As the hepatitis A outbreak in San Diego continues to grow, 481 cases and 17 deaths at last count in the local outbreak, city officials say that they warned employees about the outbreak two times before Mayor Kevin Faulconer issued any public statements according to newly released emails show, the San Diego Union Tribune reports.
The report by Jeff McDonald notes that the initial alerts to city workers and to more than 11,000 vendors doing business with City Hall were issued in May. Employees were warned about the threat again in August, while Faulconer made his first public statement only in September.
This has drawn criticism from Councilman David Alvarez who said, “It is undeniable that the city should have done more to address the hepatitis A outbreak as far back as May,” Alvarez said. “More people were exposed and the outbreak grew due to the lack of urgency. The city must now take extraordinary measures to address this.”
City officials countered saying, “The county runs the public health agency and is therefore in charge of alerting the public when an emergency exists,” spokeswoman Katie Keach said. “The city has taken immediate action in response to every request and directive from the county’s Health and Human Services Agency.”
In related news, San Diego officials approved an update to the emergency shelter declaration that allows the City to continue expediting efforts to reduce homelessness and help stop the spread of hepatitis A.
“We are taking – and will continue to take – aggressive action to reduce homelessness and keep San Diegans safe,” Mayor Faulconer said. “We need to get to a point where there’s no reason for a person to sleep on the streets of San Diego. It’s critical that we continue the sanitation efforts that have made such a tremendous difference for our neighborhoods and move quickly to create more shelter opportunities that provide a safe and sanitary environment while people try to turn their lives around.”
On September 1, 2017, the San Diego County Public Health Officer declared a local public health emergency due to the ongoing hepatitis A virus outbreak in the county. The County Board of Supervisors ratified this declaration on September 6, 2017 and again on September 12, 2017. The declaration shall be ratified every two weeks by the County Board of Supervisors until the declaration is rescinded.
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