As Coronavirus gets closer, Orange County Prepares

A man wears a mask to avoid the coronavirus as thousands visit the Staples Center after Kobe Bryant's death. Picture taken by Cynthia Molina on February 2, 2020 at 1:49 p.m.

Cynthia Molina

A man wears a mask to avoid the coronavirus as thousands visit the Staples Center after Kobe Bryant's death. Picture taken by Cynthia Molina on February 2, 2020 at 1:49 p.m.

Cynthia Molina, Reporter

A man in his 50’s in Placer County is the first person in California to die from COVID-19 better known as the coronavirus.

There have been 17 deaths in the United States — 15 in Washington State and now two in California.

Californians might not know that there isn’t just one coronavirus. In fact, it is a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe symptoms. Some symptoms include: fever, cough, and breathing difficulties.

The World Health Organization has set guidelines to avoid getting infected. It is recommended to wash your hands and cover your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, and to avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing. If unsure about being infected by the virus, they recommend to contact your doctor.

The coronavirus began in Wuhan, China. Dr. Li Wenliang worked at Wuhan Central Hospital when he came across the virus and was infected. Days after, he was asked by Chinese officials to sign a letter stating he was making “false statements,” and was told to stop spreading rumors. 

On January 10, 2020, in his post, Wenliang experienced coughing, had a fever, and two days later was admitted to the hospital.

Wenliangs’ health worsened as the disease spread throughout Wuhan.

On January 30, 2020 he was diagnosed with the coronavirus. By February, Wenliang was dead.

The Trump administration has prevented entrance by most foreign nationals who have recently visited China. Flights have been temporarily restricted by American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines between the United States and China for several months. 

Apple Inc.’s production has slowed and business has been affected because of the outbreak in China. Apple closed all 42 stores in China from February 2 to February 9 because of the coronavirus. So far only 29 out of the 42 stores have reopened. Apple is highly dependent on Chinese factories to make their products.

As China reopens its factories, the supply of smartphones may decrease because production is expected to be slower as workers slowly return after the mandated quarantine.

As of March 10, 2020, there are 113,702 confirmed cases and 4,012 deaths worldwide which includes China with 80,924 confirmed cases and 3,140 deaths.

As the outbreak of the coronavirus continues with five confirmed cases in Orange County, a suspension on travel from Europe that starts Friday, March 13 and the National Basketball Association suspending their season, Orange County residents take precautions.

Courtesy of Orange County Department of Health
This infographic was sent in an email by Superintendent Jerry Almendarez on March 5, 2020, to all SAUSD staff to share with parents and students.

Ricardo Franco, a Family Services Assistant and Community Engagement Specialist who works in Fullerton, Calif., is one of many in Orange County who is taking precautions at work. Franco was told to stay home if sick or showing any severe symptoms. 

“Some recommendations that we received is to stay home if we are sick, seek immediate medical attention if our symptoms become severe, and use preventative steps such as covering ourselves with tissues or sleeves while sneezing and coughing, and wash our hands with soap and lukewarm water,” said Franco. 

The Orange County Department of Health also told Franco and other OC city specialists to disinfect their desks and other frequently touched surfaces and have cleaning supplies including bleach, wipes and hand sanitizer. 

“There is no reason to panic. I recommend everyone to watch the news and to contact the OC Department of Health for any changes or updates in regards to the spread of the coronavirus in Orange County,” Franco said.

Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) has touched on precautions against the coronavirus. Schools are operating normally and informed about the disease from health experts such as the Los Angeles County and state health departments. 

LAUSD has also made plans to extend the school year if actions need to be taken including school closures if the disease does spread to the Los Angeles area. 

“We’re also making plans for learning to continue at home if any schools are going to be closed, as well as the possibility of extending the school year to make up for any disruption to the school calendar, if necessary,” said Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner.

we will be notified immediately if there is a case of the coronavirus that impacts our students”

— Superintendent Jerry Almandarez

As LAUSD takes action, Santa Ana Unified School District (SAUSD) Superintendent Jerry Almendarez, has reached out to SAUSD parents and community. Just like LAUSD, classes are still taking place in SAUSD and will continue unless otherwise notified. 

As of March 5, 2020, SAUSD Superintendent Almendarez in an email, instructed the SAUSD community that it is safe for students to still attend school. He has also reassured parents, students, and staff that there has been no cases of the deadly disease in Santa Ana. 

Almendarez mentioned that the district will be hosting several family and community information sessions at various schools throughout the district. The sessions will take place at SAUSD elementary, middle, and high schools to have open communication with parents. 

Recommendations on how to protect the community from the coronavirus was listed on the email as well. Simple tasks are asked to be taken, including: washing hands, avoid contact with people who are sick and stay home if symptoms show of a high fever and cough.

“We continue to work closely with the OCHCA (Orange County Health Care Agency) and other local agencies to stay informed on new information as it becomes available. OCHCA has assured us that we will be notified immediately if there is a case of the coronavirus that impacts our students,” said Almendarez.

School nurse, Victoria Bainbridge, RN, at Godinez Fundamental High School (GFHS) is receiving updates frequently from her boss and the district. 

The coronavirus has so many people worried as well as myself”

— Senior, Aileen Flores

Bainbridge said, “the district is always keeping us updated regarding the advancement of the coronavirus. There’s not too much known about it and that’s developing everyday.”

For SAUSD school nurses, there is a plan in place if the coronavirus causes schools to shut down.

“Any disease can cause the school to shut down, not just the coronavirus, so we are always watching attendance rates and clusters of disease and at that point the health department will step in and they will decide if the school will close down,” said Bainbridge. She added, “there’s always a chance that student activity will be adjusted.”  

Breanna Morquecho, a senior in SAUSD at Segerstrom High School, found out about the disease through social media posts and jokes that were told. At one point, a fake social media post went out that a Segerstrom student had the disease. Almendarez’s office quickly issued a statement that said there was no ill student and the post was a hoax. 

Morquecho knows it was a hoax but is cautious about being infected.

She stated, “I know it’s a virus that’s really contagious, the only way I know how to prevent it is to keep washing my hands and making sure not to touch over used things and just be careful.” 

“I’m not necessarily worried about it because it’s inevitable at this point and it all depends on each person, because it affects everyone differently,” said Morquecho. 

GFHS student, Aileen Flores, admits she is worried about the coronavirus and does enough to prevent it. 

“The coronavirus has so many people worried as well as myself,” said Flores. “From what I know about this disease, it’s spreading fast and killing so many innocent people.”

Flores worries about when the disease will come to an end.

Unlike Morquecho, Flores is worried about the disease and will continue to drink as much water possible and keep her hands clean.

But as the death toll rises and the disease continues to spread in the United States, it is important to stay away from people who are sick and show symptoms of the disease, wash your hands and stay home if sick.

“It’s kind of scary, but things happen and that is life,” said Morquecho.

Over the past several weeks, SAUSD has activated its Emergency Operations Command in order to ensure clear communication amongst departments and local health and safety agencies. And for now, all SAUSD schools plan to stay open, until further notice.

Update: On Thursday, March 12th, SAUSD canceled all sporting and performing arts events until further notice. SAUSD, on Friday, March 13th, closed schools till April 13th.