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Coronavirus: Why Did LA County & State Of California Declare An Emergency?

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The State of California and both Los Angeles and Orange counties have declared a public health emergency over the coronavirus, with L.A. County reporting six new cases amid the global outbreak.

Governor Gavin Newsom on Wednesday 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 broader spread of COVID-19," according to his office.

"The State of California is deploying every level of government to help identify cases and slow the spread of this coronavirus," said Gov. Newsom. "This emergency proclamation will help the state further prepare our communities and our health care system in the event it spreads more broadly."

The emergency proclamation, available here, includes provisions that protect consumers against price gouging, allow for health care workers to come from out of state to assist at health care facilities, and give health care facilities the flexibility to plan and adapt to accommodate incoming patients.

Health officials meanwhile explained Wednesday that declaring an emergency doesn't necessarily mean that the coronavirus outbreak has already hit the region in a large-scale fashion, but it allows agencies, health care providers, schools, and religious and community groups to prepare and coordinate so they're ready if and when it does.

L.A. County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer holds a news conference on March 4, 2020. (CBS2)

"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 of slowing COVID-19," L.A. County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer told reporters Wednesday.

Most importantly, the declaration paves the way for local jurisdictions to receive state and federal funding to battle the outbreak.

"Emergency declarations enhance our ability to seek future reimbursement from both the state and federal governments should funding become available," Ferrer said.

The cities of L.A. and Long Beach also issued their own emergencies Wednesday.

"The state of emergency is the most powerful tool we have at our disposal," L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said Wednesday.

Furthermore, the emergency notifies the community that there could be major disruptions coming, such as school and event cancellations.

"We do need folks to plan for the possibility of business disruptions, school closures and modifications or cancellations of select public events," Ferrer explained.

Feller disclosed that "an explosion of cases" could require "extreme measures" such as sporting events being held behind closed doors with no spectators allowed in.

In Italy Wednesday, officials announced that all sporting events would take place without fans present through at least April 3, the Associated Press reports.

"If at any point we think that there is good reason for us to be worried about extensive community transmission, they have been alerted to the possibility that we may ask for modifications at large public events," Feller said. "This could be that games are played but there are no spectators. This could be that there are limits to how people are gonna gather at public events."

On Monday, meanwhile, doctors at Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo told CBS2 that the hospital had set up a separate respiratory waiting area where patients can wait with masks on to avoid infecting others. Potential coronavirus patients can then be treated in a room with negative air flow, where the air will not circulate out into the hospital.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, COVID-19 is spread from person-to-person through close contact, usually within 6 feet, and mainly via respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. People are likely most contagious when they are most symptomatic.

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