- So far, four US cities and counties have declared public health emergencies over the new coronavirus.
- The declaration is meant as a preparedness plan, but officials said residents should not worry that they’re at a higher risk of contracting the novel virus.
- The measure is meant to allow those localities to free up funds to prepare in case of a potential outbreak.
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Cities and counties in the US have declared health emergencies in to prepare for a potential outbreak of the new coronavirus – but it’s no reason to panic.
San Francisco, San Diego County, Orange County, and Santa Clara County issued the emergency declarations to free up funding to tackle an outbreak if it occurs.
And in late January, Washington state declared a “level 1” emergency due to the novel coronavirus. The first US case of coronavirus was reported in Snohomish County, Washington, after a traveller returned from China, where COVID-19 originated.
Declaring an emergency can help a government get reimbursed for the money it spent on preparedness from the state and federal government. They are usually declared in cases of a natural disasters (wild fire, hurricane, earthquake, or another major weather event) or in the case of an other major emergency, like a riot.
San Francisco has “no known cases originating” in the city, but Mayor London Breed said the measure was about preparedness.
“It allows us to look at things like shelters, and other opportunities for us to expand, in the event that that’s necessary, and do a broader assessment of the city’s capacity to respond in the event that there is an outbreak,” the city’s Health Director Dr. Grant Colfax told CNN.
In the case of San Francisco, declaring an emergency also mobilizes city professionals (nurses, social workers, etc.) to focus on preparedness.
In order for SF to be as prepared as possible for COVID-19 (novel coronavirus), today I made an emergency declaration to strengthen SF's response in the case of an outbreak. To be clear, there remain no known cases originating in SF–this is about preparedness.
— London Breed (@LondonBreed) February 25, 2020
In San Francisco, the measure will stay in effect till March 3, but the board of supervisors could vote to extend it, CNN reported.
The number of cases in the US is still low
The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention still considers the health risk for COVID-19 in the US “low.”
Two cases were discovered in Santa Clara County, but no human-to-human transmission has been reported there. Local officials told KGO-TV that the declaration was to ensure the county could prepare in case an outbreak were to occur.
“What we all understand is – especially because we have three hospitals and we have multiple clinics – is that we want to make sure that we’re providing the very best service, and giving people the very best information so they know how to protect themselves and their family,” Supervisor Cindy Chavez told KGO-TV.
In Orange County, the declaration came after a court battle, over whether the federal government can transfer COVID-19 patients to a facility in Costa Mesa, California, The Los Angeles Times reported.
The county has only had one case of the virus, and that patient had a full recovery.
Last week, San Diego County also issued a health emergency over COVID-19. San Diego is home to the Miramar Air Base, where the federal government has been quarantining repatriated Americans coming from China. According to The Times, the county was made aware of 249 low to medium risks individuals who travelled to other places in China besides Wuhan, who the county has to monitor for symptoms.
“We continue to obtain a daily list of approximately 20 to 30 names of individuals who are at medium risk and require public health supervision,” Wilma Wooten, San Diego County public health officer told the Los Angeles Times.
The US has confirmed at least 60 cases of COVID-19, 42 of whom were people evacuated from the Diamond Princess. One of the cases, the CDC said, has an unknown origin and is a possible case of “community spread.” The patient reportedly did not recently travel to China or interact with a patient with COVID-19. That person in Northern California is from Solano County, the congressman who represents the area said.
The coronavirus most likely originated in a wet market in Wuhan, China in December. It’s spread to more than 40 countries with 2,800 deaths and more than 82,000 infections.
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