Local health officials confirmed a new case of coronavirus in Los Angeles County Saturday, bringing the total number of cases in the county to 14, and passengers were being held aboard a cruise ship in Long Beach after a woman was taken off the ship to be tested for the virus.
"This morning, a passenger on @CarnivalCruise was transported to a local hospital by @LBFD,'' the city of Long Beach tweeted. "Ship is docked at LB Cruise Terminal. In an abundance of caution @CDCgov has decided to hold passengers on board until the patient can be evaluated & tested for COVID-19. #COVID19LongBeach."
The test was being expedited, city spokeswoman Kate Kuykendall told the Long Beach Post.
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According to a Facebook post by Matt Mitchum, director of the Carnival Panorama cruise, "The guest in question does not meet CDC criteria for coronavirus risk, but officials still have questions. Our shoreside medical team is in direct contact with authorities and we hope to debark shortly."
Several passengers took to social media Saturday afternoon to vent their frustrations.
"Stuck inside Long Beach cruise terminal and it looks like we won't be going anywhere. Coronavirus scare and people are being held on the Carnival Panorama. Getting all my news from Twitter as they are not sharing anything here," said one.
"We are being held on the Carnival Panarama. They said there was a
medical issue but not the virus. Everyone has missed their flights home. Food line," read another.
The new confirmed case is a resident who recently returned from attending the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Conference in Washington, D.C., where there was a known exposure to a person who was positive for the virus -- also known as COVID-19, officials from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said.
"Public Health is identifying persons who may have had close personal contact with this individual, including any friends, family members or health care professionals, to assess and monitor them for signs and symptoms of illness has begun. All confirmed cases are isolated and close contacts are quarantined for 14 days from last exposure,'' a department statement said.
"There are no known public exposure locations related to this case," it continued.
"As we continue to see more cases of COVID-19, it is important that everyone take common sense precautions: stay home when ill, wash hands frequently, and plan ahead for possible social disruptions," said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, county director of public health. ``Pregnant women, individuals with underlying health conditions, and older people should practice social distancing and avoid being in close contact with others who are ill. By working together, we can try to slow the transmission of novel coronavirus."
On Friday, two cases were announced in Los Angeles County -- including a second passenger-medical screener at LAX. Ferrer said the second patient was another traveler who recently visited northern Italy. The person was in the same group of travelers that resulted in seven previous positive tests for coronavirus, or COVID-19.
The county's cases break down as:
-- eight people in the travel group to 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 traveler from the area of Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. That person, the county's first, has since recovered;
-- the AIPAC traveler announced Saturday.
Ferrer stressed that all of the county's cases have been traced to an exposure source, so there are no local incidents of unknown community spread of the illness. She noted that the two LAX screeners worked at the same quarantine station at the airport and are likely to have been exposed to the same source of the illness, but the county has asked the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to handle the investigation into those cases.
All of the patients are under isolation. She said health officials have identified close contacts of the patients who are being interviewed, "and as appropriate they too will be subject to quarantine for up to 14 days from their last exposure to a confirmed case."
She said she understands that the increasing number of cases will spark greater concern among residents and raise questions about what they can do to protect themselves.
"We are going to reiterate our main messages, which is for the general public, your risk still remains low, although this is the time to start making sure you're practicing what we call good public health hygiene," Ferrer said. "The primary message for everyone is to stay home when they're sick. The primary message for everyone, children and adults, is even with mild illness to please not circulate in the public, particularly don't go to schools and don't go into work."
She described "mild symptoms" as having a fever of over 100, along with respiratory symptoms or stomach ailments.
She said the county has been working to contact employers to stress that message, and asked that they institute flexible, non-punitive policies allowing employees to stay home if they feel ill. She also stressed that people who develop mild illness shouldn't automatically run to a doctor's office.
"You can call your doctor, particularly if you're a person with underlying health conditions or you're pregnant, but please don't just go in," she said. "This is the time for us to make sure our medical professionals are able to treat those people with the most serious illnesses and not to have people with mild illness who actually don't need to see a clinician go into a health-care facility to have their questions answered."
The virus' effects on the economy continued to be felt locally Saturday, as organizers of the Milken Institute Global Conference announced that the event, scheduled to take place in Beverly Hills in early May, has been rescheduled to July 7-10 at a venue to be announced.
The annual gathering brings together leaders in business, government, science, philanthropy and academia from around the world. The 23rd annual conference had been slated for May 2-6 at the Beverly Hilton.
The American Film Institute postponed its annual Life Achievement Award gala set to honor singer and actress Julie Andrews. It was scheduled for April 25 at the Dolby Theatre, but will be rescheduled for an unspecified date early this summer.
Long Beach-based Molina Healthcare announced Saturday that it is waiving all out-of-pocket costs associated with COVID-19 testing for its members.
In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a statewide emergency Saturday, as the number of cases there increased to 76. Two COVID-19 deaths were reported in Florida, and the number of cases in the United States was at last 377, with 19 deaths.
Worldwide, the virus has killed more than 3,480 people, and infected more than 102,000.