Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Friday, March 6, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.
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A cruise ship with about 3,500 people on board remains in a holding pattern off California amid coronavirus fears.
The first California resident to die from the virus, a 75-year-old Placer County resident, was on the Grand Princess’ previous voyage to Mexico. Sixty-two guests from that trip — which is now associated with a small cluster of coronavirus cases — stayed aboard for the Grand Princess’ next trip to Hawaii.
On Thursday morning, COVID-19 testing kits were delivered to the ship by helicopter. Fewer than 100 guests and crew are being tested, including all 62 passengers from the previous trip and other passengers who’ve experienced flu-like symptoms or are currently under care for respiratory illness, according to a statement from Princess Cruises.
[Sign up for Coronavirus Today, a new special edition of the Los Angeles Times’ Health and Science newsletter that will help you understand more about COVID-19.]
Gov. Gavin Newsom has said that the ship will not be allowed to dock until those test results are back. A Princess Cruises spokeswoman told my colleague Anita Chabria that she had no information on when results could be expected or when the ship might return to port. A passenger told Anita that she had been told results may come Friday.
Princess Cruises spokeswoman Negin Kamali confirmed that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had “recommended that guests should remain in their staterooms for the remainder of the cruise.” Passengers have been confined to their quarters, with public activities canceled.
So what’s life like for the thousands on the ship? Photos and video added to Instagram stories over the last 24 hours by those aboard the Grand Princess paint a surreal picture.
A group of friends play a competitive game of Jenga, as the tower of blocks topples off the table. There’s spirited line dancing in front of a foosball table. In a video with the captions “Hello CDC” and “Here comes our coronavirus test kits,” a helicopter buzzes toward the ship.
A close-up selfie shows a man’s face decorated with a cartoon-looking neon glasses filter and the caption "#GRANDPRINCESS. I’m good y’all ... I’ll update y’all with changes.” A black-and-white picture of a lived-in looking stateroom with light streaming through the open curtains has a single word added in pink text: “Quarantined.”
“People are getting scared on here because we don’t know what’s going to happen next,” a female passenger told me over Instagram DM, as she sent photos from aboard the ship. The passenger, who asked to remain anonymous to avoid angering the family members she was traveling with, said people were anxious about how long they might be stranded in their rooms. Food was delivered to the passenger’s room in the late afternoon, but they still hadn’t received drinking water after several hours of asking for it.
“Are we about to be stuck on here like Diamond?” the passenger asked, referring to the Diamond Princess — another Princess-owned cruise ship where nearly 700 passengers were potentially exposed to the coronavirus, prompting a massive quarantine. She was frustrated by the lack of communication with passengers, and watching news coverage over Wi-Fi on an iPad from inside her room.
Meanwhile, back on dry land, new COVID-19 cases were reported in several areas of California on Thursday while Nevada reported its first case, in Las Vegas.
Those California cases included two in San Francisco, which mark the first cases in that city. The two patients are not related and have no travel history to areas where the coronavirus has spread, officials said.
[Read the story: “Coronavirus cases spread across California; Las Vegas reports first case” in the Los Angeles Times]
San Francisco’s director of health said in a statement that the unknown origins of the cases suggested that the virus is “spreading in the community.” Santa Clara and Solano counties also have reported so-called community spread cases.
Further coverage on the coronavirus outbreak:
- Authorities in Santa Clara County on Thursday announced that a Sunnyvale man might be California’s second death connected to the coronavirus. The Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety said a 72-year-old man who had been on a cruise where others contracted the coronavirus was found unresponsive at his home. He later died, but it remains unclear whether tests conclusively determined he had the virus. Los Angeles Times
- Gov. Gavin Newsom and state Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara announced that they were ordering all public and commercial insurance plans to cover the entire cost of testing for the coronavirus and medically necessary screening. The orders will ensure that Californians will not have any out-of-pocket expenses for copays and deductibles, even if they receive testing and screening at hospital emergency rooms and urgent care facilities, they said. Los Angeles Times
- Los Angeles County now has 11 coronavirus cases, with the announcement of four new cases Thursday. Los Angeles Times
- A San Francisco public high school shut down midday Thursday after officials learned the parent of a student had tested positive for the coronavirus. Los Angeles Times
- Should you cancel a trip because of coronavirus fears? A lot depends on you, your health and your tolerance for risk. But here’s a checklist for the questions you should be asking yourself before you do so. Los Angeles Times
- Will the coronavirus kill prom? Bay Area schools are bracing for closures and the cancellation of events. San Francisco Chronicle
- The flu has killed far more people than the coronavirus. So why all the frenzy about COVID-19? Los Angeles Times
And now, here’s what else is happening:
Sen. Elizabeth Warren dropped out of the presidential race Thursday after failing to unite the Democratic Party’s left and right flanks behind her progressive policy agenda, the latest shakeup in a fast-moving battle for the 2020 nomination. Los Angeles Times
California’s chief elections officer has lashed out at a series of election day mishaps in Los Angeles County, demanding that local officials mail ballots to each of the county’s 5.5 million voters for the November election. “I’m beyond frustrated and disappointed in what I saw on Tuesday, and I’m committed to making sure it doesn’t happen again,” Secretary of State Alex Padilla said. “Clearly, voters deserve better.” Los Angeles Times
In the L.A. County district attorney’s race, will Jackie Lacey vanquish her challengers or face a major November clash? It’s still too soon to say for sure, but her share of the vote has since slipped closer to 50%, indicating she could still have to face a November runoff. Los Angeles Times
An interesting hyper-local angle on Tuesday’s elections: In Glendale — which is its own city separate from Los Angeles and therefore has its own municipal government — City Council races saw unprecedented spending from outside groups. An independent committee supporting one first-time council candidate received $25,000 each from Chevron Corp. and a charter schools PAC. (Based on the latest results, Ardy Kassakhian, that first-time candidate, looks to have won a seat on the council.) Glendale News-Press
Each morning Deon Steward posts a photo of the day’s menu on Instagram and Twitter. His 3,000 Instagram followers? All potential customers. Los Angeles Times
How LAUSD’s classic coffee cake has evolved: If you went through the L.A. Unified School District, you almost certainly have a fondness for its famous cafeteria coffee cake. (Yes, this story includes a recipe.) KCRW
Deserted oil wells haunt Los Angeles with toxic fumes and enormous cleanup costs. The city has been reluctant to use its full powers to ensure cleanup and protect the public. Los Angeles Times
IMMIGRATION AND THE BORDER
Certain asylum seekers who crossed through other countries before reaching the United States will again be able to request asylum after a federal appeals court on Thursday blocked a Trump administration rule from affecting them. Los Angeles Times
POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT
The Proposition 13 school bond measure appears headed for defeat. How did that happen? Los Angeles Times
CRIME AND COURTS
Hundreds of pages of grand jury transcripts have been unsealed in the bribery case against former Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet. The transcripts show how local power brokers allegedly stepped in to help the then-mayor earn far more than his salary while remaining in elected office. Desert Sun
HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Energy companies are scrambling to build “pumped storage” projects to complement solar and wind farms. Environmentalists are concerned. Los Angeles Times
A massive new water park in the Central Valley has been a decade in the making. Here’s a look inside the new Great Wolf Lodge in Manteca, which is slated to open July 1. Modesto Bee
Patti Harrison is either your favorite young comedian or she will be soon. In this story, she sits down with our food section at Kura Revolving Sushi Bar in Little Tokyo. Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles: partly sunny, 73. San Diego: partly sunny, 67. San Francisco: cloudy, 55. San Jose: cloudy, 65. Fresno: partly sunny, 79. Sacramento: cloudy, 65. More weather is here.
Today’s California memory comes from Richard Chapek:
“I was 14 years old and returning to California with my two older brothers. It was early July 1965, at 5 p.m. as we drove the southbound Golden Gate Bridge. There I saw for the first time in its gleaming alabaster glory a sunlit pre-skyscraper San Francisco. Years later, one of those brothers would be taken by the AIDS epidemic in that city and I tried hard to remember the glory of that day on the bridge.”
If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)