A hospital bed. (Photo by Charles Gibson/Flickr)

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Contra Costa County public health officials told county supervisors Tuesday that while planning is still in its early stages for a worst-case scenario of a coronavirus outbreak, the county hospital in Martinez and other hospitals are ready to handle what cases they expect to get.

“We are ready if there are cases that come to us,” said Jaspreet Benepal, interim CEO of the Contra Costa Regional Medical Center, the county-run Martinez hospital.

She said county officials are working with other local governmental public health departments, area hospitals and state Department of Public Health officials to be as prepared as possible.

Two cases of 2019-Novel coronavirus were confirmed this past Sunday in San Benito County, where the county seat is Hollister; two others have been confirmed in Santa Clara County, one Jan. 31 and one Feb. 2.

Three of them had recently visited China, where more than 17,000 cases of coronavirus have been reported, and some 300 people have been reported to have died.

The fourth in the Bay Area was the wife of one of the others, who authorities say caught it from her husband after his return from Wuhan, a Chinese city about 500 miles west of Shanghai. Wuhan has been the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak.

Though Contra Costa County had not reported any coronavirus cases by late Thursday, that didn’t stop County Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond from asking, “Are we really prepared for a major increase in cases?”

Dan Paddycord, Contra Costa County’s director of public health, responded that all indications are that area hospitals are ready, and should be able to handle whatever comes. He also told supervisors he does not expect a worst-case scenario in this county, but said regional health officers have been collaborating on “surge plans” should this respiratory virus gain momentum.

“I’ll feel a lot more comfortable after two or three more incubation periods,” which can be as long as 14 days each, Paddycord said.

There is concern that the coronavirus is new, at least to the U.S., and that there is a lot that public health experts are still learning. Also, there isn’t a natural immunity in the population to coronavirus.

Anna Roth, Contra Costa Health Services director, said, “The risk is low, but we’re taking this seriously.”