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'Wide-spread Confusion' After Orange County Bans Public And Private Gatherings Of Any Size

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Published
A sign in Anaheim warns drivers on I-5 to not gather in crowds as the threat of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) increases throughout the nation, on March 14, 2020. (David McNew/AFP via Getty Images)

LIVE UPDATE March 18:

Orange County Officials say residents are not under lockdown. New order will be released


Both public and private gatherings in Orange County are prohibited through the end of the month per a new order from Orange County Health officer Dr. Nichole Quick. The move is meant to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.

The order prohibits "all public and private gatherings of any number of people, including at places of work, occurring outside a single household or living unit." It applies "to all professional, social and community gatherings, regardless of their sponsor, that are not engaged in essential activities."


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Social distancing of 6 feet between people should also be maintained by those engaged in essential activities, according to the order. Those essential activities are wide-ranging, including government and health care operations, grocery stores, media, gas stations, banks, and a variety of other professions.

"We recognize community members may experience anxiety related to the social disruption caused by COVID-19," Quick said in a press release.

The county encourages residents to reach out to loved ones — by phone, video message, email, or text.

Hours after the original order was released, county officials sent a follow-up news release stressing the order was not equivalent to a lockdown or "shelter in place" requirement. The follow-up message says:

"Unfortunately, the order as written caused wide-spread confusion. in order to provide additional clarity requested by Orange County residents and businesses, the County will be issuing an amended Health Officer's Order."

The evening release, titled Press Release #008 said it was "important for all Orange County residents to read the order in its entirety." Feel free to do so below. [The print is small and faint so the zoom function might be your friend.]

The new messages stresses that: "It is important for all Orange County businesses to remain open while practicing social distancing consistent with the Governor's guidance." It then goes on to note that "bars and other establishments that serve alcohol and do not serve food shall close."

So there you have it.

We will have more on what went wrong with the messaging of this order.

READ THE FULL ORDER:

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This story originally published at 3:34 p.m.

Ventura Is The Latest County To Close Offices To Public

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Ventura County became the latest to close down county government buildings to the public, starting tomorrow. The announcement came the same day the county announced six new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total in the county to nine

County CEO Mike Powers said:

“A threat like this requires bold action. We do not do it lightly. We need to do all we can to protect the public and our employees in the midst of this expanding public health crisis. Our departments will continue to provide essential services to our residents, but it is prudent to limit public access to our facilities at this time. We will continue to monitor the situation and urge the public to follow the guidance of the Public Health Department.”

Also closed:

  • All school districts
  • Libraries

Still open:

  • Airports
  • County hospitals
  • All first response and public safety services will continue
  • Home visits and other services to vulnerable populations will also continue to be provided.

READ THE ORDER:

Homeless People Can Self-Isolate In Tents, But Encampment Sweeps Stay

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Published
L.A. City HOPE team seizes a tent in Hollywood. (Matt Tinoco/LAist)

In an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19, the Los Angeles City Council voted late tonight to allow homeless residents to self-isolate in their tents — but stopped short of halting encampment cleanups, known as sweeps.

Council members Mike Bonin, Marqueece Harris-Dawsin, and Gil Cedillo had argued that the enforcement of laws pertaining to homeless encampments “effectively prohibits people from self-quarantining and maintaining social distance.”

“The ideal solution is to provide housing and shelter and allow people to move out [of] encampments and come indoors,” the councilmembers wrote in the motion.

“In the meantime, people remain on our streets, in tents and underneath tarps. Multiple, urgent efforts must be undertaken to the public health issues from and in encampments.”

The motion called for:

  • Allowing 24-hour access to restrooms at parks, libraries, and other public buildings.
  • Installation and maintenance of port-a-potties, dumpsters and hand-washing stations at major encampments.
  • Expanding weekly shower service.
  • Partial suspension of city law L.A.M.C 56.11 which requires tents to be broken down during the daytime.

Those proposals passed, though with some hedging to allow city departments a little bit of time to prepare.

An additional proposal to end the seizure and confiscation of materials and personal property over 60 gallons was voted down.

The motion directs city departments to produce a list of vacant or underutilized public properties that could be used as emergency housing, as well as parking lots and other spaces that could be used as “Emergency Safe Camping Zones.”

The state of California was also asked to immediately expand shelter for unhoused residents in unused motel and hotel rooms, and for formal policy guidance on how to address the public health problems created by homeless encampments.

MORE ON CORONAVIRUS:


Your No-Panic Guide To Coronavirus In LA So Far
Your No-Panic Guide: Sanitizer, Toilet Paper, Medicine — When Will Everything Be Back In Stock?
Here's Your Quick, To The Point, Coronavirus Prep List
Have A Question? We Will Answer It

Palm Springs Residents Told To Shelter In Place

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Published
Giant wind turbines are powered by strong winds on May 13, 2008 near Palm Springs, California. David McNew/Getty Images

In an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus, Palm Springs officials are preparing an order that will require all city residents to shelter in place and all non-essential businesses to close.

The emergency order is expected to go into effect at 7 a.m. on Wednesday, March 18, reports the Desert Sun, and will remain in effect until April 2.

Palm Springs has approximately 48,000 residents and more than a quarter of them are at least 65 years old, one of the highest risk groups to suffer serious complications from COVID-19.

The decision comes of the heels of a similar edict issued earlier this week by six counties in Northern California.

As in the Bay Area, the shutdown does not apply to 21 types of essential businesses, including grocery stores, pharmacies, restaurants (only for takeout or delivery) and hardware stores.

Even businesses that remain open must institute a 6-foot buffer between customers when they are indoors.

The Palm Springs city council is expected to ratify the emergency orders at its regular Thursday meeting. The council also requested that all residents avoid nonessential contact.

Mayor Geoff Kors told the Desert Sun that law enforcement will not be arresting business owners for staying open and will give people several days to adjust to the new regulations as police officers educate residents about the restrictions.

Two cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in west Riverside County, according to the paper. Both people are expected to recover.

Riverside County's public health officer has reported three deaths related to coronavirus in the county.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that two cases of coronavirus had been confirmed in Riverside County. LAist regrets the error.

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It’s Looking More And More Like A Runoff In LA’s DA Race

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Photo credits, L-R: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images; Damian Dovarganes/AP; Jesse Grant/Getty Images

It’s looking more and more like there will be a November runoff in the race to be L.A. County’s next District Attorney.

Updated numbers released Tuesday by the County Registrar still have incumbent DA Jackie Lacey well ahead of her two challengers, with just under 49% of the vote.

But Lacey now stands 21,105 votes short of the 50%-plus-one she needs to win the election outright and avoid a runoff.

The Registrar's office estimates there are 64,000 votes left to count. To end up with a majority, Lacey would need more than 80% of those votes -- far more than she’s garnered in any previous tally.

Lacey’s opponent in a runoff would be former San Francisco DA George Gascon, who now has 28% of the vote.

Former public defender Rachel Rossi has 23%.

Here are the numbers as of Tuesday:

Candidate Votes %
Jackie Lacey
851,796 48.79
George Gascon 491,931 28.18
Rachel Rossi 402,075 23.03

GO DEEPER:

Your Guide To The LA County District Attorney Race

This story was updated at 5:35 p.m. on March 17 to reflect the Registrar's new estimate of how many votes remain to be counted.

LA Extends Eviction Moratorium To Businesses, Offers Microloans

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Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced new relief measures to help small businesses weather the restrictions triggered by the public health response to coronavirus.

First, the city is planning to provide $11 million in no-fee microloans for small businesses to help them with bills, like payroll and rent, to make sure they can continue to pay employees and come through the crisis.

Garcetti said these loans could immediately benefit more than 2,000 businesses in L.A.

In addition, Garcetti said the city is extending the moratorium on evictions to commercial tenants, as well, given that many small businesses have had to make major changes and sacrifices in order to comply with the new restrictions.

Garcetti reminded people that the most important thing they can do right now is continue to practice good hygiene and social distancing. If you can work from home, work from home, he said.

He stopped short of banning all public gatherings, even as the governor warned that such orders may be coming soon and other counties and cities, including Palm Springs, Orange County and several counties in the Bay Area, have announced such orders.

"There is no plan to lock down this city. That is not imminent. But we ask you all to lock down your life as much as you can," he said.

RESOURCES:

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Hospitals Brace For The Crush Of New Cases As Coronavirus Spreads

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Published
View of the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. (Gabriel Bouys/AFP via Getty Images)

Los Angeles County officials reported the biggest jump in new COVID-19 cases today, bringing the total to 144.

There are about 100 hospitals spread across the county, and they’re all doing what they can to prepare for the rising case numbers.

Dr. Christina Ghaly, with the L.A. County’s Department of Health Services, says they’re all implementing disaster plans. Among them:

“Discharging patients when safe to do so, bringing in additional staffing resources, limiting or canceling elective procedures and admissions.”

Hospitals are also putting up tents to screen patients, and ramping up video appointments.

Another big effort by hospital officials? Telling people only to use the ER for emergencies:

“It is imperative that we preserve the hospital system and the 911 emergency response system for those who truly need it.”

As of Tuesday, Ghaly says that countywide there are about:

  • 650 ventilators (but officials are working to get more)
  • 2,220 ICU beds
  • 150 ICU beds currently available.

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What COVID-19 Looks Like For LA Hospitals

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Governor Newsom Says It’s ‘Unlikely’ That Schools Will Reopen Before Summer

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Published

In a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Governor Gavin Newsom offered some practical – if difficult – guidance for parents.

“Don't anticipate schools are going to open up in a week,” he said. “Don’t anticipate in a few weeks…. I would plan and assume that it's unlikely that many of these schools – few, if any – will open before the summer break.”

Under the banner of practicing common sense – the theme of Newsom’s Tuesday briefing – the governor encouraged California residents to “absorb” the current moment in “a very rational way.”

He urged all residents aged 65 and older to shelter in place, regardless of where they live. He encouraged all other Californians to be safe and stay indoors. He also predicted that the shelter-in-place dictum being enforced in the Bay area will eventually make its way to other counties.

However, Newsom urged level-headedness. Shelter in place “doesn’t mean within your own social set, within your own family, you can’t have a barbeque,” he said. “People you are used to being with, you should be with.”

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Lime Suspends Scooter Service In LA And Across California

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(Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Electric scooter company Lime is pulling its scooters off the streets in greater Los Angeles in response to the growing coronavirus outbreak. It's part of an international effort “to help people stay put and stay safe,” Lime founder and CEO Brad Bao wrote in a blog post Tuesday.

The company has suspended service across California, as well as in Washington state, Italy, Spain, and France.

So far, Lime is the only dockless electric vehicle operator to ground its fleet. Bird, Lyft and Jump previously said they’ve increased cleaning and disinfecting of their respective scooters and e-bikes. Employees who handle the dockless vehicles are wearing gloves as a precaution, according to statements from each operator.

The companies are encouraging riders to clean scooters and e-bikes handles with disinfecting wipes before and after riding.

Another electric vehicle sharing service has also halted operations. Blue LA, which lets drivers rent electric cars through a partnership with LADOT, has been suspended “indefinitely,” according to its website.

The service operates a series of on-street kiosks and stations in central Los Angeles, including Westlake, Koreatown, Echo Park, Boyle Heights and Chinatown.

Blue LA officials said they hope to resume service “as soon as the situation permits.”

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Your No-Panic Guide To Coronavirus In LA So Far
Your No-Panic Guide: Sanitizer, Toilet Paper, Medicine — When Will Everything Be Back In Stock?
Here's Your Quick, To The Point, Coronavirus Prep List
Have A Question? We Will Answer It

How Older Workers Are Dealing With The Coronavirus

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Working past retirement age has become increasingly common in California. (Sigmund via Unsplash)

Gov. Gavin Newsom has told Californians age 65 and older to isolate themselves at home, because they are at high risk of developing severe illness should they contract the new coronavirus.

But that's a tall order if you still have a job. About 20% of Californians in that age group still work and many don't have retirement savings.

Experts say older workers are facing tough decisions: Heed public health advice, or keep working in order to pay rent?

READ THE FULL STORY:

MORE ON CORONAVIRUS:

Macy’s Announces Closure Through Mar. 31

Updated
Published
Macy's at Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Macy’s announced Tuesday that it will close its stores at the end of the business day, and remain closed through Mar. 31. The closure affects Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Bluemercury, Macy’s Backstage, Bloomingdales the Outlet and Market by Macy’s stores.

According to a statement, the company will continue to pay and provide benefits to its employees.

Customers can still shop online.

MORE ON CORONAVIRUS:

Your No-Panic Guide To Coronavirus In LA So Far
Here's Your Quick, To The Point, Coronavirus Prep List
Have A Question? We Will Answer It


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Here's Why Staying Home During The Coronavirus Outbreak Matters

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Source: CDC, Drew Harris Connie Hanzhang Jin/NPR

Public schools are closing, universities are holding classes online, major events are getting canceled, and cultural institutions are shutting their doors. The disruption of daily life for many Americans is real and significant -- but so are the potential life-saving benefits.

It's all part of an effort to do what epidemiologists call flattening the curve of the pandemic. The idea is to increase social distancing in order to slow the spread of the virus, so that you don't get a huge spike in the number of people getting sick all at once. If that were to happen, there wouldn't be enough hospital beds or mechanical ventilators for everyone who needs them, and the U.S. hospital system would be overwhelmed. That's already happening in Italy.

The tan curve represents a scenario in which the U.S. hospital system becomes inundated with coronavirus patients. If we can delay the spread of the virus so that new cases aren't popping up all at once, but rather over the course of weeks or months, people would still get infected. But it would be at a rate that the health care system could actually keep up with -- a scenario represented by the more gently sloped blue curve on the graph.

GO DEEPER:

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LA County Joins Eviction Moratorium, 50 New Cases Reported

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Today Los Angeles County is enacting a temporary moratorium on evictions in unincorporated areas retroactive to March 4.

The order prohibits all residential and commercial evictions for nonpayment of rent, late fees and related costs due to a loss of business or household income caused by COVID-19. It applies to all no-fault evicitions other than those "necessary for health and safety reasons" and lasts through May 31, said county Supervisor Hilda Solis at an early afternoon press conference.

During the period covered, residents and businesses will also be protected from utility shutoffs and late fees.

Residents and businesses will have up to six months after May 31 to pay any back rent owed.

The new order comes as 50 new cases of coronavirus infection were announced.

L.A. County Public Health director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said all positive cases have been isolated and anyone who has been in contact with those individuals are being asked to quarantine.

Ferrer stressed that the public can expect to see new cases in the coming days and weeks as more people are infected and the county increases its ability to test, and that these new cases do not mean that social distancing is not working:

"If you look across the world, it generally takes between three and four weeks for us to see the fruit of our labor, so we all need to continue to do all of the social distancing measures that we've implemented and all of the requests that we've made until we start seeing that we have in fact peaked and that we start seeing less and less cases. But that will take a while."

She said the county has increased its testing capacity: the county public health lab has so far tested 206 people, commercial labs 900 people, and the CDC in Atlanta has completed 38 tests.

Ferrer also reiterated that the blanket health orders issued by the county yesterday apply across the county, not just in unincorporated areas. Pasadena and Long Beach have their own health departments, but those agencies issued similar orders. That means the orders to close bars, wineries, nightclubs, and to limit restaurants to take-out and delivery only, are in effect across the county's 88 cities.

MORE ON CORONAVIRUS:


Your No-Panic Guide To Coronavirus In LA So Far
Your No-Panic Guide: Sanitizer, Toilet Paper, Medicine — When Will Everything Be Back In Stock?
Here's Your Quick, To The Point, Coronavirus Prep List
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If I'm An Asymptomatic Coronavirus Carrier, How Long Will I Be Contagious?

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Published
(Stock photo by Kelly Sikkema via Unsplash)

We’re asking public health officials and experts to answer your questions about the COVID-19 pandemic. Keep in mind that this information does not constitute professional medical advice. For questions regarding your own health, always consult a physician.

An audience member who only identified himself as Joe wanted to know, “If you are an asymptomatic carrier, how long will the virus live and how long will you be contagious?”

Here’s an explanation from Dr. Shruti Gohil with the University of California Irvine Medical Center, who’s helping lead the effort to prepare the hospital for COVID-19:

“Everything that we have seen so far verifies the experience in China. Once you acquire the illness, you may be infectious to other people for up to 14 days. Now, those who are asymptomatic may not know when Day 1 starts to start counting to Day 14. But it's encouraging to know that while asymptomatic individuals can get sick, their ability to spread the disease is far less than those who are actively symptomatic, who have secretions, who are coughing, who can take this virus and spread it around to other people.”

So what we really need to think about when it comes to asymptomatic individuals, Gohil said, is this: when do they spread?

“It's when you share the same straw, you share the same drink, you were at a restaurant in a pub and you shared utensils. And when we cut out activities like this, that is the meaning behind the social distancing strategies that have been put into place — [it’s] that we're cutting out this type of activity, so that those asymptomatic spreaders then minimize that spread. That is the reason why we're doing this, not so much because coronavirus is in and of itself so dangerous to the vast majority of patients. It's more that [cutting] its circulation by common sense strategies like this will go far.”


SOME STRAIGHT TALK ABOUT COVID-19

We're all living through this extraordinary and frightening pandemic. The vast majority of our newsroom has been working from home (here's some advice on that) since March 11 to bring you calm, helpful reporting. We are answering your questions and taking more.

LAist is known for our events listings but now hopefully we'll be known for our non-event listings and tips for parents to try to keep you sane. And we're looking for your nominations for everyday heroes in this time of crisis. We're here to help. And if you can help support that effort financially, we'd be grateful.


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Long Beach Sees 3 New Coronavirus Cases, Bringing Total To 8

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File: The Long Beach breakwater, photographed on April 26, 2019. (James Bernal/LAist)

Long Beach on Tuesday reported three new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total citywide to eight, officials said.

Of the three new patients, two traveled to locations of known transmission and one case is still under investigation.

These are the first new cases reported since Saturday. Approximately 110 people are currently being monitored for possible exposure to the new coronavirus.

As of Tuesday morning, California has so far seen 392 cases, while the country has reported more than 3,400.

The city noted that private labs are now testing people, but are only required to report positive results — the number of negative and pending results remain unclear.

Meanwhile, bars, nightclubs, breweries and wineries, as well as gyms and other fitness facilities and large entertainment venues are to remained closed through March 31 in accordance with a mandate issued by the Health and Human Services Department.

Restaurants and other food-serving establishments are limited to delivery and takeout only.

If Long Beach residents think they’ve been exposed to the coronavirus, they should call — not visit — their health care provider, who must determine a test is necessary for one to be administered.

Long Beach residents can also call 562-570-INFO (4636), between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., if they can’t get in touch with their health care provider.

City officials urged residents to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 by practicing good hygiene, avoiding crowds, and keeping six feet of distance from people when possible.

The virus usually causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But the governor is urging those 65 and older and people with chronic health conditions to stay at home because they can be hit with more severe illness, including pneumonia.

MORE ON CORONAVIRUS:

Third Death Linked To Coronavirus Reported In Riverside County

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This illustration reveals the morphology exhibited by coronaviruses. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Riverside County’s public health officer Tuesday announced a third death associated with the coronavirus. The first two deaths in the county were made public Monday.

Dr. Cameron Kaiser confirmed the death in a presentation to the county Board of Supervisors Tuesday morning.

The first two patients were located in the Coachella Valley. The exact location of the third patient is not clear. No further information is available about the three individuals’ identities.

“Our thoughts are with the families of the two patients,” said Kaiser.

On Monday, Kaiser confirmed that there were 15 total cases in the area. He recently said he expects that number to go up today.

In conjunction with the deaths, Kaiser ordered that gatherings be limited to 10 people or fewer. The county’s schools have been closed, including colleges. Those closures were extended to Apr. 30 as of Tuesday.

MORE ON CORONAVIRUS:

Your No-Panic Guide To Coronavirus In LA So Far
Your No-Panic Guide: Sanitizer, Toilet Paper, Medicine — When Will Everything Be Back In Stock?
Here's Your Quick, To The Point, Coronavirus Prep List
Have A Question? We Will Answer It

This post has been updated to reflect the third death of a patient in Riverside County.


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You Might Get A $1,000 Check From The Federal Government Due To Coronavirus

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President Donald Trump, joined by members of the Coronavirus Task Force, speaks at the White House on March 17, 2020. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

President Trump is pushing a plan to send money directly to Americans in response to the coronavirus, saying it's time to "go big" to boost the now stalled economy. How much the checks will be for is still under consideration, but they're considering $1,000 each.

Trump said he wants to push through a major comprehensive package to help businesses and workers facing hardships.

"That's the way I want to go. I just want to get it done and have a big infusion, as opposed to going through little meetings every couple of days," Trump said. "We want to go big."

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is meeting with lawmakers Tuesday to discuss details of the administration's proposal.

Mnuchin said Trump wants to start sending out checks within the next two weeks.

It's not clear what income restrictions might be put on the stimulus payments, but Mnuchin said they don't want to be sending checks to millionaires.

Trump and Mnuchin did not say how much the proposal would cost, but a person familiar said earlier on Tuesday that the White House is asking Congress for $850 billion in aid.

The administration is also planning to allow Americans to defer tax payments up to $1 million for 90 days.

The impact of the outbreak has ground the U.S. economy to a near standstill.

MORE ON CORONAVIRUS:

Map: What The Spread Of Coronavirus Looks Like So Far

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Published

This map shows cumulative confirmed cases, deaths and recoveries and is updated in near real-time throughout the day. Zoom out to see more of the world.

The data is maintained by Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering which pulls from:

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Morning Briefing: Your Coronavirus Cheat Sheet, Checking In With Seniors And The Unhoused

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(Chava Sanchez / LAist)

If your head is spinning from the speed of the news, you’re not alone. As of the latest count, there are now 94 cases of coronavirus confirmed in L.A. County. President Trump’s coronavirus task force recommended keeping gatherings to 10 people or less and L.A. schools became really, truly closed to kids.

It’s also still raining, which we can all agree gives this whole situation a much more apocalyptic vibe. Still, we have you covered for what to watch while you’re social distancing at home, and an unexpected (and very welcome!) way to keep your kids entertained.

Here’s what else we’re…

Covering Today:

  • The average price of a gallon of self-serve regular gasoline in Los Angeles County dropped Friday to its lowest amount since Mar. 21, reports Itxy Quintanilla.
  • Caitlin Hernandez explains the 2020 census mailers.

Coronavirus Special Section

What We Know:

What We’re Following:

  • California community colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley has been granted temporary emergency powers, reports Adolfo Guzman-Lopez, to make executive orders and overrule board regulations to keep classes open at the community colleges.
  • Pablo Cabrera checks in with the state’s seniors and those who work with them to see how they’re faring in the recommended self-isolation.


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Help Us Cover Your Community:

  • Got something you’ve always wanted to know about Southern California and the people who call it home? Is there an issue you want us to cover? Ask us anything >>
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The news cycle moves fast. Some stories don't pan out. Others get added. Consider this today's first draft.