‘We’re being very proactive’: Long Beach health officials give briefing on coronavirus

Long Beach health officials are closely monitoring the global coronavirus outbreak and are preparing in the event that the pandemic hits the city.

In a news conference on Thursday, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said the city is being extra vigilant and is closely monitoring its airport and port complex. Residents were urged to take extra precautions, including washing their hands frequently and staying home from work if they are sick.

“Long Beach is prepared and is aggressively monitoring (the situation),” Garcia said. “We are being very proactive.”

There have been more than 80,000 cases reported globally, with more than 2,700 deaths since the disease was detected in Wuhan, China in December. The virus has since spread to 30 countries.

Fifteen cases have been reported in the United States. No cases have been reported in Long Beach, but the city was monitoring nine travelers who have returned from mainland China. Officials on Thursday said none of those individuals have developed symptoms.

The Port of Long Beach is also taking extra precautions, and workers from China are being asked to remain on ships. Long Beach Airport, meanwhile, is cleaning and disinfecting public areas.

The virus primarily cause respiratory illness in people, including fever, cough, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing. Severe illness can lead to pneumonia and in very rare cases, death.

Officials said the city’s Health Department is in constant communication with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the California Department of Public Health, local hospital emergency departments, urgent care centers and local providers to obtain and provide the most updated guidance.

The city is prepared to distribute vaccines should one become available. There is currently no treatment or vaccine.

“We do have pandemic plans in place. They plan for this even if there is not a pandemic looming,” said Emily Holman, communicable disease controller with the city of Long Beach.

Individuals should disclose any recent travel to China to their providers if they develop symptoms such as fever or respiratory symptoms.

The news conference in Long Beach comes as other cities in the region are taking precautions.

On Wednesday, health and emergency-management officials told the Los Angeles City Council that there is “no reason to panic,” but preventative measures are being taken for the virus, known as COVID-19.

“The current risk to L.A. County residents for getting COVID-19 is very low. The best things people can do to protect themselves from any respiratory virus, including COVID-19, are the simple, everyday preventative measures such as washing hands, covering your cough and avoiding going out when sick,” said Dr. Prabhu Gounder, medical director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health’s respiratory diseases unit, which is leading the county’s response to the outbreak.

“In addition, influenza activity is still very high, and we want to encourage everyone to get the flu vaccine, if they haven’t done so already,” Gounder said.

Gounder said the city’s Emergency Management Department has been in contact with other city agencies, urging them to let employees who are sick stay home and not potentially infect others.

There has only been one case of the coronavirus detected in Los Angeles County. That person has since been treated and cleared of the virus, but it stayed with the patient for 21 days, health officials said.

DPH officials said they’ve been reviewing the daily updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as monitoring travelers coming from China, where the virus originated in the Hubei province.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti told reporters earlier Wednesday that extensive precautions are being taken at Los Angeles International Airport to help prevent a spread of the virus, after a Korean Air flight attendant working LAX flight was diagnosed with the virus.

County health officials said they are holding conferences with city officials and medical professionals on a near-daily basis, and they are trying to obtain testing kits for local monitoring from the CDC. Those kits were supposed to arrive last week, but the outbreak has grown significantly worldwide since then, causing a delay. The CDC has been issuing 14-day quarantines for people who have symptoms or may have been exposed to the virus.

For the most up-to-date information on COVID-19, visitwww.longbeach.gov/covid19.

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].
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