Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna on Wednesday praised the work of department personnel and applauded residents and businesses for their willingness to pitch in and comply with health orders meant to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“I did not expect this level of compliance,” he said. The current health orders are necessary, according to Luna, but he knows they’re an “unprecedented restrictions on our freedoms.”
He said just one business—a smoke shop in North Long Beach—has been cited after ignoring repeated warnings that it must close under the city’s directive to shutter nonessential stores.
Police said they wrote the ticket back on April 5 and they haven’t handed out any other citations or made any arrests related to the health orders. But Luna emphasized that flouting them is a misdemeanor that can carry a $1,000 fine.
Officers are responding to between 10 and 12 calls a day about health order violations, but the majority end with authorities educating the public about the restrictions. It’s a very small group, Luna said, that pushes back.
“It’s been extraordinary,” Luna said during a live chat with the Long Beach Post on Wednesday. “I’m so proud of this community.”
Nevertheless, Luna said the department is watching as a small group of residents has said they want to protest the current restrictions. If protestors do arrive, “they’re expected to be lawful,” Luna said.
Luna also answered questions about the precautions officers are taking to protect themselves in the field. He said the department has at times struggled to communicate with its officers about when they should don protective gear they’ve been given for the coronavirus.
So far, two police officers and one civilian employee have tested positive for COVID-19. The department has in place contingency plans for flooding detectives and other employees onto the street to replace patrol officers if many of them get sick, but so far the worst-case has not materialized, Luna said. Recently, the department has been able to let some employees take time off, something that had been canceled as the pandemic hit.
Luna also highlighted a positive moment he said came in early March when a Carnival cruise ship was delayed from disembarking passengers because of fear someone aboard may have the illness. The test turned out to be negative, but passengers set to board the next ship were stranded.
The city’s communication team sprung into action and mobilized with businesses, including hotel operators, who worked to provided lodging; food trucks mobilized to feed those who weren’t expecting a layover.
“There was so much commitment by some passionate people who made it work,” Luna said. “That set the tone for this whole response, that our city was going to take this on and move forward.”
Watch the full interview, moderated by Breaking News Editor Jeremiah Dobruck, here: