First Coronavirus Death in Los Angeles County, Officials Warn Prepare for More

Rachel Uranga

Rachel Uranga is dot.LA's Managing Editor, News. She is a former Mexico-based market correspondent at Reuters and has worked for several Southern California news outlets, including the Los Angeles Business Journal and the Los Angeles Daily News. She has covered everything from IPOs to immigration. Uranga is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism and California State University Northridge. A Los Angeles native, she lives with her husband, son and their felines.

First Coronavirus Death in Los Angeles County, Officials Warn Prepare for More

Stock markets are roiling, universities are closing and Los Angeles County saw its first death caused by the novel coronavirus, now a global pandemic.

The unidentified woman that died was a visitor from out of town and she had recently traveled, said Los Angeles County Director of Public Health Barbara Ferrer. So far 27 cases of COVID-19 have been identified in the county. But the county's public lab has only tested 72 individuals in a region of 10 million. Ferrer said local commercial labs have provided more tests, but she did not have access to their data yet.


"We are certainly going to see a lot more cases and we are certainly going to see a lot more community transmission," she said.

"We're likely to see more deaths," she said. "For me personally that makes this a bad situation."

The World Health Organization on Wednesday officially designated the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, as the virus spread across more than 100 countries and infected well over 100,000 individuals. The announcement marked another day of financial turbulence, with the Dow Jones industrial average sinking into bear market territory with a 1,200 point drop.

And the announcement caused another day of unease for everyone planning events to school administrators.

Chapman University, Cal State Long Beach and Cal State Northridge joined Pepperdine in announcing in-person classes were suspended. Later in the day, the Los Angeles Community College District announced it would shift most of its classes at its nine campuses online. None of the schools have reported a case of the virus. And even some elementary and middle schools are shuttering for a few days, such as The John Thomas Dye School and Harvard-Westlake.

Ferrer said venue and event planners should start planning for the eventuality of closures as well.

Organizers of the high-profile gaming conference E3 canceled, on the heels of Coachella and StageCoach the day before.

"After careful consultation with our member companies regarding the health and safety of everyone in our industry – our fans, our employees, our exhibitors, and our longtime E3 partners – we have made the difficult decision to cancel E3 2020, scheduled for June 9-11 in Los Angeles," the video game trade show said in a statement. "Following increased and overwhelming concerns about the COVID-19 virus, we felt this was the best way to proceed during such an unprecedented global situation."

And the NCAA tournament, which comes to L.A. at the end of the month, is considering restricting attendance. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has told reporters that there will soon be an order for no mass gatherings in the state, which includes the First Four in Dayton and the NCAA Tournament in Cleveland.

In Washington, which has been one of the nation's epicenters for coronavirus, Gov. Jay Inslee announced that the state is banning events with more than 250 attendees in three counties through the end of March. The moratorium is the state's latest and toughest effort to stem the spread of COVID-19, and perhaps a harbinger of things to come for other states.

"While we're not there yet, we do need to get prepared for the eventuality that we will see many more cases and because of that, we'll need to all do a lot more social distancing," Ferrer said.

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