With a rising death toll in China and cases popping up in California, the coronavirus epidemic has sparked concern but no infection within the Palo Alto community.
Despite rumors of its spread to Palo Alto High School families, Santa Clara County Public Health Department Director Sara Cody confirmed to Verde Magazine that there are no cases of coronavirus in Palo Alto as of early February.
“I’ve done nothing for the last three weeks but think about the coronavirus,” Cody said. “The risk to the community remains low.”
While the virus is largely contained within China, it still has an impact on the local community here in Palo Alto. Sam, a Paly student whose name has been changed to protect their identity, says they feel this influence.
“My dad and I are really scared of the coronavirus,” Sam said. “My mom was in China for Chinese New Year. Once the news that America was about to evacuate American citizens from China was out, my mom left China and came back to Palo Alto. She went into self-quarantine and thank God that she displayed no symptoms.”
Alex, a Paly student whose name has also been changed to protect their identity, is another whose family has been affected by the outbreak. After flying back from Wuhan to celebrate Chinese New Year with their family, Alex’s father quarantined himself for 14 days. With Alex’s grandparents stranded in the city and an aunt who works as a doctor in Wuhan, the disease hits close to home.
“I’m actually pretty concerned since my grandparents are the most vulnerable,” Alex said. “For my aunt, I’m a bit less afraid, but the fact that she will be working firsthand with patients is very scary.”
Alex also expressed concern over the number of unconfirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States.
“It’s somewhat concerning because that statistic only represents the amount of detected cases in our country. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were actually much more infected.”
“It’s somewhat concerning because that statistic only represents the amount of detected cases in our country,” Alex said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if there were actually much more infected.”
News of the coronavirus’ spread resulted in rumors of a Paly parent contracting the virus.
“To be honest, I think that is exactly my dad, but he doesn’t have it,” Alex said. “It just so happens that I told my friend that my dad flew back from Wuhan recently and then maybe the words somehow turned into ‘My dad has coronavirus,’ but rumors spread quickly. It doesn’t actually impact me, it just makes me annoyed that people are thinking like that.”
In response to the spread of the virus, the Palo Alto Unified School District is suggesting that students who have recently been to China or been in contact with someone who has recently visited China be quarantined for 14 days. Anyone who was in the Hubei province after Jan. 19 will face mandatory quarantine.
In Superintendent Don Austin’s Feb. 3 message regarding coronavirus, he promised that the district would work with students in quarantine to support continued learning throughout their absences.
In response to the virus, some Palo Alto residents have taken precautions — such as wearing masks — to prevent contracting the disease. Paly Health Technician Jennifer Kleckner simply recommends that students frequently wash their hands.
“Although we do understand that this confirmed case may raise concern, this one case, in fact, does not change the risk to the general public. Our assessment that the public at large is low risk.”
— Sara Cody, Santa Clara County Public Health Department director
“Since many of our residents travel frequently for business and personal reasons, we are not surprised to be announcing the first case in the Bay Area and in Northern California,” Cody said. “Although we do understand that this confirmed case may raise concern, this one case, in fact, does not change the risk to the general public.”
In comparison to other strains of coronavirus from the past, this “novel” coronavirus is spreading much faster, but with a lower fatality rate, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It has killed over 1,000 people in China.