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LA County officials announce novel coronavirus emergency


Stressing that they were acting out of “an abundance of caution” and not panic, Los Angeles County officials have declared a state of emergency for the novel coronavirus, as six new cases of the disease were revealed in the county by mid-week.

Appearing at a morning news conference attended by L.A. Department of Public Health officials, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and LA County Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Janice Hahn, the officials said the declaration would allow greater coordination among various levels of government.

The six new cases were confirmed Tuesday night with positive lab results and were linked to an “assumed known exposure,” according to Dr. Barbara Ferrer, head of the county health department.

“There’s either a travel history to an area with an outbreak, there’s exposure to known travelers coming from areas where there’s an outbreak, or the person is in close contact with a confirmed case,” she said. “This means as of today, we still don’t have known cases of community transmission.”

Ferrer laid out a series of steps the department will be taking in the days and weeks ahead:

“We are increasing our capacity for testing at our local public health lab. (It is) among 10 California health labs that have received CDC test kits and we have additional kits on the way. We are currently testing and have been since last Wednesday,” Ferrer said.

“We will ensure that people who test positive for the novel coronavirus and their close contacts are quickly identified and closely monitored and supported while they are in isolation and/or quarantine.”

County residents can expect more confirmed cases in the near future, according to Ferrer. She urged people to follow basic sanitary practices such as frequent and thorough hand washing, covering their mouths and noses when coughing or sneezing, and avoiding other people if they are sick, but also plan for the possibility of “more extensive social distancing requirements,” including verbal salutations instead of handshakes, and whenever possible, trying to stay at least six feet away from strangers at public events.

“We do need folks to plan for the possibility of business disruptions, school closures, and modifications or cancellations of select public events” Ferr said. “We will be working closely with schools and public event venues and businesses before decisions are made to close.”

Ferrer also said the department will initiate daily radio briefings on three different stations, and is posting new guidelines for childcare facilities, schools, colleges and universities, employers, hotels, public safety responders, shelters, and parents on how they can prepare for and slow the spread of the virus, officially known as COVID-19.