The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the Los Angeles County Department of Health made the declaration on Wednesday morning.
“I have just signed a proclamation declaring the existence of a local emergency. I want to reiterate that this is not a response rooted in panic,” Kathryn Barger, chairwoman of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, said during a press conference in announcing the new measure.
County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis said the emergency was declared “to allow us to further draw down resources from both the federal and state level of government.”
But Solis also cautioned against the spreading of rumors and misinformation about COVID-19, which emerged late last year in mainland China and prompted what critics have described as harsh measures to curb the virus spread there.
“The last thing we want is more fear in our community,” Solis said during the press conference. “Fear will not drive our responses to save lives.”
The emergency declaration was made so that local officials can further obtain more funding and resources from the state and federal government, according to Solis.
“We need every tool at our disposal to be able to support any coronavirus patients who are diagnosed and prevent any further spread,” said Solis.
Other county officials indicated that Los Angeles should prepare for more cases to emerge in the coming days. But they said that more testing kits are being delivered to the county.
So far, seven COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in Los Angeles County, adding that one person was hospitalized while the others are being isolated and monitored at home, said Barger. She noted that one patient was confirmed to have contracted the virus back in January, and they had traveled to virus outbreak epicenter Wuhan in China.
Three of the new Los Angeles cases had traveled to Italy, the site of another outbreak, in recent days, while two others contracted the virus from a family member who doesn’t live in Los Angeles. The other person contracted the virus because their job involves heavy travel and contact with people from around the world, Barger added.
All the cases are “throughout the county,” she said, adding that officials will not provide their locations or identities.
The significant homeless population in Los Angeles is also of concern, Barger said, adding that county and state officials are going to attempt to monitor that population.
Last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that officials are monitoring 8,400 people in California for potential coronavirus symptoms.
More than 100 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the United States, but all of the nine U.S. deaths have occurred in Washington state.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends avoiding people who appear to be sick and calls on people to cover their mouths while sneezing or coughing. Health officials also recommend people wash their hands thoroughly and frequently.