Long Beach mayor urges residents to stay away from beaches

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia urged Long Beach residents to follow the state’s stay-at-home orders this weekend as hundreds of people gathered in Huntington Beach on Friday to protest the governor’s “hard closure” of Orange County’s beaches to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Garcia reminded residents that the city’s beaches remained closed and everyone should mind the health orders.

“This weekend please be safe at home,” he said. “Let’s show our community and the state of California how a city that cares about our most vulnerable acts and behaves responsibly.”

He said the city is close to a reopening plan for nonessential businesses and is expected to make an announcement soon.

The mayor said the city is encouraged that the number of coronavirus-related deaths has slowed slightly, but health officials are closely monitoring the hospitalization rate, which has increased. Last week, around 40 people were hospitalized. As of Friday, 54 people were hospitalized. Approximately 424 have recovered.

“That hospitalization rate has not decreased, so we’re going to watch that number very carefully in the next few days,” Garcia said. 

The city on Friday reported 709 total cases, up from 667 on Thursday. Fatalities stood at 36.

A total of 210 positive cases have been confirmed at 18 long-term care facilities. The city is currently monitoring 11 long-term care facilities with active cases.

Garcia said Long Beach now has a robust testing program with sites across the city and has so far performed 10,000 tests since the beginning of the pandemic. On Friday, officials announced a new site at Veterans Memorial Stadium in East Long Beach.

“It’s the last piece of our puzzle to get the entire city covered,” Garcia said.

The new drive-through testing location is expected to provide up to 100 tests daily, pushing Long Beach to roughly 1,000 tests a day with all of its locations.

Appointments are required and can be made by visiting the City’s COVID-19 testing page or by calling 562-570-INFO (4636).

 In Los Angeles County on Friday, dozens more COVID-19 deaths were reported and health officials warned that people with the virus can spread it longer than originally thought.

The county’s death toll from coronavirus rose to 1,172 on Friday, with county health director Barbara Ferrer announcing 54 new deaths.

As has been the case throughout the pandemic, 92% of the people who died from the virus had underlying health conditions, and the virus continued to have a disproportionate impact on communities of color. For the 1,065 deaths for which data was available, 38% were Latinx, 29% white, 19% Asian, 13% black and 1% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander.

Ferrer also announced 1,065 more confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the county, raising the overall total to 24,215.

Citing new guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Ferrer said people who test positive for the virus or are believed to be positive must now isolate themselves for 10 days, plus an additional 72 hours after symptoms dissipate.

The previous guidance called for seven days of isolation, plus 72 symptom-free hours.

“There’s new evidence that suggests that the virus may shed for a longer period of time, which means that a person may be able to infect other people for a longer period of time than was initially thought,” she said.

County officials delivered their daily update while just blocks away, hundreds of protesters gathered in the downtown Los Angeles Civic Center area, many of them calling for a lifting of stay-at-home restrictions and a reopening of businesses.

Others rallied for economic support for street vendors.

Additional protests were held in Huntington Beach, where hundreds gathered to protest Gov. Gavin Newsom’s closure of all beaches in Orange County after images from last weekend showed crowds of people on the beaches ignoring the state’s social distancing orders.

– City News Service 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].