March 11, 2020
TO: Community-Based Organizations
FROM: Wilma J. Wooten, M.D., M.P.H.,
Public Health Officer & Director,
Public Health Services
RE: COVID-19 PLANNING AND RESPONSE EFFORTS
I am sending you this communication on behalf of the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) Public Health Services (PHS) department (local health department). The novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) global outbreak is rapidly changing day-to-day.
It is important to know that while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers that this is a serious public health threat, currently, the risk for the general American public remains low. That could, however, change at any time as the situation remains fluid. Globally, as of March 8, 2020, at 3:00PM, there have been over 109,832 cases and 3,803 deaths associated with COVID-19. Nationwide, there have been 537 confirmed cases in the United States (U.S.), including 114 in California, with numbers changing by the hour. It is important for you and your organization(s) to continue to follow updates on the local, state, national, and global situations, as the virus inevitably will continue to spread for some time.
Community-acquired infections have occurred in various U.S. locations. Even though we only have one presumptive positive, travel-related case in San Diego County, in the last week the disease has spread to over 100 countries, and therefore, we must be prepared for an imminent outbreak. Adding urgency to our collective efforts, please note that the World Health Organization declared a pandemic on March 11, 2020.
As a community serving organization, the County is asking you to share the following information with your leadership, employees, volunteers, clients, and families, as well as begin planning efforts for your organization. Included in this communication are links to some key interim guidance, which is based on what is currently known. As further guidance is developed, this information will be posted on our County website.
• CDPH Guidance for Mass Gatherings and Large Community Events March 7, 2020
• CDC Interim Guidance for Community and Faith-Based Organizations, March 3, 2020
• CDC Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), February 2020
• CDC Faith-Based Community Checklist
• CDC Preparing for the Flu: A Communication Toolkit for Community and Faith-Based Organizations
• CDC – Influenza (Flu) Planning for Community and Faith-Based Organizations
• CDC Flu Pandemic Resources Spanish Checklist
In addition, this letter provides guidance to you, your leadership, and your organization to prepare for a COVID-19 outbreak. At this time, the County encourages your organization to:
• Sign up to get County News Center stories emailed directly to you here and encourage your staff to do the same;
• Review and disseminate the County of San Diego Fact Sheets to your staff;
• Develop and implement strategies to protect your workforce from COVID-19, while ensuring continuity of operations. (CDC recommends that during a COVID-19 outbreak, all sick employees should stay home and away from the workplace, respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene should be encouraged, and routine cleaning of commonly touched surfaces should be performed regularly);
• Review your organization’s Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP);
• Develop or update policies and procedures regarding sick leave;
• Develop or update policies and procedures regarding telecommuting (i.e., working from home);
• Develop or update policies and procedures regarding other social distancing strategies, such as videoconferencing for meetings and canceling large events;
• Develop or update pandemic planning documents;
• Develop or update any other guidance documents specific to your community serving organization to contain the spread of COVID-19; and
• Ensure review of all of the above documents by your leadership, employees, volunteers, and contractors.
The County of San Diego has an established preparedness and response system in place. This process brings together surveillance, criteria to guide evaluation of a patient under investigation, epidemiological investigation, public health laboratory testing, education and outreach, and levels of response. To date, the County has taken numerous actions in accordance with the Consumer Version of the COVID-19 Response Plan.
I want you to know that we are all in this together with one singular mission, to protect the public and prevent the spread of this virus. I want to emphasize that your decisive leadership, action, and support are essential, and your partnership is greatly appreciated. If your employees or clients have questions or concerns related to COVID-19, please encourage them to call 2-1-1 for general information.
For additional information about the outbreak and associated resources, please go to the coronavirus websites at CDC and the County of San Diego. There you will find the latest CDC guidance and local information, respectively. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me at MOC.PHO.HHSA@sdcounty.ca.gov.
Thank you for your continued partnership and support to keep the residents of San Diego County healthy, safe, and thriving.
WILMA J. WOOTEN, M.D., M.P.H.
Public Health Officer & Director
Public Health Services
cc: Helen Robbins-Meyer, County of San Diego, Chief Administrative Officer
Nick Macchione, County of San Diego, Health and Human Services Agency, Director