Coronavirus: LA County officials approach state of emergency with ‘abundance of caution’

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Los Angeles County officials have declared a health emergency in response to coronavirus, while announcing six new reported cases. That brings the county's total case count to seven, as of March 4. The number is expected to change. 

Importantly, none of these new cases are connected to community transmission, which is how the virus has spread in Washington state.

That means none of the patients caught the virus in the LA region. Instead, all of the new cases are linked to travel.

Previously, there was just one confirmed case in the county.

LA County Supervisor Kathryn Barger emphasized that LA County is acting out of an abundance of caution. “I want to reiterate that this is not a response rooted in panic,” she said.

Supervisor Hilda Solis said the state of emergency declaration opens the door to state and federal assistance. “We need every tool at our disposal to make sure we’re ready to support any coronavirus patients who are diagnosed, and to prevent any further spread,” she said.

The cities of Long Beach and Pasadena are also expected to announce states of emergency. They do not currently have any confirmed cases of the virus.

Of the new patients in LA County, one person is hospitalized and five others are in self-quarantine at home. LA County health officials say they have tested more than two dozen people for the virus since January and most tests came back negative.

Barbara Ferrer, who heads the Public Health Department, said they expect more cases to be confirmed in the future and have increased the county's capacity to test at a local laboratory. “We need to be prepared for more cases,” Ferrar said. 

LA Mayor Eric Garcetti says that everyone shares a responsibility in helping stop the spread of COVID-19. “This isn’t just something for government to do alone,” Garcetti said. “It’s critically important in our workplaces, critically important in our households that we each take responsibility for slowing the spread of what we know is now here and will be here.”

The best precautions you can take are frequent hand washing and avoiding touching your face, or being around someone who is sick. If you are sick, stay away from others.

More from KCRW’s Press Play: 

How LA County officials are preparing for coronavirus, and what you should do  

California doctor answers your coronavirus questions

As prices spike for Purell, make your own hand sanitizer for cheap

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