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Los Angeles-area officials declare emergency after confirming six new coronavirus cases over 48 hours

People buy water, food and toilet paper at a store, as they begin to stockpile essentials from fear that supplies will be affected by the spread of the COVID-19, coronavirus, outbreak across the country, in Los Angeles, California on February 29, 2020.

Mark Ralston | AFP | Getty Images

Los Angeles-area officials have discovered six new COVID-19 cases in the county over the last 48 hours, prompting them to declare a local emergency to help free up federal and state funding. 

Kathryn Barger, chairwoman of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, told reporters Wednesday that she just signed a proclamation declaring a local emergency.

“I want to reiterate that this is not a response rooted in panic,” she said. County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis said the proclamation allows local officials “to further draw down resources from both the federal and state level of government.” Health officials for the City of Pasadena and City of Long Beach said they, too, plan to declare a local emergencies later Wednesday. 

The new cases in Los Angeles County bring the state’s total to 35, more than any other state, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Washington state, where at least nine people have died, there are at least 27 cases. There haven’t been any fatalities outside of Washington. 

Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of the County of Los Angeles Public Health Department, said the county needs to prepare for more cases, adding that all six new cases are linked to “an assumed known exposure.” The department is increasing its capacity for testing and additional test kits are on the way, Ferrer added.

“We will ensure that people who test positive for the novel coronavirus and their close contacts are quickly identified and closely monitor and supported while they are in isolation and/or quarantined,” she said.

Ferrer also said people should keep their distance from one another in public settings and may want to use “verbal salutations in place of handshakes and hugs.” Businesses should also adjust their leave policies, she said.

Solis warned about misinformation about the coronavirus, saying, “it’s cultivating fear and is leading to racial profiling. “The last thing we want is more fear in our community,” she said at the press conference.

“Fear will not drive our responses to save lives,” she said.

Last week, the CDC stepped up its call for the public to start preparing for a possible pandemic outbreak in the U.S., mentioning schools and businesses may need to close. “This is the time for people to have a plan of what they would do should their child’s school need to close,” Ferrer said Wednesday.

Ferrer warned against scammers who are trying to sell treatments and medications with “promises of cure and protection.”