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Officials: Local coronavirus risk is low; first Riverside County resident tests positive

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County health officials are looking to ease anxiety about coronavirus and deal with misinformation.

As the CDC warns that Americans should brace for the likelihood that coronavirus will spread to their communities, local officials said the risk here at home remains low, at least for a while.

This comes as the first Riverside County resident tested positive Tuesday for the virus after being on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which was quarantined in Japan.

"They're expected to recover; they're in a Northern California facility," said Dr. Cameron Kaiser, a public health officer for Riverside County. "I spoke with the health department up there. We want to make sure that they don't get back to their home until there is no longer a communicability risk."

Kaiser is working to ease people's fears about coronavirus, saying the threat it poses locally is small.

"We don't believe this person was in Riverside County after they left the cruise ship," he said. "Also we don't believe there are any other contacts in the county."

At a public health forum Tuesday night in Loma Linda, health officials with the county and Loma Linda University gave a presentation to dispell myths about the virus, like how it is transmitted.

They said coronavirus spreads through water droplets and not the air. So if someone were to cough or sneeze into their hands, then touch a door handle, it could be contracted by someone else touching the door handle too.

They also said masks are pretty ineffective in preventing the spread of the infection.

Officials said more worrisome than coronavirus is this year's flu.

"The risk of the flu is still currently higher than COVID-19," said Dr. Adrian Cotton with Loma Linda University Health. "There’s been a lot more hospitalizations, illnesses, deaths."

An estimated 29 million people have had the flu this season, with between 14,000 and 41,000 deaths.

That's compared to more than 80,000 reported cases of coronavirus, which have killed 2,700 so far.

Doctors said the precautions you should take to combat each are the same.

"Wash your hands, stay home if you're sick, don't go around other people if you're sick -- just good common sense," Kaiser said.

The event starts at 6 p.m. at the Centennial Complex Damazo Amphitheater in Loma Linda.

For the up to date information, health officials said the CDC has the most accurate facts.

You can reach Jake on TwitterFacebook or email him at jake.ingrassia@kesq.com.

Jake Ingrassia

Joining News Channel 3 and CBS Local 2 as a reporter, Jake is excited to be launching his broadcasting career here in the desert. Learn more about Jake here.

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