3/12/20: First Coronavirus Case in Encinitas as City Responds

At the City of Encinitas, our response to the coronavirus pandemic has dominated the last 48 hours. I’m sending you this week’s newsletter early because of the urgency of communicating with you about the situation.

The first thing I want you to know is that we’re taking every step possible to maintain essential city services and to protect the public – physically and emotionally.

Please reach out to me about anything you would like to see from your city government that isn’t happening already. We are here to help. The safety of our residents, especially our more vulnerable senior population, is of paramount importance to us. 

According to the federal government, the coronavirus approach is “locally executed, state-managed, and federally supported.”  The city has been in constant contact with partners both up and downstream, including the county health department, other cities, Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas, our local MiraCosta Community College and the K-12 school districts, along with many community partners. 

Flattening the curve

As of today, there are six confirmed coronavirus cases in San Diego County, with one patient at Scripps Encinitas in a negative pressure room specially designed for viruses such as this. We’ve all watched other parts of the country and world become overwhelmed as the multiplier effect reaches them.

We are trying to do our part to “flatten the curve,” recognizing that we are quickly reaching a time where coronavirus is already spreading in the community. 

Our city’s core functions, including fire, marine safety, and public works, need to remain functioning at the highest levels. At the Encinitas Fire Department, the crews are on the front lines of dealing with sick and injured residents. Thankfully, the fire department currently has the protective gear needed so that firefighters who come in contact with an infected person can avoid infection themselves. These protective kits include eye protection, a gown, a mask for the patient, and an N95 mask for the provider. The city has cancelled public tours of fire stations and other public buildings such as city hall.

Many local people’s lives have already seen disruptions. College students are coming home from closed schools and many, many events and venues (like Disneyland) are closed or have been cancelled. Our Encinitas State of the City address has been postponed; the SANDAG board retreat was cancelled; a San Diego Chamber of Commerce Binational Delegation to Mexico City was postponed, and so on. 

Events that bind us together as humans – weddings, memorial services, fundraisers, birthday parties and community events, are rightly being cancelled or postponed.

It strikes me that in times of crisis, people are naturally inclined to pull together and help one another, but “social distancing,” “self-quarantines,” and “isolation” make that tough. We want to gather with others to provide support, bear witness to life’s events and figure out ways to help, but we know that will increase our chances for infection. It creates a push-pull feeling inside – wanting to be with others, yet fearing them. 

But on the upside, never before have we had such tools to stay connected, even when we can’t be close to one another physically. We’ll be leaning into these devices even more in coming days and weeks.

Here are some links you might find useful:

Coronavirus Resources

Listening to The Daily podcast from The New York Times as I got ready this morning, I was struck by the contrast between how we in the U.S. are dealing with COVID-19 and how the two countries with rapidly declining numbers of cases confronted the virus. China and South Korea completely isolated sick people from the rest of their families and communities. China has reportedly cut its epidemic from over 3,500 new cases a day in late January to only 24 new cases yesterday.

In China, they aggressively separated sick people from their closest family members, a move that’s been described as brutal and draconian. When someone tested positive for fever, that person was immediately sent to an isolation center and not allowed to go home. Anyone who even might have the virus was not allowed to return. There was no “home quarantine” to avoid infecting family members. 

Here, in a country with a vastly different political culture and an individual-rights-based legal system, that immediate and inflexible quarantine approach doesn’t seem likely. Even getting a person tested remains difficult, with only 115 tests having been administered in San Diego County as of this evening.

At this time, the City of Encinitas is focusing on following guidelines from California and the county’s public health officials – mandatory cancelling of public events larger than 250 people, increased cleaning protocols at city-controlled sites, including the Encinitas and Cardiff libraries, Senior & Community Center, and City Hall, planning for smaller gatherings to maintain a six foot distance between people, and instituting protocols for our city staff, public safety personnel and public works employees to stay well.

Tomorrow, the city will announce its plans for the community events, sports and the senior lunches that are provided at the Senior & Community Center. We are coordinating with the city’s seven residential care facilities that provide more than 1,000 beds in Encinitas for skilled nursing, assisted living, independent living and others. Significant visitor restrictions are recommended by the county’s health department. 

Protecting you is our highest priority. As a resilient and proactive community, I have every confidence that, working together, we’ll come through this difficult time. Let’s move forward with a sense of hope, humanity and kindness toward others.

In service,