Corona virus press conference (copy)

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, center, speaks at an earlier coronavirus update with City Health Officer Dr. Anissa Davis, left.

Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations appear to be on the decline in Long Beach, officials announced Thursday, Aug. 13, the same day they also outlined health requirements for schools once they eventually get the OK to open.

There were 78 Long Beach residents in hospitals with the virus on Thursday, and the city’s positive testing rate was 8.6% — far lower than the peak of 15.2% that officials announced last month.

While the virus is still hitting Long Beach residents — the city reported 142 more cases and one more coronavirus-related death on Thursday — officials said the overall trends are headed in the right direction.

Mayor Robert Garcia noted during a Thursday afternoon briefing that the average number of coronavirus hospitalizations over the last four weeks was 82.9, but the average for the last two weeks had dropped to 77.9.

“That is telling us there is no spike,” he said. “There is definitely a flattening out, and there is a possibility that now we are seeing a decline in hospitalizations. We hope this trend continues.”

As of Thursday, 9,425 cases had been identified in Long Beach since the pandemic began in March, and 188 residents had died from coronavirus-related complications.

But 8,072 people — or 86% of those who have tested positive — have since recovered.

Long Beach still does not meet every guideline to be removed from the state’s monitoring list; the state requires the positive testing rate to be under 8%.

The state also requires that there be fewer than 100 cases identified per 100,000 people. Long Beach’s current rate is 247 cases per 100,000 people — lower than the city’s peak, which was in the high 300s, but still far above the state threshold.

Schools won’t be allowed to reopen until at least Oct. 5, but it’s possible those reopenings could happen later in the semester.

Currently, the state assesses coronavirus response at a county level, so for K-12 schools to open in Long Beach, Los Angeles County — whose metrics have tended to be worse than those of Long Beach — will have to remain off the state’s monitoring list for at least 14 days. But it’s possible, Health and Human Services Director Kelly Colopy said, that “there may be opportunities in the future” for K-6 schools in Long Beach to open faster than other districts in LA County, depending on the city’s indicators.

Whenever schools are eligible to reopen, though, they will have to meet certain city requirements that have been added to Long Beach’s health order, Colopy said. Those include:

• Creating a cohorting plan in which a small group of students and one teacher will stay together, with no crossover with other groups, to limit the opportunities for coronavirus exposure;

• Developing a plan for regularly testing personnel for the coronavirus;

• Creating a plan to ensure physical distancing at all times, including on buses, at arrival, at dismissal, in classrooms, during lunch and during extracurricular activities;

• Conducting health screenings whenever anyone enters campus;

• Communicating clearly with employees, students, families and the public about the requirements; and

• Ensuring education is accessible for all students — which means updating Individualized Education Plans and 504 Plans as needed.

Garcia, for his part, said that even though it’s not safe for schools to reopen now, it’s important to have plans in place for whenever that time comes.

“There is probably nothing more important for us as a country than getting right how and when schools get reopened safely,” he said. “It is not safe to do so right now.

“But at some point in the future, when kids get back to the classroom,” he said, “doing that safely to protect kids and teachers and parents is going to be critical.”

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