Coronavirus Today: America’s trust issues
Good evening. I’m Deborah Netburn, and it’s Tuesday, Oct. 20. Here’s what’s happening with the coronavirus in California and beyond.
When it comes to information on the coronavirus, whom do you trust? Your doctor? Your boss? Your family? Your friends? The L.A. Times? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention? President Trump? Dr. Anthony Fauci?
For many Americans, the answer is none of the above.
The sad truth is that as a nation, we have lost trust in the people and institutions that are keeping us informed about the coronavirus, according to a new poll from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and USAFacts.
The poll, conducted between Sept. 15 and 25, found that fewer Americans trust COVID-19 information from state and local governments and from the news media compared to April, when a similar survey was conducted. The same was true for information available via friends, family and social media.
In addition, 43% of Americans said they have trouble finding information about the pandemic, and 37% said it has become more difficult to find factual information about it since it began.
For now, the family doctor ranks highest when it comes to trustworthy sources of coronavirus information, with 53% saying they trust their health provider a great deal or quite a bit.
Just 36% said they have high trust in federal health officials, and only 26% said they trust state or local governments. The news media fare even worse, with just 18% of America putting faith in information from those sources. Only 17% feel they can trust COVID-19 information from their friends and family.
Trump is trusted by even fewer, with just 16% saying they trust coronavirus information from the president a great deal or quite a bit, down from 23% in April. Meanwhile, 64% say they trust Trump’s COVID-19 pronouncements only a little or not at all. Only social media, at 72%, is less trusted.
Why has trust in these sources fallen across the board? Experts cite three reasons: fear, politics and the inherent messiness of the scientific process.
“The fact that trust dropped in all categories, including healthcare providers and family and friends, speaks to a really worried society that doesn’t feel safe,” said David Ropeik, a retired Harvard instructor on risk communication.
By the numbers
California cases and deaths as of 4 p.m. PDT Tuesday:
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.
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Is the cost of a higher education in a pandemic worth the price? Is a degree finished online as valuable as one earned in person? Should colleges and universities refund a portion of students’ spring 2020 tuition after they stopped going to classrooms, libraries, laboratories and gyms?
Questions like these are increasingly coming up in court. Class-action lawsuits calling for partial reimbursements of tuition and fees continue to grow nationwide, including several that have recently been filed in California.
The suits generally don’t begrudge the universities their abrupt campus closures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but they are asking courts to weigh in on who should bear the financial burden of any fallout.
These cases have no legal precedent, according to a federal judge in Florida who considered a case against Florida Southern College. “And so, like the ripple in a pond after one throws a stone, the legal system is now feeling COVID-19’s havoc with the current wave of class action lawsuits that seek tuition reimbursement related to forced online tutelage,” he wrote.
In California, health officials have released new protocols for operating theme parks, giving destinations such as Disneyland, Universal Studios and Knott’s Berry Farm a path to reopening — although not a timeline.
Large parks will be able to welcome back visitors only when their home county enters Tier 4 in the state’s tiered reopening system, small parks when their home county enters Tier 3. Small parks will be limited to 25% capacity or 500 visitors, whichever is fewer. Large parks will be limited to 25% capacity.
Other protocols announced Tuesday include selling all tickets in advance to make contact tracing easier and requiring guests and employees to wear face masks except when eating and drinking.
“There is a path forward. We don’t know when, but we know how” the parks will reopen, said Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s secretary of Health and Human Services.
Disney executives were not happy. “These state guidelines will keep us shuttered for the foreseeable future, forcing thousands more people out of work, leading to the inevitable closure of small family-owned businesses, and irreparably devastating the Anaheim/Southern California community,” Disneyland Resort President Ken Potrock said in a statement.
So why is the coronavirus case rate in Los Angeles County still so stubbornly high? Blame the youth.
Well, let me rephrase that. Blame the young(ish) adults. People under the age of 50 continue to be significant drivers of L.A. County’s case rate, officials said this week. It’s a trend that’s been seen throughout the pandemic. Overall, roughly 58% of all cases in the county have been in that age group, according to public health data.
While those who fall seriously ill still tend to be older, L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said patients between 18 and 29 now account for more than 10% of hospitalizations countywide, double the rate seen in mid-May. “It’s our younger groups that are keeping our case counts high, but we also see that people of all ages can, unfortunately, become tragically ill, and some people will pass away,” she said.
State data released Tuesday put the county’s new case rate at 7.6 per 100,000 people per day. That means another week in Tier 1, the most restrictive category. To move into Tier 2, that rate needs to drop to 7 new cases per 100,000 people per day.
— 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
We know COVID-19 is responsible for the deaths of more than 200,000 Americans. But a new report from researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the nation has suffered nearly 300,000 more deaths since the start of the pandemic than would have been expected if 2020 were a normal year.
The CDC team calculated those “excess deaths” by using data from 2015 through 2019 to estimate the expected number of deaths this year for each week between late January and early October. Then they compared those expectations with reality.
The result: The 50 states and the District of Columbia recorded 299,028 additional deaths. About two-thirds of those deaths were blamed directly on COVID-19.
All age groups of adults 25 and up experienced excess deaths. But the group with the largest increase in deaths this year compared to the recent past was younger adults between the ages of 25 and 44.
Similarly, the death toll rose for people in all racial and ethnic groups. But it rose the most for Latinos, with the number of deaths in 2020 being 53.6% higher than expected. It was 36.6% higher for Asian Americans, 32.9% higher for Black Americans, 28.9% higher for Native Americans and Alaska Natives and 11.9% higher for white Americans.
In another reminder that the global pandemic is far from over, Argentina reported its one millionth confirmed case Monday, and Colombia, Mexico and Peru are expected to follow suit in the coming weeks. Overall, Latin America continues to register some of the world’s highest daily case counts and is home to half the 10 countries with the highest total cases around the globe.
Although some nations have seen important declines, overall there has been little relief, with cases dropping in one municipality only to escalate in another. At first the virus was mostly prevalent in large cities, but now it has moved into smaller towns and rural communities.
Experts say the virus’s march through the region is a consequence of weak public health systems, social factors like poverty, and poor government decisions early on that resulted in flawed or limited testing and little contact tracing. In Argentina, one former health minister said the nation depended too heavily on lockdowns as its primary means of controlling the virus, failing to buy enough tests in the initial months of the pandemic.
In another part of the world, researchers in the U.K. will infect young volunteers with the coronavirus to hasten the vetting of experimental vaccines and learn more about the pathogen. This type of study, known as a human challenge study, has previously been used to develop vaccines for diseases including typhoid, cholera and malaria. However, the ethics of infecting otherwise healthy people with something that can kill them are obviously challenging.
“Deliberately infecting volunteers with a known human pathogen is never undertaken lightly,” said Peter Openshaw, a co-investigator on the study. “However, such studies are enormously informative about a disease, even one so well-studied as COVID-19.”
The researchers hope to sign up 90 paid volunteers in the first phase of the study, which they’d like to begin in January. But before any research begins, they’ll need to get approval from ethics committees and regulators.
Your questions answered
Today’s question comes from readers who want to know: Surely I don’t need to wear sunscreen under my mask, right?
Sorry, but it turns out that is not the case. According to Dr. Lisa Chipps, a board-certified dermatologist and member of the Skin Cancer Foundation, everyone should wear sunscreen of at least SPF 15 everyday, mask or no mask.
“It should be a habit,” she said.
Loose cotton masks of the type many of us wear offer the equivalent of SPF 7, Chipps said. Not strong enough! Nor do they cover your whole face.
Also, almost all of us take breaks from our mask-wearing occasionally. If you’ve got sunscreen on underneath, you won’t need to worry about unintended UV exposure, she said.
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.
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