LA officials discuss emergency protocols amid preparations for coronavirus outbreak

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A Los Angeles City Council committee met with health and emergency-management officials Wednesday afternoon to discuss emergency protocols in place to manage a coronavirus outbreak.

Officials were briefed by several agencies on what is being done to prevent spread of the coronavirus known as COVID-19.

The meeting touched on what it would mean if the city and county declared a state of emergency. The city and county are not declaring a state of emergency, but are prepared to do so. If one is declared, the order would mean that more resources will be allocated to combat the virus if necessary, and does not indicate the virus is out of control.

"It is not tied to (whether we have) a certain number of cases to have an emergency,'' said Aram Sahakian, the general manager of the Los Angeles city's Emergency Management Department. "If the core group preparing for this incident sees the need for more resources, they can pull the trigger on it. It doesn't mean (the virus) is out of control."

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One of the concerns the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health raised was testing for the virus. Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is the only agency that can test for the virus.

L.A. health officials hope to get testing kits from the CDC in about a week. Meanwhile, they say they've had to wait days to get results back. During that period, patients have been treated as if they're likely infected.

Only one case of the coronavirus has been detected in Los Angeles County. The person was treated and cleared of the virus, health officials said.
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Health officials also said they are discussing how to address any possible shortage in health care professionals. In the meantime, the city is prepared to activate its emergency response center.

"We also have a planning group that's thinking ahead to this eventual possibility of introduction into the community and they are thinking about those different scenarios we can imagine - what would happen in schools, what would happen in homeless shelters, what would happen in skilled nursing facilities," said Dr. Prabhu Gounder, medical director of L.A. County Department of Public Health's respiratory diseases unit.

Gounder added officials are reviewing a pandemic influenza plan in the event the virus spreads.

"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,'' Gounder said.

City News Service contributed to this report.
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