Coronavirus Today: What a return to normal might look like
Good evening. I’m Diya Chacko, and it’s Friday, April 10. Here’s what’s happening with the coronavirus outbreak in California and beyond.
Living with the threat of the coronavirus might be our new normal for many months, as officials say relaxing social distancing policies too early could worsen the health crisis. But as California’s curve starts to flatten, many of us are wondering: When can we return to everyday life?
State stay-at-home restrictions are unlikely to be eased until the number of new cases in California drops below 10, said the director of Oregon State University’s global health center. And returning to normal life safely will be an incremental process, experts say. We’ll probably live in a hybrid reality for several months — not quite quarantine conditions, yet not quite normalcy, with schools, stores and restaurants gradually opening.
“We are entering a new world,” said Julie Swann, an engineering professor at North Carolina State University. And also: “It is possible that masks will become the new seat belts.”
That new world could mean double-digit unemployment in California through next year at best, according to a new UCLA forecast. But that expectation was predicated on California easing its stay-at-home orders in May to let more businesses reopen and begin rehiring — and on Friday, Los Angeles County extended its stay-at-home order to May 15 and warned it could stretch into the summer. That means the forecast “may be too optimistic,” its director said. And budget advisors to Gov. Gavin Newsom project what could be record-setting unemployment, which topped 12.9% in 2009.
Clues to when the clampdown might end could come from a new serological testing study in L.A. County that aims to shed light on just how far the virus has spread, its true mortality rate and the efficacy of social distancing efforts. So far most testing has been done with nasal swabs, but because of shortages, the pool of those tested has skewed toward the very ill. With the new blood tests, scientists hope to trace antibodies, which the body develops to fend off the virus and linger after it is gone. Also, doctors have begun to worry the virus may damage the long-term health of patients who have recovered.
States and local governments have been left by the Trump administration to fend for themselves in a global market for protective gear, battling each other for precious surgical gowns, gloves and N95 masks. Working on the scantest of information and often with brand-new suppliers, health officials have had to disregard longstanding rules in order to act quickly. “By doing things this way, we are driving up costs for taxpayers,” said Illinois’ assistant comptroller. “We have lost ventilators, at the last minute, to the state of New York. And I know that Illinois has probably swooped in on some other states. It’s not the way to do this.”
And in the scramble for protective equipment, many nonclinical hospital workers, such as janitors, food-service workers and clerks, say they, too, are woefully unprotected but feel like second-class citizens next to doctors and nurses. “Almost everyone in a hospital comes into contact with someone who has patient contact,” said a UCLA health professor. Many staffers don’t want to speak out because they worry they will face retaliation, said one janitor at a Hollywood hospital. “They’re terrified. They’re upset. They feel like they’re being treated differently.”
Easter celebrations around the world are being canceled or held virtually, with churchgoers told to stay home and mark the holiday with family prayers and by watching Masses and religious shows on TV or online. The Times has a list of ways to make the most of an Easter spent at home, including livestreamed church services, having your kids decorate Easter eggs with friends via Zoom call and supporting nonprofit organizations helping with COVID-19 relief efforts.
And for some good news, The Times asked readers to tell us about how neighbors, family and even (and especially) strangers have lifted your spirits, and plenty of you obliged. One reader shared an unexpected act of kindness from a neighbor: “When my doorbell rang, I saw my next-door neighbor hustling away and a bag of groceries on the doormat. He’d waited for 40 minutes just to get inside the store and figured he’d save me the trouble.”
What to do this weekend
Practice social distancing by staying at home over the weekend. Here are some ideas on how to spend it:
The Times has launched a new daily podcast: “Coronavirus in California: Stories From the Front Lines,” hosted by Gustavo Arellano, which brings listeners dispatches from Californians in the thick of the crisis.
If you’re celebrating the holidays, fashion editor Adam Tschorn has tips for finding candy, film critic Justin Chang recommends Easter and Passover movies to watch, and classical music critic Mark Swed offers his take on four music pieces to listen to. Here are our tips for decorating eggs. And if you’re cooking, here are seven easy yet elegant recipes to try.
Set up virtual get-togethers. If you can set up a Skype call or a Google Hangout, you can do happy hour, sing karaoke, have a game night, host a watch party or meet with a book club. We’ve got technical instructions here, plus more ideas for stuff to do. Everyone’s itching for human contact, and this is the next best thing.
Work out at home. When was the last time you stretched? Try some of our 10 ways to exercise in your living room, from video yoga to fitness apps to free on-demand classes.
Get closer to nature. Even under the new state and local orders, you’re allowed to go out for a walk, run or ride a bike — provided you stay six feet away from other people. Beaches and hiking trails are off-limits, though.
Expand your movie list. Tired of the selections from big services like Amazon Prime Video, Google Play and Vudu? Here’s a guide to alternative and boutique retailers that offer art-house movies to stream. Want more recommendations? Sign up for our film writer Mark Olsen’s Indie Focus newsletter.
Plus, here are lists of the 51 best TV shows to binge, 11 TV shows to occupy your kids, 10 free L.A. Times podcasts to listen to, 100 ideas for activities and the ultimate Times entertainment guide to staying at home.
By the numbers
California cases and deaths as of 5:00 p.m. PDT Friday:
Track the latest numbers and how they break down in California with our graphics.
Where is the coronavirus spreading?
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Southern California is preparing for a weekend of unprecedented restrictions, including efforts to keep people at home during Easter. All public parks in L.A. County, where Angelenos have traditionally gathered for Easter celebrations, will be closed Sunday. In Orange County, police said they will be out in force to prevent car cruising, an Easter tradition in Santa Ana. San Bernardino County has urged churches to hold only virtual Easter services and banned drive-through and drive-in services. “Practice your faith,” said Newsom, “but do so in a way that allows you to keep yourself healthy, keep others healthy and does justice to the teaching of Christ, God and others.”
Don’t expect traditional high school graduation ceremonies for the class of 2020, California’s top education official said this week. The announcement was yet another disappointment for seniors who have already lost their proms, senior sports banquets, last bows at the spring musicals and other memories. “The possibility that I may not be able to deliver my speech after four years of hard work is definitely a hard pill to swallow,” said one valedictorian who’s also the first member of her family to graduate from a U.S. high school.
Coachella, originally scheduled for this weekend, is normally the most profitable festival in the country, as well as the most culturally significant event in musicians’ annual touring calendar. Now that it’s canceled, artists will lose not just income but momentum, said a talent manager. “It’s the centerpiece to the U.S. festival season, and the fact that it’s not happening this week is very surreal.”
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
A dramatic drop-off in patient visits to primary care practices over the last month is spurring interest in major changes to how these doctors are paid, an overhaul policy experts have envisioned for decades. Medicare and some commercial health plans have begun offering advance payments to medical providers, which healthcare experts see as a first step toward redefining the traditional office visit, expanding telehealth and abandoning the age-old system of paying doctors for each service they perform. “If we don’t act, small, independent practices are going to go out of business,” warned the head of a health consortium.
Tensions between Canada and the U.S. have grown during the pandemic, with health orders leaving Americans unwelcome in multiple Canadian cities and Trump’s demand that 3M stop sending N95 medical-grade face masks to Canada because he wanted them for domestic use. Many Canadians worry the 1,600 nurses who live in Windsor, Ontario, and commute daily to Detroit hospitals may bring the virus home with them. “Canada will probably have to deal with other issues as a direct result of how Trump is mishandling the pandemic crisis,” said a political scientist in Ontario.
Complaints about faulty medical gear and testing kits imported from China are growing, with scientists and health authorities across Europe reporting flawed antigen or antibody tests that have cost these governments millions of dollars. The reports are exposing the world’s dependence on Chinese goods, and China’s problems with quality control. “Everybody is jumping on this market, and they have zero understanding of quality,” said a manufacturing supply-chain auditor based in Hong Kong. “But these are high-risk items. If they don’t work, people might die.”
Now that China has lifted its months-long quarantine order on the coronavirus’ original epicenter, hundreds of people returning to Taiwan from the mainland are dealing with the damaging social stigma. Taiwanese still associate the Chinese province of Hubei with the virus, despite the tapering of infections there, and Taiwan’s government treats returnees from Hubei more rigorously than it does people flying back from heavily infected Western countries. “You let people know you’re coming from Hubei, or even China, and people freak out,” said one resident in isolation after a trip. “I plan to see a therapist once I’m released.”
Your questions answered
Today’s question comes from many readers who ask: Can my pet get or give me the coronavirus? Here’s what reporter Seema Mehta found.
While some coronaviruses can make cats and dogs sick, scientists say it is very unlikely that our pets can be infected by the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. And there are no reported cases of a pet transmitting the virus to a human.
“We have little to no evidence that they become sick, and there is no evidence that pets can transmit SARS-CoV-2 to people or other pets,” said the chief veterinary officer for the American Veterinary Medical Association.
While we know that the coronavirus can live for many hours on some surfaces, we don’t yet know how long it lasts on animal fur.
If an infected person’s respiratory droplets were to fall on a patch of your pet’s fur and then you were to touch your eyes, nose or mouth before washing your hands, there would be a very, very slight possibility that you could contract the disease. But it’s highly unlikely to happen.
Still, if you are infected with COVID-19, you should take precautions when interacting with your pet. Avoid petting, snuggling or otherwise being in physical contact. And make sure you have a Plan B for your pet’s care in case you get sick and have to be hospitalized.
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.