With Long Beach reaching a somber milestone of 1,000 COVID-19-related deaths, city officials announced plans Monday to create a digital memorial wall.

According to the Long Beach Health Department, the city reached the 1,000-death mark on Thursday, with COVID-19 being the city’s leading cause of death for the past 18 months.

“These people were our friends, neighbors and loved ones,” Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said in a statement. “My heart goes out to every single person who has lost a loved one to COVID-19.”

Long Beach’s first death due to complications from COVID-19 was reported in late March 2020. That number reached 500 in mid-January 2021. Of the 1,000 people who died since the start of the pandemic in Long Beach: 84 were aged 18 to 49; 213 were 50 to 64; and 703 were 65 and over.

The city is now collecting photographs from friends and family of those who lost their lives for a digital memorial. Visitors to the site at longbeach.gov/covid19digitalmemorial can submit images and write messages in memory of those who died.

Long Beach also will light city facilities and landmarks Monday night, and there are plans underway for a more permanent, physical memorial tied to COVID-19 to be developed at a later date.

Health Department Director Kelly Colopy said the 1,000 deaths are made even more devastating due to the fact that some might have been prevented if more people were vaccinated.

“Some of those deaths were preventable — most of the approximately 65 lives lost since the vaccine became widely available were among those who were unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated,” she said. “We continue to work to help people understand the importance of the vaccine in protecting our residents in Long Beach.”

She encouraged those who are not yet vaccinated against COVID-19 to protect their lives and the lives of their loved ones by getting vaccinated. Long Beach’s vaccine clinics are open six days a week and mobile vaccine vans can visit those who are unable to travel. The schedule is posted in English, Spanish, Khmer and Tagalog at longbeach.gov/vaxlb.

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