Long Beach reports first new COVID-19 death in nearly a month

A Long Beach woman in her 50s who was infected with COVID-19 in April has died from the virus, marking the city’s first COVID-related death in nearly a month, officials said Wednesday.

The news comes as cases and hospitalization rates have dropped dramatically since a devastating winter surge when the city was reporting an average of more than a dozen deaths each day in early January.

Long Beach’s last reported COVID-19 death was April 17. Overall, 933 people have died since the start of the pandemic last year. Of those, 325 were connected to long-term care facilities.

Long-term care facilities, which were an epicenter for the virus early last year, have seen some of the biggest drops in cases, and no deaths reported since March 17.  

Long Beach city spokesperson Jennifer Rice Epstein said it is a sign that the city’s vaccine rollout is working.

“We haven’t even had a new case of COVID in a long-term care facility resident for several weeks — and that is one of our most vulnerable populations, and among the folks more likely to end up with severe disease in hospital or succumbing to their illness,” she wrote in an email. “Since our massive efforts to vaccinate focused on this population first, we quickly began to see a decline in both hospitalizations and deaths.”

While nursing homes have seen significant improvements, the virus is continuing to affect younger people. The average age for hospitalizations is now 52, and of the 22 deaths reported since April 1, the average age was 65, officials said.

As of Tuesday, 34 Long Beach residents were hospitalized. 

COVID deaths have dropped statewide, from more than 600 deaths a day reported in January, to 59 deaths reported on Wednesday.

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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].