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2 New Cases Of Coronavirus Reported In LA County Including Another LAX Medical Screener

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Friday confirmed two more cases of coronavirus in Los Angeles County, bringing the county's total to 13.

LAX coronavirus
Travelers at LAX wear masks to help prevent coronavirus, as second medical screener tests positive. (CBSLA)

One of the new patients was said to be another medical professional screening travelers at Los Angeles International Airport. Dr. Barbara Ferrer, head of the county health department, said the department believes the new case is linked to the other medical screener who tested positive for the virus earlier in the week.

"It's crazy the whole situation," said one traveler at LAX Friday night.

In a news conference Friday, interim CEO of Los Angeles World Airport Justin Erbacci said that CDC did not notify them of the two LAX medical screeners that tested positive for the virus. Instead, they found out through a press release.

"LAWA has worked with CBP (U.S. Customs and Border Protection) and CDC to ensure that screening happens away from major public areas and that any passenger identified as at-risk or given quarantine orders is held in isolation while awaiting transport to a medical facility or quarantine location," Erbacci said about the LAX's practices handling passengers being screened.

"So far, eight passengers at LAX have been put in government-sponsored quarantine, with the most recent case more than a week ago," he said.

Airport officials say there's no danger to the public although they couldn't say how the screener got the virus or when, but L.A. County Health believes the case is tied to the other screener who also contracted the disease.

Hundreds of hand sanitizing stations are now nestled in the terminals and staff is sterilizing door knobs, bathrooms and handrails hourly. Still, the crowds are thinning.

"We know we will be impacted financially," said Erbacci. "We do know in March airline seats are down almost 5 percent we expect concession revenue will be down as well."

The TSA said on Thursday screenings were down 20 percent from exactly one year ago, and these days there few flights that heading to places who haven't reported cases of their own.

The other individual who tested positive for coronavirus Friday was part of a group of travelers recently in Italy. Several others in the group have been confirmed to have the virus.

On Thursday, Public Health reported four cases of coronavirus in the county. The four patients were also part of a group of travelers recently in Northern Italy in addition to three other people who were confirmed Tuesday.

The 13 cases in L.A. County are:

  • Eight people in the travel group to Italy
  • Two contract employees who were conducting coronavirus medical screenings of arriving passengers at LAX
  • Two relatives of a person who lives outside the county and was also confirmed with the virus
  • A traveler from the area of Wuhan, China, and the county's first case. That person has since recovered.

Ferrer stressed that all of the county's cases have been traced to an exposure source, so there are no local incidents of unknown community spread of the illness.

All patients were said to be under isolation and four were in the hospital.

According to Ferrer, although the risk of contracting the illness in the county remains low, people should continue to practice good hygiene and stay home from work or school if they feel sick.

Ferrer confirmed that three UCLA students are being tested by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health for coronavirus.

Health officials in Los Angeles County declared a public health emergency over the novel coronavirus on Wednesday after six cases were confirmed the night prior.

"These actions support our preparedness efforts, including effectively mobilizing needed resources and partnerships, enhancing continuity of operations planning, and seeking and utilizing mutual aid, all in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19," LACDPH Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer told reporters.

Also Wednesday, Governor Gavin Newsom declared the State of Emergency "to make additional resources available, formalize emergency actions already underway across multiple state agencies and departments, and help the state prepare for a broader spread of COVID-19," according to his office.

(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)

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