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Coronavirus Today: A global sprint to a vaccine

Good evening. I’m Diya Chacko, and it’s Thursday, April 9. Here’s what’s happening with the coronavirus outbreak in California and beyond.

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With reports of the coronavirus reappearing in Asia after governments lifted some of their social distancing controls, the race to develop a vaccine has taken on new urgency. More than 125 organizations around the world — including major drug companies, government laboratories and top universities — are working on a vaccine or other treatments, according to leading researchers. “We have gone from genetic sequencing to treatment possibilities within weeks,” said the vice president of a biotech trade association.

But until a fully tested vaccine arrives, the lethal threat of COVID-19 will remain present. And it’s taking a toll on healthcare workers across California, according to new data. More than 1,600 have become infected, a number of them through sources outside work, and officials say they are alarmed at the trend. In a bid to stem the spread, Kaiser Permanente is temporarily closing numerous medical offices and clinics throughout Southern California.

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The toll on health workers is not just physical. Because of strict hospital rules barring anyone who is not a patient or employee, hundreds of doctors have had to tell families over the phone that their loved ones have died. “When they’ve died, you can’t even properly tell the family members. That is a really terrible thing that trivializes life and what we are doing in a profound way,” said one doctor in New Jersey. “You feel pretty impotent about being able to help or do the right thing. It’s heartbreaking.”

But even during the darkest days, people are finding ways to help and inspire others. A nurse on a COVID-19 isolation ward in South Korea has been sharing the stories of his fellow nurses with powerful sketches documenting their work as they insert IV lines with layers of gloves and intubate those struggling to breathe. And community groups in California have been inundated with volunteers offering to help those in need. One group director says he’s never witnessed such massive displays of altruism. “I know we haven’t seen the worst of what’s coming. But I have seen the best in people.

By the numbers

California cases and deaths as of 5:00 p.m. PDT Thursday:

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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 5:00 p.m. PDT Thursday, April 9.
Confirmed COVID-19 cases by country as of 5:00 p.m. PDT Thursday, April 9. Click to see the map from Johns Hopkins CSSE.
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Across California

Californians who have lost work will get an extra $600 in weekly unemployment benefits starting Sunday from the federal stimulus package, Gov. Gavin Newsom said, as a deluge of 2.3 million new claims in the last month has the state struggling to get payments to those who have just lost their jobs. That means California’s average weekly benefit of $340 will be boosted to $940, and the maximum will rise to $1,050. The higher benefits will last for four months.

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The governor also insisted the state will have enough ventilators when the crisis peaks, saying that California hospitals are using only 31% of the machines they have on hand, and announced a program to subsidize the cost of hotel rooms for healthcare workers and other essential personnel who have been exposed to the coronavirus and are afraid to return home to their families.

With bills piling up, Californians who are out of work are doing what they can to bring in cash. After losing her restaurant job, a woman and her son are selling masks for $5 to Los Angeles residents, who will be required to cover their faces in grocery stores and other essential businesses starting Friday. “We’re helping them protect themselves,” she said, “and they’re helping us make money.”

For tens of thousands of people living on L.A.'s streets, masking up is easier said than done. Pulling together even a makeshift mask and keeping it clean has been difficult for many who are homeless, despite efforts to create coverings out of T-shirts, scarves, shoelaces and other odds and ends. But people are finding ways to help: One woman who normally provides hair color, makeup and mobile showers on skid row is now delivering essentials such as face masks, hand sanitizer, vitamins and more. “They need to see a friendly face,” she said. “They need to know they’re not forgotten.

Advocates also worry about a surge in unemployed people losing their homes, especially as hoarding has reduced the supply of food that L.A. pantries and shelters traditionally rely upon. “It’s gonna get worse because more people are going to sign on for government assistance,” said one volunteer coordinator. “If the government doesn’t find a radical solution, so many people are going to go hungry.”

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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.
— 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

The economic impact of postponing the 2020 Summer Olympics is rippling beyond the host city of Tokyo to the sports world at large. The federations that govern individual sports were expected to share more than $500 million in Olympic revenue, payments that now could be delayed until the Games take place in the summer of 2021. “Our international federation is going through a crisis that we haven’t experienced since the Second World War,” said the president of Union Cycliste Internationale.

Supporters of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro are refusing to back his stance on the coronavirus outbreak, which he has dismissed as “a little flu.” A majority of Brazilians believe Bolsonaro is impeding the country’s response to the pandemic, and his position is costing him politically, isolating him from several governors who had been allies and even members of his own Cabinet. “Don’t follow the president’s directions,” the governor of Sao Paulo urged Brazilians.

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was stricken with COVID-19 in March, has been moved out of intensive care, his office said Thursday. “He will receive close monitoring during the early phase of his recovery.”

Despite the disastrous COVID-19 outbreaks aboard cruise ships, travel agents and industry experts say bookings for cruise sailings in 2021 have soared in recent weeks. “We are optimistic that once this crisis is behind us, travel will rebound quickly, which bodes well for 2021,” said the vice president of AAA’s travel division.

Your questions answered

A number of our readers have asked: If I’ve been exposed to the coronavirus but don’t have COVID-19 symptoms, what should I do? Here’s what we know about “silent spread” and how to prevent it.

Several new research efforts suggest that asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic people have been instrumental in seeding local outbreaks. For instance, several members of a Washington church choir fell ill after attending a rehearsal where no singers appeared to have the symptoms of COVID-19, such as fever, coughing and shortness of breath.

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If you think you‘ve been exposed to the coronavirus but are not showing any symptoms, it’s still extremely important that you stay home and don’t allow visitors.

The time for normal social distancing is over; if you go out, you might spread the virus to grocery workers and other essential employees and to people who might touch the same surfaces you do. Don’t leave your place of quarantine except to get medical care. If possible, arrange for food and other necessities to be left at your door.

If you live with family or in a shared home, stay in a specific room away from other people as much as possible. It is particularly important to stay away from those who are at higher risk of serious illness. Don’t handle pets, prepare food for others or take care of children if you can avoid it. Clean any shared surfaces after use, and don’t share dishes, cups, glasses, utensils, towels or bedding with other people or pets. Wash everything thoroughly with soap after use.

As long as you don’t show any symptoms, your last day of home isolation is 14 days from when you think you might have been exposed. If you do begin showing symptoms, you should end your isolation only after they have resolved.

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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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