Long Beach Prepares for COVID-19 Patient Surge

Kirt Ramirez
STAY STRONG pandemic message on the corner of Mezzanine and Lees.

With Long Beach seeing 303 positive test results for COVID-19 as of Thursday, and with eight deaths linked to the disease in the city thus far, government officials at every level continue to advise staying home as much as possible to avoid exposure to the highly contagious disease.

If people must go out for essential business, they should keep at least six feet away from others, wash hands often, and now, as the CDC and city recommend: wear a mask or face covering.

Health directors encourage using free grocery store home delivery services instead of going into the supermarkets, where it is nearly impossible to peruse the aisles and then check out without getting close to someone.

Seniors and those with disabilities can schedule free deliveries through a new program launched by the County of Los Angeles by calling 1-888-863-7411 weekdays between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

As images of the crisis in New York and other areas dominate nightly news broadcasts, Long Beach officials are preparing for an influx of patients locally by establishing mobile hospital tents, opening a free rapid assessment clinic at Long Beach City College’s Pacific Coast Campus (PCC), and staging a field hospital.

“We are doing everything in our power to prepare for the medical and hospital surge in the weeks ahead,” Mayor Robert Garcia said in a press release statement. “We’ve added hospital and clinic capacity by hundreds of beds and we will continue to do so.”

Mobile hospital tents were put up outside of emergency rooms at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center, St. Mary Medical Center and College Hospital and people with mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19 are being helped, the release states.

The Long Beach Health and Human Services Department is one of only a few jurisdictions in the state to have access to mobile hospitals, the release adds.

The walk-up clinic at PCC –which opened Monday – assists those who otherwise might have gone to local emergency rooms for their conditions.

“The clinic will not provide treatment, take X-rays or fill prescriptions on-site, but will provide medical assessments and will renew and prescribe medications for people with routine health maintenance issues,” according to the release.

“People needing prescription renewals are urged to bring a list of their current medications, or pill bottles if they have them. People who have a cough, fever without rash, sore throat or moderate flu-like symptoms will be evaluated in a separate area and, based on their medical assessment, may be referred for testing for COVID-19,” according to the release.

The no-cost clinic will operate everyday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. until further notice. Parking is available in the campus lot near Orange Avenue, north of Pacific Coast Highway.

The city also set up a temporary field hospital inside the Long Beach Sports Arena with medical supplies and approximately 100 cots, according to the release.

The Long Beach Medical Reserves Corps, a group of volunteer medical professionals from the community, will staff both the field hospital and the rapid assessment clinic, according to the release.

And Community Hospital Long Beach would partially reopen to take in transfer patients from area hospitals to lessen the strain on them. A hospital spokesman said March 24: “We expect to start accepting transfer patients in the coming days.”

And the 1,000-bed USNS Mercy arrived March 27 from San Diego and is docked next to the Vincent Thomas Bridge in San Pedro to take in non-COVID-19 patients from area hospitals.

Regarding testing for COVID-19, an appointment-only drive-through opened at LBCC’s PCC campus Tuesday, adjacent to the rapid assessment clinic.

“Interested individuals should visit the city’s COVID-19 testing page and answer several pre-screening questions,” Mayor Garcia said in an email to residents. “Testing will continue to be prioritized for individuals who are symptomatic, those who have underlying health conditions, or are 65 years or older. This testing center is a partnership with LA County and the City of Los Angeles.”

Test results take about 48 hours to process. The Long Beach Health Department will call anyone who tests positive.

A reporter became mildly ill March 28 with a runny nose, slight sore throat and sneezing – but never a fever or cough. This took place before Long Beach had a drive through testing location for the general public.

He got sick after riding in a car with someone March 27 who later that day became very ill. The reporter, who is the primary caregiver for his 88-year old grandfather, got somewhat sick the following morning and wanted to know if COVID-19 was the cause.

The reporter called his Long Beach doctor’s office and explained the situation but was told testing would not be available. He was told to go to the LACity.org website and answer questions to see if he would be eligible for a test.

The website connects to the city/County of Los Angeles page, which now the City of Long Beach connects to through LongBeach.gov.

After answering “no” to the first two questions: “Are you under a mandatory 14 day quarantine due to a confirmed COVID-19 exposure (with more than 7 days of the quarantine remaining)?” and “Are you experiencing flu-like symptoms, such as cough, fever, and shortness of breath?” a message appeared, “We’re sorry, but you are not eligible for testing at this time. If you are experiencing symptoms, please contact your doctor. If your symptoms are severe in nature, please call 911 or seek immediate medical help.”

The reporter wanted to be tested but, “At this time, testing is limited in Los Angeles to people with symptoms, or people who have been prevented from working because of contact with someone who has been infected.

“Please note that same or next day testing appointments are prioritized for individuals over 65, or who have underlying chronic health conditions.

“Tests are also prioritized for first responders, critical government workers, or health care professionals. Those individuals should inquire at their affiliated hospital, medical center or department for information about how to schedule a same or next day appointment for testing,” according to the city/county webpage.

The Los Angeles Times reported on a Huntington Beach doctor, Matthew Abinante, who offers drive-thru testing to anyone desiring answers, but for a fee.

The doctor now operates his COVID Clinic in a parking lot in the Westminster Mall and provides state-of-the-art blood antibody testing as well as the nasal swab testing for COVID-19.

Two drops of blood were taken from a fingertip for the antibody test, where results were available in 15 minutes.

For the swab test, where results can take three or more days, a cordial nurse placed the thin swab high into the nose. It took a few seconds. There was a slight sting and the eyes watered but it was not painful per se.

The swab test was $125 and the blood test, $75. For both tests, the cost was $175. The reporter did both.

The credit card number and personal information was taken verbally through an open window by a friendly staff member in mask and gloves.

The reporter’s blood result was negative for the virus. The nasal swab was pending as of Thursday and his symptoms ended three days after they started.

More information on the Westminster testing location can be found at covidclinic.org.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization continues to state on its website, “The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness, and dry cough. Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea.

“These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. Some people become infected but don’t develop any symptoms and don’t feel unwell.

“Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment. Around 1 out of every 6 people who gets COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing.

“Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness. People with fever, cough and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention.”



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