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LIVE BLOG: Long Beach Pride postponed because of coronavirus outbreak

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Live chat with Dr. Mario Molina: COVID-19 and the healthcare system

1:00 p.m. Wednesday | The Long Beach Post will be hosting a series of live, 30-minute discussions with experts and others to gain perspective on the  coronavirus health crisis.

The first discussion was held today, and moderated by Publisher David Sommers, with guest Dr. Mario Molina, former chief executive officer of Molina Healthcare who formerly worked as a medical researcher.

For a list of future live chats, click here.

— Staff reports

Long Beach bans all gatherings, closes parking lots for beaches and parks

2:30 p.m. Tuesday | In an effort to enforce sweeping stay-at-home orders from the state, county and city, Long Beach has closed parking lots for parks and beaches and reiterated that all gatherings are prohibited.

Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier and El Dorado Nature Center will be closed in addition to all parking lots at city-owned parks and beaches through April 19.

The decision follows in the steps of Los Angeles, San Diego and Orange counties, who have all moved to close parking lots at parks and beaches.

Additionally, gatherings of any size, public or private, will be prohibited citywide as part of the updated order.

“We are taking this next step because there are too many people ignoring social distancing while visiting our trails and beaches,” Mayor Robert Garcia said in a statement. “You can still ride your bicycle, walk your dog or go for a run, but we’re encouraging folks to avoid any type of gathering and to avoid groups of people. This is a health crisis and we must act now.”

The city says all residents must remain at home, with the following exceptions as long as social distancing of six feet or more is maintained:

Travel to and from essential businesses.
Travel to work at, or provide service to, a healthcare operation or essential infrastructure.
Engage in essential activities such as going to the grocery store or a medical appointment.
Exercise, jogging and other outdoor activities.

As previously announced, sports facilities at City-owned parks and beaches remain closed.

Residents living in parking impacted neighborhoods who have obtained special permits will still be allowed to park their vehicles at city-owned beach lots as a free alternative through April 30. Vehicles parking in a beach lot without a permit are subject to enforcement. Applications are still being accepted for free permits at the following beach parking lots:

Granada, 5100 E. Ocean Blvd.
Junipero, 2100 E. Ocean Blvd.
Belmont, 3998 E. Allin St.

— Kelly Puente

Dignity Health to offer free virtual urgent care

1:00 p.m. Tuesday | People who believe they are experiencing mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19 can now talk to a doctor for free through Dignity Health’s virtual urgent care, the healthcare provider announced this week.

If a person is experiencing a fever of 100.4 degrees or above, cough or shortness of breath, they can get a free virtual visit without risking exposing others.

Wait times may be longer because more people are using the service, but “virtual urgent care is still likely to be a faster and safer option than going to the doctor’s office or emergency room,” according to the company.

The service allows for patients to talk to a doctor on the phone or through video chat. The cost is free to those with symptoms of COVID-19, but usually costs a flat fee of $35. Patients will need to use the coupon code “COVID19.”

The health provider will decide if each patient’s situation is appropriate for a virtual visit at the beginning and if it isn’t, the patient will not be charged a fee.

“As the new coronavirus creates more demand at local healthcare facilities, we are encouraging all patients to consider a virtual visit as an alternative to going to the doctor’s office,” the company said.

Though, patients cannot be diagnosed with COVID-19 through a virtual visit, they can be screened and they can ask questions and be recommended next steps.

To use it, patients can go to https://www.dignityhealth.org/virtualcareanywhere, download the app or call 855-356-8053 and use the coupon code COVID19.

— Valerie Osier

City Council to consider opening second homeless shelter due to COVID-19

12:49 p.m. Tuesday | At its meeting this evening, the Long Beach City Council will consider opening a second winter shelter in North Long Beach for six months in order to abide by social distancing orders brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

If approved, the city’s former North Neighborhood Library at 5571 Orange Ave.—which has been used as a winter homeless shelter in the past—would be used as a shelter from April 1 to Sept. 30.

At its March 17 meeting, the City Council authorized extending the operation of the current West Long Beach winter homeless shelter until Sept. 30.

That facility, which holds 125 b and is located at 1718-1722 Hayes Ave, will continue to be funded by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority and operated by the nonprofit U.S. VETS.

However, if the city council approves the second shelter, both facilities will split the 125 b to adhere to social distancing requirements.

“In light of the recent COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent requirement for social distancing, the Hayes Site can longer support the appropriate number of b and maintain the recommended minimum distance of six feet between persons,” health and economic development department heads stated in a report.

Full story here.

— Stephanie Rivera

Latest numbers: Long Beach reports 7 new coronavirus cases

12:28 p.m. Tuesday | The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Long Beach climbed to 28 on Tuesday.

The number is up from 21 cases reported on Monday and comes as the city saw its first fatality—a woman in her 50s with underlying health conditions.

The latest numbers include one of two Cal State Long Beach students who have contracted the new coronavirus. The second student was not counted in Long Beach’s numbers because the person does not live in the city, officials said.

It’s unclear how many people are being monitored for possible exposure to COVID-19. The city’s health department said it is no longer reporting that number because it is focusing on “prioritizing the highest-risk contacts.”

As the number of cases rises, Long Beach is building a temporary medical facility for non-COVID-19 patients at the Port of Long Beach’s former Sea Launch facility. A Navy hospital ship is also headed to the Port of Los Angeles.

Based on advice from the state, the Long Beach Health Department issued guidance to local healthcare providers not to test patients with only mild COVID-19 symptoms because of a shortage of tests.

City health officials said testing will continue to be based on medical need and will help ensure that people who most need testing can get results rapidly, while reducing strain on the health care system.

Los Angeles County on Tuesday reported four new deaths for a total of 11 in the county, including one person under the age of 18. The county confirmed 128 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 669 cases.

— Kelly Puente

How LBUSD students can get free Chromebooks, internet and meals

11:57 a.m. Tuesday | The Long Beach Unified School District’s campuses are closed until at least May 3, but the district’s more than 70,000 students still have access to online instruction and vital services including free meals. Here’s how families can access these resources.

Home learning opportunities

While the district’s campuses are closed, students will get instruction via the LBUSD’s “Home Learning Opportunities” hub. Click here to visit the website.

Once on the hub, navigate to your school, then find your teachers for instructions on how to access Google Classroom for instruction and assignments.

According to LBUSD deputy superintendent Jill Baker, this schoolwork will be “relevant and standards-based,” but will not be graded.

Special-education students can find additional resources on the Home Learning Opportunities hub, and on their school pages.

Chromebooks

Students who have access to a computer at home are asked to use that computer, but students who need one can check out a Chromebook to use at home for the duration of the closures.

They’ll be distributed at Cabrillo High School, Hughes Middle School, Jordan High School, Lakewood High School, Millikan High School and Poly High School.

Anyone who ne a Chromebook can show up at those campuses between 8 and 11 a.m. Wednesday, March 25 through Friday March 27.

A student ID is required to check out a Chromebook.

Home internet

Those who need internet at home will have the ability to get either a home-internet hotspot from the district or a low-cost internet plan through a provider. More information on both options will be provided at the distribution sites when picking up Chromebooks.

Meals

Free meal service will be provided through the duration of the shutdown. All children ages 1 to 18, regardless of whether they’re a student or not, can pick up meals from 11:30 a.m. until 1 p.m. on weekdays. Meals will be grab-and-go style lunches, as well as a breakfast to eat the following morning.

Meals will be serviced at every LBUSD campus except Beach/Reid, Browning, CAMS, Lowell, Millikan, Naples, PAAL, Renaissance, Sato and Stanford.

LBUSD spokesman Chris Eftychiou said the district distributed 39,767 meals last week.

— Mike Guardabascio

Two Cal State Long Beach students test positive for COVID-19

9:40 a.m. Tuesday | Two Cal State long Beach students have tested positive for COVID-19 and are in self-isolation off campus, officials said Tuesday.

President Jane Close Conoley in a email to students and faculty said health officials are notifying those who may have come into contact with the students.

In one case, the student has not been on campus for two weeks, while in the second case, health officials said there was no “opportunity for on-campus exposure,” she said.

Read the full story here.

— Kelly Puente

Courts suspend trials, postpone misdemeanor hearings during COVID-19 outbreak

8:40 a.m. Tuesday | In an unprecedented order, California’s chief justice on Monday suspended all superior court jury trials for 60 days because of the coronavirus outbreak.

“The world, country, and state face a life-threatening pandemic caused by the COVID-19 virus,” Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye said in her order, which impacts all 58 superior courts.

Read the full story here.

— Wire reports

Woman dies of COVID-19 in Long Beach, the city’s first fatal case

6 p.m. Monday | Long Beach officials today confirmed the first fatal case of COVID-19 in the city as the number of cases locally continued to climb.

Authorities said a woman in her 50s with underlying health conditions died from the new coronavirus disease. Epidemiologists are working to track whether she may have exposed anyone else to the virus, officials said.

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

The woman is one of 21 patients in Long Beach who have tested positive for COVID-19, city health officials said Monday afternoon.

Read the full story here.

— Jeremiah Dobruck

‘We’re ready’: Conservation Corps providing frontline support during pandemic

5 p.m. Monday | Over the weekend, a group of about 18 young men and women quickly assembled at a temporary hospital facility at the Port of Long Beach in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The request for a medical center to add hospital bed capacity for non-COVID-19 patients came from the city’s emergency response team.

It was completed by the Conservation Corps of Long Beach, a nonprofit organization that provides occupational skills training among other programs for about 80 at-risk youth ages 18 to 26.

Our corpsmembers are more than just stewards of the community. They are the definition of community. Today, crews helped the City of Long Beach’s Emergency Response Team erect and set up screening and triage centers at the Port of Long Beach. This is who we are. This is what we do. Together, we will overcome #covid_19. #community #longbeachca #longbeach #losangeles #conservation #conservationcorps #teamwork #staystrong #staysafe #stayhealthy #southerncalifornia #california #doingourpart #wegotthis #portoflongbeach #portoflosangeles

A post shared by ConservationCorps of LongBeach (@thecclb) on Mar 20, 2020 at 6:38pm PDT

The CCLB is one of 14 certified conservation corps programs in the state, and while corps members are usually seen providing additional support to city departments—like public works and parks, recreation marine—they traditionally serve during an emergency and time of need, according to Executive Director/CEO Dan Knapp.

“We’re ready,” said Knapp of his workforce.

In the past, corps members have responded to post-fire cleanups, flood control management and even providing additional help in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

On Friday, when Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the deployment of the National Guard to help distribute food, he also noted the deployment and service of these conservation corps programs.

“This short-term assistance from the California National Guard allows time to mobilize AmeriCorps, California Conservation Corps and Local Conservation Corps members, and other volunteers where counties have identified serious gaps,” Newsom’s office stated at the time.

Knapp imagines they will soon be asked to distribute food in connection with the governor’s request.

A temporary hospital facility for non-COVID-19 patients is under construction at the Port of Long Beach’s former Sea Launch facility. #POLB is proud to partner with the @LBHealthDept to support the project.

A post shared by Port of Long Beach (@portoflongbeach) on Mar 23, 2020 at 2:30pm PDT

While lower priority projects have been dropped due to urgent coronavirus-related ne, corps members are still completing tasks necessary to maintain cleanliness—an important aspect in combating the spread of the virus.

One such example is contract work to clean up Second Street in Belmont Shore, including emptying trash cans. However, even tasks like these have required readjustments to keep in line with orders like social distancing.

“We have completely altered how we do business,” Knapp noted.

Knapp said that the conservation corps will continue to be in this holding pattern until another call comes their way.

Their next project will likely be coming from the County Office of Emergency Services to organize and load boxes of personal protective equipment, like gloves and masks, that is being stored at the Long Beach Convention Center and other locations and will be distributed to area hospitals, clinics and resource centers.

— Stephanie Rivera

Street sweeping ticketing to resume March 30

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said Monday that street sweeping ticketing would resume Monday, March 30, after a pause to help residents during implementation of measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The mayor said clearing roads and streets is imperative, particularly as storms pass through the area. If the city doesn’t resume this service, it could have not only a health emergency to deal with, but a flooding emergency as well, Garcia said at an afternoon press conference.

The mayor noted that the city has opened up city lots and garages for those who live in parking impacted areas at no cost.

For more information on how to get a permit, click here. For questions, call 562-570-8055.

— Melissa Evans

Los Angeles County closes trails

2:38 p.m. Monday | Los Angeles County has closed its trails due to overcrowding this past weekend, officials said.

“You may walk/run in your neighborhood for fresh air and exercise,” the county said in a tweet. “Stay at least 6 feet away from others when you leave home.”

Officials in Long Beach on Sunday also expanded the city’s restrictions on gatherings to include sports facilities and picnic areas at local parks and beaches.

Because of overcrowding this weekend, we’ve decided to close our @lacountyparks trails. Please remember, you’re safer at home. For exercise and fresh air, please stick to walks in your neighborhood, avoid going in large groups, and stay six feet apart. pic.twitter.com/szU0LSoieq

— Supervisor Kathryn Barger (@kathrynbarger) March 23, 2020

Clerks offices closed, jury service canceled at local courts

10:40 a.m. Monday | COVID-19 is making it harder to file paperwork at courthouses in Los Angeles County.

Starting today, the Superior Court of Los Angeles County is closing the clerks offices at all of its locations, including in Long Beach, according to a public notice.

All jury service has also been canceled through the week of April 6, according to the court’s website.

Most courtrooms will stay open to hear “time-sensitive, essential court hearings and matters,” the court’s notice said, but shutting down clerks offices means any paperwork will have to be filed electronically or using drop boxes set up outside of courthouses.

One exception is the Sylmar Courthouse, which has been ordered shut down for three days after a deputy public defender tested positive for COVID-19.

The court system is also setting up special procedures to make sure emergency motions and restraining orders can be filed. Officials said they’ll outline more details soon.

“Unrepresented litigants who cannot electronically file or fax file their pleading and attorneys who are required to submit paper copies of pleadings, are strongly encouraged to send them via U.S. Mail or other commercial delivery,” the court said.

Authorities said more info will be continually posted on the court’s website at lacourt.org.

— Jeremiah Dobruck

Memorial Medical Center to accept donations of masks, protective equipment

5 p.m. Sunday | Community members who want to donate unused personal protective equipment like disposable gloves, masks and gowns, can do so at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center starting this Monday, officials announced.

Right now, workers at Memorial and neighboring Miller Children’s Women’s Hospital have the gear needed to protect themselves and others while caring for COVID-19 patients, said Richele Steele, a spokeswoman for MemorialCare Health System, which runs both hospitals.

However, with the number of COVID-19 patients rising daily, “and the outpouring of generosity from the Long Beach community,” Memorial is accepting the community’s help of donating supplies, Steele said.

The following new or unused items can be donated:

Disposable face masks
N95 masks, sometimes called respirators
Eye protection including face shields and safety goggles
Disposable gowns
Disposable gloves, especially non-latex
Disposable surgical caps
Disposable foot covers
Wipes: bleach or antimicrobial
Hand sanitizer

More specialized items:

PAPRs (powered air-purifying respirators) and PAPR hoods
CAPRs
Ventilators

Starting Monday, March 23 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday to Friday, a donation site will be open in the Todd Cancer Pavilion parking lot at 2810 Long Beach Blvd. Click here for more information.

Anyone who isn’t feeling well should wait until they’re feeling better to donate, officials said.

— Stephanie Rivera

Trump approves National Guard activation in California, sends Navy hospital ship to LA Port

4:45 p.m. Sunday | President Donald Trump announced today that he had approved activating the National Guard in California, New York and Washington state to allow governors more flexibility in carrying out missions to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

His administration is also sending a massive Navy hospital ship to the Port of Los Angeles in an attempt to take the strain off local hospitals dealing with COVID-19 patients, federal officials said in a Sunday afternoon news conference.

Through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the federal government will be funding the full cost of deploying the National Guard units to “carry out approved missions to stop the virus” while the governors remain in command, Trump said.

Read the full story here.

— Stephanie Rivera

Sports facilities are closed at Long Beach parks and beaches, officials say

4:15 p.m. Sunday | Because groups of people continued to use them despite orders to stay home and avoid groups, Long Beach officials said Sunday that all sports facilities and picnic areas are closed at local parks and beaches.

“We continue to see large groups of people gathering in our parks playing team sports and at the beach—and that is a problem,” Mayor Robert Garcia said in a statement.

The beaches and parks will remain open so people can walk, bike and hike, but many amenities and activities will be shut down. That includes:

Basketball courts
Tennis courts
Volleyball courts
Dog parks
Playgrounds
Skate parks
Picnic areas
Group exercise in parks

Long Beach residents and the rest of California were ordered to stay home by state and local officials last week to slow the spread of COVID-19. As they made the announcement, authorities emphasized it was OK to go outside and exercise as long as people maintained a proper social distance of at least 6 feet.

This weekend Garcia and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti both tweeted that many people didn’t seem to be taking those guidelines seriously.

“I am seeing tons of people out there acting like there’s no crisis,” Garcia wrote. “You could be carrying the virus, have no symptoms, and be responsible for the illness or worse of others.”

If people do go out to local parks, health officials urged them to keep their distance from others and be careful when touching surfaces like handrails, water fountains and crosswalk buttons. They noted that research suggests the new coronavirus can survive on some surfaces for up to 72 hours.

“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,” Garcia said.

Officials are also working on further guidance about beaches, he added. In a Sunday afternoon address, Garcetti said he and other local officials are considering closing beaches altogether if necessary.

“Your decision to not physically distance yourself may kill someone,” he said.

— Jeremiah Dobruck

Fifth person dies as coronavirus continues to spread in Los Angeles County

2:43 p.m. Sunday | The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases continued to climb across Los Angeles County Sunday with 71 new patients testing positive for the disease, health officials said.

In just the last 48 hours, there have been 132 new confirmed cases in the county, bringing the total to 409, which includes the 15 in Long Beach. Health officials have repeatedly said are likely many additional cases they don’t know about.

Authorities also announced Sunday that a fifth person in Los Angeles County has died from the coronavirus. The person was a Culver City resident who was over 65 and had underlying health conditions, they said.

Because there are positive cases across the entire county, the public should not think one location is safer than (another),” officials said in an update.

Officials reiterated the best way to slow COVID-19 from spreading and potentially overloading hospitals with serious cases is to stay at home and stay at least six feet away from others.

“In tough times, I know many Angelenos want to do what we always do—find peace comfort in the natural beauty of our city. But please remember: outdoor activity is only allowed when practicing physical distancing. Crowding hiking trails or beaches will further spread COVID-19,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti tweeted Sunday.

Health officials said it was critical that everyone obey local and statewide health orders that banned gatherings and instructed people to stay home unless they’re performing an essential function.

“Seriously people, you need to practice social distancing. 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,” Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia tweeted.

— Staff and wire reports

No new cases of COVID-19 found in Long Beach as testing continues to be limited

12:30 p.m. Sunday | City officials announced Sunday that there are no new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Long Beach, keeping the total at 15 patients.

The number of those being monitored for possible exposure remains at about 140 people while the number of those recovered is still at four.

Health officials said they and private labs have continued to perform tests for COVID-19, but they weren’t able to say how many. Long Beach has been limited in its screenings because of a lack of supplies.

“The testing is just really hard,” Mayor Robert Garcia said Friday.

He said the federal government has been slow in getting city labs the equipment they need.

“We don’t have enough tests,” he said. ”That’s just the facts.”

Because of that, the current numbers aren’t a completely accurate reflection of how widespread the coronavirus may be locally.

“Everyone should be acting and responding as if everyone around them was infected,” Garcia said.

In Los Angeles County, officials have given up on trying to isolate the spread of the virus by using tests to pinpoint it.

The Los Angeles Times reported health officials sent a letter advising doctors only to test patients for the coronavirus if the results would make a difference in how the patient was treated.

According to the Times, the letter said the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health “is shifting from a strategy of case containment to slowing disease transmission and averting excess morbidity and mortality.”

On Saturday night, county health officials announced that two more people have died from COVID-19 and an additional 59 people in the county tested positive for the disease, bringing the total to four deaths and 351 people infected.

The two people who died most recently were both over the age of 65 and had underlying health conditions, health officials said Saturday. One resided in Del Rey, the other in Miracle Mile, the county department of public health reported. As of Saturday night, 69 positive cases have been hospitalized in Los Angeles County. Nobody in Long Beach has died from COVID-19.

— Staff and wire reports

Community hospital postpones accepting transfer patients, plans to reopen soon

4:46 p.m. Saturday | Community Hospital postponed its planned reopening on Saturday as operators were still working out plans for accepting transfer patients from nearby hospital to help with the anticipated rise in coronavirus patients.

Brandon Dowling, a spokesman for hospital operator Molina, Wu, Network, said the hospital expects to reopen soon.

“We are working around the clock to finalize the arrival of patients from local hospitals and to ensure that we have the necessary staffing, equipment and medical supplies to guarantee their safety and care,” Dowling said in a statement. “We will not be accepting patients today, however we expect to start accepting transfer patients in the coming days.”

The 94-year-old East Long Beach has been closed since 2018 due to seismic compliance issues, shuttering the area’s only emergency room. Operators were planning to reopen later this year, but the facility was given the green light to open early under special order from the governor’s office.

Full story here.

— Kelly Puente

Long Beach to allow residents in impacted areas to park in city lots, garages

4:25 p.m. Saturday | Long Beach beginning today will offer free parking permits for residents in impacted neighborhoods and increased parking meter courtesy times—moves intended to help blunt the effects of requiring the majority of residents to stay at home to stem the spread of coronavirus.

“We are looking at every way we can to make the inconveniences of this health emergency easier for residents,” Mayor Robert Garcia said in a statement. “The patterns of our daily lives will be different for the foreseeable future, and it’s our hope that these parking measures will make one aspect of that less stressful.”

Now through through April 30, residents living in parking impacted neighborhoods can apply for a free parking permit for one several beach lots or parking garages.

Residents can email [email protected] to receive an application. Passes will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Full story and locations here.

— Kelly Puente

How Long Beach will enforce a sweeping stay-at-home order

2:24 p.m. Saturday | The city is expecting residents and businesses to comply voluntarily with a new stay-at-home order that went into effect Friday, but will use more stringent measures—including fines and arrest—if necessary, according to a new memo that gives more clarity to enforcement measures.

Signs are posted throughout a farmers market to remind people to stay a safe distance away from one another in Downtowntown Long Beach Friday, March 20, 2020. Some people are taking any precautions because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

The sweeping order, called “Safer at Home,” requires all non-essential workers and others to stay home, with the exception of grocery shopping, caring for a relative, health ne and other necessary activities. The city is asking residents not to gather in groups of more than 10 while indoors, and to practice social distancing of at least 6 feet from other people to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The state and county have issued similar orders in hopes of stemming the spread of coronavirus, or COVID-19.

But, given limited police and city resources, how such an order would be enforced has remained unclear. The memo says police will use their authority if necessary, though officers in the field are being directed to first evaluate the situation—if a non-essential business is found to be open, for example—and work to educate those involved and try to get their voluntary compliance.

“Enforcement action should be the last option utilized, unless the circumstances pose an immediate threat of violence or other serious public safety concerns,” the memo said.

It is, however, a misdemeanor crime for businesses to not comply with the health department’s order and it can be punished with a fine, imprisonment or both, according to the city. The business’ staff or representative could be cited, and the business itself could have its business license and health permit revoked.

Full story here.

— Valerie Osier

Long Beach reports one new case of coronavirus

12:25 p.m. Saturday | In its latest count, Long Beach officials announced one new coronavirus case, bringing the total to 15.

A total of four people have recovered so far and officials have been or are currently monitoring 140 people, which is what officials also reported Friday.

Testing for the virus will likely slow, since county health officials have advised doctors to restrict testing for COVID-19 unless a positive result would change the patient treatment. It’s not clear how many people have been tested in Long Beach because some testing has been done at private labs, officials have said.

California now has 1,278 confirmed cases and 24 people have so far died. Nationwide, 19,624 case have been reported.

— Valerie Osier

Long Beach’s job center is open to help with searches, unemployment

12:00 p.m. Saturday | The Workplace job center is still open to help people affected by the coronavirus pandemic, officials reminded residents today.

The center, located at 4811 Airport Plaza Dr., Suite 120, can help workers find information on job openings, vocational training and unemployment insurance benefits.

“We know the current health emergency is negatively impacting thousands of workers and hundr of businesses here in Long Beach,” Mayor Robert Garcia said. “Keeping our job centers open to assist our employers, workers and their families during this economic emergency helps to address many other challenges.”

The center is managed by the Pacific Gateway Workforce Innovation Network and has information sessions scheduled weekdays from 9 to 11 a.m. With social distancing, the orientations are limited to nine people at a time, but one-on-one counseling can happen over the phone. They also have a live feed with resources and updates at 2 p.m. on weekdays from the Pacific Gateway’s Instagram account @pacgateway.

Businesses looking for information on small business loans, business consulting, WorkShare employment program can visit the city’s Economic Development Department website or call 562-570-4249.

— Staff Report

Long Beach clarifies non-essential businesses, includes hair salons

7:05 p.m. Friday | After confusion over what businesses are considered essential and non-essential in the county and state’s stay at home order, the city of Long Beach has offered some clarification: barbershops, hair and nail salons are considered non-essential and must stay closed.

“We ask that you follow the City’s amended Health Order and we will provide any additional information if we find that the State’s order has additional restrictions,” said Mayor Robert Garcia.

The order originally said personal grooming services were considered essential but has now amended the order to classify them as not. This includes hair salons and barber shops, nail salons, waxing services, cosmetology, electrolysis, spa services, such as facials, massages and body scrubs. Gyms and fitness centers remain non-essential.

Medical cannabis dispensaries, bakeries and businesses that provide ​death care​ services, such as the removal, care and preparation and internment of deceased persons or animals are all considered essential, according to the city’s release.

The state has also started allowing sales of alcoholic beverages to-go, and permit drive-through service for places that sell alcohol.  

“As we continue to navigate through this unprecedented public health crisis, we will continue to review the statewide order to ensure the City’s compliance by amending our order accordingly,” the city said in a news release.

— Valerie Osier

Long Beach Transit to modify schedule in response to COVID-19

4:40 p.m. Friday | Beginning Sunday, Long Beach Transit will modify its service schedule to operate all buses from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week.

The change is in response to calls from the sate and city to minimize the risk of exposure to COVID-19, as well as the result of school and other closures.

“This is a necessary step to maintain vital transit services for essential travel,” said President and CEO Kenneth A. McDonald.

The modified bus schedule will run until further notice and customers are encouraged to plan ahead. In addition to the modified bus schedule, the customer information call center and the Transit  Visitor Information Center in Downtown Long Beach will operate Monday through Friday only, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

LBT’s website, ridelbt.com, will be updated with the modified bus schedule information and customers can visit the website or call the customer call center at 562-591-2301 for the latest information.

— Staff report 

CSU Chancellor, campus presidents postpone retirements amid pandemic

3:41 p.m. Friday | California State University Chancellor Timothy White and Cal State Northridge President Dianne Harrison will delay their previously announced end-of-academic-year retirements due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Long Beach-based university system announced today.

“As the world faces an unprecedented crisis, now more than ever, it is crucially important for stable and experienced hands to provide thoughtful guidance on all areas affecting the operations of the university,” CSU Board of Trustees Chairman Adam Day said in a statement.

Cal State East Bay President Leroy Morishita will also postponed his planned retirement, according to the CSU. Day said the searches for a new CSU chancellor and new presidents for the two universities will be paused, with the efforts restarting later this year.

In October 2019, White announced that he intended to retire as CSU chancellor in July 2020. Assuming the position of chancellor in 2012, White “led the university’s restoration and resurgence from Great Recession-era cuts to achieve unprecedented heights for student enrollment and graduation,” Day said.

Harrison, who has been CSUN president since 2012, announced her retirement plans in November, saying she would step down at the end of June. Morishita announced his retirement plans in September. He has led Cal State East Bay since 2011.

“I am pleased and relieved Chancellor White and Presidents Morishita and Harrison will continue to provide their leadership for the immediate future,” Day said.

— City News Service 

LBUSD schools to close for another 2 weeks

3:22 p.m. Friday | Long Beach school officials announced Friday that schools will be closed at least another two weeks, to May 3, as officials across the city, state and country try to contain the spread of coronavirus.

“Schools may reopen on Monday, May 4, but an additional extension of the closure beyond that date is possible,” the district said in a statement.

The district will continue to provide free meals during that time, though on a slightly modified schedule. Any additional changes will be announced.

The district will also be sending home-learning plans to students and parents on Monday, and students will be able to pick up Chromebooks to complete work assignments on Wednesday.

Updated information will be available at lbschools.net.

— Mike Guardabascio 

Live chat with the Long Beach mayor; Chat en vivo con Alcalde Robert García

1:00 p.m. Friday | The Long Beach Post, Press-Telegram and Signal Tribune co-hosted a live chat with Mayor Robert Garcia and Epidemiologist Belinda Prado, who works in the Long Beach Department of Health Human Services.

To watch the chat in english, click here.

The Long Beach Post, Press-Telegram y Signal Tribune organizaron una conversación en vivo con el alcalde Robert García y la epidemióloga Belinda Prado, que trabaja en el Departamento de Salud y Servicios Humanos de Long Beach.

Para ver en español, haga clic aquí.

— Staff Reports

Latest numbers: Long Beach sees two new cases of coronavirus

12:51 p.m. Friday | The number of coronavirus cases continued to climb in Long Beach on Friday with two new cases reported, bringing the total to 14, officials said.

Approximately 140 people are currently being monitored, up from 130 on Thursday. Three individuals have recovered, officials said.

It is not clear how many people have been tested for coronavirus. City officials expect the numbers to grow as more people are being tested, but Long Beach was late to received test kits as they were distributed to other cities and counties with higher rates.

Statewide, the numbers have climbed to 1,063 confirmed cases and 21 deaths. More than 14,000 cases have been reported nationwide.

— Kelly Puente

Countywide order directs all residents to stay home

6:10 p.m. Thursday | Officials are ordering all residents of Los Angeles County—including Long Beach—to stay at home in the latest of several extraordinary measures to stem the spread of coronavirus.

The order, effective at midnight tonight, excludes workers in essential industries, such as grocery stores, workers at the ports, health workers and first-responders—and residents will still be able to shop for food, care for family members or go for a walk.

However malls, museums, retail stores, nonprofits and other venues must stop operations, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said. No public and private gatherings of any size will be allowed: “The only time you should leave your home is for essential activities,” he said.

Restaurants are allowed to stay open for pick-up or delivery only, officials said.

But officials are asking all non-essential workers and businesses to close operations or move them remote, and for residents to not gather anywhere with more than 10 people.

Read the full story here.

— Kelly Puente

As schools close, disabled students lose critical care

1:38 p.m. Thursday | When Long Beach schools shut down Friday, Mayra Garcia-Cortez knew it didn’t just mean a few days of missed classwork for her brother. It had the potential to undermine months of hard-fought therapy.

Jared, a 19-year-old with autism, cerebral palsy and 14 other disabilities, attends a specialized campus where he works on life skills and goes on outings meant to prepare him for vocational school after he ages out of his K-12 education.

As the coronavirus pandemic hit and schools scrambled to set up off-campus learning, Jared, who is nonverbal and struggles with motor skills, was sent home with a work packet that covered things like multiplication tables.

“Excuse my language, but what the hell is he supposed to do with that?” Mayra said.

Jared is one of the tens of thousands of students in Long Beach and across the country who rely on their schools not just for academics but for critical therapies and services they may not get anywhere else.

The coronavirus has disrupted the lives of almost every student across the state as districts have shut down, but for kids with special ne, the stakes are especially high. As the world reacts to the health and economic crises caused by COVID-19, these students’ families and advocates fear they’re being forgotten.

Read the full story here.

— Jeremiah Dobruck

Long Beach reports 2 more cases of coronavirus; 3 people have recovered

12:00 p.m. Thursday | Two additional people have been infected with coronavirus, bringing the Long Beach’s total to 12, city officials announced Thursday.

The number of people who’ve tested positive is up from 10 on Wednesday, and five reported on Saturday. Three of those who originally tested positive have recovered, officials said.

Approximately 130 people currently being monitored—a number that has not changed from Wednesday.

Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, nurses takes the temperatures of patents before they enter the Long Bach MemorialCare Medical Group Urgent Care in Long Beach,
Monday March 16, 2020. Photo by Stephen Carr

The city is expected to hold a press conference at 3 p.m. today with Mayor Robert Garcia and Emily Holman, the city communicable disease controller.

Officials have said they expect the numbers to grow as more people are being tested. The test kits were initially delayed as they were distributed to counties with higher infection rates, but last week Long Beach received 1,000 kits.

Health officials are still investigating where the infected individuals have traveled within the city and could release more information on that topic, but the details would be released in a way that protects peoples’ privacy, officials said.

— Kelly Puente

Regulators ‘exploring options’ to loosen alcohol sales restrictions

7:35 a.m. Thursday | As New York’s State Liquor Authority loosened restriction on liquor licenses across the state in light of the COVID-19 epidemic’s impact on the hospitality industry, California’s own Alcoholic Beverage Control is “exploring options to help licensees in this time of emergency while continuing to protect the public health, safety, and welfare,” according to John Carr, a spokesman for ABC.

Many restaurateurs struggling with mandatory closures across the country have called for expansions on liquor license laws, saying businesses rely on alcohol sales to boost revenue and profit margins. If these changes do occur in California, it remains unclear what they would look like.

On Monday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the state would be permitting restaurants to sell liquor for take-out—not just closed containers of beer and wine. The change was intended to help boost sales after a new mandate, similar to the ones enacted city- and statewide here, forced all bars to shut down and restaurants to close their dining rooms.

— Brian Addison

LBUSD to offer kids access to Chromebooks, home internet

8:44 p.m. Wednesday |  Long Beach Unified plans to educate its 70,000-plus students during a five-week shutdown by giving all of them access to a Chromebook laptop, as well as in-home internet access, officials said Wednesday.

Families who need a hotspot internet device will be able to request one. Deputy Superintendent Jill Baker said the devices have not yet arrived, but have been ordered.

Teachers in the district, meanwhile, will have an online staff meeting Monday with their principals to outline what the next few weeks of “home-learning” looks like.

“In the next few days there will be a series of communications about this,” Baker said at the Board of Education meeting Wednesday. “This is a whole infrastructure that came into place in the last two days. We are trying to figure out how can families and staff access things in the simplest way possible.”

Read the full story here.

— Mike Guardabascio JJ Fiddler 

Police warn of hoax circulating on social media

7:10 p.m. Wednesday | Long Beach police say they haven’t gotten any calls for service about a group of people in white coveralls burglarizing homes.

#LBPD assures our #LongBeach community that there is no indication of this activity taking place in our city we believe this post to be unsubstantiated.

Remember, if you “See Something, Say Something” – If you observe this activity ☎️ (562) 435-6711 or 9-1-1 for emergencies. pic.twitter.com/iYWMf0nnCy

— Long Beach PD (CA) (@LBPD) March 19, 2020

A post circulating on social media shows a group of people in white coveralls and claims they pretend to be testing for coronavirus, but actually are burglarizing people’s homes. The police department said they found the post to be unsubstantiated.

LBPD said they continue to monitor the situation and to report suspicious activity to them.

— Valerie Osier

Long Beach’s animal shelter temporarily closes to public; adoptions will continue via phone

5:30 p.m. Wednesday | Long Beach Animal Care Services starting Wednesday will start presenting and adopting pets to the public through social media, phone and by appointment in order to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

All outside adoption events involving the shelter have been called off or postponed.

The shelter is allowing entrance only to volunteers who provide direct animal care for feeding, cleaning and socializing. Volunteer and employees are also being told to practice social distancing from staff members and other volunteers.

“We’re doing whatever we can to limit exposure to the staff and community,” shelter manager Staycee Dains said. “Our staff ne to stay healthy so that they can continue to provide care to our animals.”

Dains said that she and her staff are looking at other creative ways to provide service by appointment—for example, if there’s a particular volunteer who’s knowledgeable of the habits and quirks of a particular animal, that volunteer can talk with the potential adopter over the phone.

Chunky Monkey (ID#A640988), 5 years old, has at least the heart and disposition of one, and the kindest eyes ever. He knows his commands pretty well and wants only affection from you. He’s perfect for an involuntary shut-in or a walk when the walls seem to close in. Check out his video on the shelter’s Facebook page.

While this directive is in effect, check out the adoptables on the shelter’s Facebook page, particularly the videos spotlighting some of the animals playing with and expressing their love to people. Photos and information about each animal in the shelters care can be found here.

To make an appointment to adopt or foster a pet, contact [email protected] or call 562-570-4925. You can help yourself get through this period of uncertainty and isolation, and you can help the pet forever.

— Kate Karp

Join Long Beach Post //Hub and connect with your neighbors

5:22 p.m. Wednesday | Today, the Long Beach Post launched //Hub, a space for you to connect with your neighbors, pool resources, ask for help if you need it and offer help if you can.

As we all navigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the most important thing is that we support our community. Those of us with healthy immune systems can assist our neighbors with compromised immune systems. Neighborhoods can pool resources so we make sure everyone has enough to get by. Those who still have paychecks can buy groceries, pick up prescriptions, offer to walk our neighbor’s dogs or do anything else that would make it easier for folks to stay inside.

Here’s how it works: Head over to hub.lbpost.com and create a username and password by clicking “Login / Register” on the top right of this page. You’ll need to click the verify link sent to your email address before you can post.

Read the full story here.

— Dennis Dean

LBCC will stay online until the end of spring semester

4:43 p.m. Wednesday |  Long Beach City College announced Wednesday they would continue teaching courses online until the end of the spring semester. Officials said they anticipate LBCC employees will be able to return to campus on June 8 and students on June 10, the first day of summer session.

“However, these dates may change as the COVID-19 health crisis evolves,” the college cautioned. The college also said there is a “high likelihood” the summer session will also be solely online.

The college has not made a decision about the 2020 graduation ceremony.

Only essential personnel will be onsite on either campus starting Monday. Both child development centers are closed until further notice.

The Board of Trustees meeting will be held remotely and can be viewed online.

— Valerie Osier

Willard Elementary School possibly exposed to coronavirus, officials say

2:18 p.m. Wednesday | Willard Elementary School families and staff were notified by the Long Beach Health Department this week that they may have been exposed to the new coronavirus before local schools were shut down.

A letter posted on the school’s website says, “You or your child may have been exposed to COVID-19 (also known as Coronavirus Disease 2019) at Willard Elementary School from March 12-13, 2020.”

March 13 was the last day Long Beach Unified schools were in session before shutting to try to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The letter, which was dated Tuesday, was sent to everyone at the school, according to health officials. They said someone at the campus tested positive for COVID-19 but declined to provide any more details about who or what part of campus they were on.

Read more here.

— Valerie Osier

Latest numbers: Long Beach reports 2 new coronavirus cases

12:08 p.m. Wednesday | The cases of coronavirus in Long Beach continued to climb Wednesday with two new people testing positive, bringing the city’s total to 10.

That number does not include a veteran with the virus who is being treated at the Long Beach VA Hospital because that person is not a Long Beach resident, officials said. The origins of the new cases are under investigation.

In Long Beach, approximately 130 more people are currently being monitored for possible exposure to COVID-19.

Read the full story.

— Kelly Puente

Grand Prix won’t be rescheduled this year

11:45 a.m. Wednesday | The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach that was set to take place next month will be completely canceled instead of being rescheduled for later in the year, organizers announced this morning.

Until today, the Grand Prix Association had said they were trying to find a new date for the 46th edition of the street race, which had been postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are very disappointed that we were unable to put something together for all our loyal fans and valued clients, but trying to reassemble all the elements that have made the Long Beach event such a success does not appear feasible for 2020,” said Jim Michaelian, president of the Grand Prix Association. “As a result, our attention will now be focused on planning the 46th Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 16-18, 2021.”

Those who have already bought tickets to the 2020 event will be given a refund or be allowed to apply their purchase to the 2021 race, organizers said.

— Staff reports

Memorial, St. Mary, VA won’t allow visitors

10 a.m. Wednesday | The three largest hospitals in Long Beach are prohibiting outside visitors, hoping to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Long Beach Memorial Medical Center, the Long Beach VA Hospital and St. Mary Medical Center will no longer allow in-person visits.

“The decision to suspend hospital visits was difficult and made only after careful consideration,” Long Beach Memorial said in a statement.

“We encourage family members and friends to use alternative ways to interact with their loved ones, including phone calls and using their mobile phones for voice and video calling apps like Facetime and Skype.”

— Staff reports

Hyatt Hotels announce temporary closure

2:39 p.m. Tuesday | On Tuesday, hotel chain Hyatt announced the closure of its two Long Beach locations, the Hyatt Regency and the Hyatt Centric The Pike, until May 11 or pending further notice.

“Guided by our purpose of care for our guests, colleagues, customers and community, we have made the difficult decision to temporarily cease normal hotel operations,” Hyatt Area General Manager Jon Benson said in a letter to Long Beach Convention Visitors Bureau President and CEO Steve Goodling.

“We will continue to assess the situation to evaluate whether we can open up sooner based on a safe working environment and business demand or if the need to further extend the temporary suspension is necessary,” Benson added.

Travel restrictions and voluntary social distancing have the travel industry suffering and representatives of the U.S. Travel Association didn’t mince words in a meeting with White House officials on Tuesday.

“The health crisis has rightly occupied the public’s and government’s attention, but a resulting catastrophe for employers and employees is already here and going to get worse,” U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow said.

Travel-related businesses employ 15.8 million Americans, and if they can’t afford to keep their lights on, they can’t afford to keep paying their employees. Without aggressive and immediate disaster relief steps, the recovery phase is going to be much longer and more difficult, and the lower rungs of the economic ladder are going to feel the worst of it,” Dow said.

A study released by the association on Tuesday estimates that “decreased travel due to coronavirus will inflict an $809 billion total hit on the U.S. economy and eliminate 4.6 million travel-related American jobs this year.”

Goodling acknowledged the pressure the industry is under and said his office is taking steps to set local businesses up for a speedy recovery.

“We have marketing and sales plans in place to help accelerate a recovery when restrictions are lifted and public sentiment changes,” Goodling said. “Until then, we’re working on future business, as we’re still getting leads from our clients and prospecting for more.”

— Alena Maschke

L.A. County reports 50 new cases of coronavirus

2:18 p.m. Tuesday | Saying dramatic rises in coronavirus cases should be anticipated given increases in testing, Los Angeles County’s public health director announced 50 new cases of the illness today, bringing the county’s total to 144.

Dr. Barbara Ferrer cautioned that the increase in the county’s cases—up more than 50% from Monday—should not be seen as a failure of “social distancing” measures that have been taken, such as closing bars and restaurants and cautioning against gatherings.

“If you look across the world, it generally takes three to four weeks to see the fruits of our labors,” she said.

She said most of the 50 newly identified cases are still being investigated to determine the patients’ source of exposure. Three of the new cases were reported earlier in the day by Long Beach, where a total of eight cases have now been confirmed. Of the three new Long Beach cases, two were people who had traveled to coronavirus-affected areas.

— City News Service 

CSULB to end in-person classes for rest of semester, postpone commencement

12:00 p.m. Tuesday | Cal State Long Beach will cancel face-to-face classes for the rest of the spring semester, moving them to an online or otherwise remote format, officials announced Tuesday.

Following other universities across the country, the campus of more than 36,000 students moved to alternative forms of instruction last week with plans to resume normal operations on April 20. But officials on Tuesday said the campus has now opted to close in-person instruction for the remainder of the semester, which ends May 22.

Students who live in dorms are also being strongly encouraged to vacate by March 27, unless they are international students and cannot, spokesman Jeff Cook said. Normally 2,680 students are in on-campus housing, he said. Students who cannot vacate their dorms for any reason are being asked to communicate their situation with student housing officials. They may be asked to change rooms in order to achieve social distancing, according to Cook.

The campus will also postpone spring commencement and related cultural celebrations.

The moves are meant to promote social distancing, something that can slow the spread of COVID-19 and help avoid overburdening hospitals with serious cases of the disease, which typically has mild symptoms, according to health officials.

“We must do our best to accomplish extreme social distancing,” President Jane Close Conoley said in a note to students and staff. “We are not closing our campus, nor suspending essential operations including instruction. Rather, we must transition to meet the demands of our new reality by lowering the campus population of employees and students, invoking social distancing techniques throughout.”

Staff will be asked to continue to work remotely on most days. The campus remains open, including housing and other services.

— Kelly Puente

Tenants receive eviction notices in the midst of pandemic; City Council may be able to help

11:00 a.m. Tuesday | On Friday, March 13, the Trump administration declared a national emergency in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

That same day, tenants at two buildings managed by the same property company received eviction notices telling them to vacate within 60 days, at a time when government and health officials have been directing households to shelter in place.

WestStar did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

One resident, who received a notice to vacate along with two other units at their Ocean Boulevard building in Alamitos Beach, said tenants were traumatized.

This isn’t the first time these tenants have received notices, either.

In February, they received a notice just before the City Council voted on an emergency ordinance that mandated all evictions citing substantial remodeling to be void until property owners obtained building permits and provided information on the scope of work.

Read the full story here.

— Stephanie Rivera

UPDATE: Long Beach reports eighth case of coronavirus 

9:50 a.m. Tuesday | Long Beach has reported its eighth cases of the new coronavirus disease, and the numbers in Los Angeles County have grown to almost 100.

The three new cases were Long Beach’s first since Saturday. Read more here.

— Kelly Puente 

Mother’s Market offers delivery, special hours for seniors

8:55 a.m. Tuesday | Mother’s Market, which has a location in Signal Hill, announced that it is offering special store hours and free delivery for people most at risk for having serious complications from the coronavirus.

Starting March 18, all Mother’s Market stores will open at 6 a.m., which is an hour early, only for people in high-risk populations such as the elderly, disabled or those with compromised immune systems, the grocery chain said in a statement.

Those same groups can also get free delivery from Mother’s Market by visiting the chain’s website and using the coupon code FREE4SENIORS.

“Customers can request that deliveries be left on the doorstep to further limit exposure,” a statement said.

For more info about stores altering hours and offering resources for seniors, see a list here.

— Jeremiah Dobruck

Closed classrooms, open kitchens; here’s how schools look during COVID-19 shutdowns

7:00 a.m. Tuesday | Its campuses are empty, but the Long Beach Unified School District is trying to make sure students’ bellies are still full.

After LBUSD schools shut down to slow the spread of COVID-19, Monday was the first day every campus had their doors open from 8 to 9 a.m. to serve a free breakfast to anyone aged 1-18, and again from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. for lunch.

The morning hour was quiet at most schools, with a steadier trickle of students in the lunch hour. Because every school was open, there were no reports of large lines or crowds at any location, allowing those serving and receiving food to practice social distancing.

Read the full story here.

— Mike Guardabascio

Los Angeles County court gets emergency authorization to close for three days

8:30 a.m. Tuesday | The Los Angeles Superior Court system has received emergency authorization from the state’s Chief Justice to close for three days in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The nation’s largest court system will be closed to the public today through Thursday and will resume normal operations Friday for the limited purpose of hearing essential or emergency cases in criminal, civil and other areas.

All cases, including those for people in custody, will be rescheduled for Friday or continued to next week.

Presiding Judge Kevin C. Brazile in a statement said the courts will continue to serve the ne of the most vulnerable people in Los Angeles County.

“The Superior Court of Los Angeles County is committed to providing equal access to justice through the fair, timely and efficient resolution of all cases,” he said. “However, it is imperative that we continue aligning our Court with the most recent directives and guidelines issued by our national, state and local public health officials.”

The order allows the court to postpone criminal arraignments, preliminary hearings and trials.

Over the next few days, the court is expected to release further details about the extent to which the court system is reducing and scaling back operations.

Los Angeles County, Governor George Deukmejian Courthouse, Long Beach Superior courthouse in Long Beach Wednesday, July 17, 2019. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

— Kelly Puente

Charter offers free access to Spectrum broadband and Wi-Fi for 60 days

6 p.m. Monday | Charter announced that beginning today it will be offering free Spectrum broadband and Wi-Fi access for 60 days to households with K-12 and/or college students in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“As the country works collaboratively to contain this pandemic, broadband internet access will be increasingly essential to ensuring that people across the country are able to learn and work remotely, that businesses can continue to serve customers, and that Americans stay connected and engaged with family and friends,” officials said in a statement.

The broadband and Wi-Fi access will be offered to households who don’t already have a subscription at any service level up to 100 Mbps.

Charter will also open its Wi-Fi hotspots across its footprint for public use.

The company will also partner with school districts to ensure local communities are aware of the available tools to help students learn remotely.

For eligible low-income households without school-aged children, Charter will continue to offer Spectrum Internet Assist, it’s low-cost broadband program delivering 30 Mbps spe.

“Charter will continue to closely monitor this dynamic situation, and is well-prepared to continue delivering reliable connectivity,” officials stated. “Charter has extensive business and workforce continuity plans in place that will be adjusted as needed to best serve all our customers and employees.”

To enroll call 844-488-8395. Installation fees will be waived for new student households.

— Stephanie Rivera 

Mayor moves to close restaurants

4:41 p.m. Monday | Long Beach is moving toward shutting down dine-in service at all restaurants, as well as closing movie theaters, gyms and other places where large crowds gather, the mayor said at wide-ranging press conference Monday that covered many aspects of the city’s response to the new coronavirus.

The city is also pausing parking tickets and street sweeping ticketing for one week: “We don’t want folks to wake up and be faced with misinformation as it relates to not moving their cars,” Mayor Robert Garcia said.

However, he emphasized street sweeping is “an important function as it relates to public health,” he said. “It is important that we have the ability to move debris.”

Read the full story here. 

— Stephanie Rivera

Sheriff’s Department cutting jail population due to coronavirus

Responding to slow the spread of the coronavirus, the sheriff’s department has taken steps to reduce the inmate population at jail facilities, essentially releasing people with less than 30 days left on their sentences, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said today.

“We’re protecting that population from potential exposure,” he said. “This is about being prepared, not scared.”

Since Feb. 28, inmate levels have dropped from 17,076 in custody to 16,459—a reduction of more than 600. Villanueva said many of those people were freed because they had less than 30 days left on their sentence. He also said deputies have been instructed to cite and release people instead of booking them into jail in select circumstances. Long Beach has also taken similar steps, avoiding jailing people for some low-level misdemeanors.

He stressed that no one in the jails has tested positive for coronavirus, although 35 inmates are under quarantine at various jail facilities—nine at the Correctional Treatment Center, 21 at the Men’s Central Jail and five at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility.

The sheriff’s department is also asking cities that contract its services to hold on to arrestees for up to 48 hours—right up until the point of arraignment—and to coordinate to find a suitable alternative if a suspect is exhibiting symptoms, Villanueva said.

People who are brought to the county jail are being heat-scanned.

Villanueva said he has directed deputies to cite and release “everyone they can,” adding anyone showing viral symptoms must receive medical clearance before they can be booked into a correctional facility.

“They’re doing their best,” he said, adding the average number of arrests have dropped from 300 to just 60 per day. “They’re doing a good job of triaging who ne to be arrested and not.”

A Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy walks into the Lakewood station on August 10, 2018. Photo by Thomas R Cordova.

The sheriff’s department has canceled vacations for staffers through April, issued new safety equipment and unfroze some funds in order to make more sanitation items available.

Non-essential employees are being tasked with custody and patrol duties, as the county’s deputies step up patrols around shopping centers and distribution hubs—in a response to the concern about food shortages among the general population that has emptied grocery aisles across the Southland.

Despite the sweeping action, the department has a very small number of employees in self-quarantine and no large increase in sick calls.

Villanueva also pledged that station lobbies wouldn’t be closing any time soon.

— City News Service.

Bar shutdowns, dine-in restaurant closures spread to rest of LA County

Following the lead of the city of Los Angeles, Los Angeles County health officials today ordered the closure of bars and gyms, while also restricting restaurants to take-out or delivery service.

Long Beach, which has its own health department, has told bars to close, but it has not ordered restaurant closures. However, the city has scheduled a news conference for 3 p.m. today.

Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health urged residents to avoid “all nonessential activities.”

All Los Angeles County residents socially distancing themselves is the best tool to slow the spread of COVID-19 to avoid overburdening the healthcare system, Ferrer said.

She made the comments at a news conference where health officials announced 25 new cases of the coronavirus, bringing the overall total in Los Angeles County to 94.

— City News Service

L.A. County judges told they can pause trials to avoid COVID-19 spread

10:20 a.m. Monday | The Superior Court of Los Angeles County said it will begin scaling down operations today and begin establishing social distancing in all of its 38 courthouses, including in Long Beach, to avoid the spread of the coronavirus.

Additional public protection measures will be evaluated and announced today or Tuesday, according to a statement from the court.

“As the largest trial court in the nation, the Superior Court of Los Angeles County is methodically scaling back non-essential court operations as part of a phased approach,” Presiding Judge Kevin C. Brazile said. “We will continue to provide services for the most vulnerable in our communities and remain open to handle criminal matters subject to statutory deadlines.”

Over the weekend, Brazile notified the judges of the Los Angeles County bench that:

No new jurors will be summoned for any civil or criminal jury trials for the next 30 days.
The trial judge for any jury trial in session may exercise his or her discretion to either continue the trial or declare a mistrial.
The trial judge for any non-jury trial in session may exercise his or her discretion to either continue the trial or declare a mistrial.
Self-help centers will be closed today, except for telephone assistance with restraining order preparation by calling 213-830-0845.

Judges were urged to consider ways to achieve social distancing in their courtrooms by offering telephonic appearances and other strategies to reduce courtroom traffic, the court statement said.

It said signage will be posted beginning today on courthouse entry points and on courtroom doors advising the public about restrictions on entering courthouses or courtrooms.

The court also said it will continue to communicate updates on its Twitter page.

It added that the court has expanded its custodial cleaning program and has made sanitizing products available throughout courthouses in response to CDC and Los Angeles County Department of Public Health recommendations.

The Superior Court of Los Angeles County has 550 judicial officers and more than 4,600 permanent employees serving a population of more than 10 million people. The largest trial court in the nation, the Court has 38 courthouses in 12 judicial districts throughout the county’s 4,752 square miles.

The Governor George Deukmejian Courthouse in Downtown Long Beach. File photo.

— City News Service

Long Beach to close bars, wineries

7:44 p.m. Sunday | Long Beach will close bars, wineries and other drinking and entertainment establishments in accordance with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s directives hours earlier on Sunday in response to the spread of coronavirus.

The city will also limit the number of patrons that can be present in restaurants to half of the building occupancy in order to maximize social distancing.

“Governor Newsom and state officials have been clear, we need to close bars and limit access to restaurants,” Mayor Robert Garcia said in a statement this evening. “Restaurants will continue to play a key role in food distribution, especially as we focus on to-go and pick-up order options. This is a health crisis and we need to take serious measures.”

Read the full story here.

— Staff report

City releases plan to protect the homeless from coronavirus

5:25 p.m. Sunday | Hours after the governor announced extraordinary measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 statewide, including procuring motels and hotels to house the homeless, the city released its own measures to protect its most vulnerable.

While some city facilities will temporarily close, its winter shelter, Multi-Service Center and safe parking program will remain open.

The city’s homeless services personnel will also begin distributing sanitation kits to the homeless.

City officials said they are also working to identify “isolation rooms” to house homeless individuals exhibiting symptoms. Should the need arise, the city would also pay for the cost of quarantine.

The city will also:

Install soap dispensers, handwashing stations or hand sanitizer stations at strategic places citywide, including public restrooms.
Sent outreach teams to provide direct, in-person services and educate the community about COVID-19, including the symptoms and what to do if they begin experiencing them.
At the winter shelter and Multi-Service Center, disinfect frequently touched objects and provide masks to coughing clients as well as install hand sanitizer and hand-washing stations and post educational signage in multiple languages. Shower services will continue with social distancing protocols in place.
Institute precautions for employees providing in-person services to the homeless, including observing social distancing, wearing masks and increasing sanitation procedures before and after each interaction.

“The COVID-19 outbreak has compounded what was already a dire situation for persons experiencing homelessness,” said Deputy City Manager Teresa Chandler. “Although we are not aware of any COVID-19 cases among persons experiencing homelessness, we stand ready to respond if such a case presents itself to any of our facilities or if we become aware of that situation in an encampment.”

— Stephanie Rivera

Governor calls for closure of bars, wineries; home isolation of those over 65

2:55 p.m. Sunday | California Gov. Gavin Newsom Sunday called for extraordinary measures to combat the coronavirus, including the home isolation of everyone over 65 and the closure of bars, nightclubs, wineries and brew pubs.

“We consider this a non-essential function,” the governor said of drinking establishments. “I have all the confidence in the world this guidance … will take shape.”

The state also will reduce current occupancy in restaurants by half to keep people farther away from each other, Newsom said at a news conference. It comes as the Illinois governor shut down all bars and restaurants and officials elsewhere said they were considering similar restrictions.

Read the full story here. 

-Associated Press

Councilman to isolate himself after Coastal Commission colleague tests positive for COVID-19

1:40 p.m. Sunday | Seventh District Councilman Roberto Uranga announced today that he and his wife will isolate themselves for two weeks after his colleague on the California Coastal Commission revealed he tested positive for COVID-19.

In a post to his social media channels Saturday night, Chula Vista Councilman Steve Padilla, who is president of the Coastal Commission, revealed that he tested positive for the coronavirus.

Friends Neighbors – I want you to know that I’ve tested positive for COVID-19. Here’s an update and video. pic.twitter.com/PIH7nuA4uF

— Steve Padilla (@StevePadillaCV) March 15, 2020

Uranga attended the commission hearings last Wednesday, Thursday and Friday in Santa Cruz where Padilla was also present.

“While I did not have any close contact with Mr. Padilla, I communicated with our Department of Health staff, and although I have no symptoms, the recommendation is for me and my wife to self-isolate and ‘home stay’ for two weeks” Uranga said in an email to constituents.

Uranga said his council office staff will also follow social distancing procedures and will be available to assist via phone and email at 562-570-7777 and [email protected].

— Stephanie Rivera

Still only 5 positive tests, but Long Beach now monitoring 100 people for possible coronavirus exposure

12:30 p.m. Sunday | Long Beach health officials said they’re now monitoring about 100 people for possible exposure to the new coronavirus, but they haven’t confirmed any new cases since Saturday when they reported the city’s fifth case of COVID-19.

Saturday’s new case was the first of “community spread” in the city, meaning officials don’t know where the patient was likely exposed to the virus.

Authorities say they’re continually investigating recent contacts of anyone who’s tested positive, and they’re getting in touch with anyone who may have been exposed.

Officials say they’ve ramped up screening after receiving test kits and private labs are now running tests as ordered by healthcare providers, but it’s unclear exactly how many people have been tested because only positive results must be reported to the Long Beach Health Department, according to authorities.

Tests, however, are not widely available to everyone yet. If you think you may have been exposed to the coronavirus, health officials want you to call—not visit—your healthcare provider. You can also call the city’s information line at 562-570-INFO (4636).

Across all of Los Angeles County, there are 69 confirmed coronavirus cases. That includes 15 new cases the LA County Department of Public Health announced Sunday.

Health officials say they expect to see more cases, but they’re urging everyone remain calm and keep taking everyday steps to slow the spread of COVID-19 to avoid overwhelming the healthcare system.

“The city urges people to practice social distancing, including avoiding crowds of people and keeping at least six feet of distance from others,” Long Beach officials said in a statement. “Residents of Long Beach should continue to practice preventive measures such as frequent hand washing, disinfecting high-touch surfaces regularly, staying home when sick, not touching one’s face with unwashed hands and covering one’s coughs and sneezes.”

— Jeremiah Dobruck

Long Beach to close public buildings, waive fees, modify meetings

7:48 p.m. Saturday | Long Beach is suspending penalties for late fees and citations, closing public buildings and making other modifications to meeting schedules and activities in hopes of stemming the spread of the coronavirus, officials announced Saturday.

See a list of all the changes here.

— Melissa Evans

More info on how kids can get meals on Monday

5:38 p.m. Saturday | The mayor released more detailed information Saturday about how kids can get free meals starting Monday, when Long Beach Unified schools will begin a five-week closure.

For the first week of the closure, meals will be offered free at breakfast and lunch to children age 1-18 at all LBUSD locations, except the California Academy for Math and Science. After the first week, the district will evaluate its meal services and revise as necessary.

Breakfast will be served from 8 to 9 a.m., and lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Children must be present to receive a meal. No paperwork will be required. The meals will be available to all children no matter what school the child attends.

— Staff report

Boys Girls Club to offer childcare for members, emergency workers

5:09 p.m. Saturday | The Boys Girls Club of Long Beach is offering childcare for members and emergency workers starting Monday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.— the same day that schools in Long Beach Unified will close for five weeks.

Locations include the Eastman Club (700 E. Del Amo Blvd.), the Petrolane Club (1920 Lemon Ave.) and the Westside Club (1835 W. Willard). for information, call 626-705-9770.

Long Beach reports first coronavirus case with no known source

4 p.m. Saturday | A fifth person has tested positive for the coronavirus in Long Beach, and it is the city’s first case of COVID-19 where local officials don’t know where the person likely contracted the disease, authorities announced today.

Until now, Long Beach health officials had been able to track all of their cases back to likely points of exposure—such as foreign travel to an area where there was an outbreak.

The case involved a woman in her 60s who is stable condition at a local hospital.

Read the full story here.

— Jeremiah Dobruck

Long Beach Pride postponed because of coronavirus outbreak

11:45 a.m. Saturday | Long Beach Pride has postponed its annual parade and festival after consulting with city officials about the coronavirus outbreak, the organization announced Saturday.

“It is with an abundance of caution that the Long Beach Pride Board has decided to postpone the 2020 Festival and Parade,” Pride President Denise Newman said. “Our commitment to the city of Long Beach and our entire community includes ensuring the health and well-being of citizens, attendees, artists, volunteers, staff, and vendors.”

Organizers said they will reschedule, but there’s so far no new tentative date for the festival, which had been scheduled for May 15-17.

Long Beach Pride is one of the biggest and oldest LGBTQ+ pride events in the nation. It annually draws tens of thousands of celebrants to Downtown. This year was set to be Pride’s 37th annual festival.

Organizers asked everyone to check longbeachpride.com and the Long Beach Pride Facebook page for updates. They said refunds will be handled by the ticket provider See Tickets.

Long Beach Pride parade on Sunday, May 19, 2019. Photo by Sarahi Apaez.

— Staff reports

Carnival cancels cruises for North American ships; crews to remain on board

11:33 a.m. Saturday | Carnival Cruise Line announced Friday that it will be pausing operations across its North American-based fleet of ships, effective immediately, in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Ships currently at sea will continue their voyages and return to their home ports as scheduled, officials said. Operations are scheduled to resume Friday, April 10.

“While Carnival has not had a diagnosed case linked to our operation we realize this situation is bigger than the cruise industry and we will continue to do our part to support public officials to manage and contain this unprecedented public health challenge,” Carnival Cruise said in a statement.

Booked guests will be contacted directly regarding their cruise and their options. Officials previously announced relaxed cancellation policies.

Vance Gulliksen, spokesman for Carnival Cruise, said crew members are remaining on board and will continue to be paid.

The cruise ship Carnival Panorama hours before setting sail for a 6 day trip to Mexico. March 8, 2020. Photo by Stephen Carr

Gulliksen said Carnival is working with authorities to see where ships can dock, noting that some ships will remain in their regular home ports.

Long Beach is home to three of the 25 cruise ships that Carnival operates: Panorama, Inspiration and Imagination. The voyages, which depart from every coast in the U.S., along with Canada, Puerto Rico and Barbados, can last from two to 16 days.

Carnival officials said that Carnival Inspiration, which arrives in Long Beach Monday, will remain docked in Long Beach while Carnival Imagination, which arrives on Sunday, will anchor at sea. Officials are still trying to figure out which port to send Carnival Panorama, which arrived in Long Beach on Saturday.

The ships sail to the Caribbean, Mexico, Alaska, The Bahamas, Europe and Hawaii.

Important update regarding upcoming sailings departing Saturday, March 14 through April 09, 2020 across its fleet of North America based ships. All affected guests will be receiving an email with our compensation offer. pic.twitter.com/R3isgLODqN

— Carnival Cruise Line (@CarnivalCruise) March 14, 2020

— Stephanie Rivera

Coronavirus is changing who gets arrested in Long Beach

10 a.m. Saturday | Long Beach police officers may be taking fewer people to jail for a specific set of minor crimes in order to limit possible exposure to the coronavirus and “protect the health and safety of both jail staff and individuals in our custody,” officials said today.

Anyone arrested for a low-level misdemeanor who is showing cold or flu-like symptoms likely won’t be put through the booking process at the city jail, LBPD spokeswoman Jennifer De Prez said. Instead, officers are citing them in the field, something police could already do if they decided it was necessary. That category includes people driving with a suspended license or in possession of drug paraphernalia.

If someone already in jail displays cold or flu-like symptoms, they are being moved to an isolated location in the jail and assessed by nurses. They could be transferred to a local hospital for additional assessment or treatment, based on what the nurses see, De Prez said. Once they are medically cleared from the hospital, they will be moved to the custody of the Los Angeles County Jail, which is run by the sheriff’s department.

The booking area, common areas and isolation locations are all being cleaned and sanitized multiple times a day, she said.

“LBPD will also continue to follow workplace guidelines set forth by the City of Long Beach Human Resources under the guidance of the Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services and Board of State and Community Corrections in response to COVID-19,” De Prez said.

File photo of a Long Beach police officer at a crime scene on July 11, 2019. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

— Valerie Osier

City Council and commissions will meet by phone until further notice

9:10 a.m. Saturday | The Long Beach City Council chambers will be open on Tuesday, but there may not be anyone behind the dais.

The mayor and City Council members will attend the March 17 meeting by teleconference, officials announced Friday. Mayor Robert Garcia said this change will continue at least through April and will apply to all city commissions as well.

The council chambers at City Hall will remain open to the public to watch the meeting and make comments on agenda items, but the city “strongly encourages” people who want to voice their opinions to submit comments electronically through the city’s eComment system. Anyone can also email [email protected] with comments.

The change comes after Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a wide-reaching executive order to help with emergency response to COVID-19. The order includes suspending some portions of the Brown Act, the state’s open meetings law.

The Long Beach City Council chambers. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

— Jeremiah Dobruck

Here’s what happens now that LBUSD schools are closed

5:15 p.m. Friday | City officials on Friday announced Long Beach Unified School District campuses would be closed for the next five weeks. With spring break factored in, students will spend 19 normal school days at home.

School officials are scrambling to work out a number of logistical details, including how students will access educational materials and turn in work.

The plans include students doing classwork online or being given homework packets and textbooks to take home, LBUSD Chris Steinhauser said at a Friday afternoon press conference.

“This was a very difficult decision,” Steinhauser said, but school and health officials thought was necessary to slow the spread of the new coronavirus disease, COVID-19.

So what happens now?

Full story here.

— Valerie Osier

Long Beach’s Aquarium of the Pacific to close Saturday

4:55 p.m. Friday | The Aquarium of the Pacific will close for the rest of the month beginning Saturday due to coronavirus concerns. Staff members will continue to work and be paid.

“We will be offering a variety of online programming so that the public may continue to engage with our exhibits and animals and learn about our ocean,” the Aquarium said in a statement. Visit aquariumofpacific.org for more info.

— Kelly Puente

City Council to consider emergency measures protecting residents, businesses during outbreak

2:54 p.m. Friday| Long Beach officials could take sweeping action Tuesday night to protect small businesses and residents negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic by starting the implementation processes of eviction moratoriums and financial aid packages to potentially keep businesses afloat.

The item is expected to be submitted by a quartet of City Council members Friday afternoon who said that the measures outlined in the request were designed to help keep businesses from closing shop and people in their homes while social distancing measures force some people to miss work to avoid becoming infected.

Potential emergency ordinances could be voted on as early as March 24. If passed the ordinances would be in effect for 30 days or until emergency proclamations are lifted.

Read full story here.

— Jason Ruiz

LBUSD to close schools for more than a month

2:10 p.m. Friday | Long Beach Unified is shutting down its schools for the next five weeks to slow the spread of the coronavirus, district officials announce Friday.

LBUSD will close all of its campuses, which serve more than 72,000 students, starting Monday. Officials plan on reopening them April 20 after the district’s regularly scheduled spring break.

The decision came hours after the school districts in Los Angeles and San Diego—the two largest in the state—announced they were closing their campuses.

Read the full story here.

SoCal Gas suspends shutoffs during coronavirus outbreak

1:20 p.m. Friday | Southern California Gas Co. said Friday that, until further notice, they wouldn’t shut of service to any customers who can’t pay their bills.

“We understand that our customers may be worried about paying their upcoming natural gas bill at this time,” said Paul Goldstein, vice president of customer services at SoCalGas. “We want to help ease their concerns and continue to provide the reliable natural gas service they depend on to heat their homes and hot water and cook their food.”

The utility joins SoCal Edison and the Long Beach Water Department in pledging not to shut off services during the coronavirus outbreak.

Anyone who wants more information on how SoCalGas is responding to the coronavirus can visit socalgas.com/coronavirus.

— Staff reports

SCE says it won’t shut off power for unpaid bills during coronavirus outbreak

8:20 a.m. Friday | For the time being, SoCal Edison says it won’t shut off power to customers with unpaid bills.

“To help with potential financial challenges due to COVID-19, we’re temporarily suspending disconnections for customers unable to pay their electric bill,” the utility said on twitter. “As always, SCE can assist customers who need help paying their bills.”

Edison directed any customers with trouble paying their bill to the utility’s bill assistance program.

To help with potential financial challenges due to COVID-19, we’re temporarily suspending disconnections for customers unable to pay their electric bill. As always, SCE can assist customers who need help paying their bills. Learn more. https://t.co/cZ6E9SCzu3 pic.twitter.com/Z4h1VXnrc1

— SCE (@SCE) March 13, 2020

— Staff reports

Long Beach Water Department suspends water shutoffs to support ‘public health and cleanliness’

5:59 p.m. Thursday | The Long Beach Water Department announced it is suspending water shutoffs to support public health and cleanliness amid concerns over COVID-19.

“No one should fear losing their water service because they can’t pay a bill during this public health crisis,” Mayor Robert Garcia said in an email to community members.

City officials stressed that this respiratory disease outbreak has “no impact on the quality or supply of Long Beach’s tap water and should not disrupt water or sewer service” to customers.

The length of time for this suspension will follow guidance and declarations by health and safety officials, city officials said.

The water department says its following state and federal health and water quality guidelines related to the coronavirus, including any new regulations that are developed.

Garcia hinted at more actions benefiting residents in the future.

Our @LongBeachWater Department has announced a suspension of water shutoffs to continue supporting public health and safety. No one should fear losing their water service because they can’t pay a bill during this public health crisis. More actions to help our residents to come.

— Robert Garcia (@RobertGarciaLB) March 13, 2020

— Stephanie Rivera

Long Beach cancels Grand Prix for now, along with other events in wake of coronavirus concerns

5:00 p.m. Thursday | Under orders from city officials, organizers of the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach on Thursday cancelled next month’s 46th edition of the street race amid the growing fears of the coronavirus.

Just earlier this week, Grand Prix Chief Executive Officer Jim Michaelian said he expected the event to take place with heightened precautions for spectators. But city health officials opted to expand on a state mandate to cancel or postpone events with 250 or more people.

The city order applies to large-scale events including conventions, festivals, parades and sporting events.

Read the full story here.

— Kelly Puente

District events canceled, outside groups told not to meet at LBUSD schools 

1:52 p.m. Thursday | Long Beach Unified School District is canceling district events and meetings, even as it continues having normal classes, to slow the spread of coronavirus, school officials announced today. This includes all large indoor school events, Saturday programming (not including for-credit courses), all district professional development that causes staff to leave their campus and all nonessential district wide parent and community meetings.

The school district will also bar spectators from attending sporting events, although the games themselves will continue with only essential staff, the district said. It has also halted the rental of its school spaces for use by outside groups to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The move includes dozens of churches that regularly rent and meet in school auditoriums when students are not on campus.

“Per District directive, there will be no permits until further notice to minimize the spread of COVID-19,” the district told local leaders in emails. “The remaining dates have been canceled and any fees charged will be refunded. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience.”

The decision comes the day after state leaders recommended canceling or postponing any nonessential gatherings of more than 250 people until at least the end of the month.

“Our efforts this week have included increased the sanitizing of high-touch areas with approved antibacterial products, reminding families of the need to keep students home if they are demonstrating any flu-like symptoms, and reinforcing continued use of universal precautions, especially handwashing, to be used by all staff members, students and visitors,” Superintendent Chris Steinhauser said.

Custodial staff will be working to sanitize the schools over the weekend too, he said.

Four people have tested positive for the coronavirus in Long Beach, and health officials say there are surely more undiagnosed cases in the community.

The virus has prompted local colleges to move classes online to slow the spread of COVID-19 in an attempt to avoid overwhelming the healthcare system with a crush of cases.Local health officials, however, have not recommended canceling classes at Long Beach Unified, something that would have sweeping impacts on students, especially those who may not be able to access lessons online or who have parents who can’t miss work.

Some school closures, however, may be inevitable.

“It’s a question of when—not if—some California public schools will face closure because of COVID-19,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a written statement this week. “School districts must prepare for these scenarios so that parents and children can plan for what would happen if their local school faced closure.”

— Jeremiah Dobruck, Valerie Osier

Carnival Cruise relaxes cancellation policy but continues operations

12:02 p.m. Thursday | Carnival Cruise Line said it will continue to operate amid concerns over the coronavirus but it has relaxed its cancellation policy for guests wanting to reschedule their vacations.

“We continue to implement increased monitoring, screening and sanitation protocols to protect the health of our guests, crew and the residents of the destinations we serve,” Carnival Cruise said in an email to guests Wednesday evening. “Our measures are designed to be flexible to adapt to changing conditions and recommended best practices.”

On Thursday, Carnival officials said they opened their terminals for five departures scheduled for today and will embark those guests this afternoon.

“We continue to operate,” Carnival spokesman Vance Gullisken said in an email. “This is an unprecedented time in the cruise industry and the world.  We remain focused on protecting the health and safety of our guests.”

On Wednesday, Carnival announced updates to its cancellation terms creating flexibility especially for guests sailing this March and April.

Guests who keep their originally scheduled trips for departures from June to September will automatically receive credits to their cabins.

Access the cancellation policy here.

Meanwhile, Princess Cruise announced Thursday that it was suspending operations for 60 days due to the coronavirus.

Princess cruises currently underway and scheduled to end before March 17 will carry on as planned, the company said. Voyages scheduled to go beyond March 17 will be ended at the “most convenient location for guests.”

Affected customers can request a cash refund online, or can get credit for a free cruise.

Princess is owned by Carnival Corporation and headquartered in Santa Clarita. One of its ships, the Diamond Princess, recently had one of the largest clusters outside China of confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. More than 700 passengers and crew were infected.

On Wednesday, Viking Cruises officials announced that they are temporarily suspending cruises taking place between March 12 and April 30.

The cruise ship Carnival Panorama. March 8, 2020. Photo by Stephen Carr

— Stephanie Rivera, City News Service

70 people now being monitored by Long Beach health officials

11:50 a.m. Thursday | Health officials haven’t confirmed any new cases of COVID-19 in Long Beach, the city announced today, but they’re now monitoring 70 people who may have been exposed to the coronavirus disease.

That number is up from the 50 people who were being monitored on Wednesday.

So far, only four people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Long Beach. Another eight have tested negative, and officials are waiting on results from six more tests.

Long Beach has so far had a limited ability to screen cases because of a lack of tests, health officials said earlier this week.

— Jeremiah Dobruck

How much would it cost if the Long Beach Grand Prix is cancelled?

11:15 a.m. Thursday | Could the city cancel its largest event?

Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach CEO Jim Michaelian on Thursday said organizers are “reviewing options” with the city and will make a decision “shortly” in the wake of coronavirus concerns.

The Grand Prix is expected to draw roughly 185,000 people to Downtown April 17-19. As the city’s single biggest event, it brings tens of millions of dollars to the Long Beach economy each year in hotel rooms, tax revenue and more.

A report released in 2018 from Beacon Economics showed that the 2017 Toyota Grand Prix brought $32.4 million for Long Beach and $63.4 million for Southern California.

Jobs could also be impacted. The Grand Prix supports 606 year-round jobs, with 351 of those in Long Beach, the economic impact report found. The event supported labor income for Southern California workers by $24.4 million, including $12.9 million in Long Beach.

It also generates $1.8 million in overall tax revenue, including $700,000 in Long Beach.

The tough decisions come as California public health leaders late Wednesday issued new recommendations that gatherings over 250 people should be postponed or cancelled until at least the end of the month. Swaths of conventions and major events, like Coachella and SXSW, have either postponed or cancelled, and the NBA has suspended its season.

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia is expected to release more details on local impacts later today.

“In light of recent developments regarding fighting the COVID-19 virus including California Governor Newsom’s statement related to mass gatherings over the next few weeks, the Grand Prix is reviewing its options with regard to this year’s Acura Grand Prix,” Michaelian said in a statement. “This review will be conducted in conjunction with City of Long Beach officials, various racing sanctioning bodies and our key sponsors. A decision will be forthcoming shortly.”

— Kelly Puente

State leaders recommend ban on gatherings over 250 people amid coronavirus concerns

As concerns of the coronavirus continued to sweep across the nation, California public health leaders issued new recommendations this evening that large gatherings should be postponed or cancelled until at least the end of the month, Governor Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday night.

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, who was among a group of civic leaders briefed by the Governor late Wednesday , said he supports the implementing the new recommendations within the city, with guidance on local impacts coming Thursday.

Read the full story here.

— Melissa Evans

COVID-19 pushing LBCC classes online starting next week

4:37 p.m. Wednesday | In response to rising concerns over the spread of COVID-19 on campus, the Long Beach Community College District will switch to temporary remote classes beginning next week according to a school spokesperson.

The move away from most face-to-face classes will start March 18 but how long the switch would be in place is still unknown said Josh Castellanos, the school’s executive director of public affairs and marketing. The announcement comes the same day that city officials reported a possible fourth confirmed case of the virus in the city and the World Health Organization officially categorized COVID-19 as a pandemic.

Castellanos said that the anticipated April 13 return date for students is still part of the discussion but the move to online teaching would last for at least a few weeks and having the switch last through the end of the semester has not been ruled out yet. Classes will go on as planned for the rest of this week and the start of next week before moving predominantly online starting Wednesday. A list of classes that might still be taught in person is being developed, he said.

Read the full story here.

— Jason Ruiz

Officials announce fourth case of coronavirus in Long Beach

3:30 p.m. Wednesday | A fourth person in Long Beach has tested positive for the coronavirus, and health officials are monitoring 50 other people, the city said Wednesday.

Officials are waiting for results on three more tests, and four other people have already tested negative, according to the city, which has been limited in its ability to screen suspected cases because of a lack of available tests.

City officials said the fourth person is a man who traveled internationally to a location where coronavirus was spreading. Officials didn’t immediately say whether he was in a hospital or isolating himself.

Read the full story here.

— Kelly Puente

Woman dies after being hospitalized for coronavirus, LA County’s first fatal case

12:30 p.m. Wednesday | Los Angeles County saw its first death linked to COVID-19, health officials announced Wednesday.

A woman in her 60s died shortly after being hospitalized for the coronavirus, according to Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

Ferrer said the woman had underlying health conditions. She was visiting friends in Los Angeles County after traveling internationally, including a long layover in South Korea.

Ferrer also announced six more people had tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the county total to 27 including the three cases in Long Beach, which keeps its own tally because it has its own health department.

Among those six new cases is the county’s second case of community spread, meaning authorities weren’t able to track the source of the infection to a known hotbed of the coronavirus or a previously confirmed case, Ferrer said in a midday news conference.

Ferrer said she did not immediately have information on where the woman was hospitalized or what part of the county she’d been in, but she said cases of COVID-19 have been scattered throughout Los Angeles County.

“We also know there’s a lot of cases that have yet to be diagnosed,” she said.

Ferrer said now is the time for the most at-risk groups—elderly people, pregnant women and those with underlying health conditions—to start avoiding nonessential travel and crowds.

“This is the time to stop going to the theater or concerts or sporting events,” she said.

She said everyone ne to be prepared for the eventuality that there will be many more cases locally.

She urged everyone to be prepared to practice good hygiene and social distancing to slow the spread of the virus, which could help avoid overburdening the healthcare system.

“This is an ask of all of you,” she said.

— Jeremiah Dobruck

CSULB postpones annual Puvungna Pow Wow until November

12:05 p.m. Wednesday | Cal State Long Beach says it is postponing its 50th annual Puvungna Pow Wow until November due to the coronavirus.

It was originally scheduled to take place this weekend, March 14-15. It is now scheduled to take place Saturday, Nov. 7 through Sunday, Nov. 8, officials announced.

“After consultation from the President’s Office, Director of Student Health Services and the Vice President of Student Affairs, the CSULB Pow Wow Committee has decided to postpone the Pow Wow event,” officials stated. “This precautionary decision is consistent with other large events, unfortunately, being impacted in the CSU system due to the Coronavirus.”

— Stephanie Rivera

Who can be tested for the coronavirus in Long Beach? Not everyone

7:35 a.m. Wednesday | After three people tested positive for COVID-19 in Long Beach, the city is trying to ramp up its ability to find new cases of the disease, but, for now, officials are limiting who can be screened because of a lack of available tests.

The restrictions have frustrated some residents who suspect they have the coronavirus, but the Long Beach Health Department says it’s prioritizing the sickest individuals for screening because they could put hospital staff and other patients at risk.

“We really want to protect our healthcare workers,” said Emily Holman, a communicable disease controller for the city. Anyone who’s had contact with a confirmed case of coronavirus or became sick after traveling to one of the countries experiencing an outbreak will also jump to the front of the line, she said.

Read the full story here.

— Jeremiah Dobruck

Local ministers to meet, discuss safety

7:18 a.m. Wednesday | The Long Beach Ministers Alliance is organizing an “urgent” meeting for all local pastors, priests, imams and other faith-based leaders to discuss best practices that will ensure congregants are as safe as possible from coronavirus.

The gathering, which will include representatives from the Long Beach Health Department, will be held from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Thursday, March 12, at Bethany Church, 2250 Clark Ave., Long Beach.

“The purpose of this connection is to exchange fundamental safety considerations to ensure a panic-free environment for our congregations during this age of the Coronavirus,” the alliance said in a statement.

Clergy will discuss communion preparation and distribution, hand-holding, hand-shaking and other behaviors that occur in close proximity.

— Melissa Evans

Big West to play with no crowds

Colin Slater and the LBSU men’s basketball team have experienced some significant swings of success this season.

4:09 p.m. Tuesday | The Big West Conference announced Tuesday afternoon that this week’s men’s and women’s basketball tournaments will be played without spectators as part of precautionary measures to halt the spread of the coronavirus. Long Beach State had already stepped up regular cleaning of the Walter Pyramid facilities for spectators and teams.

The Pyramid is hosting the first two rounds of the women’s tournament Tuesday evening and Wednesday, with the men’s tournament taking place at the Honda Center on Thursday through Saturday.

“The Big West Board of Directors, comprised of the chief executive officers of the nine member universities, strongly feel that this is a prudent way to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus while being sensitive to our student-athletes who have pointed towards playing in the tournament all season,” said Big West commissioner Dennis Farrell in a statement.

Fans who purchased tickets can receive a full refund from their point of purchase. We will have live coverage on Twitter from all Long Beach State tournament games @562sports.

— Mike Guardasbacio 

‘Dancing for our Stars’ event postponed

11:46 a.m. Tuesday | Adding to the list of cancellations or postponed events, officials with Long Beach Medical Center announced today their major fundraiser, “Dancing for our Stars,” has been postponed.

The gala was slated to take place on Saturday night. Officials said they will provide a new date when those details are worked out.

“Rescheduling this event is truly a precaution as we are committed to doing everything we can to ensure the health of our community,” John Bishop, CEO of MemorialCare and Miller Children’s Women’s Hospital, wrote in a note posted on the company’s website.

The news comes the day after the city announced that three people in the city tested positive for coronavirus, or COVID-19.

Other events postponed Tuesday include the Coachella and Stagecoach music festivals, and the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.

— Melissa Evans

Officials with Long Beach Medical Center announced today their major fundraiser, “Dancing for our Stars,” has been postponed. Courtesy photo.

Cal State Long Beach considers canceling on-campus classes

10 a.m. Tuesday | Cal State Long Beach is considering moving to remote classes to prevent the spread of coronavirus, though no final decisions have yet been made, a campus spokesman said Tuesday.

Spokesman Jeff Cook said the campus with roughly 38,000 students has been in discussions for several weeks about possibly suspending in-person classes on campus and offering alternatives. Universities across the country, including USC, UC Berkeley and Stanford, have closed classrooms amid concerns about COVID-19, the coronavirus disease.

“We are engaged in active and ongoing conversations with our public health officials but no action has been taken right now,” Cook said, adding that a decision could be made in the coming days.

In the meantime, a major college basketball tournament is scheduled to continue at the university over the next two days. The Big West Basketball Tournament starts today at the Walter Pyramid with some extra precautions.

For instance, concessions stands will not be refilling popcorn tubs or beverage cups, some staff will be dedicated to sanitizing frequently touched surfaces, and players and coaches won’t be signing autographs or shaking hands with fans.

On Sunday, the university announced that 10 students were in self-quarantine after attending an event in Washington D.C. last week where three attendees tested positive for COVID-19.

Cook on Tuesday said the students remain in self-isolation and were so far not showing COVID-19 symptoms. He said public health officials have determined that the risk is low for those students.

“It was really done out of abundance of caution,” he said.

More information is available on the university’s COVID-19 webpage.

The Walter Pyramid at Cal State Long Beach. Courtesy photo.

— Kelly Puente

Officials believe 3 people have been infected with coronavirus

6:07 p.m. Monday | Long Beach officials announced Monday that three people in the city are believed to have contracted coronavirus—two men and a woman.

The cases are presumptive until confirmed by the CDC, the city said in a press statement.

Officials said one patient is hospitalized in stable condition and two are isolated at home. Earlier Monday, officials at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center confirmed they have one patient with the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.

“These preliminary test results, and our response and coordination with public health and safety officials are being taken extremely seriously,” Mayor Robert Garcia said in a statement. “We strongly believe that COVID-19 is a threat to public health here in Long Beach and throughout the United States.”

Read the full story here. 

Long Beach confirms first case of coronavirus

4:52 p.m. Monday | A patient has tested positive for coronavirus at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center, officials said Monday.

The case is the first in Long Beach and one of 17 in Los Angeles County as of Monday afternoon.

Officials did not immediately provide details on the possible origin of the Long Beach case.

Dr. James Leo, chief medical officer for MemorialCare, said in a statement the patient has been in an isolation room since being identified as potentially having coronavirus, or COVID-19, and “is being provided with the very best care.”

Read the full story here.

— Kelly Puente

LA County officials confirm first coronavirus case with unknown source

2:25 p.m. Monday | Two more people in Los Angeles County have tested positive for the coronavirus, including one for whom no source of exposure can be found, possibly representing the county’s first case of community transmission of the illness, health officials announced today.

According to Dr. Barbara Ferrer, head of the county Department of Public Health, one of the new cases is a person with a known travel history to Japan. But Ferrer said health officials cannot identify any known exposure to the illness for the second patient.

“Community transmission is when we cannot identify a known source of exposure,” Ferrer said. “… With all of our cases, we are doing extensive investigations and identifying all of their close contacts. With both of these cases, to date we have identified no significant public exposures, but both of our new cases do have exposures to people who are known. … The two cases are now in isolation and all of their close contacts are or will be quarantined for up to 14 days from their last date of exposure.”

With the county now confirming its first possible case of “community transmission,” Ferrer said people who are pregnant, have underlying health conditions or are elderly should immediately begin “social distancing practices.”

“This would include avoiding non-essential travel, avoiding public gatherings or places where large groups of people are congregating and avoiding event venues,” Ferrer said.

She said those three groups of people are in danger of becoming more seriously ill if they contract the virus.

The two new patients, who are in isolation, bring the county’s overall total to 16.

The other cases are:

eight people in a travel group to Italy
two contract employees who were conducting coronavirus medical screenings of arriving passengers at Los Angeles International Airport
two relatives of a person who lives outside the county and was also confirmed with the virus
a person who attended the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Conference in Washington, D.C.
a traveler from the area of Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. That person, the county’s first patient, has since recovered.

No cases have been confirmed in Long Beach.

LA County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer speaking about LA County’s emergency declaration in response to COVID-19 on Wednesday, March 4, 2020. Photo courtesy LA County.

— City News Service

California Charter School Association cancels Long Beach convention

1:53 p.m. Monday | The California Charter School Association announced it is canceling its convention in Long Beach next week due to concern over the coronavirus—the second major convention to do so.

In a statement, the association said it is “proactively protecting our charter school community,” all of whom work directly with children. “We trust you understand it was not an easy decision but support that it is the right thing to do.”

Roughly 3,000 people were expected to attend the March 16-19 event at the Long Beach Convention Center.

In late February, the Trans-Pacific Merchants 2020 conference was also canceled. Roughly 2,200 people from around the Pacific Rim and other regions across the globe were expected to attend.

Several large conventions have been canceled across the state, including Facebook’s developer conference in May in San Jose and the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco this month.

Long Beach Convention Center, March 11, 2019. File Photo by Sarahi Apaez.

— Melissa Evans

Long Beach Transit ramps up cleaning

11:54 a.m. Monday | Long Beach Transit is taking extra precautions to prevent the spread of coronavirus by deep cleaning its buses and facilities, spokesman Mike Gold said Monday.

Gold said Long Beach Transit about two weeks ago began enhancing its daily disinfecting of buses, focusing on panels, doors, handrails, pull cords and other spots.

“We’re paying special attention to those high touch areas,” he said.

Long Beach Transit is also disinfecting doors, kitchens and other common areas in its facilities and has provided hand sanitizer for all of its employees, including its bus drivers.

Passengers are asked to wash their hands frequently and follow the Centers for Disease Control guidelines.

Long Beach Transit buses are being cleaned carefully in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. File photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

— Kelly Puente 

Grand Prix plans for coronavirus precautions during city’s largest event

11:45 a.m. Monday | The Grand Prix Association of Long Beach will take extra precautions to prevent the spread of coronavirus when roughly 185,000 racing fans visit the city next month for Long Beach’s largest event, officials said.

President and CEO Jim Michaelian said in a statement the organization is actively monitoring the situation and working with multiple agencies to “ensure the health, safety and well-being of our attendees.”

Precautions include making sure attendees have access to fully stocked hand-washing stations as well as alcohol-based hand sanitizer for the event on April 17-19.

In addition, frequently touched surfaces will be routinely cleaned and disinfected.

Grand Prix Association of Long Beach President CEO Jim Michaelian speaks during a media event kicking off 53 days of construction on the 1.97-mile Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach race circuit. Tuesday, February 25, 2020. Photo by Stephen Carr.

— Kelly Puente 

City Council to get update on coronavirus Tuesday

10:07 a.m. Monday | The City Council on Tuesday will be asked to ratify a declaration of a local health emergency, which frees up resources and gives various agencies more power to coordinate their efforts.

So far there are no confirmed cases of the virus in Long Beach. Los Angeles County has reported 14 cases, all of them contracted among people who traveled outside the country or came into contact with travelers who were infected.

Long Beach health officials are also expected to give an update on preparedness efforts in the city.

— Staff report

Study: More than 9,000 in U.S. may have been infected by March 1

9:21 a.m. Monday | By March 1, more than 9,000 people in the U.S. may have already been infected by COVID-19, far more than the number that had been publicly reported, according to a new Cedars-Sinai study.

“This suggests that the opportunity window to contain the epidemic of COVID-19 in its early stage is closing,” the researchers stated in their paper, which is posted online on a forum where physicians and researchers share information.

The range of possible patients is significantly higher than the number of confirmed and presumptive U.S. cases reported by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which stood at 164 as of March 7. Some news media on March 8 were reporting more than 500 total cases.

Cedars-Sinai investigators, who led the study, said they chose “very conservative” methods to estimate the number of coronavirus cases.

To arrive at infection estimates for their new study, the researchers modeled only COVID-19 coronavirus cases “imported” directly to the U.S. from the area of Wuhan, China, before Jan. 23, when the Chinese government locked down the city, and they assumed the lockdown stopped all outbound traffic. Potential cases arriving in the U.S. from other parts of China, or other heavily affected countries such as South Korea, Italy or Iran, were not included in the estimate.

— City News Service

LBFD reveals Personal Protective Equipment first responders may wear in public

7:40 p.m. Sunday | The Long Beach Fire Department on Sunday evening posted a video to its social media channels alerting the public to new safety protocols being undertaken by first responders.

Wearing a face mask, latex gloves and a surgical gown in the video, LBFD spokesman Jake Heflin warned community members that “you might see see public safety personnel and those working to provide and promote your safety wearing this type of equipment, personal protective equipment, not only for our protection, but yours as well.”

Heflin emphasized that if first responders do wear the equipment, it does not mean the patient they are responding to is positive for COVID-19.

Check out the video below:

Long Beach Incident Management Team PIO Jake Heflin Shows Proper Public Safety Gear

Jake Heflin, Public Information Officer for the City of Long Beach‘s All Hazard Incident Management team, shows the proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that you may see doctors, nurses, and first-responders wearing to protect the safety of the public.For the latest #COVID19 updates, follow Long Beach City and Long Beach Department of Health Human Services (LBDHHS). #COVID19LongBeach

Posted by Long Beach Fire Department on Sunday, March 8, 2020

— Stephanie Rivera

New passengers ready to board Carnival Panorama despite delay

1:50 p.m. Sunday | Passengers waiting to board the new Carnival Panorama late Sunday morning said they were excited to embark despite a delay to the seven-day cruise due to a coronavirus testing of a previous guest.

About 5,000 passengers aboard the Panorama—which makes stops in the Mexican cities of Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta—were held in the ship an extra day while health officials took preventative measures and tested one of the guests for coronavirus.

The results came back negative late Saturday night and many of the passengers ended up disembarking Sunday morning.

Passengers were delayed overnight from leaving the ship Saturday, in order to test a person for the coronoavirus. That person tested negative and passengers were given permission to disembark Sunday Morning. March 8, 2020. Photo by Stephen Carr.

“It’s probably cleaner now than it has ever been,” said Utah resident and first-time cruise goer Terri Marks, 53.

Marks and five other relatives flew in Friday and stayed at the nearby Maya hotel.

She said hotel staff were very accommodating and held the room for them an extra day. When they were all booked up, they still allowed other stranded guests to hang out in the lobby.

Marks and her sister-in-law Claudia Baker, 59, said they weren’t scared of contracting the coronavirus, repeating what health officials have been advising: just keep washing your hands.

Through email and text updates from Carnival Cruise, as well as word of mouth, the ladies were informed that the ship had been cleaned twice in preparation for the next group.

They were also told that about 2,000 people canceled their reservations.

“I’m really excited,” said Baker. “It’s the perfect time to cruise for me. It’s like going to an amusement park on a rainy day.”

Cruise ship passengers Claudia Baker, left, and her sister-in-law Terri Marks wait for their bags to be picked up at the Long Beach Cruise Terminal, before embarking on a six-day cruise to Mexico, aboard the cruise ship Carnival Panorama. March 8, 2020. Photo by Stephen Carr.

Arizona resident Jessica Jackson, 43, said she and her husband checked in at about noon Saturday before they found out about the delay.

She said the new enhanced health screening procedures announced by Carnival Cruise in response to the coronavirus epidemic included a questionnaire and getting their temperature taken.

During their wait, they were given a complimentary meal aboard the Queen Mary Saturday afternoon before they found a hotel near Disneyland to spend the night. They are part of a family of 30 going on the cruise.

Carnival Cruise promised to refund passengers forced to find last-minute accommodations due to the delay. Carnival Panorama guests are expected to set sail Sunday afternoon for what will now be a six-day cruise.

As for the passengers who were held an extra day aboard the ship, the wait wasn’t so bad, they said.

The Marxs family, from Utah, disembarks the cruise ship Carnival Panorama, at the Long Beach Cruise Terminal Sunday afternoon. The family were among passengers who were delayed over night, from leaving the ship Saturday. March 8, 2020. Photo by Stephen Carr.

“They did good,” said Zach Allen, 29, of Utah.

Allen and his wife’s family said the staff treated the delay like any other day on the cruise. They opened up all the activities to guests and fed them a steak dinner.

As part of the precautionary measures, employees served guests their food and drink instead of the buffet-style serving.

While Allen and his relatives have to wait until Monday to head back to Utah due to a missed flight, they said they enjoyed their extra day.

“We had a fun time,” Allen said.

— Stephanie Rivera

Experts say cruise ships are no place for quarantine

1:36 p.m. Sunday | Cruise ships hit by coronavirus outbreaks have quickly found themselves with no ports for thousands of passengers as countries on four continents have quarantined vessels or kept them at sea for days.

Keeping all the passengers on board instead of letting them disembark on land is a strategy that can backfire, however, according to experts, because the ventilation systems and close quarters of cruise ships make them ideal places for illness to jump from one person to the next.

“They’re not designed as quarantine facilities, to put it mildly,” said Don Milton, an epidemiologist with the University of Maryland. A ship with more than 3,500 people aboard was sailing in circles off the coast of California on Saturday after 19 crew members and two passengers tested positive for the new virus. Originally bound for San Francisco, the Grand Princess might be sent instead to a non-commercial port, officials said.

Read the full story here.

— The Associated Press

LB health director urges support, kindness in the midst of health scare

1:03 p.m. Sunday | Kelly Colopy, health director for the city of Long Beach, penned a opinion piece urging residents to do their part in the midst of the coronavirus scare:

“As your City Health and Human Services Director, you may think that I wouldn’t be offering kindness as part of the solution, however, it is one of the key factors in not spreading fear; Fear leads to misinformation and confusion, neither of which are helpful. Be kind to each other. There has been quite a bit of stigma put on community members, who are perfectly healthy, that may be from a certain country, or traveled from a certain country or even just look a certain way. This stigma is not helpful for the health of our community and only does damage.”

Read the entire piece here.

— Staff report

The number of cases in LA county stands at 14

12:03 p.m. Sunday | So far 14 cases of coronavirus, or COVID-19, have been found in Los Angeles County, with an additional case reported Saturday. None of them are in Long Beach.

The county’s cases break down as:

eight people in a travel group to Italy;
two contract employees who were conducting coronavirus medical screenings of arriving passengers at Los Angeles International Airport;
two relatives of a person who lives outside the county and was also confirmed with the virus;
a traveler from the area of Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. That person, the county’s first, has since recovered;
an American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) traveler announced Saturday.

Health officials stressed that all of the county’s cases have been traced to an exposure source, so there are no local incidents of unknown community spread of the illness. All of the patients are under isolation.

Officials urge the public to stay home if you are sick. Mild symptoms include a fever of over 100, along with respiratory symptoms or stomach ailments.

#PressRelease 2019 Novel #Coronavirus (COVID-19) Advisory – One New Case of Confirmed #COVIDー19 in Los Angeles County. Total number of cases for the county is now 14. View https://t.co/QQk0RibvpV pic.twitter.com/7s5ch2hnh6

— LA Public Health (@lapublichealth) March 7, 2020

— City News Service

Archdiocese of Los Angeles suspends certain practices during mass

10:05 a.m. Sunday | The Archdiocese of Los Angeles is recommending that parishes suspend certain practices during liturgies, including the use of the cup for Holy Communion and refrain from shaking hands at the sign of peace and holding hands at the Lord’s prayer amid concern about the spread of coronavirus.

“Public health officials have advised that the immediate health risk from COVID-19 to the American public is considered low,” archdiocese officials said. “However, out of an abundance of caution, the Archdiocese recommends the following liturgical accommodations and resources for all parishes, schools and ministries until such time as the coronavirus is no longer a threat.”

The recommendations include:

The use of the cup for Holy Communion should be suspended. Holy Communion is only to be given in the species of the consecrated bread.
It is recommended that the faithful receive Holy Communion on the hand. However, pastors may choose to continue to give Holy Communion on the tongue.
The faithful should be encouraged to refrain from shaking hands at the sign of peace and holding hands at the Lord’s prayer. o Remove holy water from fonts not attached to a filtration system.

The guidelines were updated Friday, March 6 after the Office of Worship in late February asked parishioners to use “common sense” in liturgies amid concern about the spread of coronavirus.

The archdiocese is also asking all staff, volunteers, parishioners, students and others to stay home if they are sick.

-Stephanie Rivera

Carnival Panorama passengers cleared to disembark Sunday morning, next cruise delayed one day

9:35 a.m. Sunday | A group of passengers who were being held overnight aboard Carnival Panorama have been cleared to leave today after a woman who was taken off the vessel to be tested for COVID-19, also known as coronavirus, but received negative results.

Meanwhile, a Royal Princess cruise, that was scheduled to leave Saturday from San Pedro, was canceled at the last minute after the Centers for Disease Control issued a “no-sail order” after learning one of the crew members previously served on a Grand Princess cruise, the same operator where 21 people tested positive for COVID-19 on a ship that remains docked near San Francisco.

Officials with Carnival Panorama notified passengers in Long Beach late Saturday that they could leave, although most stayed aboard until this morning. An estimated 5,000 passengers and 1,400 crew members were aboard the Panorama, according to a ship employee.

“The precautionary COVID-19 test on a Carnival Panorama guest has come back negative and guests have been cleared to disembark in Long Beach,” said a company statement issued to the media today.

It is unclear when the next group of Carnival Panorama passengers will be able to board the ship. On Saturday evening, Carnival Cruise officials notified guests that they intended to operate “a six-day sailing departing on Sunday” with passengers receiving a pro-rated one-day refund of their cruise fare.

Passengers would also be reimbursed up to $200 per hotel room if needed and a $50 meal allowance.

Carnival Cruise has also established additional cleaning standards on top of its daily cleaning regimen and enhanced screening procedures, according to its website. That includes:

More frequent sanitizing of tables, chairs, menus and other surfaces
More frequent open deck sanitation of outdoor furniture and sports equipment
Additional hand sanitizers/dispensers placed in highly trafficked locations where hand-wash sinks are not available.

As for the Royal Princess cruise, passengers showed up Saturday, ready to leave, but were delayed for hours after the CDC raised questions about the former Grand Princess crew member, according to the Cruise Waves website.

“Princess Cruises was requested by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to share information about a crew member who previously served on Grand Princess and transferred to Royal Princess 15 days ago,” Royal Princess officials said in a statement to Cruise Waves. “After sharing all information and details about the crew member, the CDC approved clearance for Royal Princess yesterday, to sail today, with no restrictions placed on the vessel.

“However, late this afternoon (Saturday), the CDC informed us of their decision to issue a “no-sail order” until the crew member was tested for COVID-19. We have unfortunately been unable to obtain this test given the lateness of the request. Due to the unknown timing of obtaining the test and results … we have canceled the cruise.”

Royal Princess officials emphasized that the “crew member is past the maximum incubation of COVID-19, has been evaluated and has never developed any respiratory symptoms or fever. The crew member had no known contact or exposure to other guests or crew who were ill on Grand Princess.”

But passengers said they were left waiting while the cruise line continued communicating with the CDC.

“The Royal Princess was supposed to take off today from Long Beach but instead we sat there for 6+ hours waiting to embark onto the ship,” a Twitter user named Em posted Saturday, “and then they canceled the cruise.”

Royal Princess said it is now working with disappointed passengers to find accommodations or other transportation and will reimburse guests up to $300 per booking for one night’s hotel costs in Los Angeles.

-City News Service and staff reports

Marathon organizers urge extra caution

5:57 a.m. Sunday | The 35th annual Los Angeles Marathon is scheduled to continue as planned today, with public health officials encouraging runners and spectators to take enhanced measures to protect themselves from the spread of respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health is recommending that spectators who are sick with even mild illness to remain at home. Those planning to attend should engage in “social distancing,” keeping at least 6 feet away from other people who are not family members or friends.

Public Health is also advising spectators not to share food or water bottles, avoid shaking hands, and frequently wash hands or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, particularly before eating, after using the restroom and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.

Runners among the record field of 27,150 from all 50 states and a record 78 nations who have entered the race are being asked by Public Health not participate if they feel sick even with mild illness.

Race organizers have increased the number of hand sanitizer stations at the starting line at Dodger Stadium, along the 26-mile, 385-yard course and the finish festival in Santa Monica.    Public Health is not recommending the suspension of any large public events, including the marathon, director Barbara Ferrer said. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said “There’s no reason to cancel it.”

Entries from runners with a mailing address in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Italy, South Korea and Iran have been deferred to the 2021 race, about 0.06% of the field, according to Murphy Reinschreiber, chief operating officer of the McCourt Foundation, which organizes the race.

More than 25,000 people are expected to run Sunday on the 26.2-mile “stadium to the sea” course from Dodger Stadium to Santa Monica, according to Dan Cruz, the marathon’s head of communications.

Despite coronavirus fear, L.A. Marathon is a go but with precautions https://t.co/rzjDvJMHGv

— L.A. Times: L.A. Now (@LANow) March 8, 2020

— City News Service

Cruise passenger tested negative for coronavirus

10:25 p.m. Saturday | City officials announced at about 10 p.m. Saturday that the coronavirus test for the passenger who was taken to a local hospital from a Carnival cruise ship came back negative.

“The City of Long Beach remains vigilant in promoting and enhancing preparedness efforts in coordination with local, state and federal officials,” officials said. “At this time, there are zero confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the city of Long Beach.”

Cruise passengers will stay aboard overnight

People waited to board the Carnival Panorama after a passenger was taken to a local hospital and tested for coronavirus on Saturday, March 7, 2020. Photo by Valerie Osier.

9:52 p.m. Saturday | Passengers awaiting debarkation from the Panorama docked in Long Beach were notified that they would be held on the ship overnight because cruise officials were still awaiting the coronavirus test results from the CDC for the passenger removed earlier that morning.

Passengers were originally told they could expect the results by 6 p.m.

Meanwhile, the city and the Long Beach Convention Visitors Bureau city have been racing all day to arrange local hotel rooms for the thousands more who couldn’t board their cruise today, according to a city official with knowledge of the situation.

For the full story, click here.

My daugter recorded this just now. She is on the cruise ship that’s stuck in Long Beach… They aren’t saying if anyone has COVID19, but they won’t let anyone off… pic.twitter.com/zgEho8VWtc

— David J Harris Jr (@DavidJHarrisJr) March 8, 2020

— Valerie Osier

CSULB students returning from DC rally self-quarantine out of caution

9:24 p.m. Saturday | Cal State Long Beach officials on Saturday evening notified staff and students that 10 students and two advisors were quarantining themselves after attending a large event in Washington, D.C. where three people unrelated to the campus ended up testing positive for coronavirus.

The self quarantine is “out of an abundance of caution and in coordination with public-health officials,” wrote Dr. Kimberly Fodran, Co-Director of Student Health Services.

The campus has initiated more cleaning protocols on the campus this week. One of the student attendees lives in student housing, so that facility is also being specially cleaned as a preventative measure, Dr. Fodran said. Crews are also putting hand-sanitizing stations across campus.

“We will continue to be in close and ongoing communication with the affected students and assess if they develop any symptoms,” she said.

The quarantined students aren’t currently showing any symptoms of COVID-19, the campus said.

Fodran urged students who have additional questions to contact the Student Health Center or after-hours nurse advice line at 800-240-7617.

Students have started circulating a petition signed by about 200 people asking CSULB to temporarily amend its attendance policy so students and faculty are able to stay home without suffering losing attendance credit and without needing a doctor’s note.

CSULB will be posting updates at csulb.edu/covid-19.

—Valerie Osier