Riverside University Health System-Public Health (RUHS-PH) announced three new cases of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the Coachella Valley on Monday.

In a press release issued that same day, RUHS-PH wrote: “ … health investigators believe the three infections were either the result of travel into areas where COVID-19 has been confirmed, or contact with a known case.” Two individuals have been isolated at home and the third is receiving care at a Coachella Valley hospital. 

This is in addition to the confirmed case in Rancho Mirage over the weekend. The county, as of press time, has six confirmed cases. This includes the two cases from the Diamond Princess cruise ship. 

The press release also explains: “Community spread involves transmission of an illness for which the source of infection is unknown. It indicates that the virus was not contracted through relevant travel history or contact to a known case of COVID-19, and suggests that the virus is present in the community.”

Posted to Eisenhower Health’s Facebook page.
Image courtesy of Eisenhower Health

Dr. Cameron Kaiser, Riverside County public health officer, said he is “recommending those in the Coachella Valley who are elderly and have underlying health conditions, including individuals who are HIV positive, limit non-essential travel and avoid large public gatherings.”

“We have always known this was a possibility,” Kaiser said of the first locally acquired case. “We have been planning for weeks and are prepared to take the necessary steps to protect the health of our local community.”

RUHS-PH recommends all Riverside County residents practice social distancing, which is remaining out of places where people meet or gather and avoid using public transportation, if possible. It also recommends the following:

• Do not attend work, school or events when sick. Stay home. 

• Cough into your elbow or tissue.

• Wash hands frequently and use hand sanitizer often.

• Stay away from anyone who is sick.

Here are some additional tips from Rep. Raul Ruiz, M.D., CA-36. 

• Avoid being close to people who are visibly sick, coughing, or sneezing. 

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, mouth and face. 

• Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. 

• Disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces with Clorox or Lysol products. 

• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue you can discard, then immediately wash your hands. 

• Masks are recommended only if you have symptoms or if you are caring for someone with symptoms. 

Ruiz is currently serving as co-chair of the Congressional Coronavirus Task Force.

This past Sunday, “Kaiser declared a public health emergency, which will support the county’s planning and response efforts,” RUHS-PH announced in a press release. “It is also a strong signal to the community that the disease has been introduced to the area. The emergency declaration was set to be ratified by the Riverside County Board of Supervisors at their regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, March 10.”

Riverside County has already activated its department operations center (DOC) in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, according to a prior press release. The DOC is jointly operated by RUHS-PH and Riverside County Emergency Management Department. 

“The establishment of the DOC will allow us to better coordinate our response to the spread of COVID-19 and provide the public with the latest and most accurate information about what we are doing to prepare and the illness itself,” said Kim Saruwatari, director of public health.

Locally, Idyllwild School and Idyllwild Arts Academy are taking precautions.

“For the month of March all overnight field trips and field trips out of the county and trips to amusement parks are canceled,” wrote Idyllwild School Principal Matt Kraemer in an email. “This affected two field trips which were planned for this month. The eighth graders will still go to AstroCamp this month but they cannot stay overnight in the dorm rooms as planned. Parents will be driving them there and picking them up. The field trip for the instrumental music and choral students to Castle Park has been canceled. The district will evaluate the coronavirus on a monthly basis and will make a decision on April field trips by the end the month.”

Idyllwild Arts Academy has closed off its campus to all visitors until further notice. In addition, all field trips, off-campus music lessons and auxiliary programs are canceled until further notice. For more details, see the ad from Idyllwild Arts on page A2. 

For more information about COVID-19, visit Centers for Disease Control’s website at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html. Visit www.rivcoph.org for the latest news and information from Riverside County.