As the entire nation goes into temporary societal isolation in response to the health threat posed by the coronavirus known as COVID-19 (Coronavirus), life in Ceres seemingly has come to a screeching halt.
Schools have been shut down, city recreation programs have been cancelled and the Ceres Street Faire will be postponed from its planned May 2-3 schedule.
On Monday, the Stanislaus County Health Services Agency reported the third county resident had tested positive for the virus. At least 32 individuals are awaiting results. The Health Department is monitoring 35 people.
The Stanislaus County Health Services Agency last week issued an order prohibiting all indoor and outdoor gatherings of more than 1,000 people through the end of March. The order could extend into April if needed.
Those orders were preempted on Monday when President Donald Trump issued guidelines limiting Americans’ lifestyle for a 15-day period beginning March 16 while warning the public health threat may not end until late summer. The guidelines ask that older Americans and those with underlying health conditions “stay home and away from other people.” Federal officials also ask everyone avoid social gatherings or groups of more than 10 people and refrain from eating or drinking in bars and restaurants; and “avoid discretionary travel, shopping trips and social visits.”
The California Public Health Department stated small gatherings in venues that do not allow for social distancing of at least six feet should be postponed or canceled.
Organizations and school districts across the county began canceling events before the county ban.
All schools in Ceres Unified School District (CUSD) will be temporarily closed through April 17, because of the pandemic. The decision was made Sunday afternoon after consulting with Stanislaus County school district superintendents.
CUSD, Hughson Unified, Modesto City Schools, Turlock Unified, Patterson Joint Unified, Sylvan Union and the 19 other school districts in the county have all closed.
CUSD employees and families were notified via email and ParentSquare, respectively.
CUSD will provide resources to ensure continuity of learning and nutrition for its students.
Breakfast and lunch pick-up will be available for K-12 students on a drive-through basis at the school they normally attend, weekdays between 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. through April 9. A student under 18 years of age must be present in the vehicle to receive the meals.
Educational materials will be provided for students at all grade levels.
“We intend to continue most high school classes online through Google Classroom, and have secured mobile hot spots that families of high school students without Wi-Fi may check out for home use,” CUSD stated in its coronavirus update notification to families. “These will be distributed in reverse grade level order, starting at 12th grade. Additional information will be forthcoming through ParentSquare. If there are enough additional hot spots to distribute to students in grades K-8, a notice will be sent to families … We understand the uncertainty families, staff, and our community may be feeling, and appreciate your partnership and support during this unprecedented time. Preventive measures remain the best course for protecting health and limiting the spread of COVID-19. We know there are likely to be questions, and we will continue to communicate through ParentSquare and update this webpage with new information and resources as we navigate this evolving situation.”
“There are times when the world gets very scary,” Siegel said. “We will get through this. It’s not going to be easy. There are going to be some difficulties. There will be an end to this and there will be better times on the other side.”
A number of churches suspended services over the weekend, many offering online broadcasts. Big Valley Grace cancelled services in the Ceres Community Center on Sunday, a measure that likely will continue for the interim. Other churches did meet, however.
On Monday Ken Lane, chairman of the Ceres Street Faire Committee, announced the 2020 Ceres Street Faire has been cancelled.
“As our school district, local government and public safety navigate the response to our state of emergency, it is important that we don't take attention from those efforts at this time,” Lane wrote in a statement. “The Center for Disease Control has issued the orders limiting public events for the next weeks. In light of this directive, we will need to postpone and reschedule the Street Faire. It's far more important for our local leaders to coordinate their support and relief efforts before we look to the status of the Street Faire. The Street Faire was created to promote our community and to provide a fundraising arm to our non-profits 32 years ago. As the situation develops, we will look towards a rescheduling plan that is best for our community.”
The city Recreation Department has closed its programs and classes temporarily through April 1, depending on state and federal public health directives. The city called 700 people on Friday to notify people of cancellations of rentals and programs. The city will be working on rescheduling events for rentals or offer a refund.
The big unknown is how long self-quarantining will be in effect. The city of Ceres is now uncertain about the future of the summer aquatics or summer camps program.
“This is going to be a situation that’s ever evolving, at least for a while,” said Community Development Tom Westbrook, who is preparing to become the interim city manager.
CSU campuses are taking a phased approach to a suspension of face-to-face classes at both the Turlock and Stockton campuses, Stan State officials wrote in an online statement. “To be clear, our campus currently remains safe. The following measures are being taken to mitigate risk to protect the health of our students, faculty and staff and to limit the spread of the COVID-19 within our campus communities.”
The three positive cases of COVID-19 in Stanislaus County involve men, one of whom came into contact with the virus on a Grand Princess cruise to Mexico and the other was from community transmission. The health department is working to determine the source of the individual’s infection and is conducting contact investigations for both.
The news of two positive cases in the county sparked a flood of shopping in the region, with consumers wiping out supplies of hand sanitizer, bottled water and toilet paper.
The wave of buying led the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office to issue a warning on price gouging.
“The price gouging law protects people impacted by an emergency from illegal price gouging on supplies and services,” District Attorney Birgit Fladager said in a released statement. “We will review any complaint carefully in order to protect our citizens in this time of declared emergency.”
California Penal Code Section 396 generally prohibits charging a price that exceeds, by more than 10 percent, the price of an item before a state or local declaration of emergency. This law applies to those who sell food, emergency supplies, medical supplies, gasoline, transportation, hotel accommodations, among other items and services. Violators of the price gouging statute are subject to criminal prosecution that can result in a one-year imprisonment in county jail and/or a fine of up to $10,000. The Attorney General’s Office and District Attorney’s Office may enforce this statute.
There are many factors that go into evaluating whether the price gouging prohibitions have been violated. The fact that a price has increased or is greater than what other similar establishments charge is not the sole determining factor. Often there are legitimate reasons that may justify a price increase. Complaints may be submitted to the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Because of the increased sales of food and sundry items, Save Mart Companies announced yesterday that due to increasing needs spurred by coronavirus, they have openings for close to 1,000 employees in their FoodMaxx, Lucky and Save Mart stores located throughout California and Northern Nevada, as well as their warehouses in Roseville and Merced. This includes in-store positions, drivers, and warehouse team members. Search here for information about what jobs are available in each location.
The Save Mart Companies operates 205 stores throughout California and Northern Nevada under the banners of FoodMaxx, Lucky and Save Mart. The Save Mart Companies is committed to sourcing a wide variety of local products to communities throughout California and Northern Nevada. In addition to its retail operation, the company also operates Smart Refrigerated Transport and is a partner in Super Store Industries (SSI), which owns and operates a distribution center in Lathrop and the Sunnyside Farms dairy processing plant in Turlock. For more information on the company, please visit: www.TheSaveMartCompanies.com.
Emanuel Medical Center in Turlock is taking steps to make sure they are prepared for the possibility that coronavirus could start to appear in the community.
“Emanuel Medical Center is monitoring information from federal, state and local public health agencies for current information on the coronavirus,” said Krista Deans, the communications manager for Tenet Healthcare’s Northern California Group. “Our hospital has taken the appropriate steps, including constructing designated screening areas, and we have trained professionals and the necessary equipment to react accordingly. As with any communicable disease, as our patients enter the hospital in areas such as emergency department or registration, hospital staff are questioning all of their recent travel and detailing symptoms. We evaluate relevant symptom criteria and implement contact airborne isolation, if required, without delay. Our clinical teams are in constant review of infection prevention processes and update patient screenings as recommended by the CDC.
“We have changed the way our hospitals are accessed to further increase our efforts to protect patients, visitors and employees,” said Deans. “We have created hand sanitization stations and are limiting access points to our hospitals to fewer entrances and exits for closer monitoring and evaluation. Emanuel Medical Center is committed to keeping our patients, our staff and our community safe.”
On Thursday, Gov. Newsom issued a new executive order further enhancing California’s ability to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The governor’s order:
• Waives the one-week waiting period for people who are unemployed and/or disabled as a result of COVID-19;
• Delays the deadline for state tax filing by 60 days for individuals and businesses unable to file on time based on compliance with public health requirements related to COVID-19 filings;
• Directs residents to follow public health directives and guidance, including canceling large non-essential gatherings that do not meet state criteria;
• Readies the state to commandeer property for temporary residences and medical facilities for quarantining, isolating or treating individuals;
• Allows local or state legislative bodies to hold meetings via teleconference and to make meetings accessible electronically;
• Allows local and state emergency administrators to act quickly to protect public health.
The California Department of Public Health reported there are 557 positive cases of COVID-19 in the state as of Friday. There have been seven deaths, which includes one non-California resident.
Six Bay area counties in California announced a "shelter in place" order Monday that will impact about 6.7 million people, who will be directed to stay inside their homes and away from others as much as possible beginning Tuesday, March 17 and lasting for the following three weeks, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Those counties include: San Francisco, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Marin, Contra Costa and Alameda. Those who violate the "directive" could face misdemeanor fines, San Francisco Mayor London Breed said at a Monday news conference; though officials emphasized enforcement would be their final option only if other methods failed. This is not a full lockdown that would actually forbid those individuals from leaving their homes; people will be allowed to go to grocery stores, gas stations, drug stores and pharmacies. Restaurants and bars will be allowed to provide takeout and delivery only. And people will be able to walk outside, provided they stay 6 feet (1.8 meters) away from others.
The state health department issued guidelines on Friday for entertainment venues, including casinos, theme parks and theaters. Casinos should: take steps to limit the number of customers in single room/space to 250 or less; increase frequency of cleaning of chips, shuffling machines, and other objects utilized in games; increase frequency of cleaning and/or disposal of playing cards; ensure that social distancing standards are met for non-family members and make clear that family members can participate in activities together, stand in line together etc.; and eliminate events/marketing that target individuals that are at higher risk of serious illness for COVID-19.
The Health Department recommended that theaters: keep attendance under 250 persons per individual theater and ensure that social distancing of six feet per person for non-family members is maintained and make clear that family members can sit together, stand in line together etc.; suspend reserved seating to allow patrons to self-separate; reduce capacity to 50-60 percent per showing; sanitize seats and tray tables between showings; increase spacing between show times to allow for more thorough cleaning of individual theaters; and have ushers monitor social distancing practices in theaters and encourage additional distance between guests as appropriate.
The new virus comes from a large family of what are known as coronaviruses, some causing nothing worse than a cold, but others cause more serious illnesses such as SARS. It causes cold- and flu-like symptoms, including cough and fever, and in more severe cases, shortness of breath. It can worsen to pneumonia, which can be fatal. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that symptoms can appear as quick as two days and up to 14 days after exposure. The average time before symptoms start to show is five days.
The virus has proven to be especially virulent for people over 60 years old and people with underlying health conditions, like heart and lung issues, diabetes, asthma, cancer, and auto immune diseases.
The viruses are common in many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats and it’s rare that animal coronaviruses can infect people and then spread between people, such as the case with this current coronavirus.
First detected in December, the virus is believed to have originated in a type of wild animal sold at a Wuhan, China market.
The CDC said person-to-person spread occurs mainly via respiratory droplets from when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza and other respiratory pathogens spread. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. It’s currently unclear if a person can get the novel coronavirus by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.
President Donald Trump on Friday declared the coronavirus pandemic a national emergency to free up money and resources to fight the outbreak, and then threw his support behind an aid package from Congress that is on track to provide direct relief to Americans. He released as much as $50 billion for state and local governments to respond to the crisis.
Trump also announced a range of executive actions, including a new public-private partnership to expand coronavirus testing capabilities with drive-through locations, as Washington tries to subdue the new virus whose spread is roiling markets, shuttering institutions and disrupting the lives of everyday Americans.
The best way to reduce your risk of getting sick, as with seasonal colds or the flu, still applies to prevent COVID-19:
• Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds;
• Cover your cough or sneeze;
• Stay home if you are sick;
• Get your flu shot to protect against flu or symptoms similar to COVID-19;
• Try alternatives to shaking hands, like an elbow bump or wave; and
• If you have recently returned from a country with ongoing COVID-19 infections, monitor your health and follow the instructions of public health officials.
(Kristina Hacker and Dale Butler also contributed to this article).