Due to COVID-19 physical-distancing requirements, the Signal Hill City Council met virtually by video conference for its regularly scheduled May 26 meeting.
Among other agenda items, the council heard a COVID-19 update and approved participating in a free lunch program for Signal Hill students during the summer.
The council approved the city providing free weekday lunches for Signal Hill students during the summer. Signal Hill will partner with the City of Long Beach in administering the California Department of Education’s Summer Food Service Program from June 15 to Aug. 21.
A full-time staff member from the Community Services Department will distribute lunches to students at Signal Hill Park each weekday. The program extends the City’s free school-lunch program that ends June 12.
Community Services Director Ali Mancini said Signal Hill served 80 to 100 lunches per day last summer, 60 of them going to participants of the City’s Summer Day Camp program.
By comparison, Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) is currently serving 7,000 school lunches per day, Mancini said.
Though Signal Hill will likely not offer its day-camp this summer due to LA County Health Department pandemic restrictions, Mancini said there is still a need for the free meals for students aged one year to 18 years old.
“Given the economic impact of the pandemic, it is likely that demand for the lunch-service program throughout the community will increase,” Mancini said.
The program does not cap the total number of meals it delivers, but participants need to place their orders by the previous program day, Mancini said.
After the program drops off the meals, the city-staff member will administer and deliver them at the park, Mancini said. Participants will pick up meals in “grab-and-go” style, with staff implementing cleaning and sanitizing procedures.
Long Beach staff will train Signal Hill staff in developing a social-distancing plan at the site. The City is also working with Long Beach to see if it can create a drive-through pick-up option.
In other business, Mayor Robert Copeland presented two proclamations– one to retiring LBUSD Superintendent Christopher Steinhauser, who was not present at the meeting, and another proclamation marking May 22 as Harvey Milk Day. He also announced that the City needed a community volunteer for its Sustainable City Committee (SCC).
More than one council member praised Steinhauser’s over 40 years of service– 18 as superintendent– bringing innovation and excellence to the district. They noted that he cared for each individual student while narrowing overall performance gaps.
“Congratulations, Mr. Steinhauser,” Copeland said. “What you’ve done means a lot to us.”
Copeland then read the proclamation recognizing Harvey Milk Day while Deputy City Manager Scott Charney showed a May 22 video of the City raising the LGBTQ Pride flag on three municipal flagpoles– at City Hall, the police station and library.
The flags will continue to fly through the end of next month to commemorate June as Pride Month for the LGBTQ community, Charney said.
He noted that the council had adopted a resolution in May 2019 to display the Pride flag annually. It then adopted a wider policy last October to also display other commemorative flags below the City’s flag.
The next commemorative flag the City will display will recognize the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in August, Charney said.
See related stories: Signal Hill City Council OKs first three commemorative flags under new policy
Copeland announced that the City is seeking a community volunteer to join its SCC.
Interested residents or business representatives in Signal Hill can apply by June 12 through the City’s website at cityofsignalhill.org.
The SCC will interview qualified candidates at its next meeting on July 7 at 6pm.
“The committee advises the City Council and acts as community liaison on environmental issues and policy,” Copeland said.
City Manager Hannah Shin-Heydorn reported to the council that LA County continues to face an increasing number of coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and fatalities.
“Signal Hill now has 25 cases as of May 26,” she said.
“We are all still all vulnerable to COVID-19,” Shin-Heydorn said. “We still need to practice physical distancing, hand-washing and wearing cloth face-coverings to protect ourselves and those around us.”
Councilmember Keir Jones noted that the number of cases depends on how many are taking the tests. Early numbers may have been undercounted, he noted.
Though Governor Gavin Newsom has allowed the state to move further into Phase 2 of his reopening plan by allowing more businesses to open statewide, Signal Hill takes its direction from LA County Health and Human Services, which is not allowing the full extent of openings due to its still-growing caseload, Shin-Heydorn said.
Jones said that it would be ideal if all counties opened at the same time to prevent those who live in LA County to go elsewhere for services that remain closed.
“It’s really going to defeat the whole purpose of stay at home at that point,” he said.
As of May 26, the County is allowing faith-based organizations to open their doors, though at only 25% of building capacity or a maximum of 100 people, whichever is lower, Shin-Heydorn said.
All retail stores can also now open, though only at 50% of capacity, she said. Flea markets, swap meets and drive-in movie theaters may also open, as well as pools, hot tubs and saunas that are part of multi-unit residences and homeowner’s associations.
Beach bike-paths are also now open, Shin-Heydorn said. Parks, public trails, beaches for active recreation and community gardens have already been open, as have grocery stores, farmer’s markets and food banks.
Pet-food stores, animal clinics and pet daycares are also open, as well as hardware and building-supply stores, she said.
Health services are also open, including medical clinics, hospitals, dental clinics, physical-therapy and chiropractor offices, optometrists, and mental-health providers.
Beach piers remain closed, however, as do recreation and community centers, basketball and volleyball courts, baseball and soccer fields, youth sports leagues and summer camps, Shin-Heydorn said.
Personal services such as nail salons, tattoo parlors and fitness studios also remain closed, as do in-person-only restaurants and bars and wineries that do not serve food for delivery or pick-up.
Though the City’s facilities remain closed, Shin-Heydorn said its services are still available.
“We’re still open for business and we’re still available to help,” she said.
Shin-Heydorn further noted that the City has posted information on its website at cityofsignalhill.org for how to manage anxiety and stress during the continuing lockdown.
She advised maintaining a routine that included eating healthily and exercising, plus rest and relaxation. She also suggested staying connected with family, friends and neighbors and reaching out for help when needed.
City Clerk Carmen Brooks told the council of her experience testing positive for COVID-19 in order to highlight the need for better procedures.
After taking the test at Long Beach City College on May 2, Brooks said she didn’t get a call with the results until May 8. Though she quarantined herself after that and remained asymptomatic, Brooks questioned the amount time between taking the test and receiving her results because during that period she’d held a neighbor’s child and contacted
someone working at her house who has an elderly parent.
“If people in the White House can get tested two or three times a day and get immediate results, we need that as well,” Brooks said. “It took me six days to know I was positive.”
Brooks also questioned the physical- and mental-health resources available to those who test positive.
“I felt embarrassed and I felt like I had this ‘scarlet letter,’” Brooks said of her emotional reaction to receiving her results. “I didn’t want to tell anyone.”
She said she first received her positive result by email rather than a phone call, and then a subsequent phone call gave her the results in an unsympathetic way.
“It was devoid of emotion,” Brooks said of the call.
She also said she didn’t know what to do after receiving her results.
Since she is a veteran, Brooks contacted Veteran’s Affairs (VA), who called her every day during her quarantine, she said.
But Brooks expressed concern for those who are symptomatic and don’t have resources such as the VA.
She also said those who test positive need to connect in a spiritual way to someone who can offer hope.
“I was asymptomatic,” Brooks said. “But that did not lessen my need for services and support around this.”
The next Signal Hill City Council meeting will be a budget workshop on May 28 at 6pm. It’s next regular meeting will take place virtually on Tuesday, June 9 at 7pm. For information on accessing and participating in both meetings, visit the council’s webpage at www.cityofsignalhill.org/79/City-Council.