The Pasadena City Council will hold a committee meeting on Thursday to further discuss a regulated reopening of local businesses, keeping in step with Gov. Gavin Newsom who announced on Monday the state is ready to move into a “Phase 2” of restrictions put in place to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
Nearly two months into its “Safer at Home” order, the mandate, which closed businesses deemed nonessential and significantly restricted public gatherings in observance of the coronavirus pandemic, is set to expire on Friday, May 15, but county officials are expected to renew the order with modifications as the state unveils a procedure to slowly reopen businesses.
“Our city is working in coordination with the city of Long Beach, L.A. and L.A. County to strategize our phases and so solidarity moving forward under the direction of our health officers,” said city spokeswoman Lisa Derderian.
City officials will likely announce more specific plans regarding the “low-risk business” reopenings later this week, she said.
Newsom said that the state’s Phase 2 plan includes the reopening of limited retail stores, including clothing and book stores, but only with curbside pickup. The governor is also expected to release more details later this week.
Meanwhile, the Pasadena City Council deliberated over virtual presentations from Huntington Hospital President/CEO Dr. Lori Morgan and Pasadena Public Health Officer Dr. Ying-Ying Goh, and supporting comments from Dr. Kimberly Shriner, an infectious disease specialist. During a meeting that lasted nearly seven hours, council members asked a slew of questions regarding testing sites, follow-up enacted on tested patients, the use of ventilators, patient care and data-driven questions including regarding the advancement of COVID-19 and the potential peak in Pasadena.
Morgan emphasized medical professionals are largely expecting a second “bump” of COVID-19 patients in the fall, in line with typical flu numbers.
“We are anticipating another wave because similarly to the flu, there does seem to be a seasonality to it; also because there is something to relaxing the social distancing, so we are very concerned about a rebound from that,” Morgan said.
Regarding the hospital’s off-site surge center, which is ready to deploy at the Pasadena Convention Center in a collaboration between the hospital, center and city of Pasadena, Morgan said they have received approval to install up to 350 beds if need be. However, until now, the patient load at the hospital has been manageable, she said.
“We are OK and we are managing our volumes today, but in the next month there are two things that are going to happen that are very important,” said Morgan, who noted that the hospital will begin doing elective surgeries again, which will start filling more beds; the hospital will monitor that closely, she added.
“Secondly,” Morgan continued, “social distancing is going to be relaxed and I don’t think we really know the full extent of what that could potentially do to the volume requirements. If by the middle of June we are managing volumes without a huge upsurge again, we’ll have learned a lot, but probably not need to continue surge sites set up as they are [now].”
Despite pressing from council members, Morgan was cautious not to say whether Pasadena has seen its peak in COVID-19 cases, noting only that health professionals expect a second wave.
“We have been very flat for about 10 days now, maybe [we had] the slightest of a dip over the weekend, but certainly not escalating as we once were,” she conceded.
As of press time on Tuesday, there were 452 reported laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 among Pasadena residents, and 60 deaths related to complications from the disease. The deceased have ranged in age from 49 to 102 years old, and had underlying health conditions.
According to Huntington Hospital’s COVID-19 Testing Results Dashboard, a webpage resource, there have been 1,999 patients tested between March 6 and May 5, with 1,632 of those patients testing negative and 339 testing positive. There are 27 patients with test results pending, and there are 70 patients currently hospitalized at Huntington Hospital.
In L.A. County, the disease has killed at least 1,313 residents as of Tuesday, and there have been at least 27,815 confirmed infections. Skilled nursing facilities and other institutional settings, in addition to health care workers, are particularly vulnerable to outbreaks and exposure to the virus. Half of the county’s deaths have been residents of those institutional facilities, according to Barbara Ferrer, director of the L.A. County Department of Public Health.
Staff writer Zane Hill contributed to this report.