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Michele Willer-Allred, Staff Reporter
2:14 pm PDT March 9, 2020

Los Angeles County and cities within it, including Malibu, are keeping an active watch on the coronavirus, with 17 cases in the county as of Tuesday, March 10.

A week prior, just one case had been reported in a non-resident traveler from Wuhan.

The LA County Department of Public Health continues to clarify that “all confirmed cases are being isolated and close contacts will be quarantined.”

According to a series of press releases from the Department of Public Health, eight individuals traveled together in northern Italy; two people were likely exposed by a family member who lives outside of LA County; one individual was likely exposed by an infected traveler at their job; one was a screener at the Los Angeles International Airport Quarantine Station; one is an LA County resident who recently returned from the AIPAC Conference in Washington, D.C.; one traveled through Japan; and one LA County resident who returned from Iran at LAX and was transported to a medical facility. 

One case has an unidentified source of exposure, “therefore Public Health has determined this is the first possible case of community transmission in LA County,” its release states.

The case remains under investigation by the department.

A March 4 joint statement from Malibu, Santa Monica, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Culver City states that they are “at-the-ready for local action if the County or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend it.”

Los Angeles County and the Cities of Los Angeles, Long Beach and Pasadena have declared a Level 3 local emergency, making them eligible for State and federal funding in regard to the coronavirus.

City Council hears from health officer 

Dr. Jan King, regional health officer for west and south Los Angeles at the LA County Department of Public Health, spoke at the Malibu City Council’s Monday, March 9 meeting. 

Out of the 110,000 cases worldwide, King said roughly 453 cases are in the U.S., and there are 114 cases in California.

King said there is currently no vaccination for coronavirus, but that hopefully there will be one in approximately 18 months.

“It is thought in the next month or two there may be clinical trials, and then we’ll move forward with creating a vaccine,” King said.

Roughly a week and a half ago, King said that the LA County Department of Public Health and other local jurisdictions began testing for the coronavirus, and commercial labs are now able to do the same.

King said the department has been very busy over the last two months with screening individuals who are coming in from countries such as China, Iran, South Korea and Italy that have ongoing transmissions.

Individuals are urged not to travel to the areas for nonessential travel. King also clarified that all Americans are urged to avoid cruise ship travel.

King reminded people to wash their hands; to avoid touching their mouth, eyes and nose; and to stay home if they are sick.

“It needs our help to actually get into our bodies and cause illness,” King said. “So, that’s why we’re saying don’t be around sneezy, coughing people, because you’re going to inhale those droplets and get ill. Wash your hands and keep your area pretty clean.”

She noted that about 80 percent of the individuals infected have a mild illness such as the common cold, but another 20 percent have severe disease and another portion has to be hospitalized and put on a mechanical ventilation machine.

King said the department cannot share information on individuals who have been diagnosed.

“But if there are exposure sites, we would identify that as an exposure site and we would make sure the public is aware because that is a public health issue,” King said. “It is not an issue if a person is infected or quarantined in their house and are not leaving the house and they’re under those orders not to move. It’s very different.”

Further, the council unanimously approved a request by Councilmember Rick Mullen authorizing staff to provide, if needed, N95 particulate respirator masks in a donation package for medical personnel in China who are treating those affected by coronavirus. City staff determined it could offer one case (at a total cost of $88 per case, with 160 masks per case) of N95 masks without negatively impacting the City’s supply for a possible future disaster.

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