UPDATE: SLO County patient tests negative for coronavirus

Posted at 3:49 PM, Mar 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-05 23:58:23-05

UPDATE (8 p.m.) - San Luis Obispo County Public Health officials announced Thursday night that the results for the patient being tested for coronavirus infection came back negative.

Health officials say the department tested the individual “out of an abundance of caution.”

County Public Health sent the specimen to the California Department of Public Health Laboratory for testing, which was able to perform the test days sooner than the state had previously stated.

(3:49 p.m.) - San Luis Obispo County Public Health officials say a local patient is being tested for possible coronavirus infection.

Specimens taken from the patient were reportedly submitted to a California Department of Public Health Laboratory for testing. Results are expected this weekend.

Health officials say the patient had mild symptoms and was in contact with travelers from an area with widespread transmission of COVID-19 and who were also sick.

The patient has now fully recovered and Public Health says no one else the patient has been in contact with has shown symptoms of the illness.

Health officials say the patient has cooperated with home isolation and daily monitoring from health department staff.

“In keeping with due diligence and our testing protocols, we have decided to proceed with testing this specimen although our suspicion of illness remains low,” said Health Officer Dr. Penny Borenstein.

While health officials await the results of that test, they say there have been no other confirmed cases of COVID-19 in San Luis Obispo County.

Santa Barbara County also says it has no confirmed cases of the disease at this time.

Health officials in both counties told KSBY on Wednesday that they are monitoring people who have recently traveled and may or may not have shown symptoms of coronavirus infection. SLO County Public Health explained that they make contact with those people over the phone daily for 14 days to ask if they have developed any symptoms and confirm that they have stayed home and avoided contact with others. If a person being monitored were to develop any symptoms, health officials said they would be tested.

“While concern, precaution, and preparedness are good for us, panic is not. We need to all work together to keep our community safe and healthy,” Dr. Borenstein said. “The risk to the general public at this moment remains low. We assure the public that we will notify our residents if and when we do have a confirmed case in our county.”

Currently, San Luis Obispo County does not have the ability to test for coronavirus at its Public Health Laboratory. Any specimens will instead be sent to a state public health lab for testing.

However, SLO County health officials say they expect to have in-house testing capabilities in the next few days, which will provide faster results.

On Wednesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in California following the state's first fatality from coronavirus.

In that case, Placer County Public Health officials said an elderly patient with underlying medical conditions died after likely becoming infected on a cruise to Mexico from Feb. 11-21.

That same cruise ship, the Grand Princess, was being held off the coast of San Francisco on Thursday until passengers could be tested for potential coronavirus infection.

Health officials offered the following tips to help prevent the spread of viruses, such as the flu or coronavirus:

  • Get your flu shot to protect against flu, which can produce symptoms similar to novel coronavirus.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or in your elbow.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick and avoid contact with others.
  • If you're sick with a contagious illness, call your health care provider or clinic before you arrive. They will provide you with special arrival instructions to avoid infecting others.
  • Don't go to the emergency room unless you have a medical emergency.
  • Think twice about travel to other countries where community spread is present. See CDC travel advisories.