San Joaquin County Public Health Services declared a local public health emergency Thursday afternoon as two new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in county residents, bringing the total to three people with the new coronavirus.

A news release said the emergency declaration will leverage additional funding and resources as health officials move to slow and contain the spread of the virus through the community.

Contact tracing has begun to identify people who could have been exposed to the virus by close contact with the two new patients. The county has not released the age, gender or location of either of the patients and did not say whether they had been hospitalized for the illness.

Health officials said that because of the likelihood of more cases of COVID-19 in San Joaquin County, the public health response efforts will move from individual contact tracing and quarantine to now focus on mitigation measures to minimize the impact of the illness in the larger community.

The county said the shift will free up public health resources that will be needed to protect the most vulnerable people in the community and allow the health care system to take care of severely ill patients.

Contact the Tracy Press at tpnews@tracypress.com or 835-3030.

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