Coronavirus Today: The NBA’s bubble worked


Good evening. I’m Kelcie Pegher, the off-platform editor on The Times’ audience engagement team, and I’m writing the Coronavirus Today newsletter this week. My job sees me spend a lot of my day reading my colleagues’ work and figuring out the best places to read it other than our website. That means I’ve spent much of this pandemic reading every piece of advice and fretting over what’s working and what isn’t. It’s Monday, Oct. 12, and here’s what’s happening in California and beyond.

The NBA may be the best example Americans have of a coronavirus success story. And while Los Angeles is celebrating the the Lakers’ 17th championship, the bubble is another reason to cheer.

Under that elaborate plan, NBA players agreed to protocols that greatly restricted their movements and separated them from their families. The plan’s architects seemingly thought of everything — from the best way to sanitize basketballs to a hack for capturing spit that might have leaked from referees’ whistles.

“We had zero positive tests,” MVP LeBron James said before repeating the bubble’s best stat. “We had zero positive tests for as long as we were here, 90-some days, 95 days maybe for myself. I had a little calendar I was checking off. But on a serious note, no positive tests. That’s a success for everybody that was involved.”

Inside the Orlando bubble, the challenge wasn’t fighting the virus as much as fighting the boredom of being sequestered for so long. Back in August, our Lakers reporter Tania Ganguli said the place had a summer camp feel at the start. Teams arrived, and there were parties and reunions and video games. There were also the ever-present MagicBands that kept tabs on where players were and who they were with whenever they left their rooms.


As time wore on, there were cracks in the bubble. But it never burst, showing that the NBA’s biggest accomplishment was salvaging its season and mitigating some of the losses in a year scrambled by the pandemic.

By the numbers

California cases and deaths as of 3:59 p.m. PDT Monday:

More than 856,400 confirmed cases and more than 16,500 deaths.
(Los Angeles Times Graphics)

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

See the current status of California’s reopening, county by county, with our tracker.

A map of California showing which tiers counties have been assigned to based on their local coronavirus transmission risk.
(Los Angeles Times Graphics)
The tiers to which California counties are assigned based on coronavirus risk level. These determine what can reopen.

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Across California

First off, the good news: The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in California has dropped to its lowest level in six months. Not only that, the average number of daily deaths is 57, the lowest since May. The state’s positivity rate is also at an all-time low, according to state data, with just 2.6% of tests for the virus indicating an infection.

But Gov. Gavin Newsom says this isn’t a time to abandon the guidelines the state has implemented. Flu season could make battling the coronavirus more complicated. So could cooler weather (if we ever get it!) that forces people indoors, where the virus is likely to spread. New rules issued Friday prohibit more than three households from socializing with each other.

“We are entering into the holidays, but also we’re entering into the part of the year when things cool down and people are more likely to congregate ... in settings that put their physical proximity and likelihood of transmitting disease at higher risk,” Newsom said. “Don’t be misled that this disease is any less deadly. Quite the contrary — it is as deadly as it’s ever been in the context of those that are high-risk.”

As if to underscore the continuing threat, Los Angeles County health officials announced that another child has been diagnosed with a rare, potentially fatal syndrome believed to be related to the coronavirus. Victims of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C, typically develop a fever and other symptoms including stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea, rash, bloodshot eyes and exhaustion. A total of 41 children in the county have been diagnosed with MIS-C, and though none have died, nearly half have been sick enough to be admitted to intensive care.

The L.A. County Department of Public Health said Friday that 70% of the children with MIS-C were Latino, reflecting the high incidence of COVID-19 among Latinos overall.


— For general safety, 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. Practice social distancing, maintaining a six-foot radius of personal space in public. And wear a mask if you leave home. Here’s how to do it right.
— Watch for symptoms including fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat and loss of taste or smell. If you’re worried you might be infected, call your doctor or urgent care clinic before going there.
— Need a COVID-19 test? Here’s how to receive a free test if you’re in L.A. County. And here’s a map of testing sites across California.
— Here’s how to care for someone with COVID-19, from monitoring their symptoms to preventing the virus’ spread.
— If your job has been affected by the pandemic, here’s how to file for unemployment.
— 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.
— In need of mental health services? Here are resources for coping during the crisis from the CDC and the L.A. County Department of Mental Health. L.A. County residents can also call (800) 854-7771 or text “LA” to 741741.
— For domestic violence victims, the pandemic can pose a “worst-case scenario,” advocates say. If you or someone you know is experiencing such abuse, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or L.A. County’s hotline at 1-800-978-3600. Here are more ways to get help.

Around the nation and the world

President Trump is back on the campaign trail and has officially tested negative for the coronavirus “on consecutive days,” according to his doctor, Sean Conley. Conley did not say when Trump took the tests or when he last tested negative before he was hospitalized.

Over the weekend, Conley said in a memo that Trump was no longer at risk of spreading the virus to others. Trump, who was hospitalized with COVID-19 for three days after contracting the virus, headed to Florida for an airport rally in Sanford. It was his first trip and first official campaign event since he he revealed his COVID-19 diagnosis on Oct. 2, though he did briefly speak to hundreds of supporters at the White House over the weekend.

The case of a Nevada man who was infected with the coronavirus twice underscores the need for a COVID-19 vaccine. Scientists used genetic analysis to confirm that the 25-year-old man experienced two separate bouts of COVID-19 in the span of two months — and tellingly, the second illness was worse than the first.

His experience makes clear that we can’t rely on natural infections to achieve herd immunity and bring the pandemic to an end, researchers reported Monday in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases. “Not only is this strategy lethal for many but also it is not effective,” said an expert on viral immunity from Yale. “Herd immunity requires safe and effective vaccines and robust vaccination implementation.”

In Brazil, COVID-19 deaths have officially surpassed 150,000, a death toll second only to that of the U.S. “When I see 150,000, I see my father alongside many other faceless bodies,” said Naiane Moura, who lost her dad in April. “I didn’t imagine that we would reach that number. I don’t believe that we will ever be able to totally overcome this.”

Italy is beginning to see a second wave take shape, with the Lazio region around the Vatican among the worst hit. Four Swiss Guards tested positive for the coronavirus on Monday, and they are showing symptoms. The pope is facing criticism for declining to wear a mask, even as three residents in the Vatican tested positive in recent weeks. The Vatican amended its mask mandate last week in order to match Italy’s, requiring masks both indoors and outdoors.

Your questions answered

Today’s question comes from a reader named Jean who wants to know: Does our reporting on the White House outbreak include people who work at the residence, Secret Service members and the like?

The short answer is yes, but the longer answer is that it’s complicated.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany — who herself tested positive on Oct. 5 — cited privacy concerns when asked about the total number of staffers who have had confirmed coronavirus infections. And that number is surely changing day to day.

Times White House reporter Chris Megerian confirmed that the White House has not exactly been transparent about who has contracted the virus in recent days. News of infections has typically been coming out through leaks, rather than official channels, including that of Hope Hicks.

Our stories about viral spread at the White House have included lesser-known White House staff who simply showed up to work as press aides and personal valets. Three journalists in the White House press corps also have tested positive since the president announced he had COVID-19.

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 reopening tracker.

For the most up-to-date coronavirus coverage from The Times over the weekend, visit our homepage and our Health section, sign up for our breaking news alerts, and follow us on Twitter and on Instagram.