Newsletter: Looking for the peak


A look inside the complicated process of trying to determine when the coronavirus public health crisis will peak in California.


Looking for the Peak

As health officials warn of dire days ahead in the coronavirus crisis, it’s natural to wonder: Will this be the worst of the pandemic? The short answer is that no one knows for sure, and the peak will differ for various parts of the U.S. But the longer, complicated answer reveals much about the fight ahead.


In California, the San Francisco Bay Area suffered one of the nation’s earliest outbreaks of COVID-19, but cases from Southern California and the Central Valley are now outpacing it, threatening a much larger population, according to a Times analysis of county health data.

Los Angeles, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Kern, Stanislaus and Tulare counties are now seeing faster rates of newly detected coronavirus cases than any of the counties in the San Francisco Bay Area, The Times analysis found. And with more than 6,000 confirmed cases in L.A. County alone, chances of exposure are increasing rapidly.

“If you have enough supplies in your home, this would be the week to skip shopping altogether,” L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said. “Without everyone taking every possible precaution, our numbers can start skyrocketing,” she said. “It really is time for those people who maybe haven’t taken this seriously before ... this would be the week to stay home ... and it may be next week as well.”

Though California has yet to see the worst of the pandemic, there are signs that some of the more dire predictions might not come to fruition. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has tried to prepare the state for the worst-case scenario, said the state had enough ventilators to lend 500 to the Strategic National Stockpile to help New York and other COVID-19 hot spots facing shortages of the desperately needed medical devices — given that California officials say coronavirus cases are not expected to peak here until May.

Meanwhile, the influential Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, an independent population health research center at the University of Washington, predicted a significantly lower death count in California than its earlier models, based on new data from Spain and Italy. Other models, though, are much bleaker.

The Mad Dash for Supplies

Emergency management officials say they are now moving massive quantities of protective masks, gloves, gowns and other medical supplies to California hospitals, now that the gear has started flowing out of federal, state and local stockpiles in recent days. Some of the material has been kept in secret government warehouses. The numbers cited are staggering: 41 million N95 protective masks, 600,000 gowns, 500,000 face shields and more than 2.3 million sets of gloves, according to state emergency officials.

Details about the medical supply chain, which have thus far been shrouded in secrecy, come from confidential state briefings obtained by The Times.


Yet, despite the large quantities, anxiety remains high among doctors and nurses that they might burn through the gear they need as the medical crisis stretches over weeks or months, as many experts expect.

Trouble in the U.K.

The U.S. isn’t the only country facing a bleak week. Britain is also facing a projected increase of illness and fatalities, having surpassed devastated Italy in daily coronavirus deaths over the weekend. And in a dramatic illustration of the crisis, Prime Minister Boris Johnson was moved to intensive care at a London hospital as he battles infection.

Johnson, 55, is the first major world leader known to be so seriously sickened with COVID-19. Initially, the prime minister, like Trump, struck a dismissive tone about the coronavirus’ dangers. Unlike Trump, Johnson ordered a nationwide lockdown. In the short term, if Johnson is unable to perform his duties, foreign secretary Dominic Raab could step in, but the long-term picture would not be so clear.

More Top Coronavirus Headlines

President Trump has likened himself to a “wartime president,” but the U.S. is battling the coronavirus without a war-room-like command center after dismantling the team that was trained to handle just such a pandemic.


— The Supreme Court’s five Republican appointees came to the aid of Wisconsin’s Republican leaders and blocked a judge’s order that would have given voters an extra week to submit their ballots by mail amid the coronavirus crisis. The fight over the Wisconsin primary election, taking place today, could foreshadow more clashes.

— The coronavirus is taking a growing toll on police officers, firefighters and other first responders in California, with at least three dying and dozens infected.

— Thousands of foreign doctors are working on front lines of the battle against COVID-19 in the U.S. They worry they’ll be deported if they stop working.

— L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that any L.A. County resident who has symptoms and wants to be tested for the coronavirus can now apply online.

Plus, here are some tips on getting through the days ahead. For more, sign up for Coronavirus Today, a special edition of The Times’ Health and Science newsletter. As with all our newsletters, it’s free:

— Your guide to coronavirus face masks and coverings: How to do it right.


— How to care for someone with COVID-19.


Baseball is on hold this year. But in 1925, Los Angeles Angels fans experienced a different kind of loss. A crowd of eager fans had packed Washington Park to see the Angels play the Portland Beavers. But The Times reported it didn’t end in victory: The Beavers scored four runs alone in the eighth inning, until the Angels found their footing again and “quieted the din of Beaver bats biffing horsehide.” The Beavers won 7-3, which “spoiled the opener for the Seraphs (Angels nickname) and most of the 12,482 fans who paid to see the Angels get off to a flying start.”

April 7, 1925: Portland Beavers' Emmet McCann gets a first inning hit in season opener game against the Los Angeles Angels.
April 7, 1925: The Portland Beavers’ Emmet McCann gets a first-inning hit in the season opener against the Los Angeles Angels. The catcher is the Angels’ Gus Sanberg and umpire is Perle Casey.
(David Mann / Los Angeles Times)


— Thousands of Los Angeles Unified high school students have not been showing up to online classes. Here’s how one teacher tried to reach her students and their families — with limited success. Education officials described launching online learning during coronavirus “akin to landing on the moon.”

— California’s grocery store workers and medical professionals are getting a lot of attention. But they’re not alone on the front lines: Waste workers have become “warriers” who sort recyclables and collect trash.

— With millions of Southern Californians hunkering down at home, traffic has been blissfully light, but speeds are up by as much as 30% on some L.A. streets, prompting a crackdown.


— Tankers and container vessels are a common sight on Southern California’s coast. Empty cruise ships now sit among them, biding their time until passengers might once again fill their cabins.

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— In Chicago, black residents make up more than half of the confirmed coronavirus cases, even though they are 30% of the population.

— From HIV to swine flu to SARS to Ebola, scientists say we’re at increased risk for pandemics, and humanity’s destruction of the environment in partly to blame.

— As cases of the coronavirus overload the healthcare system in India, the rationing of medical care has already begun.

— The Trump administration designated a Russian white supremacist group as a terrorist organization, calling it the first time the label had been applied to such a racially motivated movement.


— Trump said he had a “really wonderful, warm conversation” with Joe Biden about the coronavirus outbreak.


Quibi has arrived. It faced lawsuits and a pandemic, but the platform is finally available for users. Here’s a look at its first offerings, including a rebooted “Punk’d” and a home renovation show focused on crime scenes.

Global Citizen, the organization behind a tidal wave of at-home concerts shared during the pandemic, has tapped Billie Eilish, Lizzo, Elton John and more acts to headline one big concert for coronavirus relief.

Artists in New York got a head start when venues started closing down several weeks ago. They have some tips to share with Californians on how to stay sane in crazy times.

— Trying to cope with despair? Take solace in the compassion and empathy of Bill Withers and John Prine, writes pop music critic Mikael Wood.


— A new federal law gives freelancers desperately needed unemployment insurance coverage in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. But California employment officials have yet to implement the new rules because they’re awaiting federal guidance.

— Grabbing hold of a few glimmers of hope Monday that the COVID-19 pandemic could be slowing, investors sent stocks surging in a worldwide rally, capped by a 7% leap for the U.S. market.



— The British Open is canceled for the first time since 1945. It’s not the only golf event affected by the coronavirus: The Masters has also been tentatively rescheduled for November.

— Two former Fox television executives are facing federal charges for wire fraud and money laundering in connection with a long-running government investigation into alleged bribery and corruption in international soccer.

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— This could be the first “worst week” of many worst weeks to come, The Times’ editorial board writes. Prepare yourselves.

— This isn’t just a fight against a virus. It’s a fight for communities, neighborhoods and people, writes columnist Frank Shyong.


— Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly denounced the former commanding officer of the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt as either “too naive or too stupid” to be at the helm, then apologized after a recording of the speech came out. (San Francisco Chronicle)


— It’s easy to understand the impulse to stock up on groceries. Less obvious? The pull-up bars, fancy tonic water, artisanal beans and sweatsuits that are selling out. Here’s why you’re panic-buying things you don’t need. (Vox)


Award-winning singer-songwriter Randy Newman is hunkering down. Like many, he’s afraid his spouse or children will get COVID-19. He’s been reading, listening to music and binge-watching. As for a typical day at his home in Pacific Palisades: “I collapse into each day. One thing about it is there’s no rush for anything. If I want to take 20 minutes to tie my shoes, I can do it.

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