Newsletter: Hospital workers in harm’s way


Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Friday, April 10. I’m Christopher Goffard, filling in for Julia Wick, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

Much attention has focused on the plight of healthcare workers in recent weeks, and new data show the coronavirus pandemic continues to exact a harsh toll on them across the state.

The California Department of Public Health says more than 1,600 such workers are now infected, about 300 of them on the job, with many more exposed through travel, community contact or by other means — some of them unknown or unreported.

[Read the story “Coronavirus taking devastating toll on California healthcare workers” in the Los Angeles Times]


Less known are the stories of many others who keep the healthcare system running, such as so-called “nonclinical hospital staffers” — janitors, clerks, and food-service workers.

One of them is 30-year-old Andre Ross, who works at Southern California Hospital at Hollywood, as described by Times staff writer Hailey Branson-Potts.

Ross makes $18.31 an hour on the janitorial crew, “making my floors look nice, keeping them disinfected,” as he puts it. He worries about catching the virus. When he comes home to his South L.A. apartment, he quickly strips off his scrubs and showers.

Andre Ross, 30, is a floor-care specialist at Southern California Hospital at Hollywood. He disinfects the floors of patient rooms, including some where possible COVID-19 victims stayed.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

“We don’t know what patients are going to come in with the virus. It’s a nightmare,” he told Branson-Potts. “I’m on the front lines every day. I’m just trying to stay as healthy and positive as I can.”

According to an emergency room doctor at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, the minimum-wage support staff faces many of the risks that medical professionals do, though “they didn’t sign up for it the way nurses and doctors did.”

[Read the story “Hospital workers feel like ‘second-class citizens’ in coronavirus battle: ‘They’re terrified’ ” in the Los Angeles Times]


Adding to the anxiety, for many, is the potential loss of their livelihood. With hospitals curtailing elective procedures, patients are fewer and money is being lost. At dozens of hospitals, nonclinical staffers have been sent home.

Ross said that some housekeepers at the hospital tried to get masks last month, in the outbreak’s early weeks, but the hospital was keeping them for doctors and nurses. “They’re terrified,” Ross said. “They’re upset. They feel like they’re being treated differently.”

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:


Latinos, who make up nearly half of L.A. County’s population, account for 28% of deaths from COVID-19 there, according to health officials, who caution that the data are preliminary. Los Angeles Times

In the San Fernando Valley: A homeless person who was living at the Granada Hills Recreation Center has tested positive for the coronavirus. Los Angeles Times

Mission of mercy: A look at the complicated effort to reach the homeless during the pandemic, as volunteers coordinate food drops around Los Angeles. Los Angeles Times

Admissions scandal update: Records show that a college counselor at Marymount High School on L.A.’s Westside raised concerns in 2018 about the supposed competitive-rowing experience of Lori Loughlin’s daughter, and that Loughlin’s husband, fashion designer J. Mossimo Giannulli, clashed with the counselor. Los Angeles Times

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The check is on the way: In the last month, a staggering 2.3 million Californians have filed for unemployment benefits. Starting Sunday, unemployed Californians will get an extra $600 in weekly benefits from a federal stimulus package, boosting the average weekly benefit from $340 to $940. Los Angeles Times

The Trump administration has quickly expelled roughly 10,000 migrants to Mexico and other countries in less than three weeks since imposing its most severe immigration restrictions yet in response to the coronavirus outbreak, officials said. Los Angeles Times

The Kern County Clerk’s Office has stopped issuing marriage licenses, as have most counties throughout the state. Even so, some couples are moving forward with socially distanced ceremonies without a license. That could mean more paperwork later. Bakersfield Californian


The manager of the L.A. Police Academy gun store was booked on suspicion of grand theft. The accusation: stealing guns and selling them to cops. Los Angeles Times

Restaurant break-ins in San Jose have added to the area’s economic woes. Mercury News


Saving the frogs: For 20 years, biologists have been working to revive the California red-legged frog, the amphibian immortalized in Mark Twain’s “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” But COVID-19 has complicated the effort. Los Angeles Times


The Lancaster JetHawks, the only minor league baseball team in L.A. County, is on a preliminary list of teams targeted for elimination by Major League Baseball. With the coronavirus preventing opening day this week, it’s not clear whether they will play again. Los Angeles Times

Paying it forward: Baseball pros are donating food to healthcare workers. San Diego Union-Tribune



A 76-year-old nurse who apparently contracted COVID-19 from a funeral is buried in Madera. The story of Wanda DeSelle. Los Angeles Times

In the Bay Area, a 113-year-old woman — believed to be the oldest living person in the area — contends with her second global pandemic. San Francisco Chronicle

Live (and socially distanced) from New York: Most TV production is shut down, but “Saturday Night Live” will go live again this weekend. Los Angeles Times

As “Schitt’s Creek” comes to an end, Times TV critic Robert Lloyd revisits his encounters with the cast. Los Angeles Times

“Parasite” arrives on Hulu, along with “Portrait of a Lady on Fire.” Los Angeles Times

Will Coachella and Stagecoach ever feel the same when they eventually come back? Desert Sun

How are chefs and restaurateurs handling these strange times? We talked to a few of them. Los Angeles Times


Los Angeles: rainy, 50. San Diego: rainy, 56. San Francisco: partly cloudy, 55. San Jose: partly cloudy, 67. Fresno: partly cloudy, 69. Sacramento: partly cloudy, 73. More weather is here.


Today’s California memory comes from Lana Drake:

Twenty-two years ago my company sent me to Livermore for training. The brown hills were breathtaking. They looked like mounds of soft brown velvet. My co-workers said I was nuts: “They’re dead! They’re supposed to be green.” The green hills in the spring are beautiful too, scattered with flowering yellow mustard. But I still love the brown velvet ones. My first experience of L.A. freeways, where lanes of traffic stretch as far as one can see, like Illinois farmland, was terrifying. By the end of the first day, I loved the challenge of the freeways, still do.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)


Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes.