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Beverly Hills Prepares for COVID-19 Outbreak

Beverly Hills Prepares for COVID-19 Outbreak
Fire Chief Gregory Barton, Health and Safety Commissioners Kirk Chang, Myra Demeter, Cathy Baker (vice chair) and Daniel Nazarian (chair), BHUSD Superintendent Michael Bregy, and Police Sgt. Robert Maycott on March 11.
BY Laura Coleman March 13, 2020

In the wake of the continued worldwide spread of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID- 19), on March 11 the Beverly Hills Health and Safety Commission held a special meeting to address the local response. 

“It’s an issue that is extremely important to our entire community,” Mayor John Mirisch said to the almost three dozen people at the meeting. “We intend to remain a healthy City.” 

Now at almost 135,000 COVID-19 cases worldwide and over 5,000 dead from the virus, including Los Angeles County’s first fatality this week, the World Health Organization finally declared the outbreak a pandemic. 

Last week the state and county both declared a State of Emergency, and while there are just over two dozen confirmed cases now in L.A. County — a number that is expected to dramatically increase — events are being canceled or postponed throughout the region and institutions are closing their doors. The sports world has gone dark and all major performing arts institutions have cancelled upcoming performances. 

On March 12, just hours after L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti unveiled a bevy of safety measures designed to curb the spread of COVID-19, including limiting public gatherings at city facilities in excess of 50 people, the happiest place on earth, Disneyland, closed. (More details on page 18-19.) 

Most local private schools and universities have closed their classrooms to transition to online instruction and Beverly Hills Unified School District (BHUSD) may follow suit after the district’s upcoming Spring Break holiday.

“We are very fortunate that we have a spring break that starts Friday,” BHUSD Superintendent Michael Bregy told those in attendance at the March 11 meeting. “We can then properly assess what our next steps will be.” 

“We are going to be asking our students to take their materials home with them,” he added. 

Out of an abundance of caution, Mayor Mirisch said the City had begun the process of encouraging social distancing, including postponing certain events, such as the mayor’s upcoming planned “Sing- a-long,” the City’s forthcoming Sunday morning Farmers Markets and its public library. 

On March 11, less than 20 hours before the Chamber of Commerce was set to hold its annual event at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, Innovate Beverly Hills, its president alerted attendees that the event was being postponed to promote community health. The next day, Executive Director of The Wallis Rachel Fine announced the theatre would be postponing or canceling all programming through the end of the month. 

“As a major performing arts center and cultural hub that depends on audience participation, community gatherings, and social events for its survival, The Wallis feels it has a critical responsibility to prioritize the safety and health of its patrons, artists, staff, friends, colleagues, clients, and partners at this time and be proactive in its efforts to prevent the spread of this unpredictable virus,” Fine wrote. 

On March 11, All Saints Episcopal Church in Beverly Hills Rev. Janet Broderick (sister of actor Matthew Broderick) tested posted for the virus. And that same day news broke that Hollywood power couple Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson had tested positive for the Novel Coronavirus. 

“Like everyone else, I’m very concerned with what’s going on,” Beverly Hills Alma Ordaz resident told commissioners at the meeting. “I think it’s important that we adapt to our new reality.” 

“There are a lot of things that we can do right now in terms of mitigation that I just don’t see happening in public buildings,” added Ordaz, who worked as a medical practice administrator for 30 years. 

Building on the efforts of the City’s Pandemic Planning Committee, Mayor Mirisch used the meeting to announce the creation of a COVID-19 Advisory Committee to help inform City policy and help prevent the disease from spreading. The City has already eliminated all non-essential work related travel for its 1,000 employees and is actively looking at various forms of telecommuting. 

Beverly Hills Fire Chief Chief Greg Barton assured those in attendance at Wednesday’s meeting that the City continues to work closely with the Los Angeles County Department Public Health to determine when and if urgent action is required. 

“The City is ready to expand its local response … if directed to do so by public health,” he said. “On the Fire Department side, we are very prepared.” 

According to the Department of Public Health, to avoid the virus from spreading, people are urged to practice effective personal hygiene, which includes thoroughly washing hands, in addition to not touching the face and avoiding handshakes and hugs. People are also urged to stay home when sick, even when mildly ill, and prepare today for more extensive social distancing and needing to stay home. 

Director of Emergency Management, Resilience and Recovery Pamela Mottice- Muller recommended that people have food, water and supplies on-hand for seven to 14 days. 

Primary symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath and malaise. Those exhibiting such symptoms are advised to immediately telephone their primary care physician before leaving their residence to seek treatment or testing.

Following an informative presentation on the spread of the disease, Cedars- Sinai Medical Center Special Pathogens Coordinator Jennifer Garland assured the Commission the hospital was prepared to handle patients with the disease and was in fact “many steps ahead of many hospitals in the surrounding communities.” 

Residents are advised to sign up to receive notifications by visiting beverlyhills.org/emergencynotification or texting BEVHILLS to 888777. For additional information about COVID-19, visit the publichealth.lacounty.gov or cdc.gov. The City of Beverly Hills Office of Emergency Management can be reached by dialing 310-285-1021. In addition, the City has set up a dedicated website at http://www.beverlyhills.org/novelcoronavirus and is currently in the process of setting up a telephone Hotline. 

“We do need to come together as a community,” stated Commission Chair Daniel Nazarian. 

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