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L.A. County Reports First Death Due to Coronavirus

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Los Angeles County recorded its first confirmed death from coronavirus today -- a woman in her 60s who lives elsewhere but was visiting friends in the area -- while the county health director also announced six more confirmed cases of the illness.

Dr. Barbara Ferrer, head of the county Department of Public Health, said the woman who died had underlying health conditions and had traveled extensively over the past month, including a "long layover in South Korea."

No other specifics about the woman were released, including an exact location of the hospital where she died.

Of the six additional confirmed cases, three were "household contacts" of a previously announced patient, one person recently traveled to France and came home ill, one person traveled to a religious conference in another state and one person has no known travel or exposure history -- making that patient the county's second instance of "community transmission" of the illness.

The new cases bring to 24 the number of cases of coronavirus, or COVID- 19, that have been reported and overseen by the county Department of Public Health. Three additional cases have been reported by the city of Long Beach, which operates its own health department, bringing the overall county total to 27.

In addition to the new cases announced Wednesday, the other patients reported by the county Department of Public Health are:

  • one person who recently returned from a trip to Iran;
  • 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.;
  • a person with a known history of travel to Japan;
  • a person who contracted the illness from an unknown source, becoming the county's first case of "community transmission" of the disease; 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 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.

Two of the Long Beach patients are isolated at home, while the third is hospitalized at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center, city officials said Monday.

Los Angeles County public health teams bega visiting nursing home and long-term care facilities Wednesday to ensure all steps are being taken to protect against the coronavirus.

Ferrer said Tuesday the teams over the past week had been visiting interim housing facilities, including homeless shelters, to check their ability to respond to a possible case of the illness.

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Those teams will now focus on the nursing and long-term care facilities, an effort she said is "really both making sure that they're able to adequately enforce all of their infectious disease control protocols, but just as importantly, we'd like to help them move to changing some common practices that may happen at their residences."

Those practices include large community events that may occur at nursing homes, "activities that involve large (numbers of) people getting together," and allowing visitors to enter facilities without first being checked to see if they are free of illness.

Ferrer again warned that residents should start to consider avoiding large-scale events and exposure to the general public.

Health officials said people who are elderly, pregnant or have underlying health conditions should particularly engage in such "social distancing," since they are at a heightened danger of becoming more seriously ill.

Concerns about the virus have prompted many universities in the Southland to cancel in-person classes in favor of online courses in hopes of limiting public gatherings.

The Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education on Tuesday unanimously approved an emergency declaration, following in the footsteps of Los Angeles, Riverside, Orange and San Diego counties and the state of California.

The declaration authorizes Superintendent Austin Beutner "to take any and all actions necessary to ensure the continuation of public education, and the health and safety of the students and staff at the district sites," including the relocation of students and staff, providing "alternative educational program options" and providing employees with paid leaves of absence due to quarantine.

The declaration gives Beutner the authority to take actions quickly -- such as closing schools -- without waiting for board approval.

As of Tuesday night, there still have been no reports of any coronavirus cases affecting any of the district's schools.

Top Image: Los Angeles County Public Health director Barbara Ferrer speaks at a press conference on the novel COVID-19 (coronavirus) ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

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