A security guard stands watch over the only open entrance for Mee Memorial Hospital in King City on Thursday. In the background is the new triage tent set up on the southeast side of the parking lot. Such tents have been set up at county hospitals with the intention of isolating patients who exhibit potential symptoms of COVID-19 for purposes of evaluation and testing. (Photo by Sean Roney)

MONTEREY COUNTY — Two new cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) were reported Thursday in Monterey County, bringing the countywide total to four patients so far.

Following the county’s first positive COVID-19 cases announced earlier this week, Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System says an increase in the reported cases is “unfolding as expected.”

In a press release March 19, Salinas Valley Memorial confirmed that two more patients had tested positive for the virus after they arrived separately at the Salinas hospital. They were each taken to a triage tent outside the ER entrance for screening and isolation purposes.

“It’s likely that we will continue to see positive test results and we are prepared and ready to meet the need,” said Pete Delgado, president/CEO at Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System. “With the two positive cases we have seen, the processes we have in place worked exactly as intended for the safety of our patients and our staff. I could not be more proud of our entire team and am confident in our ability to handle future cases as they happen.”

One of the patients was released to isolate at home, while the other is currently being treated at the hospital.

As of Thursday, Salinas Valley Memorial has sent 35 cases to the county for testing, 33 of which have returned negative, with the other two being the most recent positive outcomes.

Monterey County Health Department would not confirm the latest coronavirus cases. According to Communications Coordinator Maia Carroll, the county plans to update available stats once per week, rather than daily like surrounding counties.

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Salinas Valley Memorial and the other three area hospitals — Mee Memorial Hospital in King City, Natividad Medical Center in Salinas and Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula in Monterey — began proactive coordination with the Monterey County Health Department in early January.

All four Monterey County hospitals have taken extensive measures to protect patients, staff and the community from the spread of COVID-19. Triage tents have been set up to screen for and isolate any possible coronavirus patients from the rest of the hospital.

Additional restrictions on visitation are also in place at the facilities.

On Thursday, Mee Memorial closed all Canal Street parking lot entrances except the southernmost one. The hospital’s Emergency Preparedness Coordinator, Jonathan Estey, said the measures of adding a guard to a single entryway and the triage tent were to streamline parking lot entryways and to readily prepare the facility to respond to a potential outbreak in South Monterey County.

The latest local report comes as Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered the entire state of California to shelter-in-place late Thursday to combat the spread of COVID-19. Monterey County had already issued a similar order that began Wednesday for all residents in the area.

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Ryan Cronk is the managing editor for King City Rustler and Salinas Valley Tribune, a unified publication of Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers general news for South Monterey County and the surrounding communities.


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