COVID-19 is now ‘widespread’ in Long Beach

If California had not already abandoned its old color-coded system for tracking COVID-19 restrictions, the coronavirus would now be considered “widespread” in Long Beach, something that previously would’ve triggered stringent restrictions on businesses and gatherings.

The city on Monday reported a case rate of 13.4 per 100,000 people—the highest since February and more than 10 times higher than the case rate of 1.2 on June 15, when the state abandoned most of its coronavirus rules.

Since then, COVID-19 has quickly spread in the city and region. The situation has been compounded by the new, more contagious delta variant of the virus and the fact that close to 30% of eligible Long Beach residents still are not vaccinated.

The tightest restrictions haven’t snapped back in Long Beach because the state abandoned its color-coded Blueprint for a Safer Economy on June 15, and at the same time lifted the restrictions on capacity and masking that had been in place. For the time being, any rules are solely in the hands of the local health department.

The current case rate is still far lower than it was during the worst parts of the pandemic in the winter when it was well over 100 per 100,000 residents, but the current rate would be high enough to put the city in the old “purple” tier, the most severe, under the former state system. In that tier, nearly every type of business had strict capacity limits in place. Many were forbidden from operating indoors and bars that did not serve food were not allowed to open at all. Masks were required in most settings. Schools remained virtual.

The “purple” tier meant there were more than seven cases of coronavirus per 100,000 or there was a testing positivity rate of more than 8%. In Long Beach, as of Monday, the testing positivity rate was 5%.

Long Beach officially moved out of the purple tier in March. Now, however, the case rate is higher than it was at that point.

The city is not alone. Los Angeles County has seen similar increases, with a 700% spike in cases since June 15, leading authorities to institute a new indoor mask mandate that went into effect in Long Beach and LA County over the weekend.

So far, they are the only local health agencies in California to reinstate a broad mask mandate. In the Bay Area, however, health officials have begun recommending everyone wear masks indoors regardless of their vaccination status.

Such tighter masking rules and recommendations are “inevitable” if the delta variant continues to surge, Gov. Gavin Newsom said at a news conference Monday. The way to avoid this exhausting whiplash of mandates and rules, he said, is to get vaccinated.

“This is a pandemic overwhelmingly and disproportionately of those that have not been vaccinated. If we want to turn the page on this pandemic, if you haven’t been vaccinated, get vaccinated. Get the second shot, and in two weeks, we can turn this thing around in the United States of America,” Newsom said. “We have the one thing the rest of the world is desperate for, and that’s an abundance of free, available, safe vaccines that can literally save your lives.”

The number of people severely ill with COVID has grown rapidly in LA County, with 528 people hospitalized compared to 372 last week, according to health officials.

“Ask every one of those patients that are in the ICU today across this country, what their number one regret is: They didn’t get vaccinated,” Newsom said.

As of Monday, Long Beach officials reported 67.7% of the eligible population over 12 has received at least one dose of vaccine.

Officials have begun more targeted efforts into communities that have lower vaccination rates, including West, North and Central Long Beach.

For information on how to get vaccinated, click here.

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Melissa has been a journalist for over two decades, starting her career as a reporter covering health and religion and moving into local news. She has worked as an editor for eight years, including seven years at the Press Telegram before joining the Long Beach Post in June 2018. She also serves as a part-time lecturer at Cal State Long Beach where she teaches multimedia journalism and writing.
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