The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has confirmed six new cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the county and proclaimed a state of emergency Wednesday morning.
“I have signed a proclamation declaring the existence of a local emergency. I want to reiterate this is not a response rooted in panic,” said county Board of Supervisors Chair Kathryn Barger, who also represents the 5th District, which includes the Santa Clarita Valley. “We’ve been preparing with our local, state and federal partners for the likelihood of this scenario.”
The county proclamation officially asks the state of California to consider a proclamation declaring an emergency. This would enable the Governor to waive regulations that may hinder response efforts, expedite access to state and federal resources, and assist the county as needed.
The proclamation also activates the Emergency Operation Center in support of the Department of Public Health’s response to the coronavirus and to provide operational area coordination.
“Proclaiming a ‘state of emergency’ enhances our preparedness and response capabilities, while also providing opportunities to seek assistance from state and federal partners,” Barger said. “We must all remain vigilant.”
Barger authored a motion, unanimously approved by the Board of Supervisors, to request at least $7.5 million from the federal government to support the Department of Public Health and additional resources to support other county departments handling the local response to address the novel coronavirus threat.
A copy of the proclamation can be found here.
Six New Cases, No Community Transmission
Public Health confirmed that six new cases have been found in Los Angeles County.
“We know of an assumed known exposure source for all six of our new cases that we are announcing today,” said Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer. “That means as of today, we still don’t have known cases of community transmission.”
The public needs to prepare for the possibility of business disruptions, school closures and modifications or cancellations of select public events, according to Ferrer.
“We ask everyone to start practicing sort of what we call simple social distancing practices,” said Ferrer. “Use verbal salutations in place of handshakes and hugs …and whenever possible, try to keep 6 feet between you and other people that you don’t know at large events.”
Three of the cases were travelers who traveled in Italy, two cases were family members of someone who tested positive for the virus, and one case had a job that exposed them to travelers from other countries who may have been infectious, according to Ferrer.
Where the new cases were located is not available at this time.
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The Department of Public Health provided additional information Wednesday afternoon, which follows:
“As more cases are identified and community spread is detected in numerous areas, the possibility of sustained community spread of this virus in the US will increase,” said Muntu Davis, MD, MPH, Health Officer for Public Health. “Everyone and every organization has to do their part to help slow the spread of this virus.”
Public Health will be enhancing efforts to include the following:
* Testing at our Public Health Lab: Public Health is among ten California health labs to receive CDC test kits, with additional kits on the way and we will be able to test locally for COVID-19.
* Ensuring that people who are positive for novel coronavirus and their close contacts are quickly identified and closely monitored and supported while they are in isolation and/or quarantined.
* Daily radio briefing updates by the Public Health Director and Health Officer.
* New guidance for childcare facilities, schools, colleges and universities, employers, hotels, public safety responders, shelters, congregate living facilities and parents on how to prepare for and slow the spread of COVID-19.
* Weekly telebriefings with elected officials, city managers, and leaders at businesses, organizations, schools, faith-based communities and healthcare facilities (this includes over 3500 identified contacts).
* Site visits to every interim housing facility to assist the implementation of environmental practices and modifications that can reduce transmission of respiratory illness.
* Communication and preparation with our first responders, healthcare facility partners and healthcare providers to ensure continued readiness for this dynamic situation, including ensuring adequate PPE supplies for healthcare workers.
* Updating our pandemic response plan for COVID-19 in accordance with CDC guidance and local conditions.
“Our local healthcare system is well prepared to treat more cases should the need arise, particularly among vulnerable populations that require significant clinical care,” Ferrer said. “Specific guidance documents allow each of us to take steps to be prepared, including personal actions that can make a difference in disease transmission.”
And although there is no current need for significant social distancing measures in LA County, and the individual risk for contracting COVID-19 remains low for most individuals in the County, all community members should take the opportunity to plan for the possibility of more significant social distancing requirements should there be broad community spread. Personal preparation measures include:
* Having an ample supply of essentials at home (including water, food, hygiene, medications, and pet food);
* Planning for the possibility of business disruptions, school closures, and modifications/cancellations of select public events;
* Practicing simple social distancing strategies that limit your exposure to others who may be ill (verbal salutations in place of handshakes and hugs, not sharing utensils, cups and linens, staying six feet apart from others at public events).
LA County is prepared to manage and investigate suspected and confirmed cases of novel coronavirus. Public Health will continue to work closely with federal, state, and local partners to provide healthcare providers and the public with accurate information about actions to be taken to reduce the spread of novel coronavirus and to care for those who may become ill with this virus.
As with other respiratory infections, there are steps that everyone can take to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus. The best ways to prevent the spread of respiratory infections, including novel coronavirus, are:
* Stay home if you are sick. Sick people make well people sick.
* If you have mild symptoms, there may be no need to go to a medical facility to see a doctor.
* Certain patients, such as the elderly, those that are immune-compromised or have underlying health conditions should call their doctor earlier.
* If you have questions, please call the clinic or your doctor before going in. If you do not have a healthcare provider, call 211 for assistance finding support near you.
* Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
* Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
* Get immunized against the flu to protect yourself and your family, and reduce the potential strain on the healthcare system, which may be impacted by COVID-19 concerns.
Public Health is also asking businesses, schools, and community-based organizations to prepare plans that allow people to stay home if they are sick (even mildly) without the risk of being academically or financially penalized. This includes the option to work from home or to complete assignments remotely, where possible. Public Health is requesting organizations do the following:
* Make sure you are using a robust, regular cleaning and disinfection schedule for frequently touched surfaces.
* Ensure that your continuity of operations (COOP) plans are up to date, so their essential functions can continue.
* Not require a doctor’s note for staff returning to work after being sick, when possible. This will reduce the strain on the healthcare system.
These actions will go a long way to protect individuals and healthcare services that may be affected once novel coronavirus begins to spread more widely.
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Always check with trusted sources for the latest accurate information about COVID-19:
Los Angeles County Department of Public Health
California Department of Public Health
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
World Health Organization
LA County residents can also call 2-1-1.