SAN MATEO, CA — San Mateo County Health issued a new health advisory Wednesday with recommendations to limit the surge of COVID-19 cases.
Health officials are emphasizing three core practices and the science behind them that everyone should follow.
County officials announced the advisory Wednesday in a news release.
The advisory follows the county’s decision not to join five other Bay Area counties and the city of Berkeley, which on Friday preemptively enacted stay-at-home orders amid an explosion of coronavirus cases in the Bay Area and throughout the nation.
San Mateo County Health Officer Dr. Scott Morrow said Monday that he didn’t believe at this point in the pandemic issuing tough new laws would accomplish much, if anything, and instead is appealing to the public’s sensibilities.
“The power and authority to control this pandemic lies primarily in your hands, not mine,” Morrow said.
The advisory reinforces recommendations and actions for the public. It can be viewed here.
“These preventive measures build upon guidance from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and new science emerging from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),” officials said.
Acknowledging that “pandemic fatigue” affects adherence to additional governmental restrictions, health officials emphasize three recommendations:
Always wear a mask in public, particularly when talking.
Insulate your household and any small, stable “Social Support Bubble” from the virus
Mask – Isolate – Quarantine – Test. Immediately for any symptoms, or after exposure.
“The surge of cases has been alarming, and we need to increase our response immediately,” Deputy Health Officer Dr. Curtis Chan said in a statement.
“We recommend that community leaders, health care, and public health work together more than ever. Community leaders have told us that people want to learn more about how transmission occurs. Clear information that the virus is transmitted by someone without having symptoms helps people plan their lives under pandemic rules and quickly respond if a household member develops symptoms.”
County officials said the advisory targets reducing transmission from social gatherings and among household members based. The agency said the advisory is driven by data driven by “science, epidemiology, and local case investigations.”
Dr. Catherine Sallenave, the County’s communicable disease controller, said in a statement that social gatherings including those within households and “particularly from asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic individuals” are playing a big role in the current surge.
“Our case investigators and contact tracers are listening to the worsening stress and circumstances that families are experiencing and hearing the need for psychosocial support to increase their wellness and ability to function in these unprecedented times,” Sallenave said.
The health advisory is clear to explain the science behind these measures. “The majority of transmissions occurs from people with no symptoms of COVID-19,” Chan said, “and airborne droplets are the primary way the disease spreads.
“This is why we’re emphasizing always wear face coverings even if you have no symptoms and particularly when you’re talking.”
To stop transmission from social gatherings, particularly among young adults, Dr. Vanessa de la Cruz, the county’s medical director of Behavioral Health and Recovery Services highlights the importance of a harm-reduction approach in limiting transmission.
“We’re trying to urgently change behaviors of people who haven’t been following health orders,” de la Cruz said in a statement.
“Behavioral health experts emphasize the importance of providing people with scientific information and facts.”
Health messages, she said, can be more effective if they allow individuals to maintain personal control and make a personal impact for their families and friends.
Infectious disease experts worked with behavioral health physicians to develop an approach to insulate households and “social-support bubbles” from the virus.
These social-support bubbles should be small (1-2 households) and stable, with the same members across periods of weeks. The function of social-support bubbles is to provide essential physical, emotional, and social support, county officials said.
With the epidemic worsening, it’s important to further insulate these households and social-support bubbles to prevent the virus from entering, county officials said.
“San Mateo County Health strongly discourages any social gatherings these next few weeks, particularly those across different households and those indoors,” county officials said.
The California Department of Public Health defines gatherings as social situations that bring together people from different households at the same time in a single space or place.
When people from different households mix, this increases the risk of transmission of COVID-19.
To minimize household transmission, County Health recommends immediate actions when symptoms develop, instead of waiting for test results.
Anyone developing symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 should IMMEDIATELY isolate themselves, mask all household members, quarantine household contacts then get tested.
Mask for all: The symptomatic individual and everyone else in the household should wear a mask. SARS-COV-2 is most infectious in the 2 days before, and the first 5 days after the onset of symptoms.
Isolate: The symptomatic individual should stay in a separate room and avoid common areas.
Open windows widely to increase ventilation, if possible.
Quarantine for household members and close-contacts should be considered.
Test the symptomatic person immediately, along with any contacts developing symptoms.
Individuals should also contact their personal health care provider, who can help individuals interpret the test, and decide if further isolation and quarantine is necessary.
Residents without a health care provider should call 211 to be connected to San Mateo County’s system of support.