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L.A. County Begins Mobile COVID-19 Testing, Recommends Schools Stay Closed and Allows Restaurants to Sell Unprepared Food

Los Angeles begins county-wide drive-through testing for higher risk residents. Photo of the South Bay Galleria mobile test site via County of Los Angeles.

Location

Alhambra , CA

At the end of another tough week of COVID-19 reality, Los Angeles County reported 11 new deaths and 521 cases in the last 24 hours bringing the overall number of fatalities attributed to the coronavirus to 89.

The news, at Friday’s daily press briefing, came as L.A. County has increased its testing capacity and opened up drive-through testing locations. But the testing is not for everyone and you need an appointment.

The test is actually a specimen collection. It depends on the location, but you will probably have a cotton swab in your nose or mouth and that will be sent to a lab for the actual test.

The requirements are still for those in higher risk categories, including those over 65, those with underlying health conditions and those who have been exposed to a confirmed case. The county is sending residents to the City of Los Angeles’ site that will tell you if you’re eligible and to make an appointment.

You must be in a vehicle at nine locations throughout the city and county of Los Angeles. However, there is a noticeable lack of testing sites in the heart of the SGV so be prepared to travel to Pomona or Dodger Stadium since the proposed Rose Bowl location, which would be the closest to Alhambra, Monterey Park and San Gabriel, is still in negotiation.

There are a limited number of appointments at the walk-in location in Echo Park.

Developments in the last two days indicated that the social distancing guidelines designed to stop the spread of the disease would have an impact in the public school system longer than originally anticipated.

On Wednesday afternoon, California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond recommended that schools suspend all in-person instruction for the remainder of the ’19-’20 year and to focus on distance learning.

L.A. County Superintendent of Schools Debra Duardo followed with a Thursday announcement that she is making the same recommendation for all of the school districts in the county. It is up to each district to work with the Los Angeles County Office of Education and decide what is best for their district and which resources are needed. Cancelling in-person instruction means also cancelling spring sports programs as well as proms and graduation ceremonies for seniors.

It’s not just K-12 schools that are feeling the impact of COVID-19. The University of California system said they are relaxing admission and will waive standardized testing requirements for college applicants for this and “future years as applicable.” This would impact current high school juniors entering UC in the fall of 2021.

Restaurants all over the county have been hit hard, and the San Gabriel Valley is no different.

L.A. County Superintendent Janice Hahn read an urgency motion on March 31, asking the Department of Public Health to issue new guidelines to allow restaurants to safely sell unprepared food during the COVID-19 crisis. The board passed it unanimously and on April 1 the new Guidance for Food Facilities was published and went into effect.

The guidance includes food safety practices, customer service considerations and special COVID-19 requirements. For example, food retailers may offer grocery-type items on their menu for delivery or take-out, but they may not set up a grocery shop or customer self-selection area in their establishment.

During the daily midday press briefing on Friday, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer mentioned the use of face coverings, as she did on Thursday, and emphasized that the only people who should have medical-grade masks – including N95 or surgical – are those who are “the frontline health care workers.” Nursing home staff, hospital workers and others in the medical field who need to be healthy to care for the ill must be able to access the dwindling supply of masks.

For the general public, homemade face coverings should be worn when coming into close contact with others while doing essential activities. Ferrer said they aren’t a shield and should be worn to prevent you from potentially infecting others. Ferrer’s comments on masks followed up on new guidance that emerged late in the week from the CDC recommending the use of face covering while out in public.

She also continued to emphasize the importance of the “Safer at Home” guidelines intended to impose social distancing and flatten the curve of coronavirus infections. If the county continues to social distance the health care system will be less likely to be overwhelmed and the spread will be more manageable.

The Health Officer Order is a legally punishable law directing the county to remain at home unless doing an essential activity.

Ferrer said that previously the number of cases was tripling every two to three days and now the number is doubling every six days.

Los Angeles’ testing abilities are going up. As of April 1, at least 26,000 people have been tested.

The percentage of people testing positive is 13 to 14 percent, though Ferrer has noted for a few days that two major labs are not reporting their negative tests as often, which could change overall percentages.

However, if the county’s goal is to test 10,000 people per day, with a rate of 10 percent of people testing positive, that is 1,000 positive cases per day, Ferrer explained. She thinks that the county will soon begin to see confirmed positive cases in the thousands on a daily basis.

Here are some of the case numbers presented by the L.A. County Health Department press release:

  • In the last 24 hours: 11 deaths, 521 cases
  • Total deaths: 89
  • Total cases: 4,566.

The breakdown by community:

  • Pasadena: 37
  • Alhambra: 17
  • Boyle Heights: 28
  • El Monte: 10
  • El Sereno: 12
  • Unincorporated East L.A.: 28
  • Highland Park: 11
  • Lincoln Heights: 6
  • Montebello:  10
  • Monterey Park: 12
  • Rosemead: 5
  • San Gabriel: 7
  • Unincorporated South San Gabriel: 5
  • South Pasadena: 7
  • Temple City: 3
  • Numbers are suppressed in communities with less than 25,000 residents, but with 1-4 confirmed cases:
    • San Marino
    • South El Monte

The “Safer at Home” order may not be true for some homes experiencing domestic violence. Resources are available and emergency protective orders are still being enforced. Call 800-978-3000 or go to their page.

Los Angeles County Department of Public Health page.

Meal assistance for the elderly: Workforce Development, Aging and Community Services page or call 800-510-2020.

 

For all of the reporting from the Alhambra Source, go to our Stay Healthy page.

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  1. Alhambra Source
    Submitted by James R. April 7, 2020
    Alhambra, CA 91801
     
    Smokers and Vapers warned about Impact of Coronavirus
     
    There are many different articles or news stories that you hear lately about COVID-19. We all know that we need to wash our hands and face often with soap and water, and social distancing is now the norm. The Breathe Free Alhambra Coalition recently met, and we learned a great deal more about protecting ourselves from the virus. One of our members spoke from his perspective as a Managing Oncology Nurse. I want to share some of this information with our community. Drinking water and other fluids to stay hydrated is very important for lung function and ridding the body of toxins. Get exercise, fresh air when possible, and maintain a healthy diet. We encourage everyone to practice healthy lifestyles. While we are confined to the house, it is so easy to slip into bad habits. We have always advocated for reducing public exposure to secondhand smoke and aerosol vapers, because the California Air Resources Board declared secondhand smoke as a toxic air contaminant. This caution is even more important now because of the presence of the Coronavirus. Smokers and vapers are at the highest risk of permanent damage to the lungs, because they may already have lung damage. The CDC has reported that people with underlying conditions, including damage from smoking and vaping, are more at risk of dying from Coronavirus disease, which is a type of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
    Dr. Stanton A. Glantz, PhD, Director of the Center for Tobacco Research Control & Education, stated on his blog that when someone’s lungs are exposed to flu or other infections, the adverse effects of smoking or vaping are much more serious than among people who do not smoke or vape. The recent report on pulmonary effects of e-cigarettes showed evidence of multiple ways that e-cigarettes impair lungs’ ability to fight off infections. The COVID-19 goes deep into the lungs, where it rapidly grows and displaces cilia, so patients cannot cough out mucus. Those with serious infection may need the help of a ventilator just to breathe. At the same time, people have to protect themselves from secondhand smoke and aerosol vapors, because some people may carry the virus without showing symptoms. Dr. Glantz warns that people who have any cotinine (a metabolite of nicotine) in their bodies – even at the low levels associated with secondhand smoke – have substantially increased risk of acute respiratory failure.
    For smokers and vapers, this is a good time to cut down or even quit. We know that it is not easy, but it could be a case of life or death. It is important that non-smokers are not exposed to  secondhand smoke or vapor. Experiments on the stability of the virus were reported by the New England Journal of Medicine on March 17th. The Coronavirus can live in the air from 30 minutes to 3 hours, on cardboard for 24 hours and on stainless steel for 3 days! Symptoms of infection are can be a dry cough, shortness of breath, and general malaise (feeling bad). If anyone has symptoms, self-quarantine immediately. If there is fever, then call the hospital. Let’s all stay safe and follow recommendations for protecting ourselves, our families and friends.

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