Long Beach passes 900 COVID-19 deaths as it marks one-year anniversary of first recorded loss

More than 900 residents have now died from COVID-19 as the city on Tuesday marked the one-year anniversary of the first recorded death from coronavirus in Long Beach.

In a news conference, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, who lost both his mother and stepfather to COVID, held a moment of silence for all of those who died over the past year.

“My family stands with every single family that has lost somebody,” Garcia said.

The city saw its first recored COVID death when a woman in her 50s with underlying health conditions died on March 23, 2019.

On Tuesday, Long Beach marked 901 fatalities, up from 896 on Saturday. The mayor noted that COVID-19 has now killed more people than any other event in a single year, including gun violence and the Long Beach 1933 earthquake that killed about 120 people.

Punk and poetry, murals and mourning: How will we memorialize COVID in Long Beach?

While the city marked a sad milestone, officials noted the signifiant progress in COVID vaccine rates. As of Tuesday, 25% of Long Beach’s entire population has been vaccinated. The city has nearly half a million residents.

When counting only those eligible over the age of 16, nearly one-third of Long Beach residents have been vaccinated, the mayor said.

In comparison, about 18% of the total population in Los Angeles County has been vaccinated.

Long Beach has also seen a steep decline in case rates following a winter surge. The rate of people testing positive for COVID has dropped to 1.5%, down from nearly 20% in February, in a promising sign that community spread has slowed, said Long Beach Health Officer Dr. Anissa Davis.

However, Davis warned that Long Beach could see a plateau or yet another increase in cases, like other states, if residents are not careful.

She said the United Kingdom variant of the virus has now been discovered in Long Beach after surfacing in Los Angeles County and other parts of the region. The tests indicates that the variant possible was here in February, she said, adding that the vaccines are still effective against this variant.

“We know it’s in the region and all over the United States so we would 100% expect to see it here,” she said. 

Overall, Los Angeles County’s COVID-19 case rate continued to fall on Tuesday, putting the county on pace to move into an even less-restrictive tier of the state’s economic-reopening blueprint by early April, which would allow for higher capacity at many businesses.

According to the state’s weekly update of county-by-county COVID figures, Los Angeles County’s average daily rate of new virus infections fell to 3.7 per 100,000 residents, down from 4.1 last week.

Long Beach on Monday saw 3.4 infections per 100,000 residents.

A county qualifies for the orange tier if its case rate is 3.9 or less. The new rate means the county officially meets the criteria to qualify for a move out of the current red tier and into the less-restrictive orange tier.

However, the county needs to meet the orange tier criteria for two consecutive weeks before it can advance in the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy.

 City News Service contributed to this report.

Support our journalism.

Hyperlocal news is an essential force in our democracy, but it costs money to keep an organization like this one alive, and we can’t rely on advertiser support alone. That’s why we’re asking readers like you to support our independent, fact-based journalism. We know you like it—that’s why you’re here. Help us keep hyperlocal news alive in Long Beach.

Kelly Puente is an award-winning general assignment and special projects reporter at the Long Beach Post. She has worked as a journalist in Long Beach since 2006, covering everything from education and crime to courts and breaking news. Kelly previously worked at the Long Beach Press-Telegram and the Orange County Register before joining the Post in 2018. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public policy and administration at Cal State Long Beach. Reach her at [email protected].