Two more people in Los Angeles County have tested positive for the coronavirus, including one for whom no source of exposure can be found, possibly representing the county's first case of community transmission of the illness, health officials announced Monday.
Meanwhile, Long Beach -- which has a health department separate from the county -- announced that three people have tested positive for coronavirus in that city. Those cases are the first ones in Long Beach.
Regarding the new county cases, Dr. Barbara Ferrer, head of the county Department of Public Health, said one of the new patients is a person with a known travel history to Japan. But Ferrer said health officials cannot identify any known exposure to the illness for the second patient.
"Community transmission is when we cannot identify a known source of exposure," Ferrer said. "... With all of our cases, we are doing extensive investigations and identifying all of their close contacts. With both of these cases, to date we have identified no significant public exposures, but both of our new cases do have exposures to people who are known. ... The two cases are now in isolation and all of their close contacts are or will be quarantined for up to 14 days from their last date of exposure."
With the county now confirming its first possible case of "community transmission," Ferrer said people who are pregnant, have underlying health conditions or are elderly should immediately begin "social distancing practices."
"This would include avoiding non-essential travel, avoiding public gatherings or places where large groups of people are congregating and avoiding event venues," Ferrer said.
She said those three groups of people are in danger of becoming more seriously ill if they contract the virus.
The two new patients, who are in isolation, bring the total number of cases handled by the county Department of Public Health to 16. The other cases are:
- Eight people who were in a travel group to northern Italy;
- Two contract employees who were conducting coronavirus medical screenings of arriving passengers at Los Angeles International Airport;
- Two relatives of a person who lives outside the county and was also confirmed with the virus; and
- A person who attended the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Conference in Washington, D.C.; and
- A traveler from the area of Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. That person, the county's first patient, has since recovered.
The newly reported Long Beach cases are two men and one women. City officials said the test results are preliminary until confirmed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Two of the patients had recently traveled internationally to an area of "community transmission," while the other traveled domestically to such an area.
"These preliminary test results, and our response and coordination with public health and safety officials, are being taken extremely seriously," Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said. "We strongly believe that COVID-19 is a threat to public health here in Long Beach and throughout the United States."
City health officials said they are working to identify anyone who may have been in contact with the newly diagnosed patients.
Two of the patients are isolated at home, while the third is hospitalized at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center. The hospital's chief medical officer, Dr. James Leo, told the Long Beach Post the person has been in isolation since being identified as a possible COVID-19 patient, and the person is "being provided with the very best care."
Meanwhile, at Cal State Long Beach, university officials confirmed that 10 students are in self-quarantine after attending a "large event in Washington, D.C., at which three people subsequently tested positive for COVID- 19." The college did not specify the event or confirm if they also attended the AIPAC conference attended by the Los Angeles County coronavirus patient and two other people who have since tested positive.
CSULB officials said the students are not showing any symptoms of the illness and the university is "in ongoing communication with them and we are closely monitoring their health status."
At Cal State Northridge, university President Dianne Harrison said 13 students who attended the AIPAC conference have agreed to "self-isolate for 14 days from the date of potential exposure," although none of them are exhibiting any symptoms.
"CSUN has contacted each student to assist with these efforts and arrange for alternative learning options," Harrison wrote in a message to the campus community.
Ferrer noted that any travelers returning from Italy, South Korea, mainland China or Iran are still being asked "to self-quarantine themselves for 14 days upon their return to the United States."
She also said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is advising that people not go on any cruises.
There have been 22 deaths from coronavirus in the United States, while more than 3,800 people have died worldwide.
The Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education plans to consider an emergency declaration due to coronavirus at its Tuesday meeting, although Superintendent Austin Beutner indicated Monday there is no known impact of the disease on district schools. The declaration would allow Beutner "to respond to emergency conditions at district sites in accordance with the Public Contract Code."
Los Angeles city and county officials have also declared public emergencies, as have officials in Riverside, Orange and San Diego counties.