LOS ANGELES (CNS) - L.A County's overall number of coronavirus-related fatalities stood at eight today following three new deaths, including the first in Long Beach.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health on Monday confirmed a total of 128 new coronavirus cases, pushing the countywide total of 536. Long Beach, which operates its own health department, separate from the county's, announced Monday afternoon it had identified four more cases, giving that city a total of 21, and giving the county an overall number of 540.
The person who died in Long Beach was identified only as a woman in her 50s who had underlying health conditions.
The two new deaths reported by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health were a Glendale resident over age 65 with underlying health conditions, and a 30- to 50-year-old person whose residence is “still under investigation.” County health officials said those two deaths pushed the number of coronavirus fatalities in the county to seven, though that figure did not include the newly reported death in Long Beach, pushing the area's overall total to eight.
Dr. Barbara Ferrer, head of the county's public health department, said 42% of the patients countywide are between the ages of 18 and 40, while 80% are between the ages of 18-65. She stressed the figures to drive home the point that the illness can affect anyone of any age -- even young people who have generally been harder to convince of the need for social distancing.
Health officials have stressed since the outbreak began that while older people, those with underlying health conditions and pregnant women can suffer more severe consequences from contracting coronavirus, the threat of being diagnosed with the illness is spread across all age groups. And while younger patients may suffer lesser symptoms, they can still spread the illness to people who may become more severely ill.
County and city officials again stressed that the number of cases will continue to increase as more testing becomes available. Ferrer noted that of the people being tested in the county, about 10% are testing positive for the illness.
On those lines, Los Angeles City Councilman David Ryu announced that the city and county have struck an agreement with a South Korean firm Seegene Technologies Inc. to provide 20,000 new coronavirus tests, with the tests prioritized for first-responders and medical professionals. The 20,000 tests are the first of what is envisioned as a larger contract that could provide 100,000 tests per week to Los Angeles, Ryu said. Those tests will be made available to the public for free.
“The U.S. has fallen behind other nations in response to this pandemic,” Ryu said. “... We need to take action ourselves. Los Angeles is not going to wait around. Los Angeles is working with manufacturers around the globe.
“... This is just the beginning. There's a lot of work left to be done and everyone needs to be involved, from government to academia to private industry to meet this crisis head on.”
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, meanwhile, said his agency will be providing 250,000 N95 protective masks to a medical supply distributor in Long Beach for distribution to hospitals throughout the county. He said another 125,000 will be provided to the Los Angeles Police Department, and more will be provided to other law enforcement agencies.
Eight officers LAPD officers and one civilian employee of the Los Angeles Police Department have tested positive for the coronavirus, the department announced Monday. All are quarantining at home and recovering, and their workspaces have been sanitized, according to police.
The Los Angeles Times has reported that the department is expected to switch officers to 12-hour shifts soon and temporarily suspend all vacations to ensure adequate staffing for the crisis. That report cited a law enforcement source who “was unable to speak publicly.”
County and city officials again drove home the need for people to adhere to social distancing requirements and follow the mandates of the “Safer at Home” orders issued last week. The restrictions were ramped up over the weekend in response to continued large-scale gatherings of people at beaches -- most notably the Venice boardwalk -- and on hiking trails.
“Seriously people, you need to practice social distancing. I am seeing tons of people out there acting like there's no crisis. You could be carrying the virus, have no symptoms, and be responsible for the illness or worse of others,” Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia wrote on his Twitter page over the weekend.
The previous order prohibited gatherings of 10 or more people, but the revised wording released over the weekend prohibits “all indoor and outdoor public and private gatherings and events.”
People who go out for shopping or essential jobs are required to remain at least six feet away from anyone else. Residents are still free to go outside for walks, hikes or bike rides, but not in large groups.
Saturday's enhanced order also clarified that golf courses and personal grooming services -- including hair and nail salons -- are nonessential services and are closed. The order can be found online at http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/media/Coronavirus/. It requires “all indoor malls and shopping centers, all swap meets and flea markets, all indoor and outdoor playgrounds and all non-essential businesses to close.”
Businesses considered essential and permitted to remain open include hardware stores, repair shops, media outlets, banks, laundromats, dry-cleaners and pet supply stores.
Officials said the order was amended to more closely mirror Gov. Gavin Newsom's latest state order. It covers all 88 cities in Los Angeles County, although officials in Pasadena and Long Beach -- which have their own health departments -- issued similar mandates of their own.
Long Beach closed sports facilities in city parks and beaches and asked the community to not gather in open spaces.
In a live-streamed remote news conference Sunday evening, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said that in consultation with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, the city is closing the Venice boardwalk, beach parking lots and all organized group sports.
He reminded people to keep practicing social distancing, to stand at least six feet away from others. It's a technique, he said, that will not only keep you safe but it will protect your love ones and others as well.
Garcetti signed more emergency orders Monday related to the coronavirus outbreak, including a temporary suspension of evictions through Ellis Act proceedings, which allow landlords to sell their buildings and exit the rental market if they want.
“This step is necessary to keep tenants in their homes as we're asking them to stay home, and if you cannot pay rent, you cannot be evicted,” Garcetti said, adding that not every landowner is part of a large corporation. “The money you owe won't disappear. You'll have six months to pay it back ... and everyone is struggling.”
Garcetti said he also signed an order allowing restaurants and bars to deliver alcoholic beverages in the city of Los Angeles, saying he hopes the move will generate more revenue for those small businesses.
Garcetti hailed the success of a new online portal that opened Monday allowing people to register for testing if they have coronavirus symptoms, are 65 or older or if they have underlying health issues. He said the website, lacovidprod.service-now.com/rrs, did not crash and more than 70 people were able to get tested for the virus. The capacity of the portal could ultimately be as many as 1,000 tests per day, he said.
Santa Monica also closed its beach parking lots. All parks, trails and facilities owned by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy have been closed to the public until further notice. Los Angeles County officials area also closed trailheads and beach parking areas.
California health officials on Monday reported 1,733 positive cases across the state, with 27 deaths.
The city of Lynwood announced on Twitter Sunday that a female patient at St. Francis Hospital died of COVID-19. The patient's name was not immediately released. She was identified only as a woman who had come to the hospital feeling ill, and died shortly afterward.
East Los Angeles Community College, meanwhile, announced that one of its students tested positive for COVID-19. The student reported feeling possible symptoms the week prior and was tested on Wednesday. The student is in quarantine and reported to be doing well and is recovering.
“Out of an abundance of caution and guidance from public health protocols, all faculty and staff at East Los Angeles College who were previously scheduled to be on campus Monday, March 23 are now directed to work from home unless first contacted by their direct supervisor to report. ... All faculty and staff who are already working remotely should continue to do so.”
The school said in a statement that the student appears to have been exposed to the virus while at UCLA sometime during the week of March 8. The student reports last being at the ELAC campus 10 days ago on March 12 -- from approximately 7:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. in G5 Building-RT room with computers and may have also visited the Student Store.
Meanwhile, the Navy hospital ship USNS Mercy was expected to arrive sometime this week at the Port of Los Angeles, providing an extra 1,000 beds to help alleviate the shortage in Southland hospital space.
The ship and its staff will not treat patients with the coronavirus but will offer a broad range of medical and surgical support, with the exceptions of obstetrics and pediatrics, said Real Adm. Timothy Weber, the commander of the Naval Medical Corps Pacific and director of the Medical Service Corps. The ship will serve as a referral hospital for non-COVID-19 patients admitted to shore-based hospitals and will provide a full spectrum of medical care including general surgeries, critical care and ward care for adults.
The Mercy's presence will allow Los Angeles-area health professionals to focus on treating coronavirus patients and for shore-based hospitals to use their intensive care units and ventilators for those patients, Weber said.
Garcetti on Sunday announced that the city is setting up a fund to provide childcare for health workers, assistance for the needy and meals for seniors. The goal, he said, is to raise $25 million as soon as possible for the fund.
County officials have been working to establish quarantine/isolation areas for people who either have the virus, have been exposed to it or are showing symptoms. One location has already been established at Dockweiler State Beach, where RVs have been parked to provide isolation space.
County Supervisor Hilda Solis announced Friday that the Sheraton Fairplex hotel in Pomona will become a quarantine/isolation facility beginning Monday. She said the county has negotiated a lease for the hotel's 244 rooms that will continue through May 31, with an option to extend through June.
The Pomona Fairplex is also opening a child-care center for the children of first-responders, and a drive-through food pantry will begin operating at the facility on April 1. And the shuttered St. Vincent Medical Center in the Westlake district will also be used for patients with the virus.