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Fire Chief Encouraged by COVID Statistic

Photo by Mitch Lehman / TRIBUNE
San Marino Fire Chief Mario Rueda speaks at a meeting of the Rotary Club of San Marino. It was at a similar event that Rueda first mentioned the peril that COVID-19 could present to the community.

Though the city recently recorded its second death as a result of COVID-19, San Marino Fire Chief Mario Rueda said key indicators reflect a slowing of the novel coronavirus.
Daily hospitalizations in Los Angeles County due to the virus have decreased this month by 45% from the peak of more than 2,200 in mid-July.
“According to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, the decreasing number of daily hospitalizations is one of the best indicators that our efforts to slow the spread of the disease are working,” Rueda said Tuesday.
San Marino has recorded 69 cases of the virus since March.
“As you know, we are not out of the woods,” said Rueda, sounding a familiar refrain. “It’s important that we keep doing our part by following the best health practices so that we can continue to see these numbers decline.”
Rueda was brought into the bout early and has been following the situation since early January, when the first cases were reported in China.
“It was the first inkling of an unknown respiratory condition,” said Rueda. “That is when I started to pay attention.”
Rueda was familiar with the notion of a pandemic, having been a public servant when the outbreak of SARS — severe acute respiratory syndrome — was first reported in November 2002.
“Back then, as we were working through some table-top exercises on SARS, we were all thinking ‘This could never happen,’” Rueda said with an increasing tone of seriousness. “But when I started to hear about the COVID-19 news coming from Wuhan [China], it made it very real.”
Rueda was asked to give an update on COVID-19 on Feb. 6 at a luncheon meeting of the Rotary Club of San Marino, where he warned the audience of the impending pandemic.
“The virus was so new back then I don’t know if anyone knew what it was doing,” he said. “I do remember giving people disaster preparedness suggestions. Like ‘Isolate at home,’ just like any other natural disaster.”
On Jan. 24, the city of San Marino posted its first public messaging concerning the novel coronavirus, and the steps it was taking as a result of the information being made available by public health authorities.
“That now seems like a lifetime ago,” Rueda said. “Since then, we’ve seen our city’s response include the activation of the Emergency Operations Center, the proclamation of a local emergency, the City Council’s approval of a disease pandemic response plan, the monitoring and closure of city facilities, and disaster response funding that was approved by the City Council.”
The San Marino Fire Department manages the city’s EOC.
“We continue to run this marathon effort of ensuring our residents are well informed and educated about this disaster that we face,” Rueda said.
Rueda said he stays in frequent contact with the county EOC, the public health department, the San Marino Unified School District, the Huntington Library and other response partners.
He performs regular reviews of data sets from the county, including the daily number of hospitalized COVID-19 confirmed patients, hospital bed and intensive care unit bed availability, COVID responses and transports by the Fire Department, and the monitoring of the number of infected residents and employees. He carries out these chores mostly through what he referred to as “endless conference and Zoom calls.”
The city’s resident support hot line — created to deal with the COVID-19 crisis — remains open. Call (626) 300-0731.


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