Beverly Hills Takes Steps to Educate Community on Brink of Coronavirus Pandemic
With pundits predicting continued exponential growth across the globe of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), which was first identified in Wuhan, China, the City of Beverly Hills is taking active steps to educate residents about the disease and what they can best do to prepare.
“While the overall risk associated with Novel Coronavirus remains low according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), the City continues to prepare for this and all emergencies,” Director of Emergency Management, Resilience and Recovery Pamela Mottice-Muller told the Courier. “And as the City does its part to prepare, we ask our residents to remain vigilant, prepare emergency supplies, practice good hygiene and make healthy choices.”
Touted as a global silent pandemic, given the virus’s long asymptotic incubation period – around 83,000 people have been infected all over the world – countries continue to take active measures, each in different ways. In Italy, for example, which until last week had just a handful of cases before ballooning to 650 this week, some 50,000 people in 11 cities are now on lockdown. In China, which is now reporting just under 78,500 cases and 2,800 deaths, tens of millions of people have been on lockdown throughout the country for weeks.
And while quarantining a city may seem like a preposterous notion in modern day U.S., experts say that such draconian measures may in fact be the only way to successfully contain an outbreak. Like all respiratory viruses, COVID-19 appears to spread predominately from close person-to-person contact within six feet.
While it is unlikely that the City will be forced to imminently go on lockdown, it is not outside the realm of possibility that such a need may arise one day in the future. City spokesperson Keith Sterling told the Courier that any such decision involving a citywide quarantine would not be unilateral and would involve both the CDC and the County.
To prevent contracting COVID-19, or any other virus, Mottice-Muller underscored the importance of staying healthy. Such measures include: eating well and practicing good hygiene such as frequently washing your hands and utilizing hand sanitizer; keeping a distance between anyone who is coughing or sneezing; avoiding touching the face; and staying home if you feel unwell.
As clusters of infected continue to balloon across the globe, such as the recent explosion in South Korea, pundits caution that the U.S. is woefully under-prepared to even assess the number infected. Currently, the CDC only allows testing for those who have recently been to China or have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus. However, up to 40 state public health labs could soon begin testing for COVID-19. Just three states, including California, have the capabilities to test now.
To prepare for the virus potentially showing up locally, the City is actively working in partnership with local, state and federal health officials (including the CDC and L.A. County Department of Public Health) to receive guidance and coordinate response. In addition, the Beverly Hills Pandemic Planning Committee, active since 2006, has been meeting, along with City leaders, to prepare for any potential impacts from the Novel Coronavirus or any other emerging disease.
Mottice-Muller said that City staff has been trained to deal with Novel Coronavirus and are capable of responding to any emerging disease and implementing appropriate healthcare protocols. In addition, she said the City would continue to operate normally if it does arrive here.
“The City has robust business continuity plans in place for all departments and services to ensure the continuing operation of City government,” stated the Office of Emergency Management, which is currently in the process of developing an informational pamphlet to share with the community.
To prepare for the spreading of the virus and the potential need to stay home, the City recommends that residents should stock up on food, water, medicine and other necessities for at least seven to 14 days and continue to monitor City communication channels and local media. While the CDC does not recommend routine use of a face mask or respirator, the City recommends including face masks as part of a personal emergency kit.
At this time, the CDC recommends that people avoid all nonessential travel to mainland China and South Korea. Travel advisory updates can be found by visiting travel.state. gov. According to the County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health, there are no restrictions on large public gatherings and there is currently no need to cancel school or social events.
Residents are advised to sign up to receive notifications by visiting beverlyhills.org/emergencynotification or texting BEVHILLS to 888777. For additional information about COVID-19, visit publichealth.lacounty.gov or cdc.gov. The City of Beverly Hills Office of Emergency Management can be reached by dialing 310-285-1021.