UPDATE: Long Beach officials say 3 people have tested positive for coronavirus

Long Beach officials announced Monday that three people in the city have tested positive for coronavirus—two men and a woman—who came into contact with other infected people outside the city.

The cases are presumptive until confirmed by the CDC, city officials said.

Officials said one patient is hospitalized in stable condition and two are isolated at home. Earlier Monday, officials at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center confirmed they have one patient with the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.

“We understand that this is unsettling, but please know that we are doing everything we can to ensure public safety,” Mayor Robert Garcia said at a Monday night press conference at the Long Beach Fire Department headquarters.

The city’s first three cases are among 19 now confirmed in Los Angeles County as of Monday afternoon.

Dr. Anissa Davis, Long Beach’s health officer, said two of the people infected had recently returned from a cruise ship on the Nile River in Egypt, and the third person had traveled to a place in Northern California with known transmission.

“We are actively tracing the patients, determining where they’ve been,” Davis said. “We are also monitoring health care workers who may have been exposed.”

Dr. James Leo, chief medical officer for MemorialCare, said in a statement earlier Monday that the patient in their care has been in an isolation room since being identified as potentially having coronavirus and “is being provided with the very best care.”

“Staff members are following all infection control requirements, including following the guidelines of the CDC regarding exposure to patients with novel coronavirus, wearing masks, face shield/eye protection, gloves, gowns and other protective measures,” he said. 

“We are prepared should there be an influx of patients, and we continue to monitor the situation and respond appropriately,” he added.

The news comes after officials at Cal State Long Beach announced Saturday that 10 students and two advisers were self-quarantined after attended a large event in Washington, D.C., where three people tested positive for the illness.

Garcia said the three positive cases in Long Beach were not connected to the CSULB students.

Though local health officials are not recommending school closures at this time, the university issued a statement Monday saying it is preparing contingencies for the possibility of canceling or cutting back in-person classes.

“If you are a faculty member, you should finalize plans for how you will offer non-face-to-face instruction,” CSULB President Jane Close Conoley said in a message to campus.

Restrictions on travel and campus events are also likely coming, she said.

Long Beach Unified, meanwhile, issued its own statement, saying for the time being, its schools will remain open.

“Some schools elsewhere in California have temporarily closed as a precaution to allow for a necessary pause and deep cleaning of the school in instances where students or staff may have had contact with the coronavirus,” the statement said. “This scenario for individual schools is possible in LBUSD and elsewhere depending on how the coronavirus situation unfolds.”

County totals

The news in Long Beach comes as two other people in Los Angeles County on Monday tested positive for the coronavirus, including one for whom no source of exposure can be found, possibly representing the county’s first case of community transmission of the illness, health officials announced today.

The two other patients in Los Angeles County, who are in isolation, bring the county’s total cases to 19.

The other cases are:

  • eight people in a travel group to Italy
  • two contract employees who were conducting coronavirus medical screenings of arriving passengers at Los Angeles International Airport
  • two relatives of a person who lives outside the county and was also confirmed with the virus
  • a person who attended the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Conference in Washington, D.C.
  • a traveler from the area of Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. That person, the county’s first patient, has since recovered.

For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover from the virus, as has already happened with about three-quarters of those infected in China.

While the crisis is easing in China, where the virus was first detected, fast-growing clusters have turned up in South Korea, Iran and Italy, and the caseload is growing in the United States. The number of people infected in the U.S. climbed to around 600, with 26 deaths, at least 19 of them associated with a single Seattle-area nursing home.

Local preparations

Long Beach, Los Angeles County and the state of California have all declared a state of emergency to shore up resources and streamline communication and cooperation among agencies.

The city and local hospitals have been preparing for cases in the city:

  • Cargo ships at the Port of Long Beach are not disembarking into the city
  • Facilities such as Long Beach Airport, Long Beach Transit and other public areas are being cleaned aggressively
  • The city has activated its joint communication center at the LBFD headquarters to streamline communications
  • The city also released a phone number for residents to call for more information: 562-570-INFO, in addition to a webpage being updated latest updates.

“All of these steps are aggressive but they are appropriate in this situation,” Garcia said.

Last week Long Beach Memorial Medical Center, the city’s largest hospital, set up a triage area outside its emergency room to screen patients complaining of coronavirus-like symptoms.

A technician at the triage center said last week that dozens of people have come in complaining of symptoms since the tent was set up on Wednesday.

Long Beach had its first scare with coronavirus on Saturday, when a passenger aboard a Carnival cruise was tested for the virus, which was negative.

LIVE BLOG: The latest updates on the coronavirus

– City News Service and Associated Press contributed to this report

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Kelly Puente is a general assignment and special projects reporter at the Long Beach Post. Her prolific reporting has taken her all over Southern California—even to the small Catalina Island town of Two Harbors. She is a Tiki mug collector and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public policy and administration at Cal State Long Beach. Reach her at [email protected].
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