A city of about 150,000 just in northern Los Angeles County is preparing for the spread of the novel coronavirus by teaming up with the local aerospace companies to create ventilator substitutes and preparing an ordinance that would require wearing masks, according to Mayor R. Rex Parris. 

Lancaster's case count is staying steady, according to Parris, but it's preparing for a peak of cases by creating an overflow hospital, ordering personal protective equipment, and working with aerospace companies, NASA, a local community college, and doctors to create a new way to help. 

Parris said this group met by phone and "came up with this idea of a helmet you can put over a patient's head," connect a CPAP (a continuous positive airway pressure) or BIPAP (a non-invasive ventilator) which Parris said will substantially reduce the number of ventilators the city needs. 

The team "should have a prototype of that in the next day or two," he said, and then it's a question of how fast they can approve the devices and if it doesn't happen fast enough, "do we use it anyway?"

Parris also added that the city is getting ready to pass an ordinance that would require everyone going outside to wear a mask, which he said people may have to fashion themselves at home. 

"There's some indication in some countries that that's been effective," he said. According to the Washington Post, officials at the CDC are considering a similar recommendation that the general population wears some sort of face coverings when outside to stay safe. 

The Lancaster mayor also addressed the story of a local teen who died last week from what is believed to be the novel coronavirus. The case made national headlines after he was reportedly denied medical care because he didn't have insurance. 

After getting hold of the teen's parents, Parris said that "really isn't quite accurate." The mayor explained that the family does actually have insurance and was advised by their provider on a phone call, after describing the teen's symptoms, to take him to the ER, "which was the correct thing to do" according to Parris. He attributed the mistaken reporting on a language barrier with the immigrant Korean parents.

Parris noted that emergency rooms have to see patients regardless of insurance, but left out of California's declaration of a state of emergency, urgent care centers are not under the same obligation.

The law in California, regardless, is that emergency rooms aren't supposed to ask about insurance until after treatment. The mayor described it as being "broken every day."

"Now that is a law that certainly needs to be enforced during the crisis," Parris emphasized. However, he also explained, "we're not seeing people turned away from emergency rooms."

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