Merced County provides coronavirus hotline and webpage

MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- Merced County is taking steps to keep the community informed about developments with the coronavirus, while also working to prevent panic.

Interim County Health Officer, Ken Bird, MD MPH, gave a detailed look at the coronavirus during Tuesday's Board meeting. He spoke about several topics, including symptoms, prevention measures, and the latest statistics.

He explained, "It has a case fatality rate of somewhere between 2-4%. That is significantly lower than what we saw in SARS."

There are currently confirmed cases of COVID-19 in a number of neighboring counties, including Fresno and Madera. The Merced County Public Health Department is reporting no confirmed cases, but it did recently monitor 16 people who were considered at risk due to travel.

Dr. Bird says, "All 16 of those passed by their 14 day quarantine period without any symptoms so they have presented no danger to community transmission here in Merced County."

Action News has learned a student at the Sierra Academy of Aeronautics near Atwater just returned from a trip to South Korea this weekend and is currently self-isolating as a precaution. He will only be tested for the virus if he shows symptoms.

Right now, there are two designated facilities in the county that are set up to safely collect samples.

Dr. Bird adds, "It's actually what we call a nasopharyngeal swab. It goes back to the back of the nose, and the other is a swab of the back of the throat, and both of those are put into a transport media and sent to the lab for testing."

Merced County launched an Operations Center on January 27 to coordinate testing, monitoring, reporting, and the flow of information. Health officials are providing guidance for local healthcare providers, first responders, and schools.

They've also set up a hotline and a page on the county's website to share ongoing updates about the coronavirus.

The hotline number is 209-381-1180. Information is available in English, Spanish, and Hmong. You can also get help online.

Merced County Public Health Director Rebecca Nanyonjo-Kemp, DrPH, says, "Please reference those resources for your own personal and professional protection, and hopefully Merced County will go through this unscathed, but if not we're prepared in the event the situation does change."

Health officials are also still urging residents to use good hygiene, stay at home if you're sick, and contact your local health department if you believe you may have been exposed to the coronavirus.
Copyright © 2020 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.