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Coronavirus Today: How many ventilators and masks are enough?

Good evening. I’m Diya Chacko, and it’s Monday, April 6. Here’s what’s happening with the coronavirus outbreak in California and beyond.

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Forty-one million N95 protective masks. Six hundred thousand gowns. Five hundred thousand face shields. More than 4 million gloves. These vast stores of supplies — some kept in secret government warehouses — are now getting shipped to California hospitals, according to state emergency management officials.

Thus far, these details about California’s medical supply chain have been shrouded in secrecy. But confidential state briefings obtained by The Times shed light on a complicated and opaque procurement system, in which federal officials ship materials and commit other help to state officials who then pass them on to counties and cities.

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Anxiety remains high among doctors and nurses that they might burn through the gear they need as the medical crisis stretches over weeks or months, as many experts expect. But as they sound the alarm about shortages, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office has touted its supply effort, which appears to be meeting acute needs at some healthcare facilities.

Newsom said Monday that hospitals statewide have procured thousands of ventilators in recent weeks, enabling the state to lend 500 of its own to help New York and other COVID-19 hot spots. He said that California should have enough of the devices in the near future to care for those in need and can afford to spare some, at least for now, because most Californians have heeded orders to stay at home. However, his announcement came the same day Santa Clara County leaders made a public plea for used ventilators, offering a $1,000 bounty for each.

Still, in L.A. County, the mortality rate has risen to 2.3%, public health department director Barbara Ferrer said Monday. Ferrer urged residents to stay home this week in particular. “If you have enough supplies in your home, this would be the week to skip shopping altogether,” she said.

If you live in L.A. County and have symptoms of COVID-19, you may be able to get tested. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Monday evening that any county resident who wants to be tested can apply online. Testing was previously limited to vulnerable populations, but Garcetti said capacity has been expanded through city and county partnerships.

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Infectious-disease experts have warned for years that outbreaks of dangerous new diseases with the potential to become pandemics have been on the rise — and many of them blame some of humanity’s most environmentally destructive practices, such as deforestation and poaching, as key drivers of “spillover of pathogens from animals to people,” as one Harvard public health expert put it. “The evidence is clear: We’re driving disease emergence through less sustainable use of nature.”

In an effort to aid scientists and researchers, The Times has released to the public its database of California coronavirus cases, pulled from an independent survey of dozens of local health agencies across the state. The project, which supplies the underlying data for The Times’ coronavirus tracker, has won praise from public health officials and experts who had asked for data access in order to better study the pandemic. It’s now available at github.com/datadesk/california-coronavirus-data.

By the numbers

California cases and deaths as of 5:30 p.m. PDT Monday:

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Track the latest numbers and how they break down in California with our graphics.

Where is the coronavirus spreading?

Confirmed COVID-19 cases by country as of 5:30 p.m. PDT Monday, April 6.
Confirmed COVID-19 cases by country as of 5:30 p.m. PDT Monday, April 6. Click to see the map from Johns Hopkins CSSE.
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Across California

They’ve already proved hospitable breeding grounds for the virus, but some churches are flouting stay-at-home orders that deem places of worship nonessential, with pastors pitting public health concerns against claims of religious freedom. One Sacramento County church became the epicenter of an outbreak when more than six dozen of its members tested positive. “It’s outrageous that this is happening,” said the county’s public health director. “Obviously there is freedom of religion, but when it’s impacting public health as this is, we have to enforce social distancing.”

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With studies showing the coronavirus can live on cardboard, plastic and metal surfaces for as long as three days, waste sorters and haulers are putting themselves at risk to keep California clean. A spokesman for one recycling center operator says people can help reduce that risk by minimizing the volume of their recyclables — collapsing boxes, flattening soda cans and scrunching plastic.

The coronavirus is also taking a toll on police officers, firefighters and other first responders, with at least three dying and dozens infected. Some of those first infected are beginning to recover; one police officer and two firefighters have been cleared to return to duty. The Los Angeles Police Department is now taking officers’ temperatures as they arrive for their shifts, and department roll calls are now conducted with officers spaced to ensure social distancing.

A week ago, about 15,000 Los Angeles Unified high school students were missing online or had not connected with their teachers since the district shuttered campuses March 16. Now, teachers have connected with 96% of them, leaving about 5,000 still unaccounted for, Supt. Austin Beutner said Monday. Many teachers, counselors and administrators have gone to great lengths to connect. One South L.A. teacher even enlisted her grandmother to help translate on a three-way call with a parent who speaks only Spanish.

But for those students who need the structure of a classroom environment, the pivot to learning online, often while dealing with the impacts of the pandemic on their families, remains a challenge. “Assignments that would normally take me two hours or 30 minutes are now taking me days to complete. I just … can’t focus,” one student said.

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As traffic in L.A. plummets during stay-at-home orders, average speeds are up by as much as 27% on some streets according to the Department of Transportation. The pedal-to-the-metal driving comes just as stir-crazy residents are walking and cycling more, sometimes crisscrossing streets repeatedly to keep their distance from one another. Officials are working to crack down on speeders after a deadly high-speed crash on Highland Avenue.

How to stay safe

Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds! Here’s a super-fun how-to video.
Stop touching your face, and keep your phone clean.
— Watch for symptoms including fever, cough and shortness of breath. If you’re worried you might be infected, call your doctor or urgent care clinic before going.
— Practice social distancing, such as maintaining a six-foot radius of personal space in public.
Wear a mask if you leave home for essential activities, the CDC now says. Here’s how to do it right.
— Here’s how to care for someone with COVID-19, from monitoring their symptoms to preventing the virus’ spread.

How to stay sane

— Was your job affected by the coronavirus? Here’s how to file for unemployment.
— Here are all the ways to stay virtually connected with your friends.
— Need groceries? Here’s how to stock up for staying home. You can also watch our video guide on YouTube.
— Visit our free games and puzzles page for daily crosswords, card games, arcade games and more.
— Here are some free resources for restaurant workers and entertainment industry professionals having trouble making ends meet.
— Advice for helping kids navigate pandemic life includes being honest about uncertainties, acknowledging their feelings and sticking to a routine. Here’s guidance from the CDC.

Around the nation and the world

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the first major world leader seriously sickened with COVID-19, was moved Monday to intensive care at a London hospital less than 24 hours after he was hospitalized. Although his political rise in the U.K. mirrors Trump’s, the two men’s responses to the pandemic may be diverging; Johnson ordered a nationwide lockdown March 24, while Trump remains far more equivocal. As for who would lead Britain if Johnson cannot serve? In the short term, that would be his foreign secretary, Dominic Raab. The long term is more complicated.

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Before the outbreak began, the Trump administration had already dismantled the National Security Council’s pandemic preparedness team, a group trained to distinguish the magnitude of a microscopic threat. That’s left the federal response to COVID-19 steered by non-scientists jostling for control, and marred by confusion and delays.

A war-room-like command center would have compelled action across disparate agencies to form a coherent and swift response, according to experts. Said one: “No one on high had the strategic urgency to see the bigger picture and say, ‘We damn well better move rapidly, because if we don’t, the consequences are going to be disastrous.’”

In India, the rationing of medical care has already begun after Prime Minister Narendra Modi called on medical practitioners to halt nonessential surgeries in order to preserve hospital beds. The stoppage of routine care shows how the sudden onslaught of the virus has overwhelmed health systems around the world. “I am concerned many patients with cancer will relapse due to inadequate care,” said one oncologist.

Many Americans who were traversing the country in RVs and campers when the pandemic hit are in limbo on the road. And for some families, living in their RV isn’t a backup plan — it’s their main residence. Yet they’re glad they have their own place in which to isolate. “We just have to ride this all out,” one traveler said.

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Your questions answered

Today’s question comes from a reader who asks: Is it possible for people who have recovered from the coronavirus to have immunity?

Here’s what our science reporters found:

While people who recover from the coronavirus may develop antibodies that could allow them to return to school or work, tests to determine whether a person has become immune are just being developed in the U.S.

There’s not yet a way to tell if it’s possible for you to go out without the fear of being reinfected or of infecting other people just yet. However, the CDC has some guidance on when you can stop self-isolating.

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If you have recovered, consider giving blood. Blood donation centers across the U.S. are ramping up efforts to collect plasma from people who have recovered from COVID-19 in hopes it could be used to save others.

Convalescent plasma therapy uses blood products taken from people who have recovered from a viral infection and injects them into those still suffering. If you’ve recovered from COVID-19 and want to help, the American Red Cross has set up a website to collect information about potential plasma donors.

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. You can find more answers in our Frequently Asked Questions roundup, and in our morning briefing.

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


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