The Long Beach City Council unanimously approved a resolution to ratify two local health emergencies in relation to coronavirus last night.
The first, a local health emergency, was first announced last Wednesday by city health officer Anissa Davis. The second, a local emergency, was announced in unison by acting city manager Tom Modica.
On Monday, the city announced the first three cases of coronavirus in Long Beach, two of which are associated with international travel and one with domestic travel. The cases are considered presumptive positives until they’re confirmed by the Center for Disease Control, according to Davis.
So far, the city has not implemented any rules against large gatherings nor has it suggested any schools shut down. Kelly Colopy, director of Health and Human Services, advised teachers and staff to self screen themselves for fever and respiratory symptoms if there are more than two cases of community transmission in the city.
Yesterday, CSULB President Jane Close Conoley released a statement regarding a potential campus closure.
“The university has developed an Academic Continuity plan in order to offer classes through alternate methods,” Conoley said. “Should the plan be implemented, it would alleviate the need for most students to come to campus. If you are a faculty member, you should finalize plans for how you will offer non-face-to-face instruction.”
During public comment, CSULB student Wesley Couture voiced his concern with the school’s current handling of the virus protocols. He said he works at a skilled nursing facility that’s been doing temperature checks on seniors as they enter the facility.
“I know that [the city] said that we’ve declared a public emergency, but for us at Cal State Long Beach, life seems to have continued as normal,” Couture said. “We’ve been told to stay home if we’re sick or wash our hands. It’s not really something you’d expect from a public health emergency.”
He went on to request that CSULB make all its classes available online, following the lead of schools like the University of Southern California and Stanford, both of which have temporarily transitioned to online classes.
“We’re a port city with an airport,” Couture said. “While it’s largely possible that this virus might be a slightly worse version of the flu, it’s also possible that it may be super serious.”
If closed, schools must have communication plans available for staff and community members and consult with public health to determine whether the school should reopen.
In addition to CSULB, city staff members are currently updating and reviewing their own continuity of operations plans to make sure all critical government functions continue in the case of a more severe coronavirus outbreak.
The emergency declaration will allow the city to streamline its response to the spread of coronavirus. It will be able to make purchases faster, waive certain internal rules as appropriate, hire people quicker and bring on more staffing, according to Modica.
The declaration also indicates to the state and federal government that the city will be eligible for reimbursement, though funding for such reimbursements still remains unclear.
Davis said the protocol for the coronavirus is whenever a potential case is identified, health officials trace everywhere that person has been since they’ve been symptomatic.
“This might include a flight that they were on, who sat next to them,” Davis said.“It might include an Uber, where they worship or who they live with, possibly their school or dorm.”
After identifying these people, health officials then conduct interviews with anyone who may have been exposed to the virus and provide them with recommendations. Up to 100 interviews may take place for a single case, according to Davis.
The city is currently monitoring 10students and two staff members from CSULB who attended a conference in Washington,D.C. It are also monitoring dozens of Long Beach citizens who have recently traveled to Iran, China or have taken a cruise.
Health and Human Services began preparing for the spread of coronavirus in December of last year when the news was first released in China, Colopy said.
“We’ve practiced for this. We have a system in place for any kind of what we call an ‘all hazards’ type of approach,” Modica said. “We are putting that all together to be able to prepare the community for COVID-19.”