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Erring on side of caution, SF steps up emergency coronavirus preparation

Although there have been no confirmed 2019 novel coronavirus cases, known as COVID-19, in San Francisco, The City is taking steps to prepare for the potential, officials said at a press conference Tuesday.

Mayor London Breed announced an emergency declaration that will deploy resources to expedite emergency planning, staffing, coordination with city agencies and allow for reimbursement by the state and federal government.

Breed said:

“We are at a point where we will need to do more. With the continued rise of the coronavirus across the world, we need to allocate more resources to make sure we are prepared. We need more help to do outreach to the community and to put those resources to work today. We need to take an official action.”

The declaration would be effective immediately and for seven days if passed by the Board of Supervisors at its March 3 meeting.

Dr. Grant Colfax, director of the Department of Public Health, said while there are zero confirmed cases of COVID-19, The City needs to prepare in case the situation worsens.

Colfax said:

“Our action is proactive and is based on the evolution of the disease globally. Although we do not have any confirmed cases of coronovirus among San Francisco residents, we cannot afford to be unprepared if circumstances change.”

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2019 novel coronavirus (nCoV).

The City has treated three people from other counties at hospitals and is monitoring hundreds of people who flew back to San Francisco from mainland China, Colfax said. Several locals have been under self-quarantine orders. 

According to Colfax, San Francisco residents suspected of exposure have self-quarantined, though none of them have yet tested positive.

However, Colfax warned:

“Given the high volume of travel between San Francisco and mainland China and the spread of the virus to other countries, there is a growing likelihood that we will see cases in San Francisco.”

Assessor Carmen Chu said while The City has yet to quantify the impact of the virus on Asian businesses, especially in Chinatown, the empty restaurants during busy peak times are a concern.

Chu said:

“We see many of our restaurants, not only in Chinatown but across our neighborhoods that are sitting empty on days that would normally be filled to the brim with people going there to eat.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Map showing impact of positive novel coronavirus (COVID-19) cases globally as of Wednesday, February 26, 2020.

Chu added:

“We also want to share a message of making sure that we don’t let this disease turn us into racists.”

Reiterating that the virus has nothing to do with the race or ethnicity of a person, Colfax said:

“We know that discrimination causes bad health outcomes. In the case of an emerging illness, like coronavirus, stigma may make people less likely to come forward to get help and ask questions.”

Colfax said the department will keep the public informed if any cases of the coronavirus emerge in The City.

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