Maybe it’s just wishful thinking, but we think (hope?) this swine flu thing is a bunch of hogwash (hahaha see what we did there).

So when we got a note saying “the California Department of Public Health will hold a conference call at 2:30 p.m. today to provide the latest information on swine flu in California. The briefing will be given by Dr. Mark Horton, director of the department” we thought about blowing it off, but decided, instead, to liveblog it.

It’s like the Oscars, but a pandemic! Let’s see what happens — we make you no promises that this will not suck.

2:30 They asked for my name and affiliation, wheee. Classical music plays. Soothing.

2:34 Muzak version of Wind Beneath My Wings. I am not kidding.

2:37 Dr. Horton arrives, tells us the WHO’s influenza pandemic alert level increase from 4 to 5 does not cause any additional activities here — we’re doing everything we need to.

Dr. Gil Chavez gives a current tally: no additional probable cases Confirmed CA cases: 14. Counties: Imperial 5; Sacramento 1; San Bernardino, 1; San Diego County 7. 29 probable cases: LA 2, Marin 2, Riverside: 4, Sac 3, San Barnadino lost count after that.

Total hospitalized out of all: 6, median age of victim 14.5 years, age range from 1-81 years. This is like Harper’s Index.

To decrease spread: frequent handwashing, don’t sneeze or cough into your hand, use a tissue or sleeve. DON’T GO TO WORK OR SCHOOL IF YOU THINK YOU HAVE IT. Don’t ride public transport, don’t fly. Do people who don’t wash their hands plan on starting now? Maybe keep it up after this passes, OK? Because hand washing is cool.

This is new: School districts: if a student’s “highly suspected” or confirmed to have swine flu, they recommend the school closes for 7 days. The final decision to be made by local authorities in conjunction with Ca DPH, but that’s DPH’s recommendation

Anti viral meds: 25% of the stockpile (the strategic national stockpile) is being delivered to CA, being moved forward to counties. 29 of our 61 counties have either received or will shortly receive supplies.

It’s QA time.

Q Do you have info on conditions surrounding 3 hospitalized confirmed cases? Age, gender, etc?
A Nope.

Q Are you seeing any indication that the virus is becoming more virulent?
A Don’t want to say “more virulent”, do expect a greater scope and range of severity, but won’t say anything further than that.

Q How would you compare how this virus is rolling out with others in the past?
A Even seasonal influenza can be serious. Dr Chavez is answering this question and oh my god he sounds like Dr. Nick. Dare me to ask him to say “Hi, everyody?” he’s still saying the rollout’s basically comparable to seasonal influenza. But we’re scrutinizing it more closely because we want to be ahead of the game

Q Erin Allday, Chronicle! Hi, Erin! Santa Clara cases, are they affiliated with school closures? Are there other probables in Santa Clara?

A Contact the counties.

Q (Still Erin) If you’re saying it’s like seasonal flu, then why the school closures (she apologizes and says “maybe this is a dumb question”, why do women do that? It was a good question, Erin! Geez!)

A this is a new virus, which could trigger a pandemic, so we’re paying closer attention.

Q What’s the protocol for distribution of antivirals to the public?
A we’re getting 25% of our allotment, which in turn will be distributed to the counties. Protocols and procedures of distro being developed. We also have out own antivirals stockpiled, in addition to federal ones. The only use recommended is if a person has been in close contact with a person who has it, and who has an underlying condition (like a heart one) where exposure could be serious.

Q Questioner states that there’s a run on antivirals in drug stores, are you telling drs to prescribe them?

A We don’t know that there’s a run. We rely on drs judgment on distribution, we’re reaching out to medical community to help them determine who should and should not take the drugs. Physicians are discouraged from prescribing for those who are not ill.

Q May 1 marches (presumably, like these) set for Friday are not being postponed, shouldn’t they be canceled? Couldn’t they be a public health hazard?

A Besides handwashing, not coughing or sneezing into hands, and school closures, we’re not doing anything else. So, no.

Q How are you determining what “highly suspected” is, in the context of school closures

A They are operating under very strict definitions, so either a confirmed case or a lab test that confirms it in a suspected case. The sick kid also has to have been in contact with a known case. This won’t be random or out of the blue.

Q What is up with companies with folks who are expected to go back and forth to and from Mexico? What do companies need to do to stay safe?

A People are advised against traveling to Mexico, so, there’s that. There’s visual inspections at ports of entry, and travelers coming from Mexico are informed on what they need to do to watch themselves for signs and therefore not to go to work.

Q In the suspected San Bernadino County a marine?

A We don’t know.

Q How long does it take the state lab to confirm cases? What’s the backlog?

A They were prepared for this, so can handle a large volume of specimens here. No backlog. We’ll also have results in 4 hours, once the CDC validates some new tech they want to put to use.

Q Can you confirm that one of the LA cases is a student at Cal State Long Beach? Are the school closure rules applicable to colleges? What guidelines do you have for colleges?

A We don’t have details, contact your county folks. School guidelines are for elementary, middle, and high schools because kids that age are the best spreaders of the virus. If college kids come up sick, CDPH will decide what to do then.

Q Antivirals can’t be found in pharmacies, according to calls this questioner has received. Where should people who have had them prescribed go?

A We’re not aware of a shortfall. If they can’t get what they need at their pharmacy, they should look to their health dept or other resources for those, if they indeed have a legit prescription.

Q 80% of the cases are folks with no direct contact with Mexico, right? And so maybe the flu has been here, right? Do you expect the numbers to continue to grow, or do you have no idea?

A We expect increases in numbers, and in the scope of severity.

Q It was rumored that LA had two cases that died, but those were debunked. Are there other deaths rumored? You will not be surprised that the guy asking this question is from FOX.

A We knew right away that the LA rumors were false, we have good relationships with local MEs and coroners.

Q Would DPH please coordinate school closings on your site? That was just a comment. Question is: In Texas they’re canceling school sporting events as a precaution, will CA do that? Should they?

A No, repeat school closings with confirmed cases, wash hands, etc. If anyone has a cough or fever don’t go to work or school. That’s it.

In conclusion: they announce that Dr Horton is now tweeting OH My GOD HE CALLED IT “THE TWEETER LINE.” Off to search twitter. Update: no clue. Damnit, I’m going to ask about this on the next call.

So that was it, thanks for bearing with the typos, which I’m now going to go fix.

the author

Eve Batey is the editor and publisher of the San Francisco Appeal. She used to be the San Francisco Chronicle's Deputy Managing Editor for Online, and started at the Chronicle as their blogging and interactive editor. Before that, she was a co-founding writer and the lead editor of SFist. She's been in the city since 1997, presently living in the Outer Sunset with her husband, cat, and dog. You can reach Eve at

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