Convention Center to serve as 100-bed overflow hospital; plans for drive-up coronavirus testing at City College

In a major effort to prepare for a surge in coronavirus cases, Long Beach has turned its Convention & Entertainment Center into a 100-bed overflow hospital and will set up a public drive-up testing site at Long Beach College’s Pacific Coast campus, officials said Friday.

“I want to remind folks that this is the calm before for the storm,” Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said in a news conference Friday. “We can expect a surge and a lot more people coming into our hospital systems in the coming days and weeks.”

Long Beach’s efforts at the convention center follow Los Angeles and San Diego, which have also turned their convention centers into overflow hospitals. Garcia said the city is in the process of setting up 100 beds on the floor of the facility’s Pacific Ballroom.

The beds will help ease the strain on the city’s five hospitals partners, including Long Beach Memorial Medical Center and St. Mary Medical Center. The USNS Mercy hospital ship, with 1,000 beds available, is also docked at the Port of Los Angeles, and the city’s efforts to reopen Community Hospital in East Long Beach took a step forward Friday.

Officials with the roughly 100-year-old facility, which was shuttered because it sits on an earthquake fault, said in a statement that they are ready to reopen after hiring 100 employees and securing $2 million in medical equipment and services.

The city next week is also planning to open a public drive-up testing clinic at Long Beach City College’s Pacific Coast Campus on Pacific Highway. People will be able to soon schedule an appointment through the city’s website.

The plans to ramp up Long Beach’s fight against coronavirus come as the city on Friday announced its third death from the virus—a woman in her 60s with underlying health conditions.

Two other victims were also women in their 60s with underlying health conditions. The city, meanwhile, confirmed 18 new cases on Friday for a total of 171 positive cases, up 153 on Thursday and 139 on Wednesday. Of those, approximately 40 individuals have recovered, officials said.

The infections include 16 Long Beach firefighters, one police officer and a health department employee.

Los Angeles County health officials on Friday reported 521 more cases of coronavirus, bringing the total to 4,566, and 11 new deaths for a total of 89 deaths.

Long Beach on Friday also confirmed coronavirus cases in four long-term care facilities. Health officials are not publicly reporting the number of cases at long-term care facilities, as the numbers may be constantly changing throughout this health emergency.

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Kelly Puente is an award-winning general assignment and special projects reporter at the Long Beach Post. She has worked as a journalist in Long Beach since 2006, covering everything from education and crime to courts and breaking news. Kelly previously worked at the Long Beach Press-Telegram and the Orange County Register before joining the Post in 2018. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public policy and administration at Cal State Long Beach. Reach her at [email protected].