Another two Long Beach residents have died from coronavirus-related causes, officials announced Monday, Aug. 24, bringing the city’s death toll to 203.
For the first time since the pandemic hit Long Beach, it appears one person who died in Long Beach with the coronavirus may not have had underlying health conditions. Officials said Monday an investigation was underway to determine if one person who recently died — a man in his 70s — had underlying conditions.
The city also reported 131 new coronavirus cases. There have been 10,147 cases identified in Long Beach since the public health crisis began.
But about 9,030 people — or 89% of those who have tested positive — have since recovered.
There were 80 Long Beach residents in hospitals with the virus on Monday.
Acknowledging the grim milestones that Long Beach hit last week — 200 deaths on Thursday, followed by surpassing 10,000 cases on Friday — Communicable Disease Controller Emily Holman said in a Monday afternoon briefing that it was important to share some of the information officials have learned since the virus was first confirmed in Long Beach.
First, she said, it was worth noting how much more severe the coronavirus has been than the seasonal flu. In a normal flu season, Long Beach sees about 2,000 or 3,000 cases. And last flu season, 11 residents died from the flu.
“That gives you an idea of how severe COVID-19 is compared to the flu,” Holman said. “No other communicable disease has reached this number of cases before, especially in such a short period of time, here in Long Beach.”
She also shared more information on the types of underlying conditions that Long Beach residents have had before contracting the virus that has led to more severe outcomes. In looking at the city’s trends, she said there’s a difference in the underlying conditions of coronavirus patients younger than age 65 and those 65 and older.
The most common underlying condition for people younger than age 65, at nearly 30%, was having a history of smoking or vaping, she said. Other common conditions for people in this age group have been hypertension, diabetes and asthma.
For those older than age 65, “hypertension was by far most the common underlying health condition, followed by diabetes,” Holman said.
“The reason we really want to emphasize these underlying health conditions is that millions of people have hypertension; millions of people have diabetes,” she said. “These are really common underlying health conditions, and so we want people to understand: It’s not just those with existing critical conditions who are developing severe disease or dying from COVID-19.”
Holman also said that though the virus and disease are new, health officials are beginning to learn about their long-term effects. People who contracted the virus months ago — even if their symptoms weren’t severe enough to warrant a hospital stay — are still experiencing severe fatigue, difficulty concentrating, shortness of breath, joint pain and other symptoms, she said.
And people who were hospitalized months ago are experiencing “ongoing damage to vital organs such as lungs and the heart.”
“These long-term effects associated with people even with mild illness,” she said, “is another reason why you want to try and avoid it all costs.”
But there is also some reason for optimism.
Long Beach’s case rate has been dropping. Last week, it fell from 231 cases per 100,000 people on Monday to 180 cases per 100,000 people on Friday.
On Monday, the case rate was 171 per 100,000 people, according to the city’s online dashboard.
Long Beach has more progress to make on that front; the state requires a maximum of 100 cases per 100,000 people to be removed from its monitoring list. But the trend is headed in the right direction.
Mayor Robert Garcia said during the briefing that the city’s positive testing rate — which peaked at 15.2% in mid-July — has stabilized around 8%, which is the maximum level the state requires to be removed from its monitoring list.
“The good news is we have not been going up on the positivity rate,” he said. “We’ve stayed right around that 8%. But now, let’s get it even lower.”
Garcia also said that Long Beach will cut down on the number of coronavirus briefings it provides. Recently, the city has conducted live briefings on Mondays and Thursdays. Now, those live briefings will be conducted regularly on Mondays and occasionally on other days as necessary, he said.