After two hours of presentations and questions, the Pasadena City Council voted unanimously Monday to ratify the declaration of local health emergency made by Dr. Ying-Ying Goh, Pasadena’s director of public health.
In related actions, the World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday declared the COVID-19, or novel coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic. And on Tuesday the city canceled ArtNight, an event which features buses shuttling passengers to and from art venues around the city.
Councilman Tyron Hampton brought up the prospect of canceling the event at Monday’s City Council meeting. At the time, City Manager Steve Mermell and Goh said that there was no plan to cancel the event. In a press release issued Tuesday afternoon, city Public Information Officer Lisa Derderian wrote:
“While the City Health Officer has not directed us to cancel this event, the City is concerned that ongoing community perception of current health issues will reduce attendance as well as limit the number of volunteers available to provide staffing. A number of participating venues have also expressed concerns over health issues as well as over reduced attendance.”
At Monday’s council meeting, Goh, accompanied by her colleagues from Huntington Hospital, assured the public that the city was taking all precautions in order to prepare for a possible outbreak of the novel coronavirus or COVID-19.
“I’d like to use our time together tonight to empower all of you whether you are an elected official [or] a community leader, with accurate information and tools to mitigate the effect of COVID-19 in our community,” Goh said.
She urged the public to be wary of misinformation, asking people to be “a skeptical consumer of social media.” Goh recommended “scientifically reliable” sources, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the WHO, the Los Angeles County Health Department and the Pasadena Public Health Department.
She gave a “situational summary,” displaying all of the information of the virus, acknowledging its fast-paced nature, saying the facts gathered the morning of the presentation were already out of date.
According to the daily WHO situational report published on March 10, there were 113,702 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 4,012 deaths. The WHO recorded 4,125 new cases and 203 deaths since the report from the day prior. The virus is also affecting five new countries: Brunei Darussalam,
Mongolia, Cyprus, Guernsey and Panama, bringing the new total of affected countries to 109.
According to the CDC, as of March 11 the United States has 938 cases and 29 deaths in 38 states and the District of Columbia.
In California, there are 152 cases reported and three deaths. In LA County there are 20 total cases. In Pasadena, there are no reported cases, however, there were 50 individuals that were self-quarantined after returning from badly affected areas such as China. The city Health Department monitored the return travelers checking in regularly during the 14-day incubation period. At the meeting, Councilman John Kennedy said that he was one of the individuals that self-quarantined after returning from China on Jan. 14.
“We would contact them and make sure that they had thermometers, that they knew how to use those thermometers, that they would check them daily, that they would check for other symptoms as well and know how to report to us right away,” Goh said. “The last thing we want to do is to have a symptomatic person who had a risk factor… walking around town.”
The Health Department is monitoring at-risk populations such as the elderly, working closely with senior centers to instill safety protocols to prevent the spread of the virus.
The LACHD and PPHD have also worked with Huntington Hospital to ensure the center is prepared for a potential “surge” of patients.
“We have a number of preparedness plans in place,” said hospital Disaster Manager Jennifer Waldron. “We have a surge plan for a surge of patients who might come from terrorism at the Rose Bowl, and we have infectious disease plans as well. It doesn’t matter to us what it is, we can flux our plan to meet whatever the disaster or emergency situation is.”
Waldron and Director of Infection Prevention and Control Leonard De La Cruz assured the public that the hospital is prepared for any disaster or pandemic and drill regularly for these particular events.
“Our pandemic plan is actually 16 years in the making,” De La Cruz said. “Ever since SARS, hospitals have been trying to prepare for a pandemic.”
De La Cruz said the hospital staff feels prepared for COVID-19 since they have dealt with more infectious diseases such as measles in the past. The infectious disease plan was also made with help from infectious disease experts Dr. Kimberly Shriner and Dr. David Mann.
The procedures and preparation presented by Goh and her colleagues are all in line with the new federal guidelines of community mitigation rather than containment.
“We have to do everything we can now to prevent this from infecting everyone in our population,” Goh said. “I’ve heard people say ‘Well everyone is just going to get it anyway’ — no, that is what we are trying to stop.”