L.A. County health officials announced Friday that eight new cases of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, have been confirmed in the county. Three of the new cases have no known sources of exposure to the illness, one had traveled to South Korea and investigations are continuing into the exposure history of the other four.
Dr. Barbara Ferrer, head of the county Department of Public Health said 247 cases have been reported in California, with more than 1,700 across the country. Dr. Ferrer encouraged people to continue using "social distancing" which she said was a "“tool we're using now to help us in our strategy for trying to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.”
“This is a particularly important tool (since) we don't have the ability to vaccinate folks,” Dr. Ferrer said.
She also praised the closures of several entertainment venues around the Southland.
“I was so pleased with all the cooperation that we have been getting across the county from our larger ticketed venues who have on their own executed plans already to cancel their large events,” she said.
The county continues to look for locations across the county that could be used as quarantine shelters for people who don't have anywhere to go.
“We are working with our county family to make sure that we have a place for people who need to be quarantined and/or isolated or are just ill and are trying to figure out if they have COVID-19 can be safely placed,” she said. “This particularly applies to folks who may be traveling and have no place to stay here, as well as to folks that are experiencing homelessness. Those plans haven't been finalized, but we're looking all across the county.”
Other counties around the Southland have confirmed several cases including four cases being overseen by Long Beach health officials and one by Pasadena health officials:
- At least six cases in Orange County (four confirmed, one presumptive).
- Eight cases in Riverside County
- At least five presumptive cases in San Diego County
- At least one confirmed case in Ventura County.
- San Bernardino has not seen any cases yet, but it did declare an emergency amid as the coronavirus spreads across Southern California.
In total, L.A. County has 40 cases including:
- Eight people who'd recently traveled to Italy.
- Two contract employees who were conducting coronavirus medical screenings of arriving passengers at Los Angeles International Airport;
- Two relatives of a person who lives outside the county and was also confirmed with the virus;
- One person who attended the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Conference in Washington D.C.
- A traveler from the area of Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. That person has since recovered.
- One person who recently traveled to Japan
- One person who recently returned from a trip to Iran
- One person who could be the first case of 'community transmission' in L.A. County.
The news comes on the same day President Donald Trump declared the coronavirus a national emergency, and outlined a series of steps to combat the virus nationally. People who believe they are sick will be able to go online and fill out a survey about their health. If they are showing symptoms, they will be directed to the nearest drive-thru testing site to get screened for COVID-19. The results will be available online within 72 hours. Trump also waived interest rates on federal student loans.
Congress is also working on a relief package that could contain paid sick leave to help employees who are unable to otherwise go to work, because they are ill, or their work has closed due to the pandemic.
L.A. County is among one of the hotspots in the nation for COVID-19, as officials have worked to get ahead of the spread of the virus by canceling events, closing places where people gather in large groups such as Disneyland and other theme parks, as well as the Los Angeles Unified School District closing schools in the district for the next two weeks.
Superintendent Austin Beutner said they were in 'uncharted waters.'
“The public health crisis crated by the coronavirus is not something any of us could have reasonably expected to happen, and we are in uncharted waters as we work to prevent the spread of the illness,” Beutner said in a news conference Friday morning. “We have been following the guidance of public health experts on how we can keep all who are part of our school community ... safe in the midst of the growing health crisis.
“We're now at a point where the balance has shifted, and the appropriate path is to close schools," Beutner said.
“... Effective Monday, March 16, we will close all Los Angeles Unified public schools for two weeks while we evaluate the appropriate path forward.”