City Urges Face Masks, Social Distancing as COVID-19 Cases Grow

With a dramatic rise among Pasadena residents testing positive for COVID-19 this week — totaling 179 cases and 12 deaths associated with the disease as of Tuesday — city officials said they are monitoring social distancing and the use of face masks to try and slow the spread of the virus, as well as continuing to plan for alternate care sites if necessary.
About 47.5% of the confirmed COVID-19 cases were among Pasadena residents 60 years and younger. All the fatalities were of people between 49 and 93 years old, and were associated with long-term care facilities as residents or employees, and had underlying health conditions, the city said in a statement.
According to Huntington Hospital’s new dashboard page, a resource on its website to share updates regarding the coronavirus pandemic, there are 65 patients with the disease currently hospitalized there. Since March 6, it said, 1,111 total patients have been tested, with 919 testing negative and 159 testing positive; 31 tests are still pending.
As of The Outlook’s deadline, there were a total of 10,047 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Los Angeles County with 360 confirmed deaths related to the disease. According to health officials, 85% of the people who died from the virus had underlying health conditions, and the largest plurality of the diagnoses was among people ages 41 to 65.
Over the weekend, the city issued its own order regarding face masks, requiring essential workers and customers shopping at essential businesses to wear them. However, city Public Health Officer Dr. Ying-Ying Goh emphasized the masks do not replace good hygiene methods or social distancing of at least 6 feet.
“This order by no means replaces the need for physical distancing and everyday hygiene precautions, such as frequent hand-washing,” Goh said. “When you do need to venture out for groceries or other essentials, wearing a face covering can help reduce community spread of COVID-19, especially by those who are asymptomatic and don’t even know they have the virus.”
While other nearby cities were preparing to launch a phone line dedicated to the intake of resident concerns regarding people not following safety protocols or social distancing mandates, a city representative noted that Pasadena’s Citizen Service Center has been working well and averages up to 30 calls per week, which are followed up by city officials with code compliance, health department or the police department.
With the numbers of COVID-19 expected to continue rising, the Pasadena City Council last week approved a contract, not to exceed $700,000, with the Pasadena Convention Center to become an overflow care site for Huntington Hospital. The hospital said it is preparing for the worst, including the use of surge tents outside its facility, but that scenario is still seen as potentially months away.
“Right now we are caring for the increasing number of COVID-19 patients in our facility,” said Huntington Hospital spokeswoman Dorey Huston. “However, we are working with the city of Pasadena and the Pasadena Convention Center to expand our care for a potential surge of patients in the coming months, should the need arise.”
Councilman Andy Wilson noted that preparing the convention center to support another 250 hospital beds for coronavirus victims is part of the larger discussion about how to help people who are impacted by the disease.
“We’re hopeful that we’re ahead of the curve here … it turns out that one of the good things about being a city that is spread out and does not use mass transit is, that’s working in our favor,” Wilson said. “My best hope is that with the money we spent on the convention center, if there is a scramble early on we can move on it, and if it doesn’t get utilized that’s the best of both worlds.”
Wilson also emphasized the need for broader testing, which will be critical for a slow reopening of the economy.
Locally, testing sites expanded operations recently, including drive-through testing at the Rose Bowl, which is open from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Tests are provided daily to 300 qualifying individuals who have made an appointment online and received a registration number. Patients must be 65 years or older.
Huntington Hospital’s urgent care affiliate, Exer Urgent Care, also is providing testing and telehealth services from its Pasadena location. With a referral through Exer’s VirtualCare Portal, testing kits are used to provide patient results within 24-48 hours.
For more information, visit huntingtonhospital.org and click on its COVID-19 page.

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