City establishes emergency operations center to battle hepatitis

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SAN DIEGO -- The City of San Diego Friday announced a new emergency operations center to oversee, monitor and track the hepatitis A outbreak in real time.

The new operation center functions on the ninth floor of City Hall in a conference room where officials meet twice a day to provide updates on vaccination, sanitation and education.

“It’s a coordinated effort, this is our center and we have representatives from essentially every city department, fire rescue, office of homeland security, police department, park and rec, sanitation -- it’s all hands on deck,” said Mayor Kevin Faulconer.

Under the mayor's direction, Homeland Security Executive Director John Valencia will coordinate resources as needed, track progress on the ground and work closely with San Diego County public health officials to focus on priority areas.

“Vaccination, sanitation and education with a focus on at our at-risk population, which is homelessness and illicit drug users,” Faulconer said.

Those also at risk include food handlers, janitorial workers and professions that have regular interactions with at-risk people, such as police officers, firefighters, paramedics, homeless service providers and healthcare professionals.

To date, the outbreak has killed 16 people and sickened more than 400.

As of Friday, more than 28,000 people have received immunizations through the city and county’s efforts, and officials said they plan to continue to inform the public about their progress.

Faulconer said officials plan to keep the public informed about the hepatitis A crisis by “updating on activities the City is doing in terms of power washing the different zones, the new portable restrooms we continue to add, hand washing stations and a reminder to the public to get information by calling 211 on all the activities happening not just here but countywide.”