Orange County health officials declare local emergency over coronavirus

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Orange County will join other parts of California in declaring a local emergency over the spreading coronavirus, health officials said Wednesday.

The county has reported a single case of the virus: a woman who traveled last month from Wuhan, China, where most of the country's tens of thousands of cases have surfaced. The O.C. Health Care Agency reported her illness on Jan. 25. It was just the third known case in the U.S.

She has since fully recovered and was taken out of quarantine, O.C. Health Officer Nichole Quick told reporters.

While no other Orange County cases have surfaced, the county has declared an emergency to pursue state and federal funds if local resources are exhausted — something county officials described as a precautionary measure.

The declaration also gives Quick certain powers to directly address any potential coronavirus concerns or cases, according to county officials.

O.C. residents admitted to the hospital for flu-like symptoms will have a test done for the coronavirus as well as the usual one for the flu, Quick said.

"That will help the CDC gather much-needed data about the potential spread of this new virus," she said.

The emergency declaration comes days after a federal judge halted a plan to make a state-owned facility in Costa Mesa a quarantine site, calling on federal authorities to address the concerns of local residents and officials in a lawsuit to block the plan. A final ruling is expected March 2.

The county filed an amicus brief in the case, siding with the city of Costa Mesa in opposing the proposed quarantine site at the Fairview Developmental Center, O.C. Supervisor Andrew Do said. It also joined the city in asking for more information from federal agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Department of Health and Human Services.

"Before you make a decision, you need to consider the impact on the local residents ... and have a plan in place," Do said. "And we have not seen any of that."

Do said an alert issued by the CDC Tuesday propelled the county into action.

"When you have the CDC saying it's just a matter of when ... we take those things seriously," Do said.

President Donald Trump joined federal health officials Wednesday afternoon in addressing U.S. efforts to prevent the spread of the virus, which has been described as imminent.

"We can expect to see more cases in the United States," Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said.

Public health officials have advised Americans take the usual steps to try warding off respiratory illnesses: washing hands, covering one's mouth when coughing and sneezing, and staying home from work or school if feeling sick.


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