County prepares for spread of new disease

Misook Choe, a Laboratory Manager with the Emerging Infectious Disease branch at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, conducts studies in order to find a solution for the Coronavirus, March 3, 2020. The Emerging Infectious Diseases branch, established in 2018, has the explicit mission to survey, anticipate and counter the mounting threat of emerging infectious diseases of key importance to U.S. forces in the homeland and abroad.

JOSHUA TREE  — Though no cases of the new coronavirus have been reported in San Bernardino County, the county declared a public health emergency Tuesday morning in preparation for COVID-19 spreading into the county’s borders.

“You can’t go anywhere without talking to your neighbor and hearing about the coronavirus and how it’s affecting people across the country,” 4th District Supervisor Curt Hagman said at a county board of supervisors meeting Tuesday, March 10. “The county is prepared and is doing a lot of different actions behind the scenes. If and whenever it reaches our borders, we’re prepared.”

New guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that older people and those with severe chronic medical conditions stay at home as much as possible.

The county’s public health, emergency services and fire departments are making plans for how to respond if COVID-19 starts spreading throughout San Bernardino County.

County Director of Public Health Trudy Raymundo led a presentation at the supervisors’ meeting Tuesday, updating the supervisors and the public on the county’s preparedness and the COVID-19 spread.

Raymundo said the fatality rate for COVID-19 is 2.3 percent overall and 14.8 percent in patients over 80. Those numbers come from the largest study of the novel coronavirus to date, looking at 72,000 cases in China.

“We feel that rate is absolutely over-exaggerated,” Raymundo said. “In South Korea, the country that has done the most testing per capita, the mortality rate is only running at about 0.6 percent. As the denominator increases, that number will continue to go down.”

She stressed that it is highly unlikely, at this time, that the general public will be exposed to the virus. Those who are at high risk include health care workers and others who have been in contact with a COVID-19 patient and those who have traveled to countries where the virus is spreading: China, Iran, Italy, Japan and South Korea.

Many of the people who traveled to these countries are being monitored, including 52 people who came into San Bernardino County from a reparation flight from Wuhan, China, that landed at the March Air Force Reserve Base.

The county tested three people who could possibly have COVID-19 on Friday, March 6, at a public health lab. All three tests came back negative.

Based on those tests, the Public Health Department believes they have the capacity to run up to 30 tests a day, but they are still waiting on additional testing kits to come in from the state and federal government.

However, if they do run out of kits, private labs Quest and LabCorp announced Monday that they are able to test patients as well.

911 operators and

firefighters get new protocol

The San Bernardino County Fire Department is also training staff on ways to reduce the spread of disease as they respond to medical-aid calls for people experiencing possible COVID-19 symptoms.

San Bernardino County Fire Division Chief Kathleen Oplinger said 911 dispatch operators have a new list of questions to ask callers who have flu-like symptoms.

“Notes are put into the call and transmitted over the air,” she said. “One employee will go into the residence to minimize exposure.”

If that employee could have been exposed in any way to the virus, he or she will be quarantined until the original patient can be tested.

“We don’t want employees to bring anything back home to their families or on a call to someone who may be of a higher risk,” Oplinger said.

Although the county declared a public health emergency and Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency to help California prepare for the broader spread of COVID-19, the health risk to the general public in San Bernardino County remains low at this time.

Morongo Basin Healthcare District Director Joseph Sullivan said it is essential to have the facts and not let people be overwhelmed with misinformation or fears.

“This is one of those things that scare people to the core,” Sullivan said.

(9) comments


Opioids were involved in 47,600 overdose deaths in 2017


Not sure if you're aware, but overdoses aren't contagious.


And if you are a citizen that is 60 years or older, compromised health of any age, or a smoker the risks start to sky rocket. Not everyone is lucky enough to have great health.

Everyone needs to look out for each other and act responsibly individually and as a community, to protect your neighbors, family and friends that may be in the high risk category.


When Mr. Raymundo starts sneezing and coughing we'll all see just how "exaggerated" this really is. Just what we don't need- another Trump-like science denier in charge.


I heard from a reliable source today that High Desert Hospital already is treating two confirmed Corona Virus patients. Obviously someone is covering this up so as not to "panic" all of us. Nothing in the newspapesr or on radio. It's coverups and secrecy like this that panics me. If I'm somehow wrong please correct me, but this from a genuine source. I'm not into spreading fear, just truth. They're tracking everyone they might have come in close contact with.

don mckinney

I am not trying to create fear , but does any one see toilet paper on the shelves ? no need to panic . where is the drinking water on the shelves that NESTLE bottles millions of gallons per year for 524 dollars per year from Whitewater ? ? ? . best water around that should be pumped into the high desert . where is the drinking water now ? check the base . probably a lot there . where are the first responders now ? do they carry extra toilet paper ?


Paper goods completely decimated in 29. Thankfully I have a normal supply. I don't purchase bottled water. I filter my own.

The bread aisle was decimated as well. Evidently folks want to watch it grow mold in bulk.

Fresh produce gone as well. I guess Bugs Bunny ran wild.

Yup, Nestle rapes and pillages where ever it operates.

Branson Hunter

The absence of toilet paper is the least of your worries. Period. Grab a coffee filter...

Branson Hunter

Oops... Voice to Text wrote the word. And it should have been a punctuation marks. Hopefully nobody took that the wrong way, thank you

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