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Santa Cruz County declares local health emergency


SANTA CRUZ COUNTY, Calif. (KION) Santa Cruz County has declared a local health emergency in response to the spread of coronavirus.

It was declared by Santa Cruz County Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel because officials found that there is an "imminent threat to public health and welfare from novel coronavirus."

“We’re past containment. We’re moving on to how can we mitigate and prevent the spread of this in our community,” Health Services Director Mimi Hall said.

County Administrative Officer Carlos Palacios will ask the Board of Supervisors to declare a local emergency and ratify the declarations at its next meeting on March 10.

“In a short period of time, coronavirus has been found throughout the Bay Area, including several of our neighboring counties. We have been coordinating our preparation efforts for COVID-19, and the time has come to elevate our preparedness efforts to the next step,” Palacios said.

County officials said the risk to the public is still low, but the number of cases has increased rapidly.

“We didn’t do it because things got suddenly worse. We did it, because we know we want to ratchet up our level of preparedness,” Hall said.

The County's Emergency Operations Center has also been activated to help the Health Services Agency's Departmental Operations center, which is mainly responsible for handling the community response under Dr. Newel, to help with local response to future cases in Santa Cruz County. The declaration will also allow the county to get funding to support efforts to fight the outbreak.

Similar planning has been going on at school's across the county. On a small scale, schools have bolstered the amount of disinfecting custodial crews are doing.

The county office of education also has advised students to stay home if they're sick. However, the office of education is also preparing for the worst case scenario.

“If there are active cases some and serious decisions have to be taken, then we would be making those along with the public health officer,” Santa Cruz County Office of Education superintendent Dr. Faris Sabbah said.

“We need to expect there are disruptions to our daily life, like school closures or not going into work,” Hall said.

Should those closures happen, county education leaders are already coming up with a solution.

“We are looking at plans for home based educational systems, and like in other areas, we’re looking at what it would take for parents to support their kids at home and having content on a chrome book and making sure families have access to Internet," Sabbah said.

County officials said testing for the coronavirus here is limited because there are no local tests, so they ask that residents only ask healthcare providers for tests unless they are told to do so by a medical professional.

As of Tuesday morning, there have been no tests administered in Santa Cruz County.

News / Santa Cruz / Santa Cruz County / Top Stories

Avery Johnson

Avery Johnson is the Digital Content Director at KION News Channel 5/46.

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Drew Andre

Drew Andre is a multi-media journalist at KION News Channel 5/46.


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