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LA County supervisors consider ending COVID emergency declarations

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors next week will consider a motion that would end the county’s local emergency declarations due to COVID-19, but the public health director noted on Thursday, Feb. 23 that such a move doesn’t mean all infection control measures will immediately disappear.

County Supervisor Janice Hahn’s motion, if approved by the board, would end the proclamation of a local emergency and the proclamation of a local health emergency on March 31. The board’s decision will be made on Tuesday, which is ironically the day the statewide COVID emergency declaration will end.

Hahn notes in her motion that the emergency declarations “saved lives and protected the health of county residents.” But it notes that thanks to the widespread availability of vaccines, therapeutics and other measures to combat virus spread and illness, “hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19 have dramatically reduced.”

“Over the last three years, the county has developed the tools to continue to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 without exclusively relying on the use of the extraordinary powers afforded by the various emergency proclamations and declarations,” Hahn’s motion states.

“The county’s sustained preparedness, infrastructure and available tools in combating COVID-19 demonstrate that it is time to evaluate the county’s readiness to terminate both the county’s proclamation of local emergency and declaration of local health emergency for COVID-19.”

Speaking to reporters Thursday during her weekly COVID-19 briefing, county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said her agency will be reviewing existing health officer orders, noting that some of the requirements in them were enacted under the county’s emergency declaration and would be lifted if the board removes the declaration at the end of March.

“So by the end of March, some of the health officer orders that were written here in L.A. County by Dr. (Muntu) Davis (the county health officer), would in fact need to be changed if they are going to continue, because some of them were done under an emergency declaration,” Ferrer said. “There are other health officer orders that aren’t done under emergency declaration.

“… A health officer always has authority to mitigate the impact of communicable diseases,” she said.

One of the mandates that would be lifted would be a requirement that people who are exposed to COVID-19 wear a mask for 10 days. Ferrer said public health officials will be reviewing data to determine whether that requirement will continue under a revised health order.

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“We’re looking hard at the information that comes out about what you should do to minimize risk, and what are the patterns that we see as we have more infectious strains that seem to lead to less serious or severe illness,” Ferrer said.

She said that with the state’s emergency declaration being lifted, California health officials may update its health recommendations in the coming days. Ferrer noted that some requirements — such as mandatory mask-wearing at health care facilities — are state orders, not county.

“We’re anxiously awaiting like everyone else if there are going to be changes there,” she said.

Ferrer insisted, however, that even when state and local emergency declarations end, public health officials “will continue to work to ensure the public is informed, resources are available to limit transmission and severe illness and that we’ll all be prepared to move forward together.”

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