Assemblymember Gloria Introduces Legislation Responding to San Diego’s Hepatitis A Outbreak

Friday, January 25, 2019

New State Bill Aims to Ensure Local Governments Effectively Manage Future Outbreaks of Communicable Diseases

SAN DIEGO, CA – After a recent State Audit found the City and County of San Diego could have done more to prevent the spread of Hepatitis A during the 2017-2018 outbreak that killed 20 people, California State Assemblymember Todd Gloria (D-San Diego) announced new state legislation today to ensure local governments effectively manage any future communicable disease outbreaks.

The recent state audit confirmed many of our worst fears: people fell ill and died that didn’t have to. We want to make sure an outbreak like this never happens again,” said Assemblymember Todd Gloria. “The public should feel confident that its officials know what to do and how to handle public health emergencies. That’s why I introduced AB 262 – legislation that makes very clear the responsibility of local government and public health officers to protect the public against future communicable disease outbreaks.”

AB 262 establishes specific roles and responsibilities of local governments during any outbreak of a communicable disease. Specifically, it clarifies the duty of county public health officers to:

  • Promptly notify and update cities (in their jurisdiction) about communicable disease outbreaks that may affect them;
  • Make relevant information available to local jurisdictions, such as locations and concentrations of cases as well as the number of residents affected.

In addition, AB 262 empowers local health officers to give direction to other public entities (in their jurisdiction) to take action necessary to control the spread of a communicable disease.

“Public health and the safety of our community is our number one priority. This legislation outlines specific steps County public health officers must take to inform, and direct other jurisdictions that are potentially affected by a disease outbreak,” said San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher. “We cannot, and we will not, allow a repeat of the mistakes of the past. I will work tirelessly to ensure all the audit recommendations are implemented and to help pass AB 262.”

The Hepatitis A outbreak in San Diego County began in March 2017. Six months later, then-county leaders declared a public health emergency as the number of confirmed cases continued to rise. Governor Brown issued an emergency proclamation on October 13, 2017 allowing the State to help increase the supply of Hepatitis A vaccines. The County ended its public health emergency on January 23, 2018.

As of April 11, 2018, the County reported 587 cases, 402 hospitalizations, and 20 deaths as a result of Hepatitis A.

Following the County’s decision to end its public health emergency, Assemblymember Gloria requested a state audit on the City and County’s response to the outbreak.

In the State Auditor’s report, released in December, the Auditor found multiple problems with the City and County’s response. The Auditor found the County of San Diego did not share location data with the City of San Diego about the concentration of confirmed cases until November 2017. Also, despite discussions between the City and County in June and August 2017, the Auditor found the City and County did not fully implement sanitation measures (hand-washing stations, restroom access, and street sanitizing) until September 2017. This was due in part to the County Health Officer’s decision not to issue such a directive to the City.

AB 262 was officially announced at a press conference today with Senate President Pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego), San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, and San Diego City Councilmember Dr. Jennifer Campbell.

AB 262 is joint-authored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) and co-authored by Assemblymember Tasha Boerner-Horvath (D-Encinitas).

AB 262 is currently pending referral to the appropriate Assembly committees for review. The full text of the bill can be found here.