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Here's your daily audio briefing (updated weekdays):

We Should All Wear Homemade Masks. Here's How To Make One From A T-Shirt

These are homemade masks, made with a polypropylene liner, sewn by Tina Martinez, wife of Take Two host A Martinez. (Courtesy of A Martinez)

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.

The guidance from officials up until recently had been to only wear a mask if you were sick or caring for someone who was. But on Wednesday night LA Mayor Eric Garcetti took it to the next level and announced that all Angelenos should be wearing one when out in public. The county followed suit. Not the N95 models — save those for the healthcare workers. Garcetti said homemade ones are just fine.

It’s a smart move, says University of San Francisco data scientist Jeremy Howard.

It’s mainly to help others... Think about it this way: we know the spread is from the micro droplets of saliva when you are talking. If you have something over your face, obviously it will hit the mask and not the person you are talking to.

Howard wrote about the benefits of DIY masks in a recent Washington Post Op-Ed and says, for the general public, one made of a T-shirt and a paper towel will work. You can see him make one here.

Howard compared the data from Japan with New York City. Japan is a country of 127 million people. They’ve had limited testing and are practicing poor social distancing, but they’ve only had 70 deaths due to COVID-19. Compare that to New York City, which is a metropolis of 8 million. That city has been shut down and more than 1,500 people have died. The difference, says Howard? Japan’s use of masks.

But remember: wearing a face mask will not make you invincible. We all still need to practice physical distancing. Howard says it’s like wearing a hard hat on a construction site, a seatbelt in a car, or a condom during sex.




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 Boosts Frequency Of Red Lights, Launches Food Pickup Zones For Cars


With Los Angeles and the nation in economic crisis and our streets eerily empty, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced new measures tonight:

  • To slow drivers tempted to speed, traffic signals will be set to a "late night schedule," meaning red lights will cycle through more frequently.
  • To help restaurants survive, special parking zones for temporary food pickup are being rolled out with new signage in Los Angeles.

These new measures were announced by L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti in his nightly address on the city's response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The first measure is designed to help restaurants that may be struggling because they can no longer serve dine-in clients and now rely on people picking up orders for themselves or deliveries for others. Garcetti said he was aware a lack of parking was keeping some people away from certain restaurants.

The new food pickup zones come with signage that is being provided free of charge, and businesses can sign up to apply for that designation at

The second measure is a response to reports of people taking advantage of fewer cars on the road to speed. Fortunately, collisions are actually down, according to the mayor. Garcetti said the area's seen a 59% decrease in vehicle crashes and that statewide data shows crashes been halved since stay-at-home orders were put into place.

But Garcetti also said he wanted to provide further protections for pedestrians and drivers, and that the more frequent red lights are intended to slow people down. He reminded drivers that speeding is still against the law and that you'll still be ticketed.


Garcetti and L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer appeared together to deliver a now-unified message that the city and county are now both recommending people use homemade face coverings if they must go out.

Garcetti said you should "keep your respiratory droplets to yourself" and that making a facial covering can be simple:

"They can be made from bandanas or scarfs, things like this that you have at home, folded, we're seeing all sorts of amazing innovative ways where people can take just a simple scarf and a couple rubber bands and make your own, or order them online."

But Garcetti and Ferrer stressed that covering your face does not mean you can now freely go out and visit closed parks and beaches.

For runners, Ferrer clarified that you don't necessarily need to cover your face if you go alone, but runners — and any other people who go out — still need to maintain 6 feet of physical distancing at all times.


Garcetti made a point not to use the term "mask." In fact, Ferrer said "there isn't a single person in the general public that needs an N95 mask."

"These are fitted masks. They're really only needed for people who are performing certain procedures in a medical setting or in a first responder setting. So please, please, please — I beg you — don't go and look for an N95 mask. They're in short supply, and we have to make sure that our health care workers are able to access them and have them so that they can continue to protect all of us and provide us all with services when we or the people we love are sick and need health care."

Surgical masks are also in short supply. These are masks worn by essential workers at assisted living facilities, nursing homes, shelters, congregate feeding programs, home visiting for frail and medically ill people, Ferrer said.

What's an N95 mask look like? This:

A member of the medical staff listens as Montefiore Medical Center nurses call for N95 masks and other critical PPE to handle the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on April 1, 2020 in New York. (Bryan R. Smith/AFP via Getty Images)

And here's a surgical mask:

Picture taken in San Salvador on April 1, 2020 of a surgical mask, which became one of the most demanded and scarce products in the market due to its relevance to cover nose and mouth for the containment of the pandemic caused by COVID-19. (Yuri Cortez/AFP via Getty Images)


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California Logs Record Number Of Unemployment Claims

A sign hangs on the door of Kim Chuy noodle shop on March 18. (Josie Huang/LAist)

According to new data released today by the U.S. Department of Labor, the state of California processed close to 879,000 unemployment claims during the week of March 22 through 28.

The sharp spike in joblessness due to the coronavirus pandemic has seen more than a million Californians filing for unemployment since non-essential businesses started shutting down in mid-March.

As the California Legislative Analyst’s Office notes, that represents about 6% of the state’s total workforce.

The recent spike is already matching the total increase in unemployment California experienced during the entirety of the Great Recession. And experts say claims will most likely keep flooding in for weeks to come.

Governor Gavin Newsom is encouraging laid-off workers to visit a new website,, which aims to connect job-seekers with 70,000 openings in high-demand industries like healthcare, agriculture, logistics and groceries.


Urgently Seeking Blood, FDA Eases Restrictions On Gay Men Who Want To Donate

Signs are posted at an intake area during blood drive last month in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

The FDA today significantly shortened the length of wait time for accepting blood donations from:

  • Men who have had sex with a man
  • Women who have had sex with gay or bisexual men
  • Those who have recently received tattoos and piercings

That time period has been reduced to three months from 12 months.

The change comes as the U.S. confronts a severe drop in the blood supply that officials describe as urgent and unprecedented.

Until a lifetime ban was lifted in 2015, gay men had been prohibited for more than 30 years from giving blood at all. The new policies were reached, according to the FDA, following recent studies and epidemiological data concluded that eligibility criteria can be modified without impacting the safety of the blood supply.

The FDA statement says:

"Maintaining an adequate blood supply is vital to public health. Blood donors help patients of all ages — accident and burn victims, heart surgery and organ transplant patients and those battling cancer and other life-threatening conditions."

While LGBTQ advocates welcome the change, they argue the wait times should be eliminated entirely.


He Fought Off COVID-19. Can His Blood Help Others?

Jason Garcia donating his blood plasma at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, CA. (Courtesy of St. Joseph Hospital)

St. Joseph Hospital in Orange completed its first blood transfer Wednesday from a recovered COVID-19 patient to a patient sick with the disease. It joins a handful of hospitals across the nation experimenting with transferring blood plasma in the hope that antibodies from a recovered patient will attack the virus and help a sick person heal.

Dr. Timothy Byun, who led the transfer, says he believes St. Joseph is the first hospital on the West Coast to try this experimental treatment.


In mid-March, Jason Garcia, a 36-year-old San Diego man, was diagnosed with COVID-19. Just a week ago, he made a full recovery and was released from isolation by San Diego County’s health department.

He posted his triumph on Facebook and that’s when a friend told him that St. Joseph Hospital was looking for a recovered patient’s blood plasma. So on April 1, Garcia drove up to Orange and donated his plasma.

That same day, the plasma was transferred into an intubated patient who’s in the hospital’s intensive care unit, Dr. Byun said.

One plasma donation can be used for three patients. The hospital plans to do the second and third transfers soon.

“There's gonna be a need for people to know if this treatment works and is viable,” Garcia said.


We won’t know the results just yet because only a handful of hospitals in the U.S. have started trying plasma transfers on COVID-19 patients.

But it's not a new concept. Historical records show that doctors transferred blood plasma to patients during the 1918 flu pandemic, and could have resulted in a reduction of deaths.

Blood donation centers are asking people who have recovered from the pandemic disease to donate.



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No-Panic Guide: Watch Our Conversation With ER Doc Glenn Fernandez


Emergency rooms are a vital part of the front-line response to the COVID-19 epidemic. On this week’s No-Panic Guide Live, Dr. Glenn Fernandez talked to us about a day in the life of an ER doctor at this unprecedented time, and shared how he decompresses after a long shift.

Watch the candid conversation that was live earlier today with host Bruce A. Lemon Jr.


Nursing Home Workers Union Pleads For More Protections

An employee wearing a full body protection suit works inside a senior care home in Germany on March 31, 2020. (Ronny Hartmann/AFP via Getty Images)

As state infection control specialists try to contain a coronavirus outbreak at a nursing home in San Bernardino County, employees at nursing home facilities say they don’t have the protective equipment they need to keep themselves and residents safe.

“Unfortunately, Yucaipa... It is the tip of the iceberg,” said April Verrett, President of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 2015, which represents thousands of nursing home workers in California.

Verrett said she's pleading with the federal government to get more masks, gowns and gloves to workers at nursing homes. Health care workers in the U.S. have increasingly demanded answers about why their counterparts in other nations are routinely in far more protective gear than they're wearing here (see the image above from Germany as one example.)

Fifty-one residents and six staff members at the Cedar Mountain nursing home in Yucaipa have tested positive for COVID-19. Two infected residents have died.



No One Wants A Photographer Near Them Right Now, So Here's What They're Doing Instead

A highly confined, socially distant family photo. (Innis Casey)

It's a hard time for, well, basically everyone right now. As organizations pivot their business models to adjust to a changing, coronavirus-related reality, artists are also trying to refocus.

Photographers are getting particularly crafty as they attempt to document their subjects and the world around them during this dramatic moment in time.

But photography is a profession that often requires getting into people's personal spaces and faces, which is off limits right now. So they've taken to the windows.

The result is a growing body of work that comes pre-framed, so to speak.

We talked to some photographers who walked us through their new processes — and shared some of their images.



WATCH: White House Coronavirus Task Force Briefing


The White House coronavirus task force will brief the press and the public today at 2:00 p.m. PST on their ongoing response to COVID-19. Watch it here, live.

Note: President Trump usually opens these news conferences with his own remarks. His comments in a number of past briefings have later been contradicted by information provided by other officials. He has also repeatedly used stigmatizing language to describe COVID-19. Following the president's remarks, health experts and other adminstration leaders provide additional updates.



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If School Campuses Remain Closed, Will There Be Summer Classes?

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond discussed the California Department of Education's response to COVID-19 during an online media check-in on April 1, 2020 (Screenshot of California Department of Education Facebook page)

As more districts announce plans to keep campuses closed through the end of the academic year, some parents have wondered: will my kids have to go to classes during the summer?

California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond got asked a similar question at a media briefing on Wednesday.

“Are there any special considerations or plans being given to summer school instruction to make up for time lost?”

Here’s what Thurmond said:

To be clear, we’ve not waged into a conversation about summer school because this year is not over. And while our campuses are closed, we want to be clear; school is still in session. California – unlike some states that have said there will be no education – California has said we’re not ready to give up on our students.

We know that there are challenges that we must mount, but we think we owe it to every one of our students to give them everything that we have as it relates to getting an education through distance learning. The state has given us the pathway to make this happen, by providing full funding to our school districts, so that all of our school staff can be paid, by providing additional resources to support distance learning, and to keep our staff at our schools safe. This is California showing that there is a pathway to get this done.

And so for that reason, we are not focusing on the summer. We’re focusing on right now, and how do we make sure that for now in our work together that we provide a quality education to our students the rest of this school year.

The California Department of Education is not currently planning on using summer school to make up for campus closures because, in the department’s eyes, school isn’t actually closed, even if campuses are. Thurmond emphasized that schools should still be happening via distance learning – though there are still challenges like the digital divide to overcome.

You can watch the whole check-in – where Thurmond also discussed the $100 million in emergency funding that will go to local educational agencies around the state, special education (more on that later), and approaches to closing the digital divide – here on the California Department of Education’s Facebook page.


Diary From The COVID-19 Frontlines: ‘The Biggest Fear Is About Dying.’

Face masks, in short supply across the U.S. (Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images)

“Diary From The Covid-19 Frontlines” is an ongoing series of dispatches from health care workers.

I’ve been speaking this week with a nurse at a major hospital in Los Angeles, who recently bought a tent to sleep in her backyard. She asked not to be identified, for fear of repercussions at work.

“I’m stressed out,” she told me. “Part of that is because I have two little kids.”

“I shower at work, a lot of nurses are changing in their garages, trying not to bring it in the house,” she said.

She says at her hospital, preparations have been underway for when the surge of patients will come; the emergency department has been staffed with more nurses than usual.

“Even if it’s not busy, they’re keeping us on just because, in case we’re going to get it,” she said.

She says curtains are being changed, and rooms are being regularly decontaminated.

“Honestly, it’s probably the cleanest it’s ever been,” she said. Fewer people are also coming into the ER for minor issues such as abdominal pain.

But all of this hasn’t really stopped her from worrying about what could happen to her and her colleagues. “The biggest fear is about dying... that’s why people are so angry about the PPE.”

She says she and many of her colleagues believe the coronavirus is in fact airborne, despite that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the virus is thought to be transmitted through “droplets.”

“I don’t really trust the CDC,” she said. “They’ve been changing their tune based on the level of PPE available.”

Until recently, she said, there were restrictions on the usage of personal protective equipment, but nurses are now allowed to wear whatever PPE they feel is necessary.

The hospital's PPE supply is “still under a watchful eye,” she said, but she no longer has to make a plea for it.

Since she works in the emergency department, she says she’ll be dealing with the virus for months to come, and that’s why nurses like her have been so angry about the shortages in personal protective equipment.

“COVID here in California is going to be here a long time,” she said. “There’s just no way it’s going to hit for two weeks and be done.”


13 More Deaths In LA County; Majority Of Those Hospitalized Have No Underlying Conditions


L.A. County's top health official had a stark reminder at today's coronavirus briefing: Two-thirds of all the people currently hospitalized here with COVID-19 have no underlying health conditions. They're also dispersed across all age groups.

This is the point that L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer continues to make, anyone of any age can potentially end up with a serious illness requiring hospitalization.

Her message was underscored by the most recent statistics:

  • 13 new deaths — one person was aged 41-65, while the other 12 were over 65, and 11 of those had underlying conditions
  • 78 deaths total, for a mortality rate of 1.9%
  • 86% of those who died had underlying health conditions
  • 534 new cases reported today
  • 4,045 total cases countywide, with more than 1,000 in the last 48 hours
  • 9 people who are homeless have now tested positive
  • 900 positive individuals have been hospitalized — that's 22% of all positive cases
  • 5 people under 35 are currently in the ICU, and a couple of them have no underlying conditions
  • 298 people across 54 institutions have tested positive — that's assisted living facilities, nursing homes, supportive living jails and prisons
  • 11 people have died in either a skilled nursing facility or an assisted living facility
  • 7 people have tested positive at a county jail — six staff members and one inmate
  • 6 positive cases at Lancaster State Prison
  • 2 homeless shelters have confirmed cases — that includes two staff members and one guest


Ferrer also joined L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti in effectively recommending that anyone who goes out in public could benefit from covering their face. However, there were some strong caveats: namely, don't buy up all the masks, but instead make your own.

Her language may have been less direct, reflecting unclear research on the benefits: "It may be appropriate if you're out and you're not able to do all the social distancing that we've asked you to do." That said:

"It is probably a good idea, given the evidence that says that you could be asymptomatic and still infectious, for you to cover your nose and mouth. But we would ask that you go on online and you see how to make your own mask. They're very simple to make."

Making your own means more medical grade masks will be available for those who need them most — the very same health care workers who may save your life. In addition, Ferrer said the professional versions, like N95 masks, require special fitting to ensure maximum protection, so you have to know what you're doing. So just don't.

Another caveat: don't get complacent. Social distancing is still the most important protection.

"Even if we're masked, I don't want people to get a sense of security: 'Oh, I've covered my nose and my mouth, and now I can just be out and about.' That is not what we're saying. You must keep that social distance. The masks will not protect you 100%, particularly from infecting others, which is really all that they are appropriate for."

Also: wash your hands.

And steel yourself for what is likely to be at least several more weeks of social distancing. Feeling overwhelmed? Ferrer had a message for you:

"Please don't lose hope. And please don't stop following all of the directives that you are following right now to slow the spread of COVID-19. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all that you're doing."


This story will be updated.


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California Struggles To Keep Up With Unemployment Applications; Face Masks Recommended

File: California Gov. Gavin Newsom. Screenshot of Newsom's March 21 news briefing

Gov. Gavin Newsom is delivering his daily update on California's response to coronavirus. You can watch the live video above and follow this post for updates.

There are 816 people with COVID-19 in the ICU in California, with 1,922 in the hospital system overall, Newsom said.


When asked about more specific guidance on masks being offered in the City of Los Angeles and Riverside County, Newsom said that face coverings are not a replacement for social distancing. However, he said the state does believe it will be beneficial to have a face covering if entering a space where social distancing is difficult, including grocery stores. He reiterated the need to preserve N-95 face masks and surgical masks for health care workers.


Newsom noted that there is a growing backlog in coronavirus testing, with results taking up to 12 days; 59,500 tests are waiting to be processed. He also said the state continued to have a limited number of tests available. But they plan to provide what he said would be "very good news" in the next couple days on improving the state's testing capacity.


The state has been overwhelmed by the demand for unemployment insurance, according to Newsom, but is working to address applications in a timely fashion. Newsom recommended going to the state's site as the easiest way to apply.


Newsom announced a new jobs website,, a partnership between the company Bitwise with LinkedIn and Salesforce. Using 37 questions, it helps match people, based on their skill set, with open jobs. The site currently lists 70,000 jobs and will likely have more than 100,000 listed in the next few days, according to Newsom.


The state is offering a one-year reprieve on sales tax, allowing small businesses to keep up to $50,000 in sales tax they've collected for the next 12 months before having to pay it to the state, Newsom said.

Newsom said he wanted to highlight two small business loan programs. One of them allows small businesses to take a $10,000 loan up front as applications are being processed, if the business has been economically affected by the coronavirus.

The other is part of the recent $2.2 trillion CARES program passed by the federal government, allowing businesses to take out loans up to $10 million if they continue to pay their employees. Those applications open starting this Friday, April 3. Much of that loan can ultimately be paid for by the federal government, Newsom said.

The state is making $50 million available for micro-loans for people who wouldn't otherwise be eligible for small business relief through other programs.

Newsom said that "small businesses" can include the self-employed, as well as independent contractors.

The governor said he was satisfied with the current guidance for construction continuing at this time.


Social distancing is essential, Newsom said, and the state would highly encourage those not observing it to do so, including in houses of worship. If they refuse, the state will apply social pressure and advance additional enforcement, though they will first look to local leaders to enforce those policies, according to Newsom.


Newsom said that the state will be making more detailed announcements on California's response to homelessness during Friday's press conference.


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.

Tracking COVID-19: Worldwide Cases Now Top 1M; More Than 3,500 In LA County


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 Friday, April 3.



The U.S. is now reporting more than 226,000 of the over 981,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide as of 11 a.m. Thursday.

An uptick in California cases came as the U.S., Italy, and now Spain are now all reporting more confirmed COVID-19 cases than China, where the outbreak began late last year, but has since greatly slowed.

On Wednesday afternoon, L.A. County reported 513 new cases and 11 new deaths. Combined with Tuesday's new cases, that's more than 1,000 cases just in the last 48 hours. There are now 3,518 total cases to date in L.A. County.

While the state and county have not given an update on mask usage, officials from the city of L.A. are now recommending that all residents wear masks whenever they're in public and interacting with others.


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 12:45 p.m. Thursday, here are the total confirmed cases for the 10 countries currently facing the worst outbreaks:

Country Confirmed Cases Deaths Recovered Last Update
United States 236,339 5,648 8,861 4/2 12:20 PM
Italy 115,242 13,915 18,278 4/2 12:20 PM
Spain 110,238 10,096 26,743 4/2 12:19 PM
Germany 84,600 1,097 21,400 4/2 12:24 PM
China 82,432 3,322 76,565 4/2 12:19 PM
France 59,929 4,514 12,548 4/2 12:19 PM
Iran 50,468 3,160 16,711 4/2 12:19 PM
United Kingdom 34,164 2,926 191 4/2 12:19 PM
Switzerland 18,827 536 4,013 4/2 12:19 PM
Turkey 18,135 356 415 4/2 12:19 PM

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 12:45 p.m. Thursday, worldwide, the Johns Hopkins tracker is reporting:

  • 1,002,159 total confirmed cases
  • 51,485 deaths
  • 208,949 recoveries


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 about 12:30 p.m. Thursday, the newspaper is reporting California has:

  • 10,018 confirmed cases
  • 215 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.]


Speaking at a media briefing Wednesday afternoon, L.A. County's Public Health director Barbara Ferrer so far, 65 people testing positive for COVID-19 have died countywide. While the vast majority — 88% — have had underlying health conditions, COVID-19 has also killed some people who appeared to be generally healthy, Ferrer said.

Ferrer said the local mortality rate has held at 1.8%. She said that's higher than the national average but on par with larger jurisdictions.

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.

As of Wednesday, 733 people have been hospitalized, or about 21% of all positive cases.

Current as of Wednesday


  • 3,518 cases
  • 65 deaths

* [Includes numbers released by Long Beach. See more from L.A. County]


  • 606 cases
  • 10 deaths

* More from Orange County


  • 429 cases
  • 13 deaths

* More from Riverside County


  • 160 cases*
  • 5 deaths*

* More from Ventura County


  • 254 cases
  • 6 deaths

* More from San Bernardino County


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)


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.


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.

LAX Passenger Traffic Down 90% Amid Pandemic Travel Slump

Passenger traffic through LAX is down more than 90 percent over this time last year as travelers cancel trips amid the coronavirus outbreak Los Angeles World Airports

The coronavirus outbreak has brought business at the nation’s second busiest airport to a near halt. Passenger traffic through LAX on March 31 was down 90% from the same day last year, an official told board members of the Los Angeles World Airport — the governing body of LAX — during a video conference meeting Thursday.

That’s a drop from 104,433 passengers in 2019, to a mere 7,966 passengers on Tuesday.

LAX management is working to keep its employees and those who work for concessions and at construction sites at a safe distance from each other. The airport is also trying to reduce expenses, so it has cut or reduced bus and shuttle trips, and combed through contracts to see which can be altered, postponed or canceled during the pandemic.

Beginning in May, airlines will publish greatly reduced flight schedules, LAWA Interim CEO Justin Erbacci told the city’s Board of Airport Commissioners. Airlines will continue with their currently published schedules through April, however, they are canceling many flights because so few passengers are flying, he said.

If you are flying, be sure to check with your airline to make sure the flight is still scheduled, and be prepared to make backup plans in case of a cancellation.

Some LAX changes:

  • Flyaway bus service to LAX has been reduced from Van Nuys and suspended from Long Beach and Hollywood.
  • Airport and concessions employees who used the Flyaway bus have to find other ways to get to LAX. Those who drive in are temporarily being allowed to park in the central terminal parking structures to limit their crowding onto employee parking lot shuttles.
  • The airport is allowing a maximum of 15 people at a time on shuttle buses for employees, terminal-to-terminal rides and rides to the LAX-it rideshare lot.
  • Lower passenger numbers mean airport concessionaires are struggling as well. One business has closed because an employee was diagnosed with COVID-19. The airport did not name that business.
  • Rental car companies are doing very little business and they are having difficulty finding places to park all those un-rented cars. Airlines are also working with LAX to find places to park unused jets. LAWA is working to help find space to park planes and cars.
  • Only a few hundred international travelers are coming into LAX per day. It’s so few that all health screening of those passengers has been moved to the Bradley International Terminal. Previously some screening was also being done in other terminals that receive international passengers.

The Latest Box Office Horror Show? A Total Collapse of Movie Ticket Sales Due To COVID-19

Regal Cinemas in downtown Los Angeles on March 18th, 2020. (Chava Sanchez/ LAist)

Before the coronavirus pandemic, scary films were doing pretty well at the box office. But with movie theaters nationwide locking their doors, the real horror story playing at the multiplex is the total collapse of ticket sales.

Total returns for the first quarter of 2020 were down 25% compared to the first three months a year ago, a decline of about $610 million. If you look just at the month of March, when most movie chains and independent theaters started closing, revenue was down 74% from last March, according to Comscore, which tracks theatrical admissions.

Adam Aron, the head of the nation’s biggest chain, AMC Entertainment, said this week he hoped some of his screens could re-open by mid-June. But even under that optimistic scenario, there won’t be a lot of new movies to show.

Most of the major studios have postponed the release dates of their presumptive 2020 blockbusters, including “Black Widow,” “Wonder Woman 1984,” “Mulan,” “F9,” “A Quiet Place Part 2” and the James Bond sequel “No Time to Die.”

What’s more, movie fans cooped up in their homes have been flocking to streaming and video-on-demand sites. Viewing hours on such platforms surged 25% over the last two weeks, according to research firm Conviva. And those patrons might not be inclined to return to theaters even months down the road.

John Fithian, the head of the National Association of Theatre Owners trade group, has said that exhibitors both large and small face the risk of bankruptcy. The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that lenders to AMC, which has furloughed almost all of its 26,000 employees, have begun to look for ways to restructure the chain’s $4.9 billion in debt.


L.A. County Jails Gearing Up For More COVID-19 Cases

The Los Angeles County Twin Towers Correctional facility is located in downtown Los Angeles. (Andrew Cullen for LAist)

The director of L.A. County correctional health says her staff is planning for a “worst-case scenario” involving rapid COVID-19 spread in the jails.

So far, about 50 inmates have been tested for the virus, and one has tested positive. The director, Jackie Clark, said her staff has been working since early February to fight against a COVID-19 outbreak in the crowded jail system.

“We already have looked at what location we would use, what staff would be needed, what supplies and medications that we would need,” she said.

Clark says the best way to stop the spread of the virus is to release as many people in custody as possible. The L.A. County Sheriff’s Department has released close to 3,000 inmates in recent weeks.

“Our intake has been a third of what it normally is,” Clark said.

For those who aren’t released, Clark said her staff is working to identify areas where patients with COVID-19 symptoms and people they’ve been in contact with can be isolated.

And Clark says she’s established a protocol for when inmates say they’re not feeling well -- the inmate dons a surgical mask, and the deputy in charge wears an N95 mask, while a nurse comes to the site.

She says the jail system has 42 single beds for people who need to isolate while waiting for test results. Another area will be used for positive cases.

In LA's Homeless Shelters, Social Distancing Is Nearly Impossible

Interior of the Bethel AME homeless shelter in late March, 2020. (Courtesy Paul Klees)

It's the task of Los Angeles' homeless shelters to offer as many people as possible a place to sleep at night. Up to 12,000 men and women currently stay in shelters on cots lined up in rows.

But in the time of COVID-19, that setup means social distancing is near impossible. And thousands of vulnerable people are living in situations where the risk of infection is high.

Until Tuesday, Paul Klees, 53, was one of them.

"Everybody is crammed in, crammed in next to each other," he said by phone at the end of March. "And you know, it's out of an abundance of an offer to help that we're full."

Klees said conditions inside the shelter were ripe to spread illness. He said there was no soap, no sanitizer and irregular access to shower facilities. Even more concerning, he said the residents were asked to leave the shelter during the day, something corroborated by another resident.

"We're sent out during the day to interact with the community, and we come back in the evening," said Jeffery Sharp, 39. "The conditions are almost a petri dish."


5 Key Facts Not Explained In White House COVID-19 Projections

This transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 — also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19 — isolated from a patient in the U.S. Virus particles are shown emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. (NIAID-RML)

President Trump and his top scientific advisers on the coronavirus task force gave a much-anticipated presentation Tuesday night, laying out the data behind the president's recent shift in tone regarding the outbreak, including his decision to extend national social distancing guidelines through April 30.

Specifically, officials pointed to a computer model released weeks earlier by Imperial College London that, at the time, predicted that if no action were taken to slow the spread of the virus, about 2.2 million people in the United States would die over the course of the outbreak.

Then administration officials described separate modeling that predicts that by imposing strict social distancing measures, the toll from the current wave of infections can be reduced to somewhere between 100,000 and 240,000 deaths.

Although officials implied that this estimate was based on the administration's own in-house modeling, they did not provide further details about those calculations. Instead, officials discussed a model from an outside group – the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, or IHME — which produced projections very similar to the administration's findings, according to Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the coronavirus task force.

NPR contacted two researchers who helped put together IHME's model. We learned of some assumptions made by the model that administration officials did not mention.

Here's what those assumptions are and why they matter.

The president's guidelines are not what makes the difference ...

IHME's modelers say they did not take into account the impact of the president's social distancing guidelines — first unveiled on March 16 as a 15-day plan, now extended through April 30. That's because the president's recommendations are not binding. And in states where governors haven't imposed strict social distancing rules of their own, it's not clear to what extent people are following the White House call to stay home as much as possible. The recent throng of vacationers on Florida's beaches certainly suggests that plenty of people are not heeding the president's guidelines

"Even if there's a national order, we have to follow what the state is doing," says Ali Mokdad, a professor of health metrics sciences at IHME. "People will follow the rules of their own state."

... state action is what matters

IHME's model forecasts the outcome for each state by taking into account not just which measures state officials have imposed, but also the date on which officials imposed the measures and how much transmission was already underway by that point, as measured by the number of COVID-19 deaths. The model also considers how strict the measures are, with the greatest weight given to states that have imposed all three of the following options: closing educational facilities, closing nonessential businesses and issuing stay-at-home orders. The model is then adjusted based on what portion of a state's residents those various rules have been applied to. For instance, are the measures limited to certain cities or counties? Or are they statewide rules?

Governors who haven't issued statewide social distancing rules will do so in a week.

A number of governors haven't issued any of the strict social distancing rules the model takes into account. Other governors have issued such rules for select areas of their state only.

IHME's model assumes that seven days from now, all states that haven't already done so will impose the full range of social distancing rules statewide.

States will keep the social distancing rules in place through June 1

By contrast, Trump's presidential guidelines apply through April 30 only. The president has indicated that he may extend that date as the situation warrants.

But at the briefing Tuesday, officials did not specify how long their modeling assumes social distancing measures would remain in place. Chris Murray, IHME's director, says the modeling team is working on a projection for exactly "what sort of rebound we will see" if social distancing were to be eased after April 30 instead of June 1. But he says there's no question it would be significant.

If and when the current wave of infections is suppressed, the U.S. will remain vulnerable.

Technically this is not an assumption in the model, but a prediction: Notwithstanding the large number of people who will get sick and even die over the roughly three months the model projects it will take to snuff the current wave of infections, the vast majority of Americans will not contract the virus. This means they will not have immunity against future waves of infection, which could be sparked by cases in the U.S. that remained undetected or by infected visitors from countries where the virus is still circulating widely.

"Our rough guess is that come June, at least 95% of the U.S. will still be susceptible," says IHME's Murray. "That means, of course, it can come right back. And so then we really need to have a robust strategy in place to not have a second wave."


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.

LAUSD Opens Hotline To Help ‘Manage Fear, Anxiety And Other Challenges Related To COVID-19’

(Chrishna/Flickr CC)

Starting today, the Los Angeles Unified School District is adding another resource for the school community while campuses are closed: a hotline “students and families can call for help to manage fear, anxiety and other challenges related to COVID-19.”

The phone number is (213) 241-3840. That’s also the number for the district’s Student Health & Human Services division.

According to a district press release, “counselors and mental health professionals” will answer calls at that number from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, in both English and Spanish.

According to a message from LAUSD board member Jackie Goldberg, the hotline will take calls during spring break, too. Spring break starts on Monday, April 6 and goes until April 10.

“EVERYONE is under stress,” Goldberg wrote. “There is NO shame in asking for help if you need it! We all need to be physically and mentally healthy and strong to get through this.”

“The absence from school creates hardship – loss of stability and friendships, loss of learning and loss of a big part of our students’ social safety net,” Superintendent Austin Beutner wrote in the press release.



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.

USC Calls Ex-Admissions Officer A 'Rogue Former Employee'

(Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

Hiu Kit David Chong's attorney describes him as a "big booster of USC."

USC officials call him a "rogue former employee."

Chong, a former USC admissions officer, admitted as part of a plea agreement that he took $40,000 from six Chinese nationals to help them get into USC graduate programs, even though they did not have the grades.

Chong burnished their applications with faked college transcripts, letters of recommendation and personal statements. Three of his clients got in.

After he left his job as an assistant admissions director in 2016, he continued his scheme for another two-plus years through the academic consulting company he ran out of Monterey Park.

The case comes a year after wealthy parents were revealed to be bribing their kids’ way into USC.


LA County Paramedics Are Responding To More Calls Because Of COVID

Paramedics wearing facemasks work behind an ambulance at the Garfield Medical Center in Monterey Park last month. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

L.A. County emergency medical officials have seen an uptick in calls related to the coronavirus.

Los Angeles County Fire Department Capt. Ron Haralson says that since mid-March his department has responded to an average of about 80 calls a day from patients suspected of having COVID-19: “We’re meaning flu-type symptoms — the coughs, the fevers, the seasonal type things that at first appearance appear to be your typical flu.”

Since March 15, the number of people that paramedics throughout L.A. County saw who had a fever spiked dramatically. That number was double, or on some days, triple the number of fevers first responders saw in patients the same time last year.

Haralson says L.A. County paramedics are also protecting themselves with masks, goggles and gowns. Protocol calls for only one rescuer to go inside a home to assess the patient. He said:

“That’s in an effort to minimize our exposure as first responders and also protect the public and the patient. We’re seeing an approach that’s a little more slow and deliberate as far as when we get there.”

He says while the department is seeing more calls related to fever and other COVID-related symptoms, other emergency calls are down as people are staying indoors.

Here's a closer look at how the response to COVID-related symptoms compare to last year's flu season. The orange lines show 2020 and the blue lines show 2019.


WATCH: Wednesday's Top Headlines In 5 Minutes


I'm Adriene Hill, managing editor here. Our newsroom is working together with PBS SoCal and KCET to to review the headlines of the day and try to understand how COVID-19 is reshaping life in Southern California.

On Wednesday, PBS SoCal Chief Creative Officer Juan Devis and I talked with:

About this project: The KPCC + LAist newsroom is working together with PBS SoCal and KCET to get our reporting out to a wide audience.

Morning Briefing: Staying Safe, Sane And In Compliance


Our state and county stay-at-home orders came swooping in fast, and they’re being updated and amended almost daily. Since Mayor Eric Garcetti’s initial mandate, folks in L.A. have been scrambling to stay safe, stay in compliance and — perhaps most difficult— stay sane.

We have the stories of some such challenges coming up today, from a man who’s staying at a homeless shelter and worried about an apparent lack of soap, to LAX officials’ ongoing emergency response, to one reporter’s exploration of what could happen if the Big One hit right now.

Here’s what we’re covering today:

  • Robert Garrova explores what happens at skilled nursing facilities, like Cedar Mountain in Yucaipa, when residents and staff test positive for COVID-19.
  • Head Starts, preschools and transitional kindergartens are closed, and teachers are trying to translate their lessons to a variety of digital apps, reports Mariana Dale.
  • Matt Tinoco talks to a man currently spending nights at a South L.A. homeless shelter, who reached out to us to tell us social distancing is not being enforced, and there appears to be no soap on the premises.
  • Josie Huang has the story of a former USC admissions official who’s agreed to plead guilty to a charge of wire fraud, having allegedly secured admission to the university’s graduate programs in exchange for thousands of dollars in cash.
  • After a 6.5-magnitude earthquake hit Idaho earlier this week, Jacob Margolis looks at what would happen if the Big One struck L.A. while we’re battling coronavirus.
  • Mike Roe talks with photographers who have been doing socially distant portraits, shot through windows and from far away — a sign of our times.
  • L.A. County Fire officials are seeing a sharp uptick of calls from people complaining of fever and other COVID-19 symptoms, reports Elly Yu.
  • Sharon McNary covers an L.A. Board of Airport Commissioners meeting, convened specifically to discuss COVID-19 concerns.

Your COVID-19 cheat sheet: What's happened in the past 24 hours

Here are some non-COVID-19 reads:

  • As of this week, about one in three American households have completed the census. But in L.A. County, a Census Bureau map of individual tracts shows that participation is starting to look segregated.
  • Theatrical lighting designer Elizabeth Harper has created the looks for plays at the Geffen Playhouse, the Mark Taper Forum, South Coast Repertory and more. She told us how she got where she is today.

And now, your moment of Zen:

This picture was sent to us via tweet by reader @now_cowan:

(@now_cowan via Twitter)

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.