Coronavirus Today: Trump versus the governors
Good evening. I’m Diya Chacko, and it’s Tuesday, April 14. Here’s what’s happening with the coronavirus outbreak in California and beyond.
In making plans to restart the economy gradually without triggering a new wave of illness, California could once again find itself at odds with the Trump administration. After a combative Monday briefing in which President Trump falsely stated that “when somebody’s the president of the United States, the authority is total,” he tweeted that reopening the economy “is the decision of the President,” and not local or state officials, who have shouldered the responsibility of closing most schools, shops and nonessential services.
Several governors, including California’s Gavin Newsom, took a different view of executive authority. They are working with one another to plan when and how to ease restrictions and reopen local businesses — in part because, despite Trump’s assertions, no federal plan exists. In addition, testing continues to lag nationwide, and public health experts say ending the testing disarray is perhaps the single most important step to returning to normal.
Newsom on Tuesday broadly described the steps his administration expects to take in the weeks and months ahead to protect the public and gauge how long California’s stay-at-home order should remain in place. The new parameters suggest the state must meet a high bar before beginning to undo the order, including:
— Developing the ability to closely monitor and track potential cases;
— Preventing high-risk people from becoming infected;
— Preparing hospitals to handle surges;
— Identifying needed medicines and other therapeutics;
— Ensuring schools, businesses and child-care facilities can support social distancing;
— Developing guidelines for when to ask Californians to stay home again if necessary.
So far, state and local stay-at-home orders have limited the number of coronavirus-related deaths in California. But that success has come at a cost, with more than 2.3 million Californians filing for unemployment benefits in the last month.
And there are regional differences in how Californians are reacting to the restrictions. In Del Norte County, along California’s northwestern coast, officials are straddling a tenuous line between keeping residents safe and respecting local libertarian tendencies and traditions. “If we start pushing too far onto people’s civil rights and personal liberties — their ability to move freely, or get out onto the ocean to fish — well, what are we doing here?” said the county sheriff.
So how long might it take to reopen the state? The Times spoke to a medical epidemiologist and infectious disease expert at UCLA to see what a possible timeline could look like. He suggested that new cases of COVID-19 might start declining in May, with officials scaling back stay-at-home policies in June and July. Restaurants might begin reopening by late summer, then schools and universities in the fall semester, with staggered start times and some online learning still in place.
But all this depends on whether we can effectively maintain social distancing measures and contain any new outbreaks before they rage out of control.
By the numbers
California cases and deaths as of 5:00 p.m. PDT Tuesday:
Track the latest numbers and how they break down in California with our graphics.
Where is the coronavirus spreading?
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Los Angeles County leaders on Tuesday passed new rules aimed at protecting the health of food delivery workers, who are playing a key role in getting meals and groceries to homebound residents. The ordinance requires platforms such as Instacart, Doordash and Shipt to give their workers access to face coverings and gloves or hand sanitizer, either by supplying them directly or providing the money to buy them.
The vast majority of skilled nursing facilities battling coronavirus outbreaks in L.A. County have been cited in recent years for violating federal safety rules on preventing infections, a Times data analysis found. The violations have ranged from mishandling patients with highly contagious bacterial infections to improper cleaning of ventilators and other equipment. An expert at UC San Francisco’s School of Nursing blames chronic understaffing and weak enforcement by regulators. “The understaffed homes don’t do hand-washing and don’t have time for infection control,” she said.
With more than 2,500 healthcare workers ill with COVID-19 statewide, nurses and doctors say hospitals are conserving gear by forcing staff to re-wear N95 masks — and endanger their own health. Even though Newsom announced a major purchase of masks last week, state officials advised healthcare facilities on Monday to reuse gear as providers continued to report equipment shortages. “I don’t need the CDC to tell me when I need an N95,” said a nurse who was placed on administrative leave after refusing to enter the room of a suspected COVID-19 patient without a fresh mask. “When I have a patient coughing directly in my face ... I’m not going into that room unless they provide me with one.”
Tent cities and tiny-house villages for homeless people have long been taboo in Los Angeles, where they’ve been deemed too expensive to maintain and, once established, too difficult to dislodge. But now some officials are calling for the city and county to open tent cities to protect and monitor homeless people, who are at higher risk for developing a severe case of COVID-19. Last week, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs set up L.A.’s first temporary tent city in four decades, for veterans without homes. Encampments are largely isolated from the broader community, which may have afforded homeless people some protection as the pandemic grew in March, one UCSF expert suggests.
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. 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
In Seattle, the daily death toll appears to have plateaued, thanks to quick action by Washington state and local officials. But life won’t return to normal anytime soon. Masked police officers are stationed at parks and beaches to wave off anybody tempted by recent sunny weather. Downtown streets are still deserted, storefronts are still boarded up, and a state ban on gatherings is still in place, with an exception for socially-distanced funerals. “The big worry will be, indeed, complacency,” said a University of Washington epidemiologist. “We need to start thinking hard about what does it take to avoid, within a month or two, having a second wave.”
The small Nevada desert town of Ely was struggling to navigate the coronavirus crisis with limited access to local news. So a radio station stepped up to get accurate information out quickly and, more importantly, encourage residents to social distance as a matter of life and death. “I feel like I’m learning a lot about this virus just by answering people’s questions,” said one radio host. “I’ve told grownups more times to wash their hands than I do my own kids these days.”
Singapore is now battling an enormous outbreak among a population that officials had mostly overlooked: the migrant workers who power the vast but unseen engine of the island city-state’s prosperity. It’s a stark illustration of the continued risks facing one of the world’s most densely inhabited regions — and of the coronavirus’ often disproportionate toll on the poor and marginalized.
Even as nations from Britain to Bolivia postpone elections out of coronavirus concerns, South Korea is going ahead with its hotly contested parliamentary race Wednesday. With nearly four out of five South Koreans saying they intend to cast a ballot and early voting already logging record turnout, the country may offer an early look at how to hold a general election in the midst of a pandemic.
Your questions answered
Today’s question comes from a reader who asked: How are students around Southern California planning to mark graduation now that schools are closed?
The Times’ education reporters have been following this topic closely.
Last week, California’s top education official said what many high school seniors had anticipated but did not want to hear: Don’t expect traditional graduation ceremonies this year. The announcement was yet another disappointment for seniors who had already lost their proms, senior sports banquets, last bows at spring musicals and other traditional memories.
One Los Angeles Unified School District board member said officials will need to find creative ways to mark graduation, whether it’s in late summer or during the Thanksgiving break. And one student told The Times: “As of right now, my school has sent various emails and videos stating that they still want to ‘honor’ the Class of 2020 and all their accomplishments, so I believe that our graduation festivities ... are being pushed backed to the summer — to which specific month, we know not.”
Do you know someone who missed their prom? We want to help. This year, The Times is throwing an online prom for students from all over Southern California. Our unusual virtual soiree will have music we hope you’ll like, classic themes, awkward poses and other touches old people think should be at a prom. If you’re interested, here are the details.
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.