LOS ANGELES – Supervisor Kathryn Barger has authored a motion asking the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors at its March 4 meeting to request funding from the federal government to combat the coronavirus.
“Los Angeles County has been diligently working to monitor any potential cases of coronavirus while providing rapid information to the public,” Barger said. “This funding is necessary to support our efforts and ensure the ongoing protection of our residents. We will remain vigilant and leave no stone unturned to limit the potential spread of the virus.”
County health officials say there is no reason to panic locally about the coronavirus known as COVID-19 that has spread around the world.
“The current risk to L.A. County residents for getting COVID-19 is very low. The best things people can do to protect themselves from any respiratory virus, including COVID-19, are the simple, everyday preventative measures such as washing hands, covering your cough and avoiding going out when sick,” said Dr. Prabhu Gounder, medical director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health’s respiratory diseases unit, which is leading the county’s response to the outbreak.
County health officials said they’ve been reviewing the daily updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and responding to their instructions, as well as monitoring travelers coming from China, where the virus originated in the Hubei province. Gounder said there have been reports of some people being asymptomatic, meaning they contracted the virus but did not experience any of its symptoms, which can make the virus more difficult to detect.
The county health department has established a screening call center to contact more than 1,700 asymptomatic Los Angeles County residents who recently returned from China to offer them support, according to Barger.
County health officials are also trying to obtain testing kits for local monitoring from the CDC. Those kits were supposed to arrive last week, but the outbreak has grown significantly worldwide since then, causing a delay. The CDC has been issuing 14-day quarantines for people who have symptoms or may have been exposed to the virus.
COVID-19 was first reported as being transmitted from animals to humans, but the CDC confirmed last month that it can now be transferred from human to human.
Since December 2019, more than 72,000 novel coronavirus cases have been confirmed globally. In the United States, the health risk to the general public for coronavirus remains low. However, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency to allow local, state and federal officials to fully coordinate responses in partnership with public health departments, emergency management teams, airports, health care professionals and first responders.
Orange County declared a local health emergency Wednesday. San Francisco did so on Tuesday, and San Diego County declared an emergency earlier this month.
If Barger’s motion is approved, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will send a letter to the Los Angeles County Congressional Delegation, the White House Administration, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and other officials to request at least $7.5 million dollars to support state and local response to address the coronavirus threat.