Long Beach reports first case of coronavirus with unknown source

A fifth person has tested positive for the coronavirus in Long Beach, and it is the city’s first case of COVID-19 where local officials don’t know where the person likely contracted the disease, authorities announced today.

Until now, Long Beach health officials had been able to track all of their cases back to likely points of exposure—such as foreign travel to an area where there was an outbreak.

The new case involved a woman in her 60s who is in stable condition at a local hospital.

“The newly-identified case may indicate community spread, which is when an illness spreads from an unknown source,” authorities said. “Community spread can indicate that people are more likely to be exposed to the virus; however, it does not concretely define an increase in cases.”

Health department officials are still investigating who the woman had contact with and where she may have been exposed.

“This case highlights the need for continued vigilance and preparation, especially for those at higher risk of severe illness and those with underlying health conditions,” said Dr. Anissa Davis, Long Beach’s health officer.

A city spokeswoman said health officials may at some point reveal locations the woman and other COVID-19 patients visited in Long Beach, but those details are still under investigation, and the information will have to be provided in a way that that protects people’s privacy.

The new case means there are 54 confirmed coronavirus patients in Los Angeles County, which today announced a spike of 11 other new infections outside of Long Beach.

Eight of the 54 cases across the county are likely due to community transmission, according to Dr. Barbara Ferrer, L.A. County Public Health Director.

“As expected, we are seeing increased community spread, and as more testing occurs we will continue to see significantly more cases,” Ferrer said.

Long Beach has been delayed in its ability to test for the coronavirus. The city only received test kits on Friday. Until then, having to rely on neighboring health agencies in Los Angeles and Orange counties.

At this point, Long Beach’s health officials have tested more than 30 people, they said today. Fifteen of those tests came back negative, and officials are waiting for results on at least 10 more.

More people are also being screened through private labs when a healthcare providers order the tests, but the health department doesn’t know the extent of that testing, according to city spokeswoman Jennifer Rice Epstein.

Another 70 people in Long Beach are being monitored for possible exposure, according to the city’s health department.

“Our healthcare providers are prepared to see more cases, but we must all do our part to slow the spread of COVID-19 in order to minimize strain on our healthcare system and other service providers,” Ferrer said. “This means strictly adhering to social distancing requirements, practicing good hygiene such as frequent hand washing, and caring for the most vulnerable members of our community.”

If Long Beach residents think they’ve been exposed to the coronavirus, they should call—not visit—their healthcare provider, who must determine a test is necessary for one to be administered.

Long Beach residents can also call 562-570-INFO (4636), between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. if they can’t get in touch with their healthcare provider.

City officials urged residents to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 by practicing good hygiene, avoiding crowds and keeping six feet of distance from people when possible.

More information is also available on the city of Long Beach’s coronavirus site: http://www.longbeach.gov/COVID19.

City News Service contributed to this report.

Editor’s note: This story was updated with more details about the number of people who have been tested.

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Jeremiah Dobruck is the breaking news editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his journalism career in 2007 as an intern at Palos Verdes Peninsula News and has worked for The Forum Newsgroup in New York City, the Daily Pilot and the Press-Telegram. He lives in Torrance with his wife, Lindsey, and their two young children.
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