Newsletter: Coronavirus deaths in L.A. County doubled over past week

A Carson resident passes a sealed self-test to a health official at a new drive-up testing site for COVID-19 outside a community center in Carson.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Tuesday, April 28, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

The coronavirus continues to cut a deadly path through L.A. County, where coronavirus fatalities doubled over the past week. The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the county also rose at a rapid clip during that same period, after previously appearing to be leveling off for a time. Officials have said that some of that perceived rise in new cases could be due to the clearing of a backlog of pending test results, as well as increased access to testing.

[Read the story: “As coronavirus worsens in L.A. County, hopes of early reopening fade” in the Los Angeles Times]

Who’s dying from the coronavirus in L.A. County?


County health officials confirmed an additional 29 deaths on Monday, bringing the total number to 948 — a sum that accounts for more than half of the deaths across the state. The officials say that 92% of the individuals who have died in the county had underlying health issues.

Black and Latino people in L.A. County continue to face disproportionately high rates of death in the face of the virus, echoing a grim trend seen across the state. The COVID-19 death rate for black people in L.A. County is 13.2 per 100,000, compared with 9.5 for Latinos, 7.5 for Asians and 5.5 for whites.

[See also: “Younger blacks and Latinos are dying of COVID-19 at higher rates in California” in the Los Angeles Times]

Angelenos living in poor neighborhoods have also seen disproportionately high rates of death: Officials have previously said that those who live in lower-income communities in L.A. County are three times more likely to die of COVID-19 than those in wealthier communities.

Nursing homes in L.A. County have been particularly hard hit, echoing difficulties seen in other parts of the state and across the country. Nursing homes alone account for 40% of coronavirus deaths in L.A. County. In a move aimed at bolstering staff, the California National Guard has already been dispatched to five nursing homes in L.A. County with plans to deploy to four more.

What comes next?


The troubling pace of deaths and new cases over the past week raises questions about when L.A. County will be able to ease its strict social distancing rules. But L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, who has expressed concern about reopening too early, struck an optimistic note Monday. He said social distancing measures were proving effective, “the curve really is beginning to flatten,” and even suggested that easing restrictions under the city’s safer-at-home order could be weeks away.

The county’s current stay-at-home order lasts until May 15. Barbara Ferrer, the county’s director of public health, said officials are hopeful that coronavirus deaths and overall case counts will begin to decrease by mid-May.

Meanwhile, the battle over stay-at-home orders continued to rage across the state. As my colleagues have written, there has been a growing movement from politicians in some rural or less urbanized parts of the state to request an easing of the rules, arguing that the situation there is not as severe as hot spots like Los Angeles County and Silicon Valley.

[Read the story: “California faces growing pressure to ease stay-at-home rules, at least in some regions” in the Los Angeles Times]

On Monday, Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state was “weeks, not months” away from modifying its stay-at-home order, but the governor admonished those who crowded onto beaches over the weekend and said scenes like those seen over the weekend could slow reopening efforts.

Here’s when stay-at-home orders are currently set to expire in each of California’s 58 counties.

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

Six Bay Area counties extended stay-at-home orders through May but will ease some restrictions, officials announced Monday. “Hospitalizations have leveled, but more work is needed to safely reopen our communities. Prematurely lifting restrictions could easily lead to a large surge in cases,” health officers for Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, along with the city of Berkeley, said in a joint statement. Los Angeles Times

Air travel in the age of coronavirus: The world’s largest carrier, American Airlines, said Monday that passengers will be handed a mask and hand sanitizer when boarding some flights, starting in early May. JetBlue went further, announcing Monday that all passengers will be required to wear face coverings during travel. Los Angeles Times


The L.A. County sheriff says a new decontamination center will allow N95 masks to be reused up to 20 times. The cleaning chamber, at the Sybil Brand Institute in Monterey Park, is scheduled to begin operating next week. It will be able to clean up to 30,000 masks each day and save the Sheriff’s Department and other agencies tens of millions of dollars. Los Angeles Times

These L.A. restaurants are suing their insurance companies for offering “no help at all.” “Insurance companies are bracing for a wave of claims. Business owners are bracing for denials. The courts are bracing for a flood of lawsuits. No one thinks it’s going to end well — except maybe the lawyers.” LAist

Los Angeles restaurant owners, who have been vocal about high service fees charged by food delivery apps, could soon pay significantly less if a new city ordinance is approved. Restaurants currently pay as much as 30% in fees to third-party delivery apps such as Postmates, Grubhub and UberEats; the ordinance would cap fees at 15%. Los Angeles Times

Coronavirus testing will now be open to asymptomatic essential workers in L.A., including delivery, ride-hail and taxi drivers, as well as journalists. Los Angeles Times

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San Diego beachgoers may see more Border Patrol agents on horseback: The agency is stepping up horseback patrols along the coast to deter border crossers and illegal smuggling. Los Angeles Times


Having trouble with the IRS site? Try all caps — yes, really. Millions of Americans have encountered a dreaded “Payment Status Not Available” message when trying to track the status of their coronavirus stimulus checks. But my colleague Jessica Roy somehow discovered that if you type your street address in all capital letters, the error message goes away. (Someone give her a Pulitzer, stat.) Los Angeles Times

Californians battling unemployment are stymied by state agency’s tech issues: For Californians desperate to get unemployment assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic, the last month has been a perfect storm of failures for a state government with a long history of technology problems. Los Angeles Times

Battling lockdown fatigue, California messages both hope and fear. While officials say the public’s adherence to health messaging has shown quantifiable results in “flattening the curve” of new COVID-19 cases, they caution that we are nowhere near the end of this emergency and that we cannot become complacent. Los Angeles Times


Wondering if you have the coronavirus? The CDC has updated the list of COVID-19 symptoms. Los Angeles Times


How do you sign “Don’t drink bleach”? The sign language interpreters gesticulating behind elected officials during briefings are sharing lifesaving information and becoming part of a visible pantheon of essential workers. They’ve also started to receive unexpected attention from the viewers watching at home. New York Times

How the coronavirus crisis has helped Spotify’s podcast business. Following social distancing restrictions, Spotify staff and show hosts have been working out of their homes, improvising by using closets, attics and, in at least one case, a tent, to block out noise. Los Angeles Times

This San Joaquin Valley food distributor has opened its warehouse to the public after 40 years of wholesale deliveries. The Visalia company’s inventory, which is available for next-day pickup, includes 5-pound blocks of sliced American cheese, 15-pound boxes of honey-cured bacon and 1-gallon jugs of hand sanitizer. Foothills Sun-Gazette

“The other day a perfect stranger came up to me and said, ‘Thanks for your service.’” A California postal worker on what it’s like to deliver mail during a pandemic. Yahoo News


“It’s just unbelievable. This is a dream.” After his planned 105th birthday celebration was called off, a WWII veteran in Lakewood was greeted by a parade of well-wishers in classic cars, military vehicles and even a firetruck with sirens blaring. Los Angeles Times

Lt. Col. Sam Sachs, a World War II veteran, celebrates his 105th birthday as a surprise parade of cars drives by the senior living home where he resides.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

A hip-hop record label CEO covered a month’s rent for more than 300 families in Watts public housing. The charitable contribution will benefit at-risk residents in Nickerson Gardens, where Top Dawg Entertainment CEO Anthony Tiffith once lived, along with Jordan Downs and Imperial Courts. Complex

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Los Angeles: sunny, 85. San Diego: sunny, 75. San Francisco: sunny, 69. San Jose: sunny, 82. Fresno: sunny, 91. Sacramento: sunny, 93. More weather is here.


Today’s California memory comes from Marvin Talso:

Growing up on the Finnish Colony in Mendocino County’s Redwood Valley, started by my grandfather a century before, was idyllic for us kids. The deer, jack rabbits and rattlesnakes kept Mom busy rounding us up. Hikes through the cat tails around the irrigation pond let us imagine ourselves far away. We looked forward to the ride in the big yellow bus on our way to the local school, where learning to read and singing along with the friendly teacher was fun! I am still here and look on Redwood Valley as an incredibly special place to finish my California journey.

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.