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San Francisco declares coronavirus emergency

In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, a medical worker writes their colleague's name on a protective suit to aid in identification as they work at Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University in Wuhan in central China's Hubei Province, Firday, Jan. 24, 2020. (Xiong Qi/Xinhua via AP/TNS)

San Francisco Mayor London Breed has declared a local emergency amid coronavirus fears.

“Although there are still zero confirmed cases in San Francisco residents, the global picture is changing rapidly, and we need to step up preparedness,” Breed said in a statement Tuesday. “We see the virus spreading in new parts of the world every day, and we are taking the necessary steps to protect San Franciscans from harm.”

While three people have been treated for COVID-19 at San Francisco hospitals, there have been no confirmed cases of the illness in the city.

Breed made the announcement following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s warning that the virus is likely to continue to spread.

“Ultimately, we expect we will see coronavirus spread in this country,” CDC Director Nancy Messonnier said. “It’s not so much a question of if, but a question of when.”

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San Francisco’s declaration, effective immediately, will be in place for seven days and will be voted on by the Board of Supervisors on March 3.

The decree will allow the city to allocate resources around coronavirus mitigation efforts. Such efforts include staffing, the coordination of agencies throughout the city, the allowance of future reimbursement by the state and federal governments and increased awareness throughout the city on coronavirus preparation methods.

Santa Clara and San Diego counties have issued similar declarations.

San Francisco’s health officer, Dr. Tomás Aragón, said that decision was based in part on the high volume of travel between the city and Wuhan, China — the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak.

“We are prioritizing children, people who live in congregate settings and vulnerable populations as we plan to reduce the potential for harm from the virus in the community. We have been working closely with the Chinese community, who are so impacted by this situation, and also at risk for stigma and discrimination,” he said.

Breed reiterated the CDC’s call for schools and businesses to prepare for the likely spread of cases and prepare for possible school closures or work-from-home needs.

Messonnier advised parents to talk to schools about the possibility of internet-based learning in the event that COVID-19 were to spread and students needed to refrain from going to school. She suggested businesses think about how to use teleconferencing if employees should need to work from home. And Messonnier said officials would also need to consider whether to cancel large community-based events.

More than 2,600 people have died from the virus, the majority in mainland China. In the United States, there have been 57 confirmed cases; 40 of those are repatriated individuals from the Diamond Princess cruise ship. There are 15 confirmed cases in California.

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© 2020 the Los Angeles Times