The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Los Angeles County ticked up by one Tuesday, with the Department of Public Health announcing that a resident who returned from Iran had tested positive for the illness.
Dr. Barbara Ferrer, head of the county health department, said the person was taken directly from Los Angeles International Airport to a medical facility on Monday, but may now be in isolation at home.
No other details about the patient were released.
The new case brings to 17 the number of coronavirus cases being overseen by the county Department of Public Health. On Monday, the city of Long Beach, which has a health department separate from the county, announced its first three cases of the illness, officially known as COVID-19, bringing the overall number of confirmed cases in the county to 20.
Ferrer noted that while Long Beach and Pasadena both operate their own health departments, all of the agencies work closely together.
In addition to the new case announced Tuesday, the other patients being monitored by the county Department of Public Health are:
— eight people who were in a travel group to northern 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; and
— a person who attended the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Conference in Washington, D.C.;
— a person with a known history of travel to Japan;
— a person who contracted the illness from an unknown source, becoming the county’s first case of “community transmission” of the disease; and
— a traveler from the area of Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. That person, the county’s first patient, has since recovered.
The Long Beach cases are two men and one women. City officials said the test results are preliminary until confirmed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Two of the patients had recently traveled internationally to an area of “community transmission,” while the other traveled domestically to such an area.
Two of the Long Beach patients are isolated at home, while the third is hospitalized at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center. The hospital’s chief medical officer, Dr. James Leo, told the Long Beach Post the patient has been in isolation since being identified as a possible patient, and the person is “being provided with the very best care.”
Ferrer on Tuesday again warned that residents should start to consider “limiting activities where you have a lot of exposure to the general public.”
“This is particularly important for pregnant women, for older adults and for people with serious chronic medical conditions,” she said. “The reason we’re talking about these three groups of people is they are at higher risk for getting very sick from COVID-19. It’s not that they’re necessarily at higher risk for getting sick, but if they were to get sick, unlike the vast majority of people who will probably experience mild or moderate illness, folks who are pregnant or older adults or who have chronic medical conditions may in fact experience more serious illness.”
Public health teams over the past week have been visiting interim housing facilities — including homeless shelters — to check their ability to respond to a possible case of the illness. She said that effort should be completed Tuesday, and beginning Wednesday, the focus will shift to nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
She said the effort is “really both making sure that they’re able to adequately enforce all of their infectious disease control protocols, but just as importantly, we’d like to help them move to changing some common practices that may happen at their residences.”
Those practices include large community events that may occur at nursing homes, “activities that involve large (numbers of) people getting together, and allowing visitors to enter facilities without first being checked to see if they are free of illness.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education held a special meeting late Tuesday afternoon and unanimously approved an emergency declaration, following in the footsteps of Los Angeles, Riverside, Orange and San Diego counties and the state of California.
According to the resolution, the declaration authorizes Superintendent Austin Beutner “to take any and all actions necessary to ensure the continuation of public education, and the health and safety of the students and staff at the district sites,” including the relocation of students and staff, providing “alternative educational program options” and providing employees with paid leaves of absence due to quarantine.
The declaration gives Beutner the authority to take actions quickly without waiting for board approval.
As of Tuesday evening, there still have been no reports of any coronavirus cases affecting any of the district’s schools.
At Cal State Long Beach, university officials confirmed Monday that 10 students are in self-quarantine after attending a “large event in Washington, D.C., at which three people subsequently tested positive for COVID-19.” The college did not specify the event or confirm if they also attended the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference attended by the Los Angeles County coronavirus patient and two other people who have since tested positive.
CSULB officials said the students are not showing any symptoms of the illness and the university is “in ongoing communication with them and we are closely monitoring their health status.”
At Cal State Northridge, university President Dianne Harrison said 13 students who attended the AIPAC conference have agreed to “self-isolate for 14 days from the date of potential exposure,” although none of them are exhibiting any symptoms.
“CSUN has contacted each student to assist with these efforts and arrange for alternative learning options,” Harrison wrote in a message to the campus community.
Ferrer noted that any travelers returning from Italy, South Korea, mainland China or Iran are still being asked “to self-quarantine themselves for 14 days upon their return to the United States.”
She also said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is advising that people not go on any cruises.
There have been 28 deaths from coronavirus in the United States, while more than 4,000 people have died worldwide.