As cases of the novel coronavirus have increased worldwide and concerns grow that it may spread to communities in the United States, San Francisco Mayor London Breed on Tuesday declared a local emergency in order to be prepared should the city start seeing confirmed cases.
Although no cases had been reported in San Francisco as of Thursday, Breed said the emergency declaration is a precautionary measure that mobilizes city resources, accelerates emergency planning, streamlines staffing and coordinates city agencies, as well as allows for future reimbursement by state and federal governments.
So far, three people have been treated in the city for the virus, although those patients were from neighboring counties. More than 80,000 coronavirus cases have been confirmed worldwide, the World Health Organization reported.
The virus has killed more than 2,700 people since it first emerged in Wuhan, China, back in December. Although the majority of those cases have been in China, the virus is rapidly spreading across the globe.
“While I’m proud of the work that we’ve done, we’re at a point where we will need to do more,” Breed said. “With the continued rise of the coronavirus across the world, we need to allocate more resources to make sure that we are prepared. We need more help to do more outreach to the community and to put those resources to work. Today we need to take an official action,” she said.
“By declaring a state of emergency, we are prioritizing the safety of our community by being prepared,” she said. “We want to be ready for what we anticipate may come our way.”
The San Francisco Department of Public Health’s Director Dr. Grant Colfax said, “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. We are absolutely committed to keeping the public informed if that happens.”
City public health officials have been working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the California Department of Public Health, to monitor the latest developments, Colfax said.
Breed, along with San Francisco Assessor-Recorder Carmen Chu, reminded residents to not discriminate against the city’s Asian community out of fear of the virus.
“This virus is not a race-based virus,” she said, encouraging that “we all do our part to not promote xenophobia.”
Chu said while she can’t quantify the impact the virus has had on the city’s Asian, and particularly Chinese, community, she said, “I think many of us feel it and can see it when we go out. I think we’ve seen many of our restaurants, not only in Chinatown, but across our neighborhoods, sitting empty on days that they’d normally be filled to the brim with people.”
“On Muni, or different locations, we see people who are looked at in a different way simply because they cough or are clearing their throat. We see that there are instances where children even at schools are being picked on or things are being said about their community or their culture,” she said.
She added, “We just hope that people remember the importance of separating the disease from our community.”
The city’s Board of Supervisors will vote on making the emergency declaration official at their March 3 regular meeting.
Both Santa Clara and San Diego counties have issued similar emergency declarations.
In related developments, Contra Costa Health Services officials confirmed Tuesday that two novel coronavirus patients among a group of quarantined international travelers at Travis Air Force Base have been transferred to Contra Costa County for treatment. Both will be quarantined indefinitely while they battle the virus as county health officials aim to minimize the potential for exposure to the public.
Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control on Wednesday confirmed that a Solano County resident is the first likely case of a person-to-person transmission of novel coronavirus in the United States. That patient is receiving treatment in Sacramento, according to the California Department of Public Health.
The Solano County resident had no known exposure to the virus through travel and no close contact to a known-infected individual, CDPH officials said.
Reporters Eli Walsh and Peter Fournier contributed to this story.