Newsletter: Why L.A. COVID-19 patients are dying at lower rates

A patient care technician walks into an isolation room to check on a COVID-19 patient.
A technician enters an isolation room to check on a COVID-19 patient at Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital in South Los Angeles.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Monday, Aug. 10, and here’s a quick look at the week ahead:

On Tuesday, a very different September issue of Oprah Winfrey’s O Magazine will hit newsstands. For the first time in the magazine’s 20-year run, its founder and namesake will not appear on its cover, which will instead honor Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old woman who was fatally shot in March by Louisville, Ky., police while in her own apartment. O Magazine has also commissioned 26 billboards in Louisville, demanding justice for Taylor.

The annual Perseid meteor shower, which occurs as Earth passes through the trail of the Swift-Tuttle comet, will peak Tuesday night into Wednesday morning. Here are 10 of the darkest spots for stargazing across the state.

Friday is the last day of the “regular” NBA season, before playoffs begin the following week.

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


As COVID-19 cases surge, patients in Los Angeles are dying at a lower rate. The coronavirus continues to kill hundreds of people every week in L.A. County, but the death toll has remained lower than expected. The trend is due in part to younger people falling sick, as well as better control over the disease’s spread in high-risk settings, such as nursing homes. But doctors say there’s another factor pushing up survival rates: better treatments.

When COVID-19 patients first began showing up in hospitals in the spring, doctors didn’t know which medicines or treatments would be effective. Little was understood about how the virus was transmitted or the best way to protect staff. But that has changed rapidly as doctors around the world study and treat COVID-19. Research findings in one country may within days become clinical guidelines in another. Los Angeles Times

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s director of the California Department of Public Health resigned on Sunday. Dr. Sonia Angell, who held the position for less than a year, announced her resignation in an email sent to department staff that was released by the California Health and Human Services Agency. Her abrupt departure came just days after the discovery of a computer system failure that resulted in the undercounting of COVID-19 cases in the state. Los Angeles Times


In the middle of a pandemic, a miracle came to Father Greg Boyle and Homeboy Industries. A $2.5-million Conrad N. Hilton Foundation Humanitarian Award rained down on the nonprofit — which has had its share of financial struggles in the past — like manna from heaven. Los Angeles Times

Father Greg Boyle, center, of Homeboy Industries is running the operation from a tent in the parking lot.
What do you do if you’re 66 and battling leukemia during a pandemic but are also responsible for some of the most essential work in L.A.? Homeboy Industries founder Father Gregory Boyle has moved his office to a physically distanced, open-air tent in the gang-rehabilitation organization’s parking lot.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. President Lorenzo Soria, who oversaw the organization that puts on the annual Golden Globe Awards, has died at 68. Soria, who was reelected to his post in June, had previously served as president of the organization from 2003 to 2005 and from 2015 to 2017. Los Angeles Times


In Los Angeles, contact tracers are fighting two contagions: the coronavirus and fear. Convincing infected people to open up means helping them confront deeply held concerns about deportation or job loss. New York Times

With L.A. Councilman Jose Huizar arrested and suspended, who’s in charge in his district? Many Angelenos remain puzzled about who is actually running the council office that represents neighborhoods stretching from downtown to Eagle Rock. Los Angeles Times

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Trump aides struggle to defend his pandemic relief orders as U.S. cases reach 5 million: President Trump’s senior aides on Sunday defended his handling of intertwined economic and public health crises, declaring that Democrats would bear the blame for millions of Americans’ financial distress if lawmakers challenge Trump’s controversial new directives on pandemic relief. Los Angeles Times

The background for anyone who missed it: On Saturday, Trump said he was bypassing Congress and taking unilateral action to provide financial relief to Americans struggling during the coronavirus crisis, despite uncertainty about his legal authority to do so. Trump signed four orders that he said would extend enhanced federal unemployment benefits of $400 per week, defer some employees’ payroll taxes, continue a temporary ban on evictions and reduce the burden of student loans. To pay for this, Trump is hoping to use $44 billion in previously approved disaster aid to states. Trump also said states would be asked to contribute 25% of the cost — or $100 per week — and it is unclear whether states would be able or willing to do that.

Nine months after stepping down from Congress, Katie Hill is trying to move forward. Like seemingly every other American with newfound time on their hands, the former congresswoman is launching a podcast. (She also wrote a memoir.) New York Times



How the coronavirus exploded among Latino residents in Oakland’s Fruitvale district. “Fruitvale has been battered by the coronavirus, which is destroying businesses, leaving empty streets that no longer feel safe, and casting a heavy, inescapable shadow over the adults and children who call this neighborhood home.” Mercury News

People keep finding mutilated cats in Sacramento. Urban coyotes are likely to blame. Sacramento Bee


Can San Francisco realize the dream of public internet? The coronavirus pandemic has cast a spotlight on San Francisco’s glaring digital divide. The question is: How do we close it? San Francisco Chronicle

A remembrance of Mexican record stores in Southern California and beyond: “The store sticker for me serves as a mental map of where Mexican culture was bought, sold and treasured by many immigrants. I love finding them and doing a Google map search for their location and wonder what life was like back then for Raza looking to cop the latest 78 by the hottest dueto of the time.” The Strachwitz Frontera Collection

When it comes time for people to return to work, pets may be ill-equipped to handle the long days at home alone. Here are steps you can take now (and later) to ease the eventual separation anxiety. New York Times

Minor scuffles erupted Sunday morning between rival demonstrators outside Godspeak Calvary Chapel in Newbury Park, which welcomed congregants in defiance of a judge’s order forbidding indoor services as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus. Los Angeles Times


Memorials honoring John Lewis have been held across the country, but this one had a very California twist. Last weekend, more than a hundred Black Lives Matter supporters, NAACP members, surfers and friends gathered at a San Luis Obispo County beach for a “paddle-out” to honor the memory of Rep. John Lewis and his longtime friend and fellow civil rights activist C.T. Vivian. San Luis Obispo Tribune

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Los Angeles: partly sunny, 80. San Diego: partly sunny, 75. San Francisco: sunny, 67. San Jose: partly sunny, 87. Fresno: sunny, 103. Sacramento: sunny, 96. More weather is here.


This week’s birthdays for those who made a mark in California:

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak (Aug. 11, 1950), former L.A. County Supervisor Michael Antonovich (Aug. 12, 1939), Magic Johnson (Aug. 14, 1959), author Danielle Steel (Aug. 14, 1947), Rep. Maxine Waters (Aug. 15, 1938), the long-deceased poet Charles Bukowski (Aug. 16, 1920) and filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu (Aug. 15, 1963).

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.