NEWMAN - A daily update issued by the Stanislaus County Health Services Agency indicated for the first time Saturday that COVID-19 has been confirmed in the city of Newman.

The update did not list a number of confirmed cases, other than to indicate that fewer than five were involved. For cities with a population of less than 25,000 people, the county report does not specify a number of cases until five or more have been confirmed.

So based on the report, City Manager Michael Holland said Tuesday, “We have more than zero and less than five.”

That COVID-19 has been confirmed in Newman was not unexpected, Holland explained.

“It was just a matter of time before we got a positive test,” he stated. “It is important to us how we respond as a community. Maintain proper social distancing and stay at home unless it is essential. Let’s manage this the best we can and try to limit the transmission through the community. It is here in Newman. We as a community need to do everything we can to protect our loved ones and our community.”

Officials in Merced County are not breaking down confirmed cases by city but rather by East County and West County geographical areas. As of Tuesday, 14 confirmed cases had been reported in the West County area - which includes Los Banos, Santa Nella, Gustine, Dos Palos and Volta.

Holland and Gustine City Manager Doug Dunford each emphasized the importance of continuing to practice safeguards and adhere to restrictions.

“We can’t let our guard down. We are only in the initial stages,” said Holland, who said he expects the virus peak locally will lag behind the COVID-19 peak in larger metropolitan areas where it emerged earlier. Peak projections for the state as a whole may not accurately reflect local conditions, he cautioned.

“We’re trailing it. Don’t be complacent, and don’t think that this thing is going to be over in two weeks,” Holland emphasized. “You should be planning to use these safety guidelines possibly until the end of May, if not longer.”