Coronavirus Today: A tough new course for schools

Good evening. I’m Diya Chacko, and it’s Tuesday, March 10. Here’s what’s happening with the coronavirus outbreak in California and beyond.

A wave of colleges and universities across the U.S. has launched sweeping safety measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus, including canceling in-person classes and, in the case of Harvard and Princeton, urging students not to return to campus after spring break.

Several UC schools have suspended in-person classes and transitioned to online learning to reduce face-to-face interactions, and the UCLA Bruins might have to play to an empty Pauley Pavilion next week, since fans are barred from all home sports events until April 10. Stanford University has also moved classes online for the last two weeks of winter quarter, after a faculty member tested positive for COVID-19 and an online petition by a student whose hometown is near Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, received nearly 3,700 signatures.


The largest school district in Northern California, the Elk Grove Unified School District, canceled classes and sports games this week. In L.A., the school board on Tuesday gave Supt. Austin Beutner “emergency powers” to take actions that might otherwise require board approval, up to and including shutting down the entire school system.

California officials have offered guidance to help educators decide when to close a school. But it’s also possible that keeping children out of school could increase the risk that they would infect older people, who are far more vulnerable to the virus, Patty Hayes, public health director for Seattle and King County, said last week.

It’s unclear what role children might play in transmitting the coronavirus, but experts said their rate of serious illness is far lower than it is for adults.

Officials are also concerned about the hardships closures would bring to families in school districts such as L.A. Unified, where about 4 in 5 students are members of a low-income household, and where in many cases both parents work full time and have limited child-care options. Some families also depend on L.A. Unified for food services, including breakfast and dinner.


By the numbers

As of 6:15 p.m. Monday, there were:

    — At least three dead and 157 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in California.— At least 28 deaths nationwide, most in the greater Seattle area.
    — More than 118,000 cases reported globally and more than 4,000 deaths.
    — The true number of U.S. coronavirus cases may be far greater than the official tally, one mathematical model indicates.

    Official numbers reported by the California Department of Public Health and Johns Hopkins CSSE.

    Where is the coronavirus spreading?

    Confirmed COVID-19 cases by country as of 4 p.m. Tuesday, March 10.
    Confirmed COVID-19 cases by country as of 4 p.m. Tuesday, March 10. Click to see the interactive map.


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    Across California

    An elderly patient in a Northern California nursing home has died of the novel coronavirus. It’s the first confirmed nursing home death from COVID-19 in the state.

    Counties are shifting from aggressively tracking residents who may have come into contact with infected people to implementing “social distancing” measures. Experts say the shift will allow counties to focus on slowing the virus’ spread among large groups of people and spend resources protecting nursing homes, hospitals and other at-risk facilities.

    In a major festival season setback, the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival has been officially postponed to October. The Los Angeles Times has postponed its Festival of Books and Food Bowl events, which were set for April and May respectively, to later dates.


    A legal order banning mass gatherings of 1,000 or more people in Santa Clara County could lead to the first coronavirus-related postponement of an MLS game (between the San Jose Earthquakes and Sporting Kansas City, scheduled for March 21 in Avaya Stadium).

    In the Bay Area, BART’s mass transit ridership was down last week by 8% compared with the week before, a spokesman said.

    How to stay safe

    Wash your hands for at least 40 to 60 seconds. It’s a better protective measure than a mask.
    — Stop touching your face, and keep your phone clean.
    — Watch for these symptoms of possible infection: fever, cough, shortness of breath.
    — If you’re sick, stay home. If you’re worried you might be infected, call your doctor or urgent care clinic.
    — Experts still aren’t sure if pets can get the coronavirus. Pet owners who contract the coronavirus should isolate themselves from their pets out of an abundance of caution.

    Around the world

    Vice President Mike Pence said in a news briefing Tuesday that he predicts 4 million coronavirus tests will be in place by the end of the week. Administration officials had previously said 1 million would be distributed, but there has been no verification that this has occurred.


    The coronavirus disrupted Democratic presidential campaigns Tuesday, as Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden canceled major rallies scheduled for Cleveland. Both the Republican and Democratic parties are looking at making contingency plans for their nominating conventions in the summer. President Trump has — so far — vowed to continue to hold large political rallies for his own followers despite the risk they may pose.

    In New York state, National Guard troops are being sent to help clean surfaces and deliver food in suburban New Rochelle, the heart of what appears to be the nation’s biggest cluster of COVID-19 cases, and schools, houses of worship and large gathering places will be shuttered for two weeks in a “containment area.” As of Tuesday, the Westchester County city had 108 of the state’s 173 cases.

    China’s Communist Party signaled confidence in its fight against the coronavirus on Tuesday when leader Xi Jinping made a surprise visit to Wuhan, where the outbreak began.

    In Rome, the effects of Italy’s nationwide quarantine have been startling, leaving a city of clamor hushed. One woman called it “a beautiful prison.” Germany has been less affected, thanks to factors including its widespread network of regional testing labs, its high concentration of hospitals, its workers’ tendency to stay home when ill and its vast public healthcare system, with national insurance for everyone.


    Your questions answered

    Many of our readers want to know if they should cancel their travel plans. Our assistant travel editor, Mary Forgione, breaks it down in this guide.

    The CDC isn’t (yet) advising travelers not to fly but has recommended older adults and those with health problems avoid crowded places and long plane trips, and has advised all travelers to avoid any “nonessential travel” to China, Iran, South Korea and Italy.

    On Sunday, CDC officials came out with their strongest recommendation yet for all people, especially those with underlying health issues, to “defer all cruise ship travel worldwide.” Cruise lines are allowing passengers to cancel their voyages, some with as little as 48 hours’ notice, and receive a full credit, depending on sailings.

    For the most updated information concerning travel, visit the CDC’s Travelers’ Health page.


    Got a question? Our reporters covering the coronavirus outbreak want to hear from you. Email us your questions, and we’ll do our best to answer them here and in our daily coronavirus briefing streaming live at 1 p.m. PDT on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

    You can watch today’s briefing here.

    For the most up-to-date coronavirus coverage from The Times, visit our live updates page, visit our Health section and follow our reporters on Twitter.