Your No-Panic Guide To The Coronavirus In LA
DO NOT UPDATE THIS STORY. IT HAS BEEN REDIRECTED: GO TO:
UPDATED: April 9, 2020
So, here's where we are: All Californians are under orders to stay home unless they are working essential jobs or seeking essential services. We don't know yet what the new normal is going to be, but we do know it's going to be like this for a while.
Meanwhile, the United States now has the highest total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the world. And the local number of confirmed cases continues to rise as we move into the next phase of this pandemic.
One important way we can all combat fear is to be prepared and knowledgeable. That's what we are here to help you do. So here's our promise -- we will:
- Do our best to bring you the most recent and accurate information
- Explain what's happened -- and what happening --in clear language (but let us know if we are falling short)
- Continue to update this comprehensive guide as new information becomes available
- Answer your questions
This is what we know so far. Scroll, search, or jump to a section.
Timeline And Map | Officials And Orders | About The Virus | Symptoms, Testing, Treatment | Masks And Products | Food Safety | Daily Life | Enforcement | Money, Finances, Help | Hospitals | Schools | City And County Operations | Homelessness | More Q&A | Ask A Question
On January 30, a "Public Health Emergency of International Concern" was declared by the World Health Organization over an outbreak of a new, deadly, novel coronavirus which began in Wuhan City, China.
On March 4, L.A. County declared a local and public emergency, and Gov. Gavin Newsom made the call to declare an emergency for the state of California the same day.
On March 11, WHO made it official: COVID-19 is a pandemic.
On March 26, the United States surpassed China as the country with highest total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the world.
On April 9, the global total was more than 91,000 deaths and over 1,530,000 confirmed cases. The local total was more than 195 deaths and over 7,500 confirmed cases.
You can track the global scope and spread with this map and list from Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. And these U.S. numbers from the CDC are updated daily.
The map below also shows cumulative confirmed cases, deaths, and recoveries. It's updated in near real-time throughout the day. Zoom out to see more of the world.
WHAT'S THE WORD FROM L.A. OFFICIALS?
The main message from local health officials is: don't panic. But L.A. is taking significant precautions.
A local public health emergency was declared by county officials on March 4.
L.A. County announced the first death from COVID-19 on March 11.
Confirmed cases and deaths are being tracked on the public health department's website.
On March 15, L.A. County officials said they were closing all offices to the public, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti issued a moratorium on evictions, and an executive order banning dine-in restaurants and entertainment facilities went into effect at midnight.
L.A. County followed with a similar list of actions, closures, and restrictions the following day, including strongly discouraging gatherings of more than 50 people.
The "Safer at Home" emergency order was issued by L.A. County and city leaders on March 19. It includes the following directives:
- Residents should remain at home.
- Do not gather in enclosed spaces with more than 10 people.
- Close all non-critical businesses (that can't operate remotely) until further notice.
"I want to be clear about this," said L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti during the announcement, "that the only time you should leave your home is for essential activities and needs -- to get food, care for a relative or a friend or child, get necessary health care," and the like.
Jobs that are critical to safety, health, and the security of city, as well as an "economy of recovery," are exempt. Examples Garcetti cited:
- Emergency personnel
- First responders
- Government employees
- Medical personnel
- Vital infrastructure workers
- Health care providers
- Transportation services
- Grocery stores
- Restaurants (but for take-out or delivery only)
- News outlets
- Hardware stores
- Gas stations
- Banks and financial institutions
- Plumbers, electricians
- Dry cleaners and laundromats
But social distancing must be enforced in all of these cases.
You are allowed to go outside, take a walk, and enjoy an open space. But some outdoor areas are off-limits because of crowding. And even in outside, you are required to stay 6 feet away from people.
On March 25, Garcetti said the stay-at-home order would likely be in place until May.
On March 27, Garcetti tonight used what may have been his strongest language yet to urge people to heed his stay-at-home orders.
"These aren't suggestions, I remind you, these are orders. We are in the midst of a pandemic," Garcetti said.
The city punctuated that message with a piercing emergency alert sent moments after his nightly address reminding people to keep staying at home, and to only go out for essential activities. L.A. County sent an alert as well.
Official guidance on general mask-wearing arrived on April 1. Garcetti made the recommendation that all residents wear face coverings whenever they're in public and interacting with others.
About a week later, that was changed to a requirement. Shoppers and store employees must wear face masks starting April 10.
Meanwhile, L.A. County public health officials said it was "a critical week" in determining whether the local spread of COVID-19 would start "skyrocketing." The county's public health director, Barbara Ferrer, urged residents to stay indoors, saying "this would be the week to skip shopping altogether" if you already have enough supplies in your home.
WHAT'S THE WORD FROM THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA?
On March 15, Gov. Gavin Newsom called for far stricter guidelines in the state. He asked all seniors and people with underlying conditions to isolate at home, restaurants to operate at diminished capacity, and wineries, bars, and brewpubs to close.
In a March 18 letter to President Trump, Newsom projected that more than half of the population of California will be infected with the virus over an eight-week period. He asked for $1 billion in federal funding and requested the hospital ship USNS Mercy be sent to Los Angeles.
On March 19, about an hour after the L.A. County orders were announced, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered all residents of California to stay home or otherwise remain at their place of residence in order to slow the spread of the virus. There are exceptions for people who maintain critical infrastructure in 16 key sectors, including:
- Commercial Facilities
- Critical Manufacturing
- Defense Industrial Base
- Emergency Services
- Financial Services
- Food and Agriculture
- Government Facilities
- Health Care and Public Health
- Information Technology
- Nuclear Reactors, Materials, and Waste
- Water and Wastewater Systems
WHAT'S THE WORD FROM THE WHITE HOUSE?
Note: President Trump usually opens coronavirus news briefings 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.
Voluntary, nationwide guidelines were announced on March 16, initially set to last for 15 days.
President Trump and the White House coronavirus task force asked Americans to close schools, avoid groups of more than 10 people, homeschool kids where possible, avoid discretionary travel, and refrain from visiting bars, restaurants, and food courts.
Meanwhile, a Level 4, "Do Not Travel" global health advisory was issued by the U.S. State Department advising all citizens to "avoid all international travel due to the global impact of COVID-19."
At a March 23 briefing, Trump said the REAL ID deadline will be postponed and that surgical and N95 masks would be distributed by FEMA. An executive order was also announced by Attorney General William Barr making certain items illegal to hoard.
On March 27, Trump announced at a briefing that he invoked the Defense Production Act, "to compel General Motors to accept, perform and prioritize federal contracts for ventilators." He put it differently on Twitter that day.
The task force said on March 31 that Americans should brace for 100,000 or more people to die in the coming months in the pandemic. Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx renewed pleas to observe precautions. Birx said she's "reassured" by what L.A. has accomplished with social distancing in terms of how other cities might be able to respond as well.
On April 3, Trump said hospitals treating uninsured coronavirus patients would be reimbursed by the administration with funds from the economic relief package. The president also announced new CDC recommendations that people wear non-medical cloth face coverings when out in public.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said eligible taxpayers could receive stimulus payments within two weeks (others have said some checks could take months).
WHAT IS SARS-CoV-2?
SARS-CoV-2 is in the family of coronavirus pathogens that usually cause short-lived illnesses.
They get their name because of how they look, which is spiny around the edges, like a crown. And some coronaviruses are scarier than others. Scientists are still trying to figure out how dangerous this new (or "novel") coronavirus is.
"Most people get infected with these viruses at some point in their lives," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Symptoms may include fever, cough, difficulty breathing, runny nose, and headache. But they can vary in severity. Thousands of people have died, but "other patients have had milder illness and been discharged," the CDC said.
HOW IS THE CORONAVIRUS SPREAD?
Coronaviruses generally jump from person to person on the droplets from coughs and sneezes.
The CDC's current best guess is that the incubation period for novel coronavirus -- that's the time from exposure to when symptoms first start showing up -- is somewhere between two and 14 days.
We still don't know how easily this coronavirus can spread through the air.
L.A.'s public health director Barbara Ferrer said the virus is too big and heavy to linger in the air, while others are investigating the possibility of spread via "bioaerosols." The World Health Organization says it doesn't seem to linger or travel more than 3 feet, but at least one medical expert says it's way too soon to know that.
Another question is viral load, or the amount of the virus in your system. It's still unclear whether viral load can affect your chances of getting sick, and recent studies suggest that it could affect the severity of your illness, Ferrer said.
HOW LONG DOES IT LIVE?
It depends on where it is.
The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is "stable for several hours to days in aerosols and on surfaces," according to a study from National Institutes of Health, CDC, UCLA and Princeton University scientists in The New England Journal of Medicine.
detectable in aerosols for up to three hours
up to four hours on copper
up to 24 hours on cardboard
up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel
IS THIS CORONAVIRUS LIKE SARS OR MERS?
MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) and SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) are two members of the coronavirus family that tend to make people sicker. "About 3 or 4 out of every 10 patients reported with MERS have died," according to the CDC. And SARS was responsible for a global outbreak in 2002-2003 that killed 774 people.
"The novel coronavirus is more genetically related to SARS than MERS," said Dr. Nancy Messonnier.
But scientists don't know yet if novel coronavirus will act the same way as SARS or MERS; they're using information from both pathogens to guide their research.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF COVID-19?
Common symptoms can include: low-grade fever, body aches, coughing, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat.
Severe symptoms can include: high fever, severe cough, shortness of breath, persistent chest pain or pressure, confusion, bluish lips or face.
These Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure. However, some people infected with the virus have no symptoms.
And there also may also be additional symptoms beyond what we've listed above.
WHAT DO I DO IF I THINK I MIGHT HAVE IT?
If you think you might have been exposed, or have COVID-19 symptoms, call your doctor for next steps. If you experience severe symptoms, get immediate medical attention.
If you are caring for someone with COVID-19 at home, here are some things to keep in mind. These tips come from UCLA's Dr. Robert Kim-Farley with the Fielding School of Public Health (and a former staffer with the CDC):
- Make sure they wear a mask
- Make sure you wear a mask
- Monitor for trouble breathing
- Monitor for persistent chest pain or pressure
- Call their healthcare provider if symptoms become more severe (especially if they're elderly or have pre-existing conditions).
- Clean surfaces frequently
- Try to keep the patient in one bedroom, and ideally one bathroom
- Don't shake the laundry before washing (to avoid aerosolizing virus particles that may be on their clothes).
- Restrict unnecessary visitors
- Wash hands frequently
IF I HAD CORONAVIRUS CAN I GET IT AGAIN?
Barbara Ferrer, director of the L.A. County Department of Public Health, told us: "We don't have conclusive evidence on that."
She said that "in general you can be protected when you've had an infection, but not always. We're just going to have to wait for the researchers and the scientists to let us know what they're finding out about that."
IS THERE A VACCINE? WHAT'S THE TREATMENT?
There is no vaccine yet. Scientists started working on a plan in January, before COVID-19 even had a name. A number of companies have been working on vaccine development, and clinical trials are underway. The timeline is unknown, but experts have been weighing in with estimates.
For treatment, at least one SoCal hospital is experimenting with transferring blood plasma. The hope is that antibodies from a recovered patient will attack the virus and help a sick person heal.
The president has promoted chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine as a possible treatment. Quite a bit is known about the existing drugs, but what isn't known is if they're effective at treating the coronavirus.
"Currently there are no FDA-approved drugs specifically for the treatment of COVID-19," according the FDA's FAQs.
The CDC's guidance for for clinical management includes, "infection prevention and control measures and supportive care, including supplementary oxygen and mechanical ventilatory support when indicated."
IS IBUPROFEN SAFE TO TAKE FOR A COVID-19 FEVER?
There's currently no established link between ibuprofen and coronavirus complications, but there is a lot of conflicting information being circulated.
The World Health Organization officially weighed in on Twitter on March 18 with this guidance, in all its double negative glory:
Based on currently available information, WHO does not recommend against the use of of ibuprofen.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN QUARANTINE, ISOLATION, AND SOCIAL DISTANCING
All are actions designed to stop or slow down the spread of a contagious disease. Here's how they differ, according to the CDC and Harvard Health:
- Quarantine: a separation for people who have a contagious disease, have symptoms consistent with a contagious disease, or were exposed to a contagious disease. A person's movements are restricted when they are quarantined
- Isolation: a less restrictive separation that keeps people who are sick away from people who are not sick
- Self-Isolation: a voluntary action to stay at home by people who are sick (or are likely to be sick) and are experiencing mild symptoms
- Self-Quarantine: a voluntary action to stay at home by people who may have been exposed but are not experiencing symptoms
- Social Distancing: keeping your distance from other people. The distance reduces the risk of breathing in droplets that are produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or, in some cases, breathes. It can also mean cancelling events or gatherings (the term "physical distancing" means the same thing.)
But you can't just show up.
If you have symptoms or think you've been exposed, call your doctor. You'll need "a provider directive to get tested," L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said.
Initially, the city/county tests were limited to people most at risk: 65 and older with symptoms, symptoms and underlying chronic conditions, and people under mandatory quarantine due to confirmed exposure.
But on April 6, the restrictions changed. L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said anyone could apply.
He said testing was not guaranteed, but anyone who wanted a test "in the city of Los Angeles or one of the other 87 cities or unincorporated areas of the county" could now apply online.
You'll be asked some questions on the eligibility form, and then you'll be asked for your contact information for next steps.
Also, state health officials are waiving all co-pays for COVID-19 testing, no matter which insurance plan you're on (and if you don't have health insurance, the window for enrolling is now extended to June 30).
But, testing or not, if you experience severe symptoms, get immediate medical attention.
IF I'M AN ASYMPTOMATIC CORONAVIRUS CARRIER, HOW LONG AM I CONTAGIOUS?
You could be contagious for up to 14 days, according to Dr. Shruti Gohil, University of California Irvine Medical Center.
However, Gohil said, since asymptomatic carriers may not know when Day 1 was, it's "encouraging to know ... their ability to spread the disease is far less than those who are actively symptomatic."
SHOULD I BE WEARING A MASK IN DAILY LIFE?
The first official guidance on general mask-wearing arrived on April 1.
L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti made the recommendation that all residents wear face coverings whenever they're in public and interacting with others:
We are now recommending that Angelenos use homemade face coverings when they're in public and interacting with others.
To be clear, you should still stay at home, this isn't an excuse to suddenly all go out, you need to stay at home.
But when you have to go out, we are recommending that we use non medical grade masks.
- Surgical masks: These are medical grade, like the N95, and they are reserved for medical professionals.
- Homemade cloth masks: These are bandanas, scarves, hand-sewn masks and the like and should be worn by everyone else, including workers providing other essential services, such as those in food retail and vital infrastructure jobs.
Do "not take the ones that are reserved for our first responders," he said. "This could save, or cost, a doctor or nurse their life."
On April 7, Garcetti changed the mask-wearking recommendation to a requirement: shoppers and store employees must wear a face mask starting April 10.
This applies to grocery stores, drug stores, restaurants, hotels, taxis, rideshare vehicles, construction sites, and other non-medical essential businesses.
Employers are required to provide face masks to employees, or reimburse employees for purchasing them (they will also be required to allow employees to wash their hands every 30 minutes).
Riverside County also issued broad guidance on March 31 for residents to cover their nose and mouth when leaving the house for essential errands. Their recommendation echoed the others, that face coverings do not need to be hospital grade, like the N95 mask.
The CDC officially recommended cloth masks for everyone on April 3.
But not kids under 2-years-old. It's a suffocation risk.
- Cloth masks are required when you're in public and there are other people.
- Use face coverings in public that are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators. There is a shortage of those, even for medical professionals.
- If you are sick or caring for someone who is sick you should all be wearing masks.
- Maintain 6-feet of physical distance even when wearing a mask.
Some Clorox and Lysol products are on the list, but so are dozens and dozens of others.
Here's what the EPA says about killing the virus:
"Coronaviruses are enveloped viruses, meaning they are one of the easiest types of viruses to kill with the appropriate disinfectant product. Consumers using these disinfectants on an enveloped emerging virus should follow the directions for use on the product's master label, paying close attention to the contact time for the product on the treated surface (i.e., how long the disinfectant should remain on the surface)."
As far as keeping your hands virus-free, the CDC says handwashing for at least 20 seconds is still your best bet. If that's not possible, it recommends using an "alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol."
IS IT SAFE TO TOUCH TAKEOUT & DELIVERY FOOD CONTAINERS?
"There is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food," according to the CDC, but the virus can live on surfaces.
To reduce risk, go contactless when getting meals delivered.
In whatever app you're using (or on the phone), ask your driver to leave your food outside your door. You might have to leave the message as a note.
Once you've brought it in, put the food on your own plates, throw out the packaging and wash your hands for 20 seconds before eating.
And tip well.
If you're doing takeout in Los Angeles, look for new signage about special parking zones for to make pickup easier.
ARE FARMERS MARKETS ALLOWED TO OPERATE?
Farmers markets were initially deemed "essential," and allowed to stay open.
So, operations were suspended in the city of Los Angeles, and any market that wished to reopen was required to submit a social distancing plan for approval.
The city is keeping a list of L.A. markets that were given permission to reopen.
Santa Monica has also instituted changes to its farmers markets.
WHAT'S THE SAFEST WAY TO SHOP AT THE GROCERY STOREWe made a guide with everything we know so far about COVID-19 and food (and what we don't know), including tips for minimizing risk at the grocery store:
1. Try to go at a less busy time. Generally, earlier is better, and weekdays seem to be less busy than weekends.
2. If you're a senior or in another high-risk group, take advantage of the "senior shopping hours" many stores have introduced.
3. Wear a mask if you have one. California is expected to issue some official guidance on mask-wearing soon.
4. Wear latex gloves if you have them, be careful about tearing, and avoid touching your face when they're on.
5. If you don't have gloves, use hand-sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. If you don't have either, use an plastic produce bag to touch certain items or produce.
6. Before you touch your cart, wipe it down with an antiseptic wipe.
7. While you're in the store, stay at least 6 feet away from other shoppers.
8. While you're in the store, touch as few things as possible.
BACK TO TOP
SHOULD I STILL TRAVEL?
No. You should not travel right now.
But also, you're not allowed to travel right now if you live in L.A.
There's a city order.
And a county order.
And Gov. Newsom's similar, statewide order is also in effect.
All the orders require that you stay in your place of residence.
You are allowed to leave if your job, or the thing you need to do, is categorized as "essential." For example: picking up food is OK; planned vacations are not.
Or you can read our crib sheet: Here's What You Can And Can't Do Under The Stay At Home Order.
ARE ALL EVENTS CANCELED IN CALIFORNIA?
Basically, yes. That's why we just struck through all this earlier guidance.
The goal is to slow the spread of COVID-19 by "flattening the curve" and not overwhelming the medical infrastructure.
Even in nature, you are required to stay 6 feet away from people.
On March 22, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti tweeted that over the "weekend we saw too many people packing beaches, trails and parks. So we are closing sports and recreation at @LACityParks and closing parking at city beaches. That doesn't mean gather elsewhere. This is serious. Stay home and save lives."
On March 27, L.A. County fully shut down all public beaches, including bathrooms, piers, promenades, and bike paths, and L.A. city shut down all trails, including Griffith Park.
After another crowded weekend, Garcetti closed the Silver Lake Meadow, too.
Quick links to the dedicated COVID-19 response pages:
- Los Angeles City Department of Recreation and Parks
- Los Angeles County Department Of Parks And Recreation
IS PUBLIC TRANSIT STILL OPERATIONAL?
Public transit is still operational across L.A. County for people working essential jobs or seeking essential supplies. However most agencies have reduced service.
L.A. Metro made a first round of schedule changes in mid-March because of plummeting ridership. Another decrease is planned to begin on April 19. For schedule changes, check service advisories online and rider alerts on Twitter.
Also, for safety, Metro has moved to rear-door boarding for all its buses (riders who need wheelchair ramp access can still use the front door), and required the transparent barrier up front be closed as a layer of protection. At rail stations, custodial staff are disinfecting touch points.
And one small note for a small railway: Angels Flight has stopped carrying riders up and down Bunker Hill until further notice.
Elsewhere in municipal transit:
- LADOT, which has waived fares on its bus routes, is requesting that passengers wear a face covering while riding. Rear-door boarding is in effect. Commuter Express and Community DASH bus lines are running "modified services." The DASH Observatory/Los Feliz route is now a Los Feliz-only line. The on-demand shuttle service LAnow has been suspended. The electric car-sharing service Blue LA, has also been suspended. Check for updates on schedules and service changes.
- Foothill Transit is also not collecting fares right now and rear-door boarding is in effect. Service is reduced.
- The Antelope Valley Transit Authority has cut maximum occupancy and a "reduced Saturday Schedule" is in effect Monday through Sunday. Several routes have been canceled.
- Big Blue Bus in Santa Monica halted service on a few of its lines and moved to rear-door boarding. Weekday service on most bus routes has also changed "until further notice," the agency said. Check for updates on schedules and service changes.
- Culver CityBus waived fares for riders and rear-door boarding is in effect. Certain bus lines are running Saturday service timelines during the week.
- Both Pasadena Transit's buses and its on-demand shuttle service for seniors and people with disabilities remain in service, and the city has waived fares.
- Bus services in the cities of Glendale and Burbank are operating as normal.
- Santa Clarita Transit has reduced service across its system. Cancellation and schedule updates are available online.
CAN I STILL RIDE AN ELECTRIC SCOOTER OR BIKE?
Lime pulled its scooters off the streets and suspended service across California.
Bird, Lyft, and Jump said they've increased cleaning and disinfecting of their respective scooters and e-bikes. They're also encouraging riders to clean scooters and e-bike handles with disinfecting wipes before and after riding.
We know people are buying guns, but we also know that most people aren't trained to use them, much less in high stress situations. And that can have disastrous consequences (even for people who are trained).
With a gun in the home, you're more likely to do something unjustifiable than to use it properly in self-defense. And while you're here imagining what you might need to defend against, keep in mind that people don't typically react to disasters like they do in the movies.
"We tend to come together as humans and work together and help each other," sociologist Joseph Trainor told us previously. During an earthquake, for example, it's much more likely you'd be rescued from a fallen building by a fellow victim than by an emergency response team, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva's take: "Buying guns is a bad idea." And "particularly, now that you have a lot of people home," he said during a news conference on March 16. "Cabin fever sets in. You've got a crowded environment. ... Weapons are not a good mix."
Here's more on the case for not panic-buying a gun.
"This behavior is irresponsible and selfish," Garcetti said during a news briefing on March 24. "It may serve a few people for a moment, but it will put all of us at risk for a long time."
His message to non-compliant businesses: "This is your chance to step up and to shut it down, because if you don't, we will shut you down."
He announced an enforcement plan with escalating measures:
- The "Safer at Home" Business Ambassadors Program was established, made up of city workers and volunteers from the mayor's Crisis Response Team.
- Non-essential, non-compliant businesses will be visited by program team members and asked to voluntarily comply.
- If that doesn't happen, the LAPD and City Attorney will be notified.
- The City Attorney will also contact businesses about violations before moving to stronger enforcement.
- Stronger enforcement could mean citations, and repeat offenders could face misdemeanor charges.
- The city could also shut off water and power to those businesses.
HOW DO I REPORT A NON-COMPLIANT BUSINESS, GATHERING, OR OTHER VIOLATION?
To report non-essential businesses that have not closed, and/or order violations (like: social distancing, hand washing, disinfecting, sharing items, etc.) at exempt businesses and construction sites:
To report gatherings and/or other public health violations:
- Call the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health at (888) 700-9995
- Email Ehmail@ph.lacounty.gov
- Submit an online complaint form
WHAT IF I CAN'T PAY MY RENT OR MORTGAGE BECAUSE OF CORONAVIRUS?
Residential eviction in California is banned until May 31, 2020.
Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order on March 27 that prohibits enforcement by law enforcement and courts.
If you can't pay all or some of your rent because of COVID-19, declare it in writing no more than seven days after rent is due, and save any related documentation about illness, termination, etc. Once lifted, repayment is due "in a timely manner."
L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said the city was expanding its eviction moratorium as well, which covers both commercial and residential units. Tenants will now have a full year to pay back any rent they can't afford to pay during the current pandemic.
L.A. County also has a countywide eviction moratorium in effect prohibiting 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.
However, it may not be enough without rent forgiveness. Some experts and advocates say people won't be able to save the money needed for back rent, and that could lead to future evictions and homelessness.
For people who own a home: some banks have agreed to 90-day mortgage waivers.
CAN I GET HELP FOR MY SMALL BUSINESS?
The City of Los Angeles's Economic and Workforce Development Department (EWDD) announced low- to no-interest loans, ranging from $5,000 to $20,000. The loans -- which will help anywhere from 550 - 2,200 qualifying businesses -- will be offered without interest for up to a year, or at 3-5% interest for up to five years. Here's how to apply.
Another $349 billion in small business loans was included in the coronavirus stimulus package, which was signed into law on March 27. The legislation, according to the Wall Street Journal, calls for the money to be distributed using the existing framework of the SBA's 7(a) program. The application process began April 3.
Here are some answers to commonly asked questions about getting government help.
HOW DO I APPLY FOR UNEMPLOYMENT BECAUSE OF CORONAVIRUS?
You can file a claim with EDD due to cut hours, unpaid leave, termination, and other coronavirus-related reasons. There is now expanded access for many people who don't typically qualify for unemployment benefits.
TELL ME ABOUT THE $2 TRILLION CORONAVIRUS STIMULUS PACKAGE
It's the largest emergency relief package in U.S. history. It was passed by Congress and signed into law on March 27.
Broadly, the plan includes:
- Direct payments to Americans
- An aggressive expansion of unemployment insurance
- Billions in aid to large and small businesses
- A new wave of significant funding for the healthcare industry
Some of the specifics:
- Checks will be sent to Americans in middle class and lower income levels. Despite promises from President Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that the funds will be distributed within "three weeks," it will likely be months before it hits anybody's bank accounts, according to experts.
- Extended unemployment for laid-off workers.
- Raising the maximum unemployment insurance benefit by $600 per week. This applies to small business workers, large businesses workers, people who are self-employed, and gig economy workers.
- More than $150 billion for the healthcare system, including funding for hospitals, research, treatment, and increasing supplies of ventilators, masks and other equipment.
- $150 billion to state and local governments to address spending shortages related to the coronavirus pandemic.
- $350 billion for small businesses impacted by the pandemic in the form of loans; some of those loans could be forgiven.
WHERE CAN I GET OTHER KINDS OF HELP?
There have been rapid, historic changes to daily life.
If you're struggling to get your basic needs met, please see our help list. There's also a growing number of organizations offering loans, grants, and other types of financial assistance. There's food. Some places are offering breaks on medication delivery, and there are resources for rent and eviction issues.
WIC is also allowing online applications for the special supplemental nutrition program.
And there's also a public, crowd-sourced Los Angeles resources list.
WHAT'S THE NEW DEADLINE FOR TAXES?
You now have until July 15 to file your California and federal tax returns.
CAN MY JOB ASK ME TO STAY HOME AND NOT PAY ME?
If you've been asked to self-quarantine because you or a family member is sick, you should be entitled to use your sick time for at least part of it, though your employer cannot force you to do so.
- In L.A., workers get at least 48 hours of sick time/year.
- In Santa Monica, it's 40 or 72 hours of sick time/year, depending on the size of the business.
- In California, the minimum total is 24 hours of sick time/year
Also, on March 18, President Trump signed into law a coronavirus relief bill that requires employers with less than 500 employees to provide two weeks of paid, virus-related sick leave and family leave.
The California Department of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) has more answers related to workplace laws in the age of coronavirus.
HOW LOCAL HOSPITALS ARE RESPONDING
Officials are urging people to stay at home, even when they're sick, unless they believe they need hospital-level care.
- The county is working to set up set up telemedicine services
- L.A.'s convention center is being converted into a field hospital
- The Navy hospital ship Mercy arrived at the Port of Los Angeles, immediately adding one-third more hospital beds to city's current capacity. The goal of sending the Mercy is to decompress our hospital system and to make room for an expected surge of coronavirus patients.
- Local hospitals prepared by running emergency triage drills, installing temporary tents and facilities, and re-training on the use of protective equipment
On March 23, Gov. Gavin Newsom said California needs 1 billion gloves, 595 million masks, and two million shields for three months of protection for health care workers.
On March 27, Newsom has said we need 50,000 additional hospital beds to handle the crisis. Plans call for 30,000 of those to come through the existing system while 20,000 are being procured by the state, including beds on the Mercy.
The state also said it was looking to tap more potential staff to deal with the expected surge in COVID-19 patients.
On April 8, it was announced that California will invest more than $1.4 billion into personal protective equipment (PPE) for both medical workers and frontline employees (including grocery store workers). The state has also secured contracts for 200 million masks from various providers.
The state continues to look for hand sanitizer, testing reagents, and other supplies to help in the fight against coronavirus, Newsom said. So far, 2,300 individuals and companies have filled out applications on the state's site for contributing supplies.
WILL HOSPITALS ACCEPT HOMEMADE MASKS?
It depends on the hospital, but more are starting to.
There's a list of U.S. facilities accepting donations, created by students at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health, that includes a number of SoCal hospitals. The list has specifics about quantity, patterns, delivery instructions, and more.
"Go ahead and do it," the chief medical officer at Keck Hospital of USC told us. "If we need to use it, we'll use it."
None of the hospital officials we spoke with said their personnel have started using homemade masks, but they worried that day will come.
Casual stitchers and sew shops around L.A. have been responding to the need.
At Suay Sew Shop in Frogtown, the goal is to make and distribute 10,000 masks in a week -- and then continue that pace. A first-grade teacher we spoke to said that even if hospitals didn't want her homemade masks they could be used by pharmacy technicians, grocery employees, or delivery people.
The CDC has issued guidance on homemade masks, saying they can be used while treating patients as "a last resort," and ideally under a plastic face shield similar to what you'd see on a welder.
I'M A MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL. HOW CAN I HELP?
L.A. Maryor Eric Garcetti announced an online portal.
The state is also looking for health care staff to assist with the projected surge in coronavirus patients.
The effort also includes health people who may have retired in the last five years or are currently working to get licensed or relicensed.
HOW SCHOOLS ARE RESPONDING
All 80 public school districts in L.A. County are closed, including the second largest K-12 district in the United States, and the third largest district in California
On March 13, Los Angeles Unified School District canceled all in-person classes, sending half a million kids home -- effective Monday, March 16 -- with coursework moved online.
LAUSD teachers received an email from Superintendent Austin Beutner saying the district would be closed for two weeks "while we evaluate the appropriate path forward."
Gov. Gavin Newsom said on March 17 it's "unlikely" that schools will reopen before summer break. State officials have promised to suspend K-12 standardized testing this year.
On March 23, Beutner announced a revised timeline for LAUSD: schools will stay closed until at least May 1.
On March 31, California's top elected education looked deeper into the calendar. In a letter -- which you can read on the news site EdSource -- state superintendent Tony Thurmond urged local school district leaders to prepare to beef up their online course offerings through the end of the academic year.
So, what about summer school? Thurmond wasn't ready to talk about that at an April 1 briefing: "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."
HOW DO I BORROW A SCHOOL COMPUTER OR IPAD FOR DISTANCE LEARNING?
LAUSD is spending $100 million on devices and hotspots so that no student misses out on online lessons. District leaders promised a laptop or tablet computer to every student who needs one to learn during the the shutdown.
Schools are contacting students to distribute the devices, but parents who want to make a request can contact the district's hotline: (213) 443-1300. The request will be routed to the proper school.
HOW DO I ACCESS SERVICES THAT MY CHILD USED TO GET AT SCHOOL?
Superintendent Austin Beutner said common special education services like physical, occupational, and speech therapies were being providing "via teleconferencing." Here is the district's FAQ on providing support.
Many families also depend on schools for meals -- we've been compiling a list of places that will provide food while schools are closed.
And LAUSD also opened a hotline so "students and families can call for help to manage fear, anxiety and other challenges related to COVID-19." Counselors and mental health professionals will answer hotline calls in English and Spanish: (213) 241-3840.
HOW PRESCHOOLS AND DAY CARE PROVIDERS ARE RESPONDING
Some preschools and day care centers are still open. The state did not order them to close, instead, that decision was left up to individual providers and municipalities.
L.A. County said it would allow it if kids are cared for in small groups that stay separated.
Guidelines were issued by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health for early care and education providers who continue to operate. They include:
- No more "circle time"
- Caring for kids in groups of 12 or less -- no new kids can be added to an existing group, and mixing between different groups is prohibited
- Keeping groups in different rooms at larger facilities
- Adult providers must stay with the same group of children
- Practicing social distancing by restricting visitors to facilities
- Spacing out children's activities and focusing on individual activities like coloring and puzzles
Updated guidance from the Department of Social Services reduced the number of children in groups to 10, and the number is even lower if infants are part of the group.
The new rules are in effect until June 30.
Also, by executive order, there is now state-funded child care for essential workers --health care professionals, emergency responders, law enforcement, and grocery employees.
The order also allows care providers to take advantage of new provisions of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to make sure kids get nutritious meals at little or no cost.
ARE PARKING TICKETS STILL BEING ISSUED?
Street-sweeping tickets are not being issued in L.A. city residential areas. There's a hold on towing and citing vehicles with expired registration. Citations for driver's with expired licenses are on pause. There's also an extension on all deadlines for payment due until June 1.
The temporary changes will be in place until April 19, and are subject to extension.
WHAT ARE L.A. EMPLOYEES DOING TO FLATTEN THE CURVE?
City and county leaders announced new rules for themselves at a press conference on March 12. Protocols include:
No more than 50 visitors in city buildings at a time
Events and conferences held on city property must have fewer than 50 people.
Non-essential travel by city and Los Angeles Sheriff's Department employees is canceled
City Hall is closed to all non-city employees
Hand-washing and sanitizing facilities will be available at all city properties
911 operators will screen callers about COVID-19 exposure to help reduce the risk to first responders
- County Emergency Operations Center moved to Level 1 (which means it will be fully staffed with leaders and experts from every county department, as well as with outside experts)
On March 23, Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez announced the cancelation of in-person council meetings until officials can figure out how to hold them safely.
According to Garcetti's stay-at-home order, government employees "working within the course and scope of their public service employment" are exempt. They are instructed to "follow any current or future directives issued by the Mayor."
All of the city's first responders, gang and crisis intervention workers, public health workers, emergency management personnel, emergency dispatchers, law enforcement personnel, related contractors, and others employed with emergency services providers are also exempt.
WHAT'S HAPPENING AT THE COURTS?
Los Angeles Superior Court Presiding Judge Kevin C. Brazile announced March 16 that the largest unified trial court system in the United States will shut down for three days due to the coronavirus. The Superior Court was already scaling back, but this is a full stop.
- The trial courts are scheduled to reopen March 20 for "essential or emergency matters"
- All civil and criminal trials are suspended through April 16
- No jurors should report (and no additional prospective jurors will be summoned) for jury service until April 16
HOW ARE WE HELPING OUR HOMELESS NEIGHBORS?
On March 18, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti activated an emergency power granted to him by the city charter in order to provide special assistance to the homeless population.
The power he cited is known as the Disaster Service Worker Program, a measure which gives the mayor the ability to redeploy any city employee to combat a crisis, including to house the homeless.
Garcetti laid out several steps the city will take to ramp up the opening of emergency shelters, including:
- The city's Department of Transportation will deliver 6,000 beds at 42 recreation centers across L.A. (however, because cots need to be 6 feet apart, the combined capacity could end up closer to 2,000 beds)
- On March 19, the city announced the locations of the first 13 recreation centers to operate as temporary shelters
- Beds are being provided by the Red Cross
- Together with the Bridge shelter program, that means the city can bring in 7,000 unsheltered Angelenos, Garcetti said
Garcetti said the city will follow the social distancing guidelines required by public health officials, and not try to house more people in the shelters than they can contain.
On March 22, the CDC weighed in on the practice of clearing of homeless encampments, or "sweeps." Its guidance is: don't -- unless individual housing units can be provided: "Clearing encampments can cause people to disperse throughout the community and break connections with service providers. This increases the potential for infectious disease spread."
On March 23, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that millions in emergency grants would be distributed to cities and counties for hotels to house the homeless.
On April 8, L.A. county officials announced an effort to shelter thousands of homeless people in up to 15,000 hotel rooms so they'll have a safe place to isolate during the pandemic.
"They are not sick when they go in. These are for people who are not experiencing symptoms, giving a place to shelter so they don't contract anything," said Heidi Marston, the interim director of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.
AND A LOT OF OTHER QUESTIONS, ANSWERED
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Edited and skippered by Lisa Brenner. With contributions from Robert Garrova, Paul Glickman, Lisa Brenner, Megan Erwin, Brian Frank, Megan Garvey, Kyle Stokes, Adriene Hill, Mike Roe, Matt Tinoco, Stephanie Ritoper, Elly Yu, Libby Denkmann, Elina Shatkin, Ryan Fonseca, Jackie Fortier, Jacob Margolis, Josie Huang, Jessica Ogilvie, Emily Guerin, Stephan A. Slater, Carla Javier, and the entire KPCC/LAist newsroom.
This story has been updated dozens of times as news continues to break on this national emergency. It was originally published on January 28, 2020.