidly growing numbers of cases.
Santa Cruz County officials on Thursday evening announced three more cases, bringing the total here to seven.
The county is now considered to have “community spread,” county spokesman Jason Hoppin said.
Hoppin did not provide any other details about the cases but said the county expects there to be more.
“We’re really trying to get people to shift their focus to their mitigation strategies,” he said.
That includes practicing good hygiene and following a set of “social distancing guidelines” released Monday by the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency. A similar list was also released for businesses. Both recommend limiting large gatherings and letting employees work from home, among other things.
Pajaro Valley Unified School District on Thursday closed Rio Del Mar Elementary School for two days after a person there tested positive for coronavirus.
District officials have not released any information about the person, except that they were last at the school on Feb. 28. Monday will be the end of the two-week incubation period suggested for coronavirus-related school closures, PVUSD spokeswoman Alicia Jimenez said.
The district has also cancelled its out-of-county field trips.
At Watsonville Community Hospital (WCH), security guards at the main entrance and the emergency entrance are stationed in red tents, screening everyone wishing to enter to make sure they do not have flu-like symptoms.
The hospital is also restricting visitors to one at a time. Children under 12 are not allowed to visit.
“Our goal is to make the hospital safe for our patients, our staff and our physicians,” said Dan Brothman, CEO of Halsen Healthcare, which owns WCH.
Yellow tents at the entryways also stand ready in case the numbers of patients needing care increases, Brothman said.
“We feel confident we’re ready to go if we have a large number of patients,” he said.
The City of Watsonville has cancelled its Friday farmers market and its annual Earth Day event, as well as community census activities.
The Gene Hoularis and Waldo Rodriguez Youth Center, the Watsonville Police Activities League, the Environmental Science Workshop and the Nature Center will be closed, as will the Watsonville Senior Center.
The Watsonville closures last through April 3.
“The City will also strongly advise our community organizations to also adhere to State and County guidance to close or cancel activities during this closure period,” City Manager Matt Huffaker said.
While the Main and Freedom branch libraries will remain open for now, library programming will be canceled, he said.
The City will also be making accommodations to waive all utility billing late fees and shutoffs until further notice, Huffaker said.
Customers are encouraged to pay online or over the phone at 768-3455.
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.”
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 has suspended nearly all of its in-person classes, and moved them online.
The case at Rio Del Mar marked one of two additional confirmed cases in the county Wednesday.
The other case is a patient who had symptoms of COVID-19 on Tuesday night. The patient is isolated and hospitalized in a different county and is recovering.