San Diego

New Law Would Change How County Responds to Disease Outbreak

The County Health Department (CHD) would be required to share more information about disease outbreaks if a new law proposed Friday is passed.

Supporters of the legislation say the proposed rules are the best way to prevent another deadly Hepatitis A outbreak like the one that hit San Diego County in 2017, killing 20 and hospitalizing more than 400.

"Whether it's bird flu, or swine flu, or H1N1, or any potential public health crisis, you have to make sure that your systems are in place that are responsive and allow you to move swiftly, to break down barriers, to provide accountability,” County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said.

Fletcher said those systems were not in place two years ago when the outbreak hit. The disease spread quickly due to poor sanitation in homeless camps and downtown sidewalks.

A recent state audit faulted the County Health Department for not sharing information about the outbreak with local cities. AB 262, presented by Assemblymember Todd Gloria, would require the county to share details immediately, including the location and concentration of disease outbreaks, and the number of residents affected.

San Diego City Councilwoman Jen Campbell, who's also a doctor, said quick reporting would be the first step towards preventing and containing another outbreak.

"And our fellow citizens who are on the streets must be housed. They must have wraparound services, so they can get back on their feet and be healthy,” she said.

San Deigo homeless advocate Michael McConnell said the new bill won't let the county hide behind "weak excuses."

"I welcome AB 262 introduced by Assemblymember Todd Gloria. It will help ensure that San Diego County officials can no longer hide behind weak excuses that endanger the health and safety of our region. Public health crises demand a sense of urgency no matter what group of people are initially impacted."

The CHD said it also welcomes the proposed legislation. It issued a response to the bill Friday.

"These measures bolster our ability to protect the public’s health by increasing our capacity to compel action from other jurisdictions in regional efforts to prevent and/or contain communicable disease outbreaks."

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