LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Stressing that they were acting out of "an abundance of caution" and not panic, Los Angeles County officials today declared a state of emergency for the novel coronavirus, as six new cases of the disease were revealed in the county in the last 48 hours.
Appearing at a morning news conference attended by L.A. Department of Public Health officials, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and L.A. County Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Janice Hahn, the officials said the declaration would allow greater coordination among various levels of government.
The six new cases were confirmed Tuesday night with positive lab results and were linked to an ``assumed known exposure,'' according to Dr. Barbara Ferrer, head of the county health department.
"There's either a travel history to an area with an outbreak, there's exposure to known travelers coming from areas where there's an outbreak, or the person is in close contact with a confirmed case," she said.
"This means as of today, we still don't have known cases of community transmission."
Ferrer laid out a series of steps the department will be taking in the days and weeks ahead:
"We are increasing our capacity for testing at our local public health lab. (It is) among 10 California health labs that have received CDC test kits and we have additional kits on the way. We are currently testing and have been since last Wednesday," Ferrer said.
"We will ensure that people who test positive for the novel coronavirus and their close contacts are quickly identified and closely monitored and supported while they are in isolation and/or quarantine."
Ferrer also said the department will begin daily radio briefings Thursday on three different stations, and is posting new guidelines for "childcare facilities, schools, colleges and universities, employers, hotels, public safety responders, shelters, and parents on how they can prepare for and slow the spread of the virus, officially known as COVID-19.
Additionally, the department is sending out technical assistance teams on site visits to interim housing facilities to make sure all necessary precautions are taken.
The county's pandemic response plan for COVID-19 in accordance with guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
On Tuesday night, hours after the news conference was announced, officials with Kaiser Permanente confirmed to various media outlets that it was treating a newly diagnosed coronavirus patient in Los Angeles.
"Kaiser Permanente is overseeing the care of a coronavirus patient who is home in self-isolation and being treated on an outpatient basis,"
according to a Kaiser statement. "We are in touch with and monitoring the patient."
No other details were released about the patient or how the person may have been exposed to the illness that has killed more than 3,100 people worldwide, mostly in China. Nine deaths have been reported in the United States, all in Washington state. More than 93,000 cases of the illness, officially known as COVID-19, have been confirmed around the globe.
A previous confirmed coronavirus patient in Los Angeles County has since recovered and been released from treatment.
The county Board of Supervisors and the Los Angeles City Council are both expected to hear reports during their Wednesday meetings about the status of the illness locally.
News of the new Los Angeles cases came on the heels of Orange County health officials announcing Tuesday that two more residents there had tested positive locally for the virus. Those diagnoses were still awaiting confirmation from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.
Orange County also had a previous coronavirus patient who has also recovered.
The newest Orange County patients are a man in his 60s and a woman in her 30s who had recently traveled to countries with widespread outbreaks of COVID-19. One media report indicated that the pair had both traveled -- separately -- to Italy.
Dr. Nichole Quick, Orange County's health officer, credited the discovery of the new patients to increased local testing ability.
"The more you look for something, the more likely you are to find it," she said. "... Now that our Public Health Laboratory is able to perform COVID-19 testing, we expect to see more cases here in Orange County. Our residents should take everyday precautions to prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses like covering your coughs and sneezes, avoiding touching your face,
and washing your hands frequently."
Top Image: Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti speaks during a Los Angeles County Health Department press conference on the novel coronavirus, (COVID-19) on March 4, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. | Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images