San Francisco Plays It Safe: Declares State Of Emergency Against COVID-19, No Cases Found Yet

The city is not taking any chances

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San Francisco Mayor London Breed has issued an emergency declaration aimed at preparing the city for a coronavirus outbreak – even though no cases of the new virus have been confirmed in the city.

“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. “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.”

The declaration raises awareness, mobilizes city resources, accelerates emergency planning and coordinates agencies across the city, Breed said. She said it also allows for future reimbursement by the state and federal governments.

San Francisco citizens wearing face masks against COVID-19, although no cases reported there yet
San Francisco citizens wearing face masks against COVID-19, although no cases reported there yet

Santa Clara and San Diego counties have issued similar declarations to bolster their preparedness.

“San Francisco is united and,” said Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee. “We have one of the most renowned medical systems of care here, and we have a long and proven track record of being able to protect, treat, and care for our residents.”

Jeffrey Goad, a former president of the California Immunization Coalition, notes that the precautions to avoid coronavirus are similar to those for the flu – frequent hand washing, avoiding close contact with the sick, and staying home if you are ill.

Less than 60 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in the U.S. More than 30 million Americans already have suffered from the flu this season. Maybe we should be paying more attention to that, he said.

San Francisco citizens wearing face masks against COVID-19, although no cases reported there yet
San Francisco citizens wearing face masks against COVID-19, although no cases reported there yet

“It’s important to remember that influenza kills thousands of people in the U.S. every year,” Goad said. “We have an effective vaccine for influenza and there’s still time to get it if you haven’t been vaccinated this season.”

Does the US have enough face masks?

The U.S. currently has a stockpile of 30 million of the face masks but needs at least 270 million more to protect health care workers should the coronavirus spread widely across the nation, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar says.

He told a Senate subcommittee meeting that N95 facemask/respirators made by Honeywell are required. But at more than $10 a mask, that would cost a cool $2.7 billion. That’s more than President Donald Trump’s entire allocation – $2.5 billion – to combat the virus.

Mixed messages: ‘Severe disruptions’ or are we in ‘very good shape’?

Tourists wearing protective facemasks and a Carnival mask visit the Piazza San Marco, in Venice, on Feb. 24, 2020. ANDREA PATTARO/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES
Tourists wearing protective facemasks and a Carnival mask visit the Piazza San Marco, in Venice, on February 24, 2020 during the usual period of the Carnival festivities which the last two days have been cancelled due to an outbreak of the COVID-19 the novel coronavirus, in northern Italy. – Italy reported on February 24, 2020 its fourth death from the new coronavirus, an 84-year old man in the northern Lombardy region, as the number of people contracting the virus continued to mount. (Photo by ANDREA PATTARO / AFP) (Photo by ANDREA PATTARO/AFP via Getty Images)

So is the worst of the coronavirus outbreak over or are we facing a health Armageddon? It depends on who you ask.

Nancy Messonnier, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, warned at a news conference Tuesday of possible “severe” disruptions to everyday life.

“It’s not so much a question of if this will happen anymore but rather a question of exactly when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness,” she said.

Trump seemed far less concerned in comments Tuesday, noting that only a few dozen cases have been confirmed in the U.S. and insisted that the virus was “under control.”

“The people are getting better. They’re all getting better,” Trump said. “I think that whole situation will start working out. A lot of talent, a lot of brainpower is being put behind it.” 

The World Health Organization has checked in firmly on the fence. No pandemic yet, but WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said this week there is “absolutely” the potential for a pandemic.

Tedros noted that new cases have been in decline in China for weeks and that only a few thousand cases have thus far been confirmed elsewhere. Tedros frequently falls back on a “facts, not fear” refrain. “Using the word ‘pandemic’ now does not fit the facts, but it may certainly cause fear,” he said.

Brazil gets first Latin America case

The coronavirus has reached Latin America. Brazil late Tuesday confirmed the first positive case for the new coronavirus, the Health Ministry said. The 61-year-old man, from São Paulo, had a history of traveling alone in the northern Italian region of Lombardy. The region has been the epicenter of an outbreak in Italy that has infected almost 400 people, killing 12. Brazilian officials said about 20 other patients are being tested for the virus.

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