virus road sign

A highway sign along Seventh Street tells drivers where to get up to date information on the coronavirus pandemic in Long Beach.

A Long Beach woman has died from the novel coronavirus, the first death in the city, public health officials have reported.

A woman in her 50s, with underlying medical conditions, died from “complications of COVID-19,” the city said in a Monday afternoon, March 23, statement. She was a Long Beach resident. No other information was available.

City officials, during a 3 p.m. press conference, also upped the total number of positive coronavirus cases to 21. Four people are hospitalized and five have been cleared, said City Health Officer Dr. Anissa Davis. Long Beach is monitoring 190 people.

“We’ve been dreading this day and were hoping it would never come,” said Mayor Robert Garcia in a statement. “We extend our deepest condolences to the victim’s family, friends, and loved ones. We all mourn this incredible loss to our community.”

The total number of cases in Los Angeles County rose to 536, public health officials said Monday. Roughly 80% of the cases were between the ages of 18 to 65 and 42% between the ages of 18 to 40. About 17% or 90 people have been hospitalized.

“This virus can in fact infect people across the board,” said Barbara Ferrer, the county’s Public Health director. “All people need to be vigilant and practice every directive that’s being issued."

At the city’s press conference, Garcia pleaded with residents to stay home, adding that the next two-to-three weeks will be crucial in the fight to keep the disease from spreading further.

“If you do not need to leave your house, please stay home,” Garcia said.

“Over the course of the next two-to-three weeks, we’re entering a very critical time for the city and for our hospitals and for our emergency services,” the mayor added. “We are seeing an increase of cases and an increase of people who need medical attention, hospitalization and respirator machines.”

The city needs its hospital beds clear and empty, Garcia said.

No other information was provided on the woman who died due to confidentiality issues, Garcia said.

On Sunday, capping a weekend of concern over people ignoring coronavirus-spurred social-distancing rules in public places, amid the city’s “Safer at Home” orders, Long Beach closed sports facilities in parks and beaches — and urged residents not to gather in open spaces.

“We continue to see large groups of people gathering in our parks playing team sports and at the beach — and that is a problem,” Garcia said on Sunday. “We are in the midst of a public health emergency and people of all ages can be affected by COVID-19. For the sake of our hospitals, first responders and loved ones, it is critical that everyone follow our Safer at Home order.”

The order was set in motion by Davis, using emergency powers granted to the city manager through Long Beach’s declaration of a local emergency.

Long Beach has its own health department, separate from Los Angeles County.

The city still allows some activities in parks and along the beach: Walking, hiking, biking and running — just so long as residents maintain at least 6 feet of physical distance between one another.

Officials also asked people to avoid touching handrails, water fountains and crosswalk buttons with their hands, suggesting elbows as an alternative.

The novel coronavirus disease — officially known as COVID-19 — can thrive on some surfaces for up to 72 hours, experts have said since the worldwide pandemic began.

The following areas are closed:

Basketball courts;

Tennis courts;

Volleyball courts;

Dog parks;

Playgrounds;

Skate parks; and

Picnic areas.

Group exercise in parks is also discouraged.

A clearly concerned Garcia posted on Facebook and on Twitter Saturday and Sunday about the need to social distance.

“Seriously people, you need to practice social distancing,” Garcia tweeted. “I am seeing tons of people out there acting like there’s no crisis. You could be carrying the virus, have no symptoms and be responsible for the illness or worse of others.”

On Facebook, Garcia wrote that Gov. Gavin Newsom’s and the city’s orders do allow people to go for a walk or visit a park or beach.

“However, you must still use social distancing,” he wrote. “You can’t play team sports, and you must stay 6 feet apart from anyone else. We need the public to take self-responsibility and remember that our doctors, nurses and medical personnel are counting on us.”

Also on Sunday, the city announced free alternative off-street parking options and an increase in on-street parking meter courtesy times.

On Saturday, the city issued an update on how it will enforce the March 19 “Safer at Home” order.

Businesses that violate or fail to comply with the order may be subject to civil enforcement, including — but is not limited to — administrative penalties and revocation of a business and/or health permit.

COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease 2019, is caused by a virus named SARS-CoV-2. Symptoms associated with the respiratory disease, which appear two-to-14 days after exposure, include fever, a cough and shortness of breath. While most people — including healthy young adults — will experience mild symptoms, the disease can be severe and possibly fatal for at-risk groups, such as the elderly and those with other health problems.

People with mild symptoms should not be tested for the virus, according to the Public Health Department.

Those who may be considered a priority for testing, “depending on clinical severity and community health relevance,” the department said in its Saturday statement — and reiterated Monday — include:

Hospitalized patients whose diagnosis may inform decisions related to infection control or medical management;

Residents and staff of long-term care facilities with COVID-19 symptoms;

Adults above age 65 and individuals with chronic medical conditions who show COVID-19 symptoms;

Residents and staff of correctional facilities and other congregate settings with COVID-19 symptoms;

Healthcare personnel who show COVID-19 symptoms; and

On Tuesday, meanwhile, the City Council will weigh whether to declare a shelter emergency and enter into a lease with the United States Veterans Initiative to use the former North Neighborhood Library site, 5571 Orange Ave., as temporary housing for those who are homeless.

Under the plan, according to a staff report, a portion of the beds at the L.A. county-run Winter Shelter, on Hayes Avenue, will be relocated to the city-owned Orange Avenue site. That would allow both shelters to maintain social-distancing guidelines while maintaining the 125-bed capacity the Winter Shelter currently has, the staff report said.

Staff writer David Rosenfeld contributed to this report.

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