By Collin Breaux, Lillian Boyd and Shawn Raymundo

The 62nd Annual Swallows Day Parade—scheduled for Saturday, March 21—has been postponed due to growing concerns about coronavirus, according to a press release from the City of San Juan Capistrano.

The San Juan Capistrano Fiesta Association hosts the annual event. No rescheduled date was given in the press release.

“After careful consideration and based on guidance from public health professionals, the City of San Juan Capistrano and the Fiesta Association have made the difficult decision to postpone the 2020 Swallows Day Parade,” the press release said. “City staff remain in daily communication with the County Health Care Agency and emergency managers, and will continue to follow guidance from state and federal authorities related to upcoming community events and City programs in order to protect the health and safety of our residents, visitors and business community.”

The 2020 San Juan Capistrano Chamber of Commerce State of the City, scheduled for Thursday, March 12, has also been postponed to a later date. Additionally, the OC Wine & Spirit Fest has been rescheduled to Sept. 19-20. The second weekend of the Dana Point Festival of Whales—March 14 and 15—is canceled.

St. Margaret’s Episcopal School announced they will begin an organized school closure effective Monday, March 16.

“St. Margaret’s Episcopal School is taking this situation very seriously and heavily weighing all aspects of our responsibility to first protect the health of our students and school community, and then our larger civic role to mitigate the spread of this global pandemic,” a statement from Head of School Will Moseley said. “As you know, our outlook will always bend toward care and caution. We have made the decision to begin an organized, temporary school closure at the conclusion of all school activities on Friday, March 13. Please be assured that this is a preventative, proactive decision, and we have no indication that there is a case of COVID-19 in our school community. We will move to a remote learning model for students on Tuesday, March 17, with Monday, March 16 serving as an in-service day for the professional community. We ask our community to please expect a minimum two-week school closure.”

The number of coronavirus cases in Orange County had increased to six as of press time, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency website. Four are confirmed cases and two are presumptive. One man who had coronavirus has since recovered.

Los Angeles Times reported a Quest Diagnostics lab in San Juan Capistrano is able to process tests for coronavirus.

“On March 9, 2020, Quest Diagnostics introduced a new COVID-19 lab-developed test. Providers anywhere in the U.S. are now able to order the new test service,” Quest Diagnostics said in an emailed statement on Wednesday, March 11. “We are also scaling capacity now with the aim to validate and perform testing at other Quest Diagnostics high-complexity laboratories serving the United States. We expect to be able to perform tens of thousands of tests a week within the next six weeks.”

The Quest Diagnostics statement further said the test is performed on respiratory specimens collected by health care providers and forwarded to Quest Diagnostics, and providers should not refer any patient confirmed or suspected to have coronavirus to a Quest Diagnostics Patient Service Center or other phlebotomy site.

The World Health Organization labeled coronavirus a pandemic. As worries over a potential coronavirus pandemic continue to grow, local medical and government officials are encouraging the community to remain calm, stay informed and, most importantly, wash your hands.

“The more you look for something, the more likely you are to find it,” Dr. Nichole Quick, County Health Officer for the County of Orange, said in a press release. “Now that our Public Health Laboratory is able to perform COVID-19 testing, we expect to see more cases here in Orange County.”

Dr. Rodney Rohde is a clinical and medical laboratory professional with a specialization in virology. He is also the Associate Dean for Research for the College of Health Professions at Texas State University.

“Nothing is really considered an accurate case (of coronavirus) without a confirmed laboratory test,” Rodhe said. “We see numbers like 90,000 . . . but it all depends on case definition.”

Dr. Jim, Keany, an emergency physician and former chief of staff at Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo, and local government officials have said they are working to stay on top of the situation through coordination with county health agencies.

Officials from Dana Point, San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano previously stated that they’re closely monitoring the coronavirus situation as the issue continues to develop and evolve.

In emailed statements from the cities of San Clemente and San Juan, both cities stated that information will be provided and updated to respective staff and residents as it becomes available.

San Juan City Manager Ben Siegel wrote on Feb. 28 that “we are communicating with City employees and providing information from the Centers for Disease Control on proactive steps that employees can take to minimize the potential exposure to the virus, what the symptoms are of the disease, and where they can turn for accurate information on the topic.”

Keany emphasized that the coronavirus isn’t necessarily fatal. “You would get the sense from the way that people are anxious of this that it’s a death sentence, and it’s not,” he said. “As far as we can tell from the numbers, 98% do just fine, and the 2% are people who aren’t doing well to begin with,” such as the elderly.

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