Local Emergency Declared Due to Coronavirus

Photo by Robin GOLDSWORTHY
The World Health Organization offers advice on when to wear a facemask to avoid the coronavirus.

By Mary O’KEEFE and Charly SHELTON

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and Dept. of Public Health, along with the cities of LA, Pasadena and Long Beach, announced on Wednesday they were declaring a local emergency in connection with the novel coronavirus. There have been seven recorded cases of coronavirus in LA County, six just recently reported.

“This is not a response rooted in panic. We have been preparing with our local partners for the likelihood [of this proclamation],” said LA County Board of Supervisors Chair Kathryn Barger.

By declaring this an emergency cities and counties can apply for assistance from state and federal partners.

“We are doing everything in our tool kit to slow down the spread of this virus,” Barger said.

Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of LA County Dept. of Public Health, voiced her concern of the “inappropriate rise in stigma and discrimination” against those of Asian descent since information on the spread of the coronavirus was made public.

“Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Many of them infect animals, but some coronaviruses from animals can evolve (change) into a new human coronavirus that can spread from person-to-person. This is what happened with the current novel coronavirus known as 2019-nCoV [COVID-19]. Diseases from coronaviruses in people typically cause mild to moderate illness, like the common cold,” according to the DPH.

The State of California has reported its first death from COVID-19 of a person who was an elderly adult with underlining health conditions. The origin of the virus is China and, as of Wednesday, there were 94,500 confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide with 3,214 deaths linked to the virus.

For the affected in LA County, three of the new cases involve people traveling together in Northern Italy. (As of Wednesday there have been over 2,500 cases and 79 deaths linked to the novel coronavirus in Italy, according to reports.) One of the six new cases in LA County was hospitalized while the other five are being monitored, said Ferrer.

In an effort to be proactive several local organizations, schools and churches are taking precautions to lessen the spread of the virus.

Churches. Many churches are advising their parishioners on how to stay safe as well as changing some of the services’ traditions. The Rt. Rev. Diane Jardine Bruce, suffragan bishop from the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, shared her suggestions to parishes after her visit to South Korea. She suggested that during communion congregants receive bread but instead of drinking out of the communal cup to bow as it comes by. During the exchange of the sign of peace, when people greet one another, it is suggested that parishioners bow or wave to one another.

Other suggestions can be shared by all, and not only during church services. These include washing hands with soap and water frequently for at least 20 seconds “all the time, all day long.” Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth. When coughing, make sure to cough into a bent elbow or tissue, not in the hand. Keep a distance from people and try to avoid large crowds. And for those who are sick: stay home.

The World Health Organization states that those who are healthy only need to wear a facemask if they are taking care of a person with suspected 2019-nCoV infection. Masks should also be worn by people who are coughing or sneezing. Masks are effective only when used in combination with frequent hand-cleaning with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.

Schools. Glendale Unified School District – GUSD – has also sent out information on the coronavirus.

“The health and safety of our students and staff will always be one of our top priorities. We continue to monitor the coronavirus (now named COVID-19) situation closely and take recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and our local health and education agencies very seriously,” stated GUSD Superintendent Vivian Ekchian in a release to parents and students. “Although the risk of getting coronavirus disease in our area remains low, the CDC recently shared that the coronavirus almost certainly will begin spreading in communities in the United States, and Americans should begin preparations now.”

The District shared tips similar to those above but stressed, “If your child is sick, please keep them home from school.” In addition the GUSD suggests not to share drinks, food or unwashed utensils and to get plenty of rest and eat healthy foods.

“We will continue to monitor the situation and provide regular updates to our community. You can find resources, along with all of our previous communications, on the Glendale Unified website or visit the CDC or Los Angeles Dept. of Public Health websites for more information. We also encourage you to follow our District’s Facebook and Twitter pages, where we will share additional coronavirus information and District news,” stated Ekchian.

For questions, families can call (818) 241-3111 ext. 1407. 

Hospitals. Adventist Health Glendale is preparing for coronavirus should a larger outbreak occur and so far as disease-fighting capabilities are concerned, it really isn’t much different from any other infectious disease.

“This is a rapidly developing situation and it deserves our attention, but not our unfounded worry. Hospitals regularly treat patients with all varieties of illness and COVID-19 is no different,” said Alicia Gonzalez, media consultant for Adventist Health Southern California Region. “Our highest priority is the care and safety of our patients and staff. We have convened a clinically led multidisciplinary team that is meeting daily to assess our readiness. Ongoing training and drills are underway on the proper donning and doffing of personal protective equipment, as well as on the protocols for the identification, testing, and treatment of a patient with COVID-19-like symptoms. And we have the support of the 20-plus other hospitals within the Adventist Health system for mutual assistance, should the need arise.”

COVID-19 is a disease that can only be transmitted from one person to another by physically moving a droplet of moisture containing the virus from the infected person into the recipient’s mouth or nose. This can only be done by a direct sneeze/cough or by moving it into the mouth or nose by hand. Therefore, basic precautions to protect the hands, mouth and nose from acquiring the infected droplets can make a world of difference in staying safe from COVID-19 and all other respiratory infections. In addition to previous stated measures to avoid the coronavirus, it is advised that everyone six months or older get a flu shot, avoid close contact with people who are sick and clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

The entertainment world is making its own adjustments to the coronavirus.

The new Bond film, “No Time To Die,” has been pushed out by more than seven months due to the coronavirus outbreak. Expected to hit U.S. theaters on April 10, the film should be in full media tour mode right now. But after canceled media events in China, South Korea and Japan due to the virus and because global health officials have either recommended against or fully restricted public gatherings release has been delayed for “No Time To Die.” Trips to movie theaters have been fully restricted in several countries, including China, Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Italy, France, and Switzerland, which made up approximately 38% of the global gross for the last Bond film, “Spectre” in 2015. The move to delay made financial sense for the studios that don’t want to miss out on the full potential take of a tent pole film like “No Time To Die.” Instead, it will move to the Thanksgiving release slot, coming up against “Godzilla vs. Kong,” Disney’s “Raya and the Last Dragon,” and Will Smith in “King Richard,” the Venus and Serena Williams biopic focusing on their father/coach.

This decision joins a growing list of public entertainments in Asia that have closed due to the restrictions. Disney closed its Hong Kong and Shanghai parks, and the Oriental Land Company has closed the Japanese Disney parks.

Locally, USC Verdugo Hills Hospital is hosting a community talk today, Thursday, from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. in the multi-purpose room of the Crescenta-Cañada Family YMCA on the coronavirus and how to prevent the spread of germs. The Crescenta-Cañada Family YMCA is located at 1930 Foothill Blvd., La Cañada Flintridge.