3/13/20: In Encinitas, We’re Fighting Coronavirus on Many Fronts

Things are moving fast in Encinitas on the coronavirus front. I spent most of the day on the phone with representatives from the organizations and partners in our city and am impressed with everyone’s unified commitment to initiate rapid and sensible actions in order to keep us safe. 

Today all the city’s K-12 schools announced closures for at least two weeks, some schools for four weeks. A large number of sports teams, faith communities, community colleges and community organizations like the YMCA, libraries and the Boys & Girls Clubs have suspended youth, senior and other programs. Some of these facilities are remaining open, even though group activities are cancelled.

The Community Resource Center remains open with some changed protocols, including volunteers “shopping” in the Food and Nutrition Center instead of the participants. More information from the CRC is here.

The Encinitas COVID-19 patient

Several people have written to me with questions about the “presumptive positive” coronavirus patient being treated at Scripps Hospital in Encinitas. Unfortunately because of medical privacy laws, the county health department and the hospital are not releasing any news about where he lives, how he contracted it, or who he may have been in contact with.

The only thing I’ve been told is that the patient is a male in his 50s. My understanding is that the county health department is investigating the circumstances of his illness. Hopefully they will release more information soon, because we all want to know. Here’s a Coast News article about it.  

Reacting to the news of this local COVID-19 patient, some readers have expressed concern about their safety if they need to visit Scripps Hospital. The patient is in a negative pressure room designed to contain viruses. The hospital said in a statement that the rest of the facility is unaffected and safe for patients. 

Meanwhile, Scripps hospitals throughout the county are executing a specialized, larger-scale response plan to deal with coronavirus, including “surge tents” for screening and drive-up options. There’s already one at Scripps La Jolla called a “COVID Cabana.” 

In addition, Scripps has launched a COVID-19 nurse line at 888-261-8431 that connects patients to a team of nurses dedicated to screening people with symptoms associated with the coronavirus. Here’s a great article from Scripps with more information. They are staffed 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

According to Scripps, patients with fever and/or respiratory symptoms should call the dedicated phone line first before coming to any Scripps facility. They should not just walk in and should not use the Scripps online scheduling system for appointments. Apparently a provider meets the person in their vehicle, provides them with a mask and performs the testing and evaluation while they stay in the car.

Coronavirus testing update

Information about coronavirus testing remains obscure and sometimes contradictory. This L.A. Times article, Problems mount with coronavirus testing, limiting access and sowing confusion, explains the situation. 

Relatively few tests have been performed in the county, and the situation hasn’t improved much since yesterday. According to the County Health Department, 145 tests have been done. You may recall that yesterday the figure was 115 tests. In a county with 3.3 million people, that’s an abysmally small number. If we are going to meaningfully tackle this rapidly spreading problem, we have to know who has the virus. Here is the county health department link with the number of cases.

I know that priority for testing is being given to the sickest patients and people who fit the federal guidelines about having traveled, contacted another sick traveler, and have coronavirus symptoms – typically a dry cough and fever.

My husband sees patients as a primary care Physician Assistant (PA) in North County, and he’s shared that some patients without symptoms (termed the “worried well”) are seeking the coronavirus test.  At this point, with limited tests available, the test isn’t being offered to patients who aren’t symptomatic.

If you have very mild symptoms of a cold and are otherwise healthy, consider staying home and self-monitoring to provide the capacity for more sick people in the hospital. If you have more severe symptoms such as difficulty breathing or fatigue and weakness that makes it hard to move around, then seek emergency care right away. 

Our seniors need your help

For the able-bodied and entirely healthy, our city has the need for volunteers to help assist our senior community. Every weekday, the Senior Center offered hot meals to seniors, which was a wonderful service that I witnessed several times. Now that the luncheon is not available because the Senior & Community Center is closed, the city is planning to deliver meals to seniors.

If you would like to volunteer to help our seniors who need assistance with driving or errands in this trying time, please email Travis Karlen at tkarlen@encinitasca.gov or call 760-943-2256. (The email will be monitored over the weekend but if you call you likely won’t hear back until Monday.) Thank you in advance for stepping up to help!

Let’s not hoard!

Signs announce shortages at local CVS and Costco locations.

If you’ve been to the supermarket over the last few days, you’ve seen that many people are buying huge quantities of supplies. It started with items like toilet paper and hand sanitizer, but now pasta, milk and other basics are also running very low in some stores. I urge everyone to buy what you need for a modest cushion, but to allow others the chance to buy these staples too.

I remember the turn of the millennium, Y2K doomsday prepping; predictions about gas shortages caused long lines at the gas pumps and so on. It was entirely unnecessary. I know it’s hard to resist the hoarding urge when everyone in the market seems to be snatching every last item off the shelves. We all need to pull together and make sure these staples remain for everyone. The vast majority of us should be able to safely and calmly go to the supermarket in a few days.

On another issue, I’ve been in contact with some of our local businesses and we need to make sure to help them stay in solvent during this health crisis. Let’s not forget them. Ordering food to be delivered or picking up food from restaurants is always a good option if you’re trying to limit exposure. 

Encinitas City Council and the commission meetings are currently still scheduled to take place. The number of chairs in the dais will be halved, so that the social distancing requirements can be maintained. If we need to teleconference, we will do so. The public is encouraged to watch the council meetings live from home on the city’s website, and to send comments through email to council@encinitasca.gov if someone does not feel comfortable attending. Here’s a comprehensive update of public meeting, closures and other details from the city that was posted Friday night.

And lastly, let’s be compassionate and helpful to those whose lives have been upended by this crisis – kids out of school, work schedules scrambled, and incomes disrupted. Please be on the lookout for those in need and assist them if you can. Acting together, with calm, grace and generosity, we’ll come through this as a stronger community. 

With gratitude for all that our community is and does,

Coronavirus Resources