LB Council recap: Long Beach City Council votes to approve local health emergency to battle COVID-19

City Council heard updates on the city’s efforts to protect citizens, and updates on concessions stand at El Dorado East Regional Park.

During+the+March+10+Long+Beach+City+Council+meeting%2C+Kelly+Colopy%2C+director+of+Long+Beach+Health+and+Human+Services%2C+updated+the+council+and+the+community+on+the+City%27s+response+to+contain+the+spread+of+the+novel+coronavirus.+

Courtesy City of Long Beach

During the March 10 Long Beach City Council meeting, Kelly Colopy, director of Long Beach Health and Human Services, updated the council and the community on the City's response to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

At its March 10 meeting, the main topic of discussion was the response to the novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19, as well as the negotiations regarding concession stands at El Dorado Park.

Health Declaration

In response to the continuing spread of COVID-19, the city council voted to approve the resolution of the Proclamation of Emergency issued by the City manager and the declaration of a local health emergency by the Long Beach Health Department.

The public health emergency was announced on March 4 but required ratification from the city council.

[See related article: “City of Long Beach declares local health and city emergency in response to coronavirus”]

“As the City health officer, I declared a local health emergency, and the city declared a local emergency because of the increased resources necessary to be prepared and to respond to COVID-19 cases in Long Beach. The emergency declaration allows us streamlined access to extra staffing, goods, and services,” Dr. Anissa Davis, Long Beach public health officer, said.

Davis added that the City has been preparing for COVID-19 since the disease began making national news in December. Davis also said that the Department of Health and Human Services is acting as the lead during the outbreak and is working with partner agencies.

“The team is tracking federal, state and local guidance, training health providers, educating and communicating with the public, monitoring self-quarantined individuals, consulting with health providers, city agencies, educational institutions, and the community, and coordinating with the provider to determine if testing is called for,” Davis said. “It really is a full-out task.”

On Monday, March 9, Mayor Robert Garcia confirmed that the City has identified three individuals, two men, and one woman, who were positively diagnosed with the coronavirus.
In her presentation, Davis confirmed that each of these cases was travel-related. Two of the diagnosed patients have traveled overseas, and the other case traveled domestically. On Wednesday, Long Beach officials reported a fourth case, who authorities believe contracted the virus through international travel.

[See related article: “Two men, one woman tested positive for coronavirus in Long Beach”]

Additionally, The City is also monitoring 10 students from California State University Long Beach (CSULB), who recently traveled to Washington D.C. for a conference.

COVID-19 is spread through droplets from sneezing, close contact, contact with infected surfaces or objects. The virus can also spread through touching the eyes or face with unwashed hands.

The most common symptoms of the disease include cold, fever and shortness of breath. Eighty percent of individuals will suffer mild to moderate symptoms and will recover, officials said.

Fifteen percent of people infected will develop a serious illness, while 5% have a chance of becoming critically ill, according to Davis.

“In order for COVID-19 to be diagnosed currently, a health care provider needs to assess patients, and consult with the Health Department on whether testing is indicated by the CDC,” Davis said. “So right now, the Long Beach Health Department has to approve all testing that happens to determine if a person is at risk, and qualifies or would be appropriate for testing.”

The City is also working closely with facilities that work with older patients and is developing messaging aimed at educating elderly patients on the danger of the disease. Health officials have held two meetings with staff at these facilities and provided guidance.

Additionally, officials are working closely with the Homeless Services Division to reach out and inform people experiencing homelessness about the virus. Outreach teams providing information through flyers and conversations about the risk of the disease and how to identify symptoms of COVID-19.

The City has also developed protocols that will provide temporary housing for homeless individuals who need to quarantine and self-isolate.

Health officials are also asking school districts to work closely to determine if school closures are necessary depending on the number of cases and the number of schools affected.

“If there are one or more cases in multiple schools, then we’d ask that the school district work closely with us to determine the next steps and whether it makes sense to close, which schools to close and for how long,” Kelly Colopy, director of Long Beach Health and Human Services, said. “Upon any closure school must have communication plans available for staff and community and consult with public health to determine when the school can reopen, and when students can be allowed to return.”

She also emphasized that schools should do everything in their power to protect the identity of students and staff diagnosed with COVID-19 to protect them from discrimination or stigma.

Colopy ended her presentation by asking the public to practice kindness to others and avoid misinformation.

“Stigma is really not helpful to the health and support of our community at this time,” Colopy said. “It does take all of us to stop the spread of this virus, and it really will take all of us to make sure that our information is accurate and that we’re supporting our community.”

Tom Modica, acting City manager, reported that the City is waiting to see if it will be receiving any monetary assistance from the state and federal government for reimbursement, but that it is unclear about that possibility.

[See related article: “Federal government approves $7.8 billion for health professionals amid coronavirus concerns”]

Modica also stated that the spread of COVID-19 may have a future financial impact. Since the rise of the coronavirus, the Port of Long Beach has reported a 10% decline in shipping from China.

Modica also explained that the port transfers 5% of its gross to Long Beach, which could have an effect future impact on the city if shipping drops.

Additionally, Modica stated that revenue from the hotel tax and the cruise industry could be affected.

During public comments, Wesley Couture, a CSULB student, asked about making classes online until the end of the semesters like other campuses have done.

At the time of this article, CSULB has announced that it will be canceling person-to-person classes until April 20.

El Dorado Park

The city council voted to authorize the City manager to execute an exclusive negotiation agreement (ENA) with Little Brass Café and the Grand Food & Beverage for maintenance and concessions at El Dorado East Regional Park.

In an attempt to dispel online rumors concerning the project, Stephen Scott, the acting director of the Long Beach Parks, Recreation and Marine Department, hosted a presentation regarding the city’s goals.

The department’s current goal is to activate three vacant buildings in El Dorado Park and improve the experience of the public.

The first building is a 369-square-foot building located in area two of the park and was previously used as a concession building. Scott stated that the building is authorized for food, beverage and retail, which would benefit overnight campers.

The second facility is a 469-square-foot building in area three near the Golden Grove picnic site.

The largest of the three buildings are located in area three on the lakefront. The 1,008 square-foot facility was previously used as a ranger station.

Scott stated that the department is keeping an open mind to all proposals with the goal of activating these facilities and bringing additional revenue into the city.

“The goals of this opportunity are many, but none more so than trying to enhance our visitor’s experience when they come to the Regional Park,” Scott said.

The two businesses, Little Brass Café and Grand Food & Beverage were two of approximately 200 businesses that the City reached out to concerning the project.

The proposed ENA will begin a 180-day period that allows the City to begin collaborating with the two businesses to identify what is needed to operate and update the two facilities.

During this period, officials will gather data concerning the use of the facilities, hours of operation, rent structure and more. The public will also be asked for input.

If a potential business proposal is reached, the city staff will return to the City Council for approval.

The Long Beach City Council meetings are held on Tuesday, except for the last Tuesday of the month. Council meetings are held in council chambers in the civic center plaza, 411. W. Ocean Blvd.