Bill authored in response to hepatitis A outbreak advances to state Senate

SAN DIEGO – The Assembly voted 63-0 Thursday in favor of a bill authored by two San Diego County legislators designed to make local governments more proactive during outbreaks of communicable diseases.

California State Assembly members Todd Gloria and Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, proposed AB 262 in January in response to a state auditor report on the 2017- 2018 hepatitis A outbreak in San Diego County that killed 20 people.

Assemblywoman Tasha Boerner-Horvath, D-Encinitas, is listed as a co- author of the bill, which would require county health officials across the state to issue directives to the cities they oversee during outbreaks. Counties would also be required to make information, such as where cases are concentrated, available to those cities.

The bill will now head to the state Senate for consideration.

“Today marks a major step toward better protecting and promoting the health of all Californians,” Gloria said. “San Diego learned the hard way in 2017 what happens when we fail to prioritize public health. We don’t want those mistakes replicated anywhere else.”

The December 2018 report by state Auditor Elaine Howle found that San Diego County health officials failed to vaccinate at-risk residents quick enough or consider the level of resources like nurses necessary to protect residents from the outbreak. While health officials confirmed an average of 20 new hepatitis A cases each week from May to mid-September 2017, vaccinations only began to spike in September.

The county was also sluggish to communicate information about hepatitis A cases with the city of San Diego, waiting to share outbreak data until eight months after the first case of the infection was confirmed. As a result, both the city and county failed to increase access to sanitizing resources like hand-sanitizing stations and public restrooms until months after cases were first reported.

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