Coronavirus Today: The infections we didn’t see
Good evening. I’m Diya Chacko, and it’s Monday, April 20. Here’s what’s happening with the coronavirus outbreak in California and beyond.
The coronavirus may have been circulating in Southern California much more widely than previously thought, new evidence suggests. Initial results from the first large-scale study tracking its spread in Los Angeles County estimated that 2.8% to 5.6% of adults have antibodies in their blood, an indication of past exposure. That means hundreds of thousands of people may have been infected by early April. The results mirror those released last week from an antibody study in Santa Clara County.
As the rate of new infections and deaths has slowed in parts of the country, some local governments, including Ventura and Santa Cruz counties, have begun to push to loosen stay-at-home restrictions. But Gov. Gavin Newsom said that while areas of California have been affected differently, the “virus knows no jurisdiction, knows no boundaries” and could easily spread into neighboring counties if restrictions are eased too early. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned against trying too quickly to return to normal: “It’s going to backfire.”
And a flattened curve may mean only limited relief for workers in hospitals, clinics and nursing homes who must confront their own mortality daily. For them, replacing a peak with a plateau portends a procession of coronavirus patients for months or longer — their own colleagues among them. To protect their loved ones, many are making wills, sleeping in cars to self-quarantine, buying life insurance and turning to prayer. As one West Los Angeles medical technician put it: “It’s like going on a battlefield, and you don’t know if you are stepping on a mine.”
In the airline industry, some crew members say they either haven’t been told when they’ve been exposed to co-workers with the coronavirus or have been told too late. The Times has learned of at least 15 airline workers who have died from COVID-19 over a nine-day span this month, yet without any central tracking, the true number of deaths in the industry is likely to be significantly higher. “We are doing nothing but spreading the disease,” said one flight attendant.
Why talk about labor violations and how workers are treated amid a global crisis? Because it’s part of a human-made disaster of all the things we’re used to overlooking, writes columnist Frank Shyong. This pandemic hasn’t just revealed cracks in our social contract, it has turned them to vast chasms that threaten to swallow entire industries, communities and neighborhoods, he says.
It has also underscored the need for philanthropy to an extent not seen since the Depression, widening fault lines that had already developed as wages stagnated for some while immense wealth grew for those in tech and other industries. “We had a lot of vulnerable people before this started. They were living paycheck to paycheck,” said the chief executive of United Way of Greater Los Angeles, which has seen small donations skyrocket recently. “This crisis for me really exposes those cracks.”
By the numbers
California cases and deaths as of 5 p.m. PDT Monday:
Track the latest numbers and how they break down in California with our graphics.
Where is the coronavirus spreading?
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Gov. Gavin Newsom’s nearly $1-billion mask deal with an electric car maker drew national attention as an aggressive move to solve one of the most nagging problems of the crisis. But a bipartisan chorus of concerns has emerged in the Legislature, with lawmakers growing frustrated that his advisors have asked only for expedited approval to spend money without explaining what exactly has been agreed to. “We would never approve a budget this way,” said Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco).
The $10.5-billion city budget that Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti unveiled Monday would impose cuts across agencies, including furloughs for nearly 16,000 workers. That could mean fewer street repairs, fewer trees trimmed and longer wait times for the 311 hotline. The budget predicts revenue will rise by just 1.8% in the coming fiscal year, compared with the 4.5% annual increase the city has averaged over the last six years. In his State of the City address Sunday, Garcetti warned the downturn would be worse than the 2008 recession. “From a fiscal perspective, this is the worst it’s ever been,” he said.
After moving to provide computers for all students and food for their families, the Los Angeles Unified School District has racked up an estimated $200 million in emergency coronavirus costs, but it’s not clear where crucial additional funding might ultimately come from, Supt. Austin Beutner told The Times. He said the goal is to address a community crisis first and sort out who pays the bills later.
So far, few communities around the world have implemented comprehensive testing of all residents regardless of whether they have COVID-19 symptoms, but a remote Bay Area town is among the first to try. Free tests will be offered Monday through Thursday to residents 4 years and older, according to UC San Francisco, whose staffers will administer the tests.
Workers at the still-shuttered San Diego Zoo are caring for animals in staggered shifts to minimize contact with one another in locker rooms and as they clean habitats, prepare food, prune plants and conduct training and other enrichment activities with the animals. San Diego’s congressional delegation is pushing to include zoos and aquariums in the next round of federal coronavirus aid.
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
Congressional leaders and the White House remained locked in a stalemate over an emergency package to replenish a popular small-business assistance program that ran out of money last week. The Paycheck Protection Program was designed to provide forgivable loans to small businesses if they kept workers on the payroll, but critics said a provision let too much money go to large, nationwide restaurant chains, squeezing out smaller firms. One key point of contention in replenishing it is a proposal for $150 billion in aid to states and municipalities facing sharp drops in tax revenue.
Oversight systems are still largely lacking for the $2 trillion in coronavirus economic relief passed by Congress last month, leaving gaping holes in accountability as four oversight bodies struggle to get up and running. Democrats’ biggest area of concern is the nearly $500-billion fund that the Treasury Department will use to buoy corporations. Complicating matters is Trump, who said as he signed the package into law that he would not abide by some oversight rules.
More than 1 million U.S. citizens won’t get stimulus checks because they are married to immigrants who lack Social Security numbers. That’s because the relief package excludes millions of tax-paying immigrants who do not have legal status — and also blocks U.S. citizens who file their taxes jointly with a spouse who does not have a Social Security number. “It’s a deliberately cruel carve-out,” said a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union.
Tijuana’s public hospitals are part of the complex and fragmented system that provides healthcare to most Mexicans, and while the system has long had its weaknesses, the pandemic has made them more glaring. One doctor said that each day, seven to nine suspected coronavirus patients at Clinica 20 are dying, and by the time their test results come back, they often are already gone. “We weren’t ready at the hospital for the situation to turn so serious in such little time,” he said.
In multiple countries, the coronavirus has made animal rescue and protection more difficult, expensive and stressful. In Spain, representatives of the animal sanctuary El Refugio have gone to numerous houses and farms to pick up animals because their owners could no longer care for them. Rescue workers say they lack staff, volunteers and enough money to buy food, and the state of confinement complicates their ability to get out in the community and help.
Your questions answered
Today’s question comes from readers who want to know: How do I care for someone with coronavirus at home? Here’s what reporter Nicole Santa Cruz found:
- The person who is sick should stay home except to seek medical care.
- The patient should be monitored for worsening symptoms. Seek immediate medical help if they have trouble breathing, if their lips or face are blue, if they have persistent chest pressure or pain, or if they are confused or unable to get out of bed.
- Prevent the spread of the virus. Keep the patient in a separate bedroom with a separate bathroom if possible, and disinfect all shared areas and commonly touched surfaces.
- Treat the patient’s symptoms with fluids, rest and Tylenol or ibuprofen to help reduce fever.
- The patient’s isolation can end 72 hours after their fever has passed and seven days after their symptoms first appeared, if they have all cleared up, according to advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Always follow the advice and direction of your healthcare professional. More information from the CDC is here.
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.