County, city, school officials weigh in on coronavirus

Courtesy of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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There were no known cases of the novel coronavirus in the Santa Clarita Valley as of Tuesday, but the community is encouraged to take preventative steps as residents continue their regular activities, according to health officials. 

L.A. County is not releasing exact locations of known COVID-19 cases, according to Michelle Vega, spokeswoman for county Supervisor Kathryn Barger. However, Santa Clarita Mayor Cameron Smyth said Tuesday at the City Council meeting that there were no cases reported across the city. 

There were also none reported at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital as of Monday, according to spokesman Patrick Moody. 

Still, the local community is encouraged to practice good public health hygiene as the coronavirus sweeps into California communities at the height of the flu season. 

“The main messages right now are: Stay home if you are sick, wash hands and minimize close contact,” said Carrie Lujan, city communications manager. 

Santa Clarita, which does not have its own department of health, falls under the umbrella of the county and its Public Health Department, meaning it works closely with the county to prepare for any potential impacts. 

Los Angeles County, which declared a state of emergency last week, announced Tuesday a new case of the COVID-19, after reporting on Monday its first case of community transmission, which brought its total count to 20.

“With more cases, we are urging people with underlying health conditions, pregnant women and the elderly to practice social distancing by avoiding non-essential travel, public events, community gatherings, and indoor venues,” Barbara Ferrer, director of the county’s Department of Public Health, said in a statement. 

In addition to the cases reported by the county, three were reported by the city of Long Beach. The latest case involved a county resident who returned to LAX from Iran and is in isolation at home, according to Ferrer. 

Public Health officials continue to monitor new cases and identify all close contacts, she said, adding that a close contact would be someone who spent about 10 minutes with an infected person or was within 6 feet of someone who has coronavirus. 

Coronavirus symptoms include fever, cough and difficulty breathing. 

What to do if you start feeling sick

For those who are mildly sick, he or she is expected to stay home, avoiding public areas and emergency rooms. But if there is concern that one has been exposed to COVID-19, an individual should call his or her doctor first, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Personal health care providers need to guide patients on whether it is appropriate to get tested for the coronavirus, as the county Public Health lab’s testing capacity is limited, said Ferrer. 

Bridge to Home has begun informing individuals experiencing homelessness in the SCV to take the same precautions, said Executive Director Mike Foley. 

Measures for schools

The county has not recommended any school closures and none have been announced by any local districts. For K-12 schools, the focus is on enhancing cleaning and minimizing people who are sick from attending campuses, as well as to have preparedness plans readily available. 

Should there be a confirmed case in a school, “we will work with the recommendation that could include closure of that school,” said Ferrer. 

College of the Canyons and the California State University system said Tuesday classes have not been canceled and that there are no confirmed cases on any campuses. Both have already augmented cleaning. 

“We have a temporary cleaning staff that’s working during both day and evening shifts,” said COC spokesman Eric Harnish. “Their sole purpose is cleaning frequently touched surfaces in heavily trafficked areas.”

Should you stop attending public gatherings?

Residents are encouraged to continue their regular activities as there is no immediate threat to the general public, the city of Santa Clarita said on its website. 

“We have not taken the action to cancel any city-sponsored events (in Santa Clarita),” said Smyth, mentioning that there’s no plan to cancel the Cowboy Festival next month.

Across the county, Public Health officials are looking into large, ticketed events should there come a point to close or postpone events, said Ferrer. 

City officials stated in a recent news release that they’re meeting with organizations that include the SCV Sheriff’s Station, Los Angeles County Fire Department and the California Highway Patrol to develop strategies for emergency preparedness as it regularly does. 

L.A. County: Coronavirus at a Glance

Here is a breakdown of the latest numbers of novel coronavirus cases across the southern region: 

  • L.A. County: 20 confirmed cases
  • Orange County: 2 confirmed and 3 presumptive cases
  • Riverside County: 6 confirmed cases
  • San Bernardino County: 0 cases
  • San Diego County: 1 presumptive case
  • Ventura County: 1 confirmed case

A broader look into COVID-19 in California: 

  • Total number of cases: 157
  • Deaths reported: 2 (1 in Placer County and 1 in Santa Clara County, both with underlying health conditions)

What to do to protect yourself and others from respiratory illnesses: 

  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unclean hands.
  • Limit close contact, like kissing and sharing cups or utensils, with people who are sick.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. If you do not have a tissue, use your sleeve (not your hands).
  • Facemasks are most effective when used appropriately by health care workers and those directly caring for people who are sick and by people who are sick (source control).
  • Get a flu immunization to prevent influenza if you have not done so this season.

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