Outbreak etiquette

Dr. Peter Beilenson, the director of Sacramento County Department of Health Services, spoke about Sacramento's readiness for COVID-19 at OCA's community forum. (Photo: Nancy Chan)

Amid COVID-19’s wildfire spread, Sacramento leaders took time to remind the public that a potential pandemic doesn’t see race.

Asian-American advocacy organization OCA Sacramento hosted the March 4 community forum at Sacramento State University.

“The outbreak of COVID-19 has resulted in widespread fear, misinformation and conspiracy theories. Unfortunately, the target is the Asian-Pacific community,” said Janice O’Malley-Galizio, one of OCA Sacramento’s executive officers. “We’re working hard to present the facts of the disease and prevent future hate crime.”

The six-person panel included infectious disease specialist Archana Maniar, pediatrician and state Sen. Richard Pan and Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg. Maniar emphasized that while the novel coronavirus is concerning, communities need to see the bigger picture.

“In a way, we’re all potentially susceptible,” Maniar said. “Eighty percent of the people who have contracted it have had mild disease. Usually, the older populations have fared the worst in this outbreak, but for the average healthy host, most people have relatively mild fever.”

She reminded everyone to get flu shots since “the less symptoms you have, the less worries you have.”

“Active flu season means you need to think beyond the coronavirus. Soap and water work just fine,” Manier added. “You don’t need to buy $300 in hand sanitizer from Amazon.”

Pan agreed. “We don’t need to buy up all the sanitizers or all the wipes. Soap and water work really well,” Pan said. “A mask is not very effective [for prevention].”

The spread of COVID-19 has caused nationwide shortages of respirator face masks for medical professionals. The California Department of Public Health announced last week that it had received federal approval to tap its emergency reserves of 21 million N95 filtering masks. Pan said the masks only really make sense for health professionals and patients “who have actually been exposed” and are wearing them “to protect other people.”

As of March 10, California had 157 confirmed cases, not counting passengers from the Grand Princess cruise ship currently docked in Oakland. On Tuesday, Sacramento County announced the death of an assisted living facility resident in their 90s. Placer County has also recorded a COVID-19 death, and health officials say the virus is also in Yolo County.

Local hospitals “are quite well-prepared” and have a “quite decent” surge capacity, said Peter Beilenson, the director of the Sacramento County Department of Health Services.

Steinberg directly addressed cultural bias, saying “there is no reason or excuse to point the finger at any people,” and that he planned to order Chinese food after the forum.

“We must prevent the spread of this virus and at the same time spread good and accurate information,” the mayor added. “Let’s take it seriously, let’s do the common sense things to prevent the virus and stand up as we always do in Sacramento.”

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