County officials declare local health emergency due to coronavirus

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) -- Acting "out of an abundance of caution," San Diego County officials Friday declared a local health emergency in response to concerns about the deadly coronavirus, but they insisted the move does not indicate an increased risk of contracting the disease locally.

"Let us be clear, this does not mean there is any increased risk to the general public; in fact, it is quite the opposite," county health officer Dr. Wilma Wooten said.

She and county Supervisor Nathan Fletcher both said the local emergency declaration was being made "out of an abundance of caution" and to ensure the county has all the resources needed to respond to the illness that has killed more than 1,400 people, mostly in China.

There are still only two confirmed cases of the illness in San Diego County.

Fletcher said the local emergency declaration took effect immediately and will last for seven days. The Board of Supervisors will hold a special meeting Wednesday to consider extending the declaration for an additional 30 days.

Wooten said the declaration is "meant to reassure the public that health authorities are proactively working to stay ahead of any challenges that may arise" due to the disease.

The two confirmed coronavirus cases are being treated in isolation at UC San Diego Health. The patients were among more than 200 people flown to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar last week from the area of Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak.

A total of 167 passengers arrived at Miramar Feb. 5, and 65 more arrived Feb. 7. All of the passengers are under a 14-day quarantine at the Marine base.

Dr. Eric McDonald of the county's Health and Human Services Agency said Friday that two people in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody were presented as "possible persons under investigation" for the virus.

"We still have tests pending on those individuals and those individuals remain in isolation," McDonald said.

"At this time, no ICE detainee has tested positive for the 2019 novel coronavirus at the Otay Mesa Detention Center or any other ICE facility," ICE said in a statement Friday evening.

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