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'We Have To Do Something': Smaller Cities Consider Breaking Away From LA County's Health Department

WEST COVINA (CBSLA) — Several cities Tuesday were considering breaking away from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and establishing their own after the latest round of coronavirus restrictions went into effect.

West Covina is one of those cities. Mayor Tony Wu said he was worried that his city's 4,000 small businesses would not survive the latest COVID-19 pandemic safety regulations.

"Tell me, how many businesses can do this," he said. "They have been jerked around, back and forth. As their mayor, I cannot take it. We have to do something."

At Tuesday night's council meeting, he plans to introduce a request to discuss creating a health department for the city, or working with other nearby cities to create a regional health department, believing that the L.A. County department was too big to know the needs of smaller cities like his.

"Their policy is one policy fits all," Wu said. "Meaning, with 11 million population, such a vast territory, they cannot fit all."

Council member Dario Castellanos said West Covina's COVID-19 case and hospitalization numbers were the lowest among cities with comparable populations.

"I think the supervisors need to come look at each region individually and see how we're faring," Castellanos said. "What we're seeing here is not the same thing they may be seeing in Downtown L.A."

City officials said having their own, or even a regional health department, would mean having local data and local control — something they believe will better serve residents and not punish business owners.

"The power in numbers makes it feasible," Castellanos said. "With the help of Emanate, the three hospital system, Kaiser, multiple cities and county health department fees would also bring in revenues."

And the city of West Covina is not alone on the issue.

Lancaster Mayor Rex Parris said he was meeting with the mayors of Santa Clarita and Palmdale to discuss potentially joining together to create their own health department. Wu said he believes having regional health departments will help communities now and in the future.

"We need to balance," he said. "We need to face this virus but, at the same time, we need to balance about how we take care of economy."

The city council meeting starts at 7 p.m. Tuesday. It's expected that the council will give direction to city staff to research ways to create a city or regional health department.


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