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LA's Convention Center Is Now A Field Hospital

Updated
Published
The L.A. Convention Center is being converted into a field hospital to be managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Via L.A. Mayor's Twitter account

The convention center in downtown Los Angeles is now being converted into a field hospital, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced tonight. The move is being made to to prepare the city for an expected surge in demand for hospital beds as the number of new coronavirus cases swells.

The hospital will be run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Garcetti said during his nightly briefing on the city's response to the coronavirus pandemic. About 30 National Guard members helped unpack equipment this weekend.

The federal medical station will provide medical supplies and cots to take some of the pressure off of nearby hospitals, Garcetti said.

The USS Mercy, which arrived in L.A. on Friday for the same purpose, has already taken in its first three patients, Garcetti said. The floating naval hospital is providing an additional 1,000 hospital beds to help non-coronavirus patients.

Garcetti also announced he is appointing Port of Los Angeles executive director Eugene Seroka to act as the city's chief logistics officer.

One of the biggest concerns among officials responding to the pandemic is the supply of medical equipment. Patients need ventilators. Health care workers need masks and other personal protective equipment.

Seroka's job will be to use the city's purchasing power and connections to secure these critical materials, Garcetti said.

"He's going to help us manage the process of getting the 1 million masks currently in storage out to our first responders, along with a second supply chain to help our hospitals get everything they need in bulk."

SHELTERS AND BEDS

Together, the state, city, and county have secured more than 900 motel and hotel rooms that homeless Angelenos can use for isolation and quarantine, but more will be needed, Garcetti said.

The mayor called on hotel and motel owners to step forward and offer more rooms to fill the need, directing them to a website where they can register their rooms.

HOW ARE ANGELENOS FARING?

It will be a surprise to no one, but a lot of Angelenos have taken a financial hit because of the strict social distancing guidelines issued at all levels of government, including the mayor's "Safer at Home" order.

But now we're starting to get some numbers. Garcetti said a new study from Loyola Marymount University's Center for the Study of Los Angeles, in partnership with the city, checks in on how residents are faring, and what they're thinking, in the midst of this pandemic. He shared some of the findings:

  • 60% say their income stream has been significantly or somewhat reduced
  • 95% in L.A. city and county "know what we are collectively doing is the right thing," Garcetti said
  • A third of households in the Southland say they have someone with serious or underlying medical conditions
  • A third also say they have someone 65 or older
  • 80% of Angelenos are worried they or a family member will get sick, but only 40% think they themselves will get sick
  • Close to 60% say it's the right strategy to isolate when sick
  • Nearly 40% think you should go to a doctor when sick

On that last point, Garcetti wanted to set the record straight:

"Let me dissuade you of that [last point]: you should talk to a doctor, get on the phone with the doctor, and unless you have serious symptoms, make sure that you are isolating. Because if we have people rushing the medical facilities that we have, especially as this pace picks up, especially those who are not exhibiting serious symptoms and are healthy, we will be overwhelmed at our hospitals."

MORE ON CORONAVIRUS:


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Trump Extends Social Distancing Guidelines For 30 More Days

Updated
Published
US President Donald Trump speaks during a Coronavirus Task Force press briefing in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC, on March 29, 2020. (Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images)

President Trump said on Sunday that federal guidelines urging Americans to social distance to slow the spread of coronavirus will remain in place for another month.

"During this period, it's very important that everyone follow the guidelines," Trump said at a news conference in the Rose Garden. "The better you do, the faster this whole nightmare will end."

Trump had initially announced 15-day social distancing guidelines and then suggested the recommendations could be relaxed. But on Sunday, Trump said the federal guidelines will ask U.S. residents to socially distance until April 30.

Coronavirus models, Trump noted, suggest that the worst days of the pandemic could hit the country in two weeks.

Trump said the plans to prolong the social distancing guidelines will be formalized Tuesday.

Trump previously suggested he would like to see the country reopen for business on Easter, a notion that deeply unsettled infectious disease experts, who said such a move could exacerbate the crisis.

Asked if his optimistic assessment was a mistake, Trump said no.

"It was just an aspiration," Trump said. "That could be the peak number of deaths before it starts coming down," the president said of coronavirus cases around Easter.

Trump's announcement comes as coronavirus cases in the United States continue to soar and virus-related deaths are mounting, with America's total fatalities doubling in just two days.

On Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned that COVID-19, the disease brought on by the novel coronavirus, may claim up to 200,000 American lives.

However, Fauci cautioned people not to put too much emphasis on predictions, noting that, "it's such a moving target, that you could so easily be wrong and mislead people."

Expecting the surge of coronavirus cases to continue, state and local officials are bracing for shortages of medical equipment and supplies.

State leaders — including Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, the nation's current virus epicenter — are predicting that in the coming weeks critical supplies like ventilators could be far outmatched by the volume of critically ill coronavirus patients.

About 1 in 3 Americans are now under orders to remain indoors in an effort to slow the spread of the highly contagious virus.

Speaking on NBC's Meet the Press, Dr. Deborah Birx, who leads the White House coronavirus task force, said every part of the country should be taking the pandemic seriously.

"No state, no metro area, will be spared," Birx said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the seasonal flu has killed between an estimated 12,000 and 61,000 people a year since 2010.

The novel coronavirus appears to be more contagious than the flu and the death rate is far greater. It could be 10 times deadlier.

There is currently no vaccine for the coronavirus. Experts say developing a vaccine for the virus could take at least a year.

This story originally appeared on NPR.


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.

We're here to help. And if you can help support that effort financially, we'd be grateful.


LA County Sees 5 New Deaths From Coronavirus; Now 2,136 Confirmed Cases

Updated
Published
This scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 (round gold objects) emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. SARS-CoV-2, also known as 2019-nCoV, is the virus that causes COVID-19. (NIAID-RML)

Five more people have died because of the novel coronavirus, according to Los Angeles County public health officials, who also reported 332 new cases of the disease today. That brings total confirmed cases in the county to 2,136.

In addition, the county said two of the people whose deaths were reported yesterday, including one who was 50-60 years old, did not have any reported underlying health conditions. Five of the six deaths reported yesterday were people older than 60.

Here are a few other numbers released today by the county's Department of Public Health:

  • 676 new cases reported over the last 48 hours
  • 453 people hospitalized so far, representing 21% of positive cases

The health department also issued temporary guidance for people who are only mildly sick:

If you are mildly sick, stay home for at least seven days and until 72 hours after being fever and symptom free. Call your doctor if you are concerned and/or your symptoms worsen. Individuals who are elderly, have underlying health conditions or pregnant should consider contacting their providers earlier when they are sick.


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.

We're here to help. And if you can help support that effort financially, we'd be grateful.


Federal Judge Orders Release Of Two ICE Detainees Based On COVID-19 Concerns

Updated
Published
Aug. 28, 2019 – The Adelanto U.S. Immigration and Enforcement Processing Center operated by GEO Group, Inc. (Chris Carlson/AP)

A federal judge has ordered the release of two detainees from the Adelanto ICE facility in San Bernardino due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Jesselyn Friley, an attorney representing the detainees, said they were taken into custody during an immigration raid. She argued for their release because ICE is failing to protect them against COVID-19.

“The vehicles in which they were transported were not disinfected,” she said. “They were touched by guards who didn't have masks or gloves. They've been around a number of other detainees staff at the detention center and ice officers often in very close quarters.”

According to a statement released by the pro bono law firm Public Counsel, Pedro Bravo Castillo and Luis Vasquez Rueda were detained by ICE on March 16 and 17. They were allegedly “removed from their homes, physically handcuffed, restrained and confined in transport vans and small rooms – without the ICE Agents taking necessary safety and health precautions to avoid COVID-19 transmission.”

The federal government argued that releases aren't necessary until a COVID-19 case is diagnosed within a detention facility. But Federal District Judge Terry J. Hatter Jr. ruled that because carriers don't always show symptoms, there's no guarantee the virus is not already present.

“The science is well established – infected, asymptomatic carriers of the coronavirus are highly contagious,” he stated in his order.

Friley says the ruling opens the door for other ICE detainees to petition for immediate release.

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Riverside County Hotels, Motels And Short-Term Rentals Closed To Most Guests

Updated
Published
Palm Springs, CA (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

Officials in Riverside County, which includes Palm Springs, Joshua Tree and other desert communities, have issued new orders that temporarily ban short-term rentals, unless guests are part of COVID-19 response efforts.

Hotels, motels and businesses such as Airbnb can allow essential workers, such as medical supply delivery drivers, to rent rooms. They can also be used for sheltering the homeless and to provide beds for people in isolation or quarantine.

“We're trying to avoid people coming here for vacation or to get away from the city,” said Jose Arballo, a spokesperson for Riverside County’s Department of Public Health. “We were hearing that some of our vacation spot renters were not going to obey our orders, so we got more specific.”

Arballo says if owners of short-term rentals fail to obey the order, the county will take further action through the courts.

MORE ON CORONAVIRUS:

Map: COVID-19 Cases At 710K Worldwide, More Than 1,800 In LA County

Updated
Published

Note on the data you see when clicking on a bubble: Confirmed cases include presumptive positive cases | Recovered cases outside China are estimates based on local media reports, and may be substantially lower than the true number | Active cases = total confirmed - total recovered - total deaths.


Editor's note: For the most recent updates, check our latest tracker post for Monday, March 30.

Jump to: CALIFORNIA | WORLDWIDE | SOCAL COUNTIES | ANALYSIS

WHERE WE STAND

The U.S. is now reporting more than 136,880 of the 710,918 confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide as of 1:15 p.m. Sunday.

In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom had sobering news Saturday, saying patients needing ICU care in the state had gone up 105% overnight and hospitalizations for COVID-19 patients had risen nearly 40%.

Newsom spoke Saturday from of a Bay-area fuel cell plant that's now working to refurbish ventilators. He said the state now has more than 400 COVID-19 ICU patients. He called that number "relatively modest" but warned that as new confirmed cases continue the percentage increase was of deep concern.

The uptick in California cases came as the U.S. and Italy are now both reporting more confirmed COVID-19 cases than China, where the outbreak began late last year. Spain is also nearing totals that are greater than China, where the spread of COVID-19 has greatly slowed.

As of Saturday afternoon, L.A. County is reporting more than 1,800 cases with 22% of patients requiring hospitalization.

And the local mortality rate continues to tick up. Earlier in the week, it was 1%, then 1.6% and as of yesterday was at 1.8%. That rate is higher than the nationwide average and significantly higher than what we experience with annual flu cases. Keep in mind, it partially reflects the who is being tested at this point.

The county reported 344 new confirmed cases Saturday. That includes six new COVID-19 related deaths.

WORLDWIDE

The U.S. is among a number of countries experiencing large-scale outbreaks. The map at the top of this post 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.

As of 1:15 p.m. Sunday, here are the total confirmed cases for the 10 countries currently facing the worst outbreaks:

  1. 136,880 United States | pop. 327M
  2. 97,689 Italy | pop. 60.6M
  3. 82,122 China | pop. 1.4B
  4. 78,799 Spain | pop. 47M
  5. 61,164 Germany | pop. 83M
  6. 40,704 France | pop. 65M
  7. 38,309 Iran | pop. 82M
  8. 19,772 United Kingdom | pop. 67M
  9. 14,829 Switzerland | pop. 8.5M
  10. 10,930 Netherlands | pop. 17M

These numbers are changing rapidly and experts have warned that confirmed cases are far under the actual total of infected individuals. For more detail check the full tracker, which includes death tolls and projections of cases on the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering site. Engineers there are collecting data from:

As of Sunday afternoon, worldwide the Johns Hopkins tracker is reporting:

  • 33,597 deaths
  • 148,995 recoveries

IN CALIFORNIA

Statewide, our friends on the L.A. Times data desk are tracking cases in California by surveying "numbers released by the dozens of local health agencies across the state." As of 1:32 p.m. Sunday, the newspaper is reporting California has:

  • 5,791 confirmed cases
  • 123 deaths

[Note: If you hit a paywall on the full tracker, please consider subscribing. They have a $1 for eight weeks special. We don't have a paywall but we do count on member support to run our newsroom.]

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA AT A GLANCE

Health officials here continue to stress that they are seeing most cases in people under the age of 65. L.A. County's Public Health director Barbara Ferrer has said 80% of the cases have been people between 18-65, and 42% have been people between 18-40.

Earlier this week, when the local mortality rate was at 1%, Ferrer told us:

"You can imagine if we have thousands and thousands and thousands of people infected, then 1% becomes a large number. And every single person who dies like that's a story, that's a loved one. That's a person who other people care about and they're gonna miss."

Current as of Sunday

LA COUNTY

  • 1,818* cases
  • 32 deaths

* [Includes numbers released by Long Beach after the county's Saturday update. See more from L.A. County]

ORANGE COUNTY

  • 431 cases
  • 4 deaths

* More from Orange County

RIVERSIDE COUNTY

  • 195 cases
  • 8 deaths

* More from Riverside County

VENTURA COUNTY

  • 98 cases
  • 3 death

* More from Ventura County

SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY

  • 76 cases
  • 3 death

* More from San Bernardino County

FLATTEN THE CURVE

As new cases continue to be confirmed, Californians are a week into "safer at home" and "social distancing" orders. Last Thursday, state and county officials ordered the vast majority of Californians to strictly limit interactions with other people, wash hands frequently, and stay six feet away from others.

Remember, the goal of social distancing is to "flatten the curve" of COVID-19's spread.

Source: CDC, Drew Harris (Connie Hanzhang Jin/NPR)

The more we can slow the rate of infection, the less overwhelmed the hospital system will be.

Here's a look at nine scenarios over six, nine, and 12 months from our friends at ProPublica:

(Courtesy of ProPublica)

And here's the impact on California hospitals:

(Courtesy of ProPublica)

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.

We're here to help. And if you can help support that effort financially, we'd be grateful.


icon
DON'T MISS ANY L.A. CORONAVIRUS NEWS

Get our daily newsletter for the latest on COVID-19 and other top local headlines.


Terms of Use and Privacy Policy


Support our free, independent journalism today. Donate now.

Your CliffsNotes Look at The COVID-19 Treatments President Trump Has Promoted

Updated
Published
Medical staff in France show tablets containing chloroquine and Plaqueril, tablets containing hydroxychloroquine. (Gerard Julien/AFP via Getty Images

Here's a very quick look what we know and don't know about the drugs, chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, also known by the brand name Plaquenil.

These are the possible treatments for COVID-19 that President Donald Trump has been promoting.

WHAT WE KNOW

  • The drugs are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but not for the treatment of the coronavirus.
  • A number of hospitals are using the drug to treat patients with the coronavirus.
  • Patients who rely on hydroxychloroquine for other conditions can't get it.
  • Some doctors and their families are hoarding the drug.
  • There are efforts to increase the supply of the drug, but other moves could tighten it.
  • Conservative groups and television hosts are talking up the benefits of the drug.
  • Clinical trials are underway.
  • Some people are self-medicating with harmful results.

WHAT WE DON'T KNOW

  • Whether the drugs are effective at treating the coronavirus.

GET THE DETAILS:

Guess What Mountain Lions Are Good At? Social Distancing

Updated
Published
P-19 Courtesy of the National Park Service

Park rangers caught up this week with a mountain lion in the Santa Monica Mountains that they've tracked for a nearly a decade

P-19 was fitted with a radio collar when she was just three weeks old. She is the oldest surviving mountain lion with the National Park Service's tracking program to study mountain lions.

Ranger Mithra Derakshan says biologists replaced her GPS collar, and gave her a clean bill of health:

"She's had about four litters here inside the Santa Monica Mountains, so, thanks to her, we've been keeping up that population of mountain lions, because we do have a threatened population of mountains lions here, they have many challenges."

Rangers say in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, we could take some cues from mountain lions — because they're naturally aloof.

Derakshan called mountain lions "experts at social distancing."

"They are solitary animals," she explained. "Male mountain lions, they like to have up to 200 square miles of home range, so they're very good at keeping their distance."

Parking lots in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, which many of of the big cats call home, are already closed.

The need to socially distance and to keep people off crowded trails was part of the first live video discussion conducted by rangers last week. They talked about the hard decisions being made at a time when many people crave time in nature. [Note: The mountain lion talk begins about 6 minutes into the talk.]

Does The Virus That Causes COVID-19 Linger In The Air?

Updated
Published
Pedestrians in London in 1932 wear masks to prevent the spread of flu at the advice of doctors. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Ima

As we practice social distancing to try to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus many people have asked:

Can just breathing the same air as someone infected with COVID-19 make you sick too?

The World Health Organization says the virus that causes COVID-19 doesn't seem to linger in the air or be capable of spreading through the air over distances more than about three feet.

But at least one expert in virus transmission said it's way too soon to know that.

"I think the WHO is being irresponsible in giving out that information. This misinformation is dangerous," says Dr. Donald Milton, an infectious disease aerobiologist at the University of Maryland School of Public Health.

CURRENT WHO ADVICE

The WHO says that "according to current evidence," the virus is transmitted through "respiratory droplets and contact routes." By that, the agency means the virus is found in the kind of big droplets of mucus or saliva created through coughing and sneezing.

These droplets can only travel short distances through the air and either land on people or land on surfaces that people later touch. Stopping this kind of transmission is why public health officials urge people to wash hands frequently and not touch the face, because that could bring the virus into contact with the nose or mouth.


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Other viruses, however, get shed by infected people in a way that lets the germs actually hang suspended in the air for minutes or even hours. Later, these airborne viruses can get breathed in when other people pass by. Measles is a good example of that kind of transmission — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that "Measles virus can remain infectious in the air for up to two hours after an infected person leaves an area."

The WHO said that this kind of airborne transmission of the new coronavirus might be possible "in specific circumstances and settings in which procedures that generate aerosols are performed," such as when a patient is intubated in a hospital or being disconnected from a ventilator.

Based on that, the agency recommends "airborne precautions" when medical workers do those procedures. Otherwise, the WHO says, healthcare workers caring for COVID-19 patients could use less protective "droplet and contact precautions"

A COUNTER VIEW

That troubles Milton, who says so little is known about this new virus, SARS-CoV-2, that it's inappropriate to draw conclusions about how it is transmitted.

"I don't think they know and I think they are talking out of their hats," Milton says.

He says people like to think that there's some sharp, black-and-white distinction between "airborne" viruses that can linger and float in the air, and ones that only spread when embedded in larger moist droplets picked up through close contact, but the reality of transmission is far more nuanced.

"The epidemiologists say if it's 'close contact' then it's not airborne. That's baloney," he says.

When epidemiologists are working in the field, trying to understand an outbreak of an unknown pathogen, it's not possible for them to know exactly what's going on as a pathogen is spread from person to person, Milton says. "Epidemiologists cannot tell the difference between droplet transmission and short-range aerosol transmission."

He says these are hard questions to answer, and scientists still argue over how much of the transmission of influenza might be airborne. Some research shows that exhaled gas clouds from people contain a continuum of many droplet sizes and that a "high-momentum cloud" created by a cough or sneeze might carry droplets long distances.

What's more, one study of hospital rooms of patients with COVID-19 found that "swabs taken from the air exhaust outlets tested positive, suggesting that small virus-laden droplets may be displaced by airflows and deposited on equipment such as vents."

Another study in Wuhan hospitals found that most areas had undetectable or low levels of airborne virus.

In the face of this uncertainty, Milton thinks the WHO should follow the example of the CDC and "employ the precautionary principle to recommend airborne precautions."

"The U.S. CDC has it exactly right," he says, noting that it recommends airborne precautions for any situation involving the care of COVID-19 patients.

Of course, the world is struggling with a shortage of the most protective medical masks and gear. For the average person not working in a hospital, Milton says the recommendation to stay 6 feet away from others sounds reasonable.

He says if someone in a house is sick, it makes sense to have them wear a mask and to increase the ventilation in the room, if possible, by cracking open a window. People shouldn't cram into cars with the windows rolled up, he says, and officials need to keep crowding down in mass transit vehicles like trains and buses.

Morning Briefing: Pressure On Our ICUs And The 'Spirit Of California'

Updated
Published

We wish the news was brighter and we believe that in the (hopefully) not so distant future it will be. But here's the deal: Yesterday was yet another day of escalating confirmed COVID-19 cases, rising hospitalizations and more deaths.

So it's no real surprise that the message from local leaders remained steady: Stay home. Stay safe.

There were also signs of progress and hope.

Gov. Gavin Newsom toured a Bay-area fuel cell plant that made a fast pivot to refurbishing critically needed ventilators. That's where 170 non-functioning ventilators that came out of the national stockpile had just been sent.

They're quite literally working on those ventilators right now. And Monday they'll have those ventilators back into Los Angeles, all fixed. That's the spirit of California. That's the spirit of this moment. Take responsibility, take ownership and take it upon ourselves to meet this moment head on.

Here’s what happened in the past 24 hours:

Here’s what we’re covering today:

  • Josie Huang looks at reports of bullying of Asian American children and what is, and isn't, being done about it.
  • We'll look at the question of whether the virus that causes COVID-19 can spread through the air — and why there's some disagreement on the answer.
  • There's been another delay for in-person canvassing for the 2020 Census.
  • Itxy Quintanilla got some pro-tips from rangers on what we can learn from mountain lions about social distancing.
  • And, of course, we'll be on the lookout for new numbers and new press conferences.

And now, your moment of Zen:

A California poppy blooms last Spring in the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve.

Frederic J. Brown / AFP via Getty Images)

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.
  • Have a tip about news on which we should dig deeper? Let us know.

The news cycle moves fast. Some stories don't pan out. Others get added. Consider this today's first draft.

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