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Napa County information “just trust me” blunder helps promote panic about COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)


NOTE: Lewis Perdue, the author of this article, is a former Managing Director of MSLGroup/Publicis and has hands-on experience managing crisis communications. He is currently co-principal investigator in a human study approved by the UCSF IRB/Committee on Human Research. He also served for six years as a civilian staffer for a unit of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Emergency Operations Bureau.


Napa County’s statement on its first COVID-19 case leaves a lot to be desired and fails to help the public understand the full situation. This makes panic more likely. As it is, the Napa Valley Register has reported that county residents are already “going bizonkers.


Fundamentally, the local community was never informed in advance that Queen of the Valley Medical Center was among the health care institutions that might handle cases.


Instead — and after the fact — They have evidenced a “just trust me” approach:


“There is minimal risk….”


“Our hospital is equipped to handle the virus.”


“Just trust me” never works without credible details from credible people.


Why trust those statements?


No information or details are available on why those vague and unsubstantiated statements should be trusted.


To prepare the public to trust the county and its medical institutions and professionals it needed to explain the situation — beforehand — in a way the average non-medical citizen can understand.


For example:


“We are following established infection control protocols and working closely with our partners at CDC…” 


What are those protocols? What do they involve? Who created those? Why are they trustworthy? How about some links here!


“Our caregivers are well prepared; they have received training….” 


What sorts of training? What kinds of caregivers? How many? Links?


“Out of caution, the patients are being monitored in special isolation rooms that have negative pressure to minimize the risk of exposure,…”


  • Explain details of these “special” rooms … how do they work? What makes them special? Links?
  • Explain “negative pressure” and talk about how the air is filtered before it is released back into the general environment. Links?
  • Is there a certification standard for personnel in these cases? A standard for facilities? If so, there should be links to those standards, the certification bodies, and a brief explanation that can be understood by a layperson.


These and other details needed to have been explained before patients arrived.


A lack of solid communication has already caused alarm in New York, San Francisco, and around the country:



That means the County’s poor preparation and lack of adequate, detailed information has the potential for public panic and economic losses.

Facebook and Twitter? Email?

Where is the County’s information hotline for residents?


Staffing phones with people to answer resident questions is highly desirable, but may be beyond county resources. But the failure to mount a decent, ongoing and continuous social media campaign is inexcusable. Constantly updated scripts to answer the most frequently asked questions with facts is vital.


The lack of up-to-the-minute, reliable, credible information creates a vacuum to be filled by fake news and hysteria.


Full text of county news release


First Confirmed Novel Coronavirus Case in Napa County


Patient in isolation at Queen of the Valley; second case under investigation


(NAPA, CALIF.) A single case of novel coronavirus (COVID-2019) has been confirmed in Napa County, and is under isolation at Queen of the Valley Medical Center. A second patient with symptoms is under investigation at the hospital. Both patients are not residents of Napa County.


The two patients arrived at the Queen of the Valley on Monday from Travis Air Force Base in Solano County. The patients were flown to Travis AFB from Japan, where they were under quarantine on the Diamond Princess cruise ship.


Among the cruise ship passengers flown to Travis AFB, seven were identified as needing testing or hospitalization. Five of the seven patients were sent to local hospitals in Solano County.


Due to a limited number of isolation beds in Solano County, two patients were transferred to Queen of the Valley.


“There is minimal risk for Napa County residents from the arrival of these two patients at the Queen of the Valley,” said Napa County Public Health Officer Karen Relucio, MD. “They are in isolation, and are receiving medical care and undergoing testing.”


Amy Herold, M.D., Chief Medical Officer at Queen of the Valley, said the hospital is working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Napa County Public Health to care for the two patients.


“Out of caution, the patients are being monitored in special isolation rooms that have negative pressure to minimize the risk of exposure,” Herold said. “We are following established infection control protocols and working closely with our partners at CDC and Napa County Public Health to ensure the safety and well-being of our caregivers, patients and visitors.”


“Our hospital is equipped to handle the virus. Our caregivers are well prepared; they have received training, have practiced for these scenarios and are wearing protective equipment to minimize their risk of exposure. No hospital operations are impacted,” Herold said.


The confirmed COVID-19 case tested positive for the virus in Japan, but has not experienced any symptoms associated with the virus so far. The patient under investigation for COVID-19 tested negative for the virus while in Japan, but is experiencing symptoms. The patient is being tested at Queen of the Valley.


Both patients are under federal quarantine. The city and state of origin for both patients is not known at this time.


Symptoms of Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)


Typically, human coronaviruses cause mild-to-moderate respiratory illness. Symptoms are very similar to the flu, including runny nose, headache, cough, sore throat, fever, and/or shortness of breath. Older adults and people with underlying health conditions may be at increased risk for severe disease.


Anyone who has recently traveled from China, or has come in close contact with someone who traveled from China, and develops a fever and lower respiratory symptoms, such as a cough or shortness of breath within 14 days after leaving the area, should first call their health care provider and share travel history and symptoms before visiting the clinic or emergency room. Healthcare providers should call Napa County Public Health immediately.


Tips to Protect Yourself and Others


No additional precautions are recommended at this time beyond the simple daily precautions that everyone should always take, such as:


1. Washing hands with liquid soap and water, and rubbing for at least 20 seconds;


2. Covering your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing; and


3. Staying home if you are sick.


Since flu activity will continue to remain high during this flu season, and symptoms of coronavirus are similar to the flu, Napa County Public Health also recommends getting a flu shot to protect yourself and others from the flu.


For the latest updates, go to the CDC 2019 Novel Coronavirus website at: