Another case of the novel coronavirus was reported Tuesday in Los Angeles County, bringing the total cases up to 20 in the nation’s most populous county.
A resident who had returned to Los Angeles International Airport from Iran was hospitalized after passing through a screening station at the airport, according to Los Angeles County Department of Public Health’s director Dr. Barbara Ferrer.
That person is in isolation at home, Ferrer said during the department’s daily news conference on coronavirus.
There have been 17 cases reported by the county and another three reported by the city of Long Beach, which has its own public health department. Community transmission is suspected in one of the county’s cases, meaning officials aren’t certain where the patient contracted the virus.
“We remain confident that if sick people stay home and reduce exposing others to their illness, whether it be COVID-19 or influenza, we’re all better off,” Ferrer said.
There were a total of 157 positive cases confirmed in California as of Tuesday, including 24 cases from repatriation flights. The number doesn’t include passengers from the Grand Princess cruise ship, which on Monday docked in Oakland with at least 21 confirmed coronavirus patients on board.
Orange County announced that it has two confirmed and three presumptive coronavirus cases as of Tuesday, as Ventura County reported that its single presumptive coronavirus case has been confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“It’s in everyone’s best interests that we slow the transmission,” Ferrer said.
Authorities said they’re working with homeless shelters, nursing homes, schools and event promoters on their responses to the virus.
On Tuesday afternoon, concert promoter Goldenvoice announced that it was postponing both the Coachella and Stagecoach music festivals from April to October.
Homeless shelters and encampments
With the county’s large homeless population, the health department has been working on making sure that shelters can take in and isolate those who are sick.
The department surveyed 330 homeless shelters over the past week to make sure they can take as many precautions to separate sick people from those who are healthy, according to Ferrer.
“We want people who don’t feel well and are experiencing homelessness to get off the street,” Ferrer said.
Homeless people have a harder time taking the recommended precautions to protect themselves from COVID-19, and many can experience a worse illness if infected, she said.
With the large number of homeless people who congregate in Los Angeles County, Ferrer said it would be “complicated” trying to quarantine the sick if there is a major outbreak at an encampment at this time.
“We would be scrambling with a lot of difficulty should we have an outbreak that was more than a dozen people,” Ferrer said, adding that there aren’t enough shelters that have the capacity to support quarantining them.
In 2019, there were 58,936 homeless people living in Los Angeles County, including 36,300 in the city of Los Angeles alone.
“This is not an easy task and it is not just finding housing for people who are experiencing homelessness—which has already been an uphill battle in some of out communities—this is compounded by people having fear that people in quarantine and isolation being placed in their community,” Ferrer said.
Nursing homes and long-term care facilities
Starting Wednesday, the L.A. County Department of Public Health will be visiting nursing homes and long-term care facilities to make sure they’re able to enforce protocols to deal with infectious diseases, Ferrer announced Tuesday.
Health officials will also be advising the facilities to limit public gatherings and the number of people coming in who may have symptoms.
With warnings that COVID-19 poses an extreme risk to the elderly and those who have serious chronic conditions, Ferrer said it’s especially important to limit their exposure to those who are sick.
Sixty of California’s 157 coronavirus cases were people aged 65 and older, according to the California Department of Public Health.
A Washington state nursing home with two coronavirus deaths was being described as the epicenter of the country’s coronavirus outbreak, with local officials reporting they found an understaffed facility with inadequate gear, CNN reported.