Coronavirus In LA: Your No-Panic Guide To Daily Life And The New (And Changing) Rules
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UPDATED: May 8, 2020
Life in L.A. is changing again, and it's just the beginning.
Californians spent nearly two months under orders to stay home unless working essential jobs or seeking essential services. Businesses shut down, schools went online, nature was closed, and an astonishing number of people lost their jobs.
The road to reopening will be paved in waves.
This first set of restriction changes are here, and they fall under "Phase 2" of Gov. Gavin Newsom's state plan. His model hinges on six metrics, and phases on phases. L.A. County has a plan too, but that's structured more as stages and batches. And L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti also has a plan. His is based on five key pillars. If this all sounds confusing, that's because it is.
Here's where we currently are:
- Some non-essential retail shops in L.A. County are now allowed to reopen with curbside pickup ONLY (or delivery). The actual shopping part still needs to happen online or over the phone. Mask wearing and physical distancing is still in effect.
- City and county hiking trails and golf courses also got the green light to reopen. Mask wearing and physical distancing is still in effect there too.
Meanwhile, the U.S. still has the highest number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the world, the local numbers are continuing to rise, and we are still publishing and updating this massive resource guide.
For months we've been doing what we can to help combat fear, anxiety, frustration, and confusion by:
- Bringing you the most recent and accurate information
- Explaining what's happened/happening in clear language (but let us know if we're falling short)
- Continuing to update this comprehensive guide as new information becomes available (it's now basically impossible to count how many updates we have made.)
- Answering your questions
Everyone here in the LAist newsroom takes our essential work as journalists very seriously. Most of us have been working from home since March 11. We're here for the long haul.
We remain committed to helping you understand the changing reality, and confront the recovery ahead, while we all do our best to slow the spread of this deadly disease.
This is what we know, so far.
Scroll, search, or jump to a section.
Timeline & Map | Officials & Orders | About The Virus | Symptoms, Testing, Treatment | Masks & Products | Food Help & Food Safety | Daily Life | Enforcement | Rent, Loans, Unemployment | Other Kinds Of Help | Hospitals | Schools | City & 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 11, the U.S. became the nation with the most confirmed COVID-19 deaths.
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?
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 out of the house and interacting with people.
About a week later, that was changed to a requirement. Shoppers and store employees must wear face masks starting April 10.
L.A. County echoed with a face covering ordinance a few days later, bringing some uniformity to the patchwork of mask rules across the 88 cities. You now have to wear a mask when shopping anywhere in L.A. County.
County health officials have also extended the stay-at-home order to May 15. They laid out new data that shows current social distancing practices are working -- but we need to do better.
We are bending the curve, but if we stop physical distancing, the projection is that "virtually all residents in Los Angeles County would have been exposed or infected with COVID-19" by mid-summer, said the director of L.A. County's Department of Health Services.
Testing was still only being recommended for people who were symptomatic.
Garcetti said he doesn't see large gatherings like concerts happening again this year, but relative normalcy may come sooner. Similar to Gov. Gavin Newsom's six strategies, the mayor laid out five key marks for the city to hit in order to lift the stay-at-home order:
- Widespread virus and blood testing
- Real-time disease surveillance to detect outbreaks faster
- Rapid, aggressive response to potential outbreaks
- Increase hospital capacity
- Ongoing research and development
Based on the current modeling, mid-May is the projection to begin rolling back the current restrictions, said Barbara Ferrer, director of the L.A. County Department of Public Health at a briefing on April 21. But, she said, there is no "magic day."
Ferrer said on April 22 that CDC staff members would be helping the health department improve infection control practices at skilled nursing facilities, and that approximately 40% of all deaths countywide have been at institutional facilities.
On April 27, Ferrer said that county residents living in areas with high rates of poverty are dying at a rate about three times that of communities with low poverty rates.
"This data is deeply disturbing and it speaks to the need for immediate action... this would mean increased testing, better access and connection to health care and support services, and more accurate culturally appropriate information about COVID-19, and we're joining with our partners in the community to make sure this happens."
Garcetti added "it's not really about a date, or how few cases you have -- it's about the infrastructure you have to handle opening up."
A day later he announced a major testing change: all L.A. city residents, even those without symptoms, could get tested for COVID-19, for free.
On May 4, Garcetti called the reopening situation "fluid," and said he thought by May 15 the city would be ready to take some steps forward. Ferrer said the city would be releasing recovery plan guidelines. This was in response to the Governor's expected order which may allow some businesses to re-open beginning May 8.
On May 5, Garcetti's position was more concrete: "I'm sorry, we're not going to be moving on those things this Friday (May 8)." He did, however, give permission to the Flower District downtown to prepare to reopen in time for Mother's Day, under strict monitoring by the public health department.
The mayor said that moving forward he would follow the county's guidelines on retail businesses. Curbside retail, he said, is something that might be allowed next week, or more likely, the following week.
The timeline from L.A. County officials the following day was different:
Certain businesses and recreational spaces in Los Angeles County would be allowed to start reopening on May 8. According to County Supervisor Kathryn Barger. Shops that are reopening are for curbside pickup only. All of the shopping still has to be done online or over the phone.
Barger said the easing of restrictions aligns with the state level, adding:
"This list is less about what products are sold and more about the ability to maintain social distancing. We are finalizing the details and we'll have all the information and guidelines for businesses up on our website before the order goes into effect."
L.A.'s stay-at-home order will be amended to allow some low-risk businesses to reopen for curbside pick-up on May 8.
Here is the official guidance for businesses to "prepare and effectively manage the safety of employees and customers as they resume operations."
And on May 9, city and county hiking trails and golf courses will reopen for public use. The exception is Runyon Canyon, which will remain closed.
Strict rules will be in place. Garcetti said anyone using the open trails and golf courses must wear a face mask at all times.
Here's a list of businesses that will be allowed to reopen --for curbside pick-up only -- in the city and county of L.A. on May 8:
- Toy stores
- Music stores
- Clothing stores
- Sporting goods stores
- Car dealerships
Here's what will reopen on May 9:
- City/county-operated hiking trails (except Runyon Canyon)
- City/county-operated golf courses
- Face coverings must be worn at all times on trails and golf courses and people must maintain proper physical distance.
- "If you're 65 and older, you cannot go out to those places if you have pre-existing conditions," the mayor said.
- Gatherings, even small ones, are still not permitted.
- Hikers and golfers can go by themselves or with someone from their household.
- Beaches, recreation centers and facilities for group sports, like basketball and tennis, will remain closed.
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
On April 13, Newsom announced what he described as a shared framework with Oregon and Washington about how to economically reopen California. More details came April 14 with a plan that includes six key metrics for loosening the stay-at-home orders. They include:
- More testing, tracking, isolating/quarantining, and supporting people who are positive/exposed.
- Protecting the most vulnerable from infection and spread.
- Hospitals and health systems being able to handle surges.
- The ability to develop therapeutic drugs to meet the demand.
- The ability for businesses, schools, and child care facilities to allow for physical distancing.
- The ability to determine when/if to reinstitute measures like stay-at-home orders.
The governor's tasked 80 leaders to help plan for the state's economic recovery, with an advisory council that includes all four of the state's living governors. He said the task force -- which will divide up into sub-groups covering entertainment, hospitality, retail, manufacturing, regional issues, etc. -- will work on actionable ideas in real time, not some future report.
Newsom said on April 21 that local officials can lift some stay-at-home restrictions, as long as they don't conflict with state orders. His comments, made a daily press briefing, were in response to a question about Riverside County opening up golf courses and Port Hueneme opening beaches.
The governor reviewed testing numbers on April 22, saying the 465,000 tests administered so far in California were not enough to modify stay-at-home orders.
On April 27, Newsom said he hoped the state was weeks, not months, away from making significant changes to the stay-at-home orders -- but that those decisions will be driven by data, and require people to abide by physical distancing orders.
Newsom has phases on phases to go with his six key metrics. On April 28, he laid out a "resilience roadmap" with four steps towards a full reopen. He also said that despite distributing millions of masks, the state is not even close to where it need to be with personal protective equipment yet.
Newsom said on April 29 that the state was possibly "a week or two away from significant modifications on our stay-at-home order," as long as coronavirus numbers remained stable.
Two days later the governor said the state is now "days, not weeks" away.
On May 4, Newsom said parts of the state would start moving into Phase 2 of reopening on May 8, and that guidlines would be forthcoming. This phase includes changes like retail beginning to reopen for pickup. Here's more on the six key metrics on the "State Reopening Roadmap Report Card."
Social/physical distancing is even more important in Phase 2, he said on May 5.
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 said some checks could take months).
On April 9, the federal government released new guidelines about when people in critical infrastructure roles can go back to work if they've been exposed to a confirmed or suspected case of the coronavirus. The CDC recommendations include taking temperatures before work, wearing face masks at all times, and practicing social distancing as much as duties allow.
On April 16 came a three-phased approach to normalization, albeit without time requirements. The strategy is contingent upon states having data about case levels, the capacity to treat all patients and test healthcare workers, and the ability to trace the contacts of those infected. States can decide on a county-by-county approach, according to an 18-page document obtained by NPR.
Each phase would require a 14-day period of a "downward trajectory" of cases to advance to the next one. Here's an overview --
- states or regions would have social distancing guidelines similar to those in place now
- a prohibition on gatherings of more than 10
- maximized physical distance
- working from home when possible
- the closures of schools and bars etc.
- strict physical distancing protocols would be ordered for places like restaurants, theaters, sporting venues, churches and gyms.
- vulnerable people would be urged to stay home.
- states and regions that show no signs of a rebound could expand gatherings to 50 people.
- resume non-essential travel.
- working from home would still be encouraged.
- schools could reopen and bars could operate with "diminished standing-room occupancy."
- vulnerable people still would be urged to stay home.
- states and regions could expand guidance so that vulnerable individuals could go out in public.
- visits to hospitals and nursing homes could resume.
NPR has the full guidelines documents.
On April 20, Trump announced via Twitter his intention to "temporarily suspend immigration."
"In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!"
On April 22, Trump signed an executive order to temporarily ban some green carder seekers from coming to the U.S. It goes into effect on April 24 and will last for two months, further extending the wait for green card seekers, some of whom first applied decades ago.
But the move is far less wide-ranging than Trump had indicated in his tweet.
His order exempts green card applicants who are the minor children and spouses of U.S. citizens. It also has a carve-out for health care workers, including nurses and doctors and people doing work that is "essential to combating, recovering from, or otherwise alleviating the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak."
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.
CAN MY PET CAT OR DOG GET THE CORONAVIRUS?
Maybe. It has happened.
A tiger in New York City with a respiratory illness (I know, nothing makes sense) was the first animal to test positive in the U.S. That was in early April.
On April 22, two pet cats in New York were confirmed to have COVID-19 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Veterinary Services Laboratories.
- Don't let pets interact with people or animals from outside of your home.
- Keep cats indoors when possible to prevent mingling with other animals or people.
- Walk dogs on a leash and keep at least 6 feet away from other people and animals.
- Avoid dog parks or public places where a large number of people and dogs gather.
If you're sick (either suspected or confirmed COVID-19), you should:
- Avoid contact with your animal friend, and isolate.
- That means no petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, or sharing food or bedding.
- Have another member of your household care for your pet if possible.
- If that's not possible, wear a cloth face covering and wash your hands before and after interactions.
Meanwhile, adoptions of shelter pets in L.A. have been "off the charts."
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF COVID-19?
Common symptoms can include: low-grade fever, body aches, fatigue, coughing, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea.
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 at all.
There also may also be additional symptoms beyond what we've listed above.
You may have also heard about lack of smell or taste being a potential symptom, though it is not part of officials' criteria for testing.
WHAT DO I DO IF I THINK I MIGHT HAVE IT?
The orders from L.A.'s public health department set out timeframes, restrictions, and criteria for self-isolation and self-quarantine.
For people who have contracted COVID-19, the guidance from the CDC is to self-isolate for 10 days, plus 3 days without fevers and/or symptoms. The virus may shed for longer than initially thought, which means a person may be able to infect other people for a longer.
If you think you might have been exposed, or if have COVID-19 symptoms, isolate, and call your doctor for next steps (or dial 211 in L.A. County if you need to find a clinician).
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
The CDC requires people who have tested positive for COVID-19 to notify everyone they were in close contact with -- including during the 48 hours before symptoms started -- so those people can self-quarantine for up to 14 days. Close contact means less than 6 feet apart for 10 minutes or more.
People who have tested positive also need to self-isolate for 10 days, plus 3 days without fevers or symptoms, according to the CDC.
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.)
HOW CAN I GET TESTED FOR CORONAVIRUS?
Drive-thru testing sites (and a few walk-in clinics) are open across L.A. County. The test is free, but you can't just show up. You have to register/apply first. There are a few ways to do that:
1) APPLY ONLINE if you live anywhere in L.A. County. You can get screened via the online portal.
COUNTY: Anyone in the county experiencing COVID-19 symptoms can apply for a test, but it doesn't necessarily mean everyone will get one. You'll be asked some questions on the eligibility form, and then you'll be asked for your contact information for next steps.
2) GET A DIRECTIVE from a health care provider. Call your doctor and they'll give you the next steps. If you don't have a health care provider, call 211 and they'll direct you to a nearby clinician. L.A. public health officials are asking people not to call 911 and not go to the emergency room unless you're experiencing severe symptoms and need immediate medical attention.
Initially, all the tests were limited to people most at risk. Restrictions were relaxed a few times to allow for same-day or next-day testing for anyone with symptoms, and testing of certain front-line workers without symptoms.
But, testing or not, if you experience severe symptoms, get immediate medical help.
DO I HAVE TO PAY TO GET THE CORONAVIRUS TEST?
No. California health officials are waiving all co-pays for COVID-19 testing. That applies to people on all insurance plans, and people who don't have health coverage.
You can also be tested for free regardless of your immigration status. And the federal government has said that getting tested or treated for coronavirus will not count toward the public charge test for getting a green card.
And if you don't have insurance, here are some options for getting it: Covered California and the entire individual health insurance market has extended the enrollment window to June 30; enrollment for Medi-Cal is open year round; and in L.A. County, there's the no-cost health care plan My Health LA.
Here's a map of the locations.
But, again, you can't just show up.
You have to be approved first.
Get screened online to request a test, or try to get a directive from a health care provider.
HOW DOES THE CORONAVIRUS TEST WORK?
At some testing sites, a health professional will administer a nasal swab.
At other places, you'll be given a testing kit for an oral swab that you can administer yourself.
WHAT'S THE ANTIBODY TEST?
It's a blood test to see if you've formed antibodies against the coronavirus, which is a way of telling whether you've ever had it, even if you never developed symptoms. Antibodies are proteins your body produces to fight infections.
This test hasn't gotten as much attention as the test to see if you actively have the coronavirus, but widespread testing for antibodies will be crucial to figuring out how much the virus has spread, how deadly it is, and when we might get back to something approximating normal life.
To help kickstart that effort, L.A. County and USC teamed up to test for antibodies in 1,000 Angelenos.
County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis told us that people will be tested to determine if they've been infected, and if so, "what their antibodies look like." Davis said the data will help to make some "general estimates and predictions" about how far the virus has spread and how deadly it is.
At least one SoCal hospital is experimenting with transferring antibodies from a recovered patient. The hope is that the antibodies will attack the virus to help a sick person heal.
The county/USC study participants are all adults, and they were selected to create a random sample that reflects the county's demographic makeup. They'll got the "serology" test at six drive-thru sites on April 10 and 11, according to ABC7.
Those leading the study intend to repeat the tests every two weeks for three months.
Neerja Sood, a vice dean at USC involved in the project, told The Washington Post that the test kits were donated by a private individual who read his Wall Street Journal op-ed about the importance of randomized testing.
Preliminary findings were announced April 20. The data suggests many more people in L.A. County could potentially be infected than the official count. It also suggests the mortality rate for the county could be lower.
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."
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 antibodies from a recovered patient. The hope is that the antibodies will attack the virus to help a sick person heal.
Cedars-Sinai is participating in a clinical trial of the drug remdesivir. A small trial of an experimental antiviral drug has shown encouraging results, the hospital announced on April 10. And on May 1, the FDA approved the drug for emergency treatment for COVID-19. Prior to that, the FDA's FAQs had advised "there are no FDA-approved drugs specifically for the treatment of COVID-19."
But the effectiveness of remdesivir is still being studied.
"This is not a cure-all," said Jonathan Grein, who is the director of epidemiology for Cedar-Sinai. "Specifically, not everyone with COVID-19 will need this drug or even benefit from this drug."
The president has promoted a pair of malaria drugs as a possible treatment. The AP reported that a nationwide study -- not peer reviewed -- of hydroxychloroquine use at U.S. veterans hospitals found no benefit and more deaths among those given the drug, versus standard care.
The CDC's guidance for for clinical management of the coronavirus 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.
SHOULD I BE WEARING A MASK IN DAILY LIFE?
Yes, if you're not at home and there will be other people around.
The first official guidance on general mask-wearing arrived on April 1.
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."
About a week later, Garcetti changed the mask-wearking recommendation to a requirement: shoppers and store employees must wear them. And the rule applies to grocery stores, drug stores, restaurants, hotels, taxis, rideshare vehicles, construction sites, and other non-medical essential businesses.
Additionally, employers are required to provide face masks to their employees, or reimburse them for the purchase.
L.A.'s Public Health Department issued face-covering guidance, too:
Members of the general public should use a clean face covering anytime they will be in contact with other people who are not household members in public or private spaces.
The CDC also officially recommends cloth masks for everyone.
Additional CDC guidance recommended people in critical infrastructure roles wear a face mask at all times when they go back to work after being exposed to a confirmed or suspected case of the coronavirus.
Check your city's particular guidelines about wearing a mask if you're out for walk or a run. L.A. County health officials said a mask is not needed, but some cities like Beverly Hills and Glendale were requiring people to wear one.
- Wear cloth masks when you're doing essential errands, working an essential job, or otherwise interacting with people you don't live with.
- Use face coverings 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.
Here's a DIY way to make your own:
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.
WHERE CAN I FIND FREE FOOD / LOW-COST FOOD / FOOD ASSISTANCE?
There's a food bank locator.
And a locator for food pantries, soup kitchens, food shelves, and other food help.
Grab & Go meal sites are set up for students and families.
Emergency meals can be delivered to seniors 60+ who live in the city of L.A. Call (213) 263-5226 or go online and sign up.
WIC is allowing online applications for its special supplemental nutrition program.
And the author who wrote the book on SNAP cooking has advice about how to eat on $4 a day.
CalFresh P-EBT, coming soon, with extra food benefits for eligible children. Applications accepted in late May.
If you know of something we should add to this list, share it with us at email@example.com.
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.
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
CAN I HELP FEED EXHAUSTED HEALTHCARE WORKERS?
A number of restaurants, organizations, and people across Southern California have crowdfunding campaigns to support meal deliveries to hospitals.
Some restaurants are also offering discounts or free delivery to hospital staff.
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.
And even in nature, you are required to stay 6 feet away from people, and wear a mask if non-household members are around.
When "too many people" were packing beaches, trails and parks, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti closed sports and recreation at L.A.'s city parks and parking lots at city beaches. "That doesn't mean gather elsewhere," he tweeted. "This is serious. Stay home and save lives."
L.A. County's next move was to fully shut down all public beaches, including bathrooms, piers, promenades, and bike paths; L.A. city shut down all trails, including Griffith Park.
But none of these restrictions deterred skaters from visiting Venice Beach. So now the skate park is filled with sand.
Guidance from California State Parks is to stay close to home, saying now is "not the time for a road trip to a destination" to the beach.
But not everyone has taken that message to heart.
L.A.'s county-operated and city-operated hiking trails and golf courses will reopen on May 9 for public use. The exception is Runyon Canyon, which will remain closed. Here are the rules for this batch of reopened spaces:
- Face coverings must be worn at all times and people must maintain proper physical distance.
- "If you're 65 and older, you cannot go out to those places if you have pre-existing conditions," Garcetti said.
- Gatherings, even small ones, are still not permitted.
- Hikers and golfers can go by themselves or with someone from their household.
- Beaches, recreation centers, and facilities for group sports (like basketball and tennis) will remain closed.
Here is the state's guidance on what outdoor recreational activities are allowed. And here's more on the coronavirus response from the L.A. County Department Of Parks And Recreation and the L.A. City Department of Recreation and Parks.
ARE COOLING CENTERS OPEN DURING THE PANDEMIC?
Yes. L.A. County has released a list of cooling centers where you can escape the heat -- and remain physically distanced.
These spaces will likely fill up faster than usual because of the distancing rules, and the county advises calling first to make sure seating is available.
You can also call 211 for L.A. County information; 311 in the city of L.A.
IS PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION STILL OPERATIONAL?
Public transit is still running 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. DASH buses have limited passengers per bus: 30-foot buses will carry no more than 10 riders at a time; 35-foot buses will cap passengers at 12. 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 were operating as normal.
- Burbank reduced service on all its bus lines. They've also moved to free fares and rear-door boarding.
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 at exempt businesses and construction sites (like: social distancing, hand washing, disinfecting, sharing items, etc.):
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
But what's the etiquette if you see a shopper without a mask or a stranger doesn't move out of the way when you're walking around the neighborhood? Here are some highlights from a discussion on AirTalk with Larry Mantle on KPCC 89.3.
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.
One of the funds has $2.1 million for "families that are already struggling to pay their rent, and are living paycheck to paycheck," said Council President Nury Martinez. It's expected to help several hundred families. A report from the city's housing department has the details and criteria.
For people who own a home: some banks have agreed to 90-day mortgage waivers.
See a video of our renters' rights and eviction Q&A with an attorney from the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles.
Here's a short list of critical things to know if you're a California renter right now:
- During this emergency, you cannot be evicted from your home for not having paid rent.
- Evictions are on hold until 90 days after the end of the COVID-19 state of emergency, except those dealing with public health and safety
- If you cannot pay rent, you must notify your landlord in writing ASAP.
- Landlords can legally start eviction proceedings during this time, but the soonest a court might issue a summons would be 90 days after the end of the COVID-19 state of emergency.
- Landlords cannot change the locks or remove your property from your unit.
- Only the local sheriff's department has the authority to legally lock you out.
- You are legally responsible to repay all rent missed during the pandemic after the emergency is over.
- Depending on where you live you may have a grace period of up to one year to pay it back.
- Do not sign anything from your landlord without first consulting an attorney.
CAN I GET HELP FOR MY SMALL BUSINESS?
There are some options.
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 for qualifying businesses will be offered without interest for up to a year, or at 3-5% interest for up to five years.
The U.S. Small Business Administration was also offering low-interest disaster loans for small businesses in certain states, including California.
Another $349 billion in small business loans was included in the coronavirus stimulus package, but the Paycheck Protection Program ran out of money after 13 days. The SBA halted applications and started accepting them again on April 27, with second round funding for $320 billion.
If you need help figuring it all out, get in touch with L.A. CARES Corps. It's an L.A. county/city effort that was created to help small business owners apply for loans. Reach out online or call 833-238-4450 to speak with a loan counselor.
And 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.
And with the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, there's expanded access for many people who didn't qualify for unemployment benefits before -- like gig workers, freelancers, and other self-employed people (but not if you have W-2s in the mix).
Officials had a massive challenge trying to figure out how to process theses kinds of claims.
The PUA program opened on April 28, but applicants experienced widespread problems inputing their information, with the site reportedly crashing for many users on the first day of the program's rollout.
EDD is encouraging people to review their eligibility.
Below is a live event Q&A we held about applying for unemployment.
And here is the transcript of the questions and answers if you just can't even with a video right now.
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.
- 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. (NOTE: The PPP ran out of money after 13 days and stopped taking applications; applications began again on April 27 with second round funding for $320)
Other things to know about those checks/direct deposits:
- The payments are not taxable income.
- If you think you qualify and haven't received your payment, check on your check's status.
- If you think you qualify and haven't received your payment -- and your check's status is unavailable -- you're not alone.
- Some people have been left out of the distribution, including U.S. citizens who are married to immigrants without Social Security numbers
- Here's how to apply for the federal stimulus payment if you don't file taxes. It won't count against General Relief or CalFresh benefits.
- If you are experiencing homelessness and don't have a permanent mailing address, use a DPSS district office location as your mailing address by calling the Customer Service Center at 1-866-613-3777
WHERE CAN I GET OTHER KINDS OF HELP?
The city of L.A. has a hub of heath, emergency, employment, and financial resources.
L.A. County launched an online disaster help center.
We have a guide to L.A. rent and eviction rules.
- And a section in this guide about food resources and food safety.
The state also has a list.
The Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health, has a 24/7 Access Line 1-800-854-7771.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255 (TALK).
You can also text the Crisis Text Line. Text "HOME" (741-741) to reach a trained crisis counselor.
Institute on Aging's 24/7 Friendship Line (especially for people who have disabilities or are over 60), 1-800-971-0016 or call 415-750-4138 to volunteer.
California has a guide to managing stress at home.
There's a variety of financial assistance out there.
Loan counselors for small business owners are available via L.A. CARES Corps -- (833) 238-4450.
There's financial help for hospital workers who need child care. Options include a $100 stipend per shift, free referrals or child care at L.A. Parks and Recreation Centers.
- 211's has a whole index of services.
The state also started a Disaster Relief Fund to support undocumented Californians with a one-time cash benefit. Applications will be accepted in May.
Business owners without legal immigration status are eligible for loans through the California Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank.
There are also relief funds backed by philanthropists and grassroots donors for immigrants without legal status.
The "Angeleno Card" -- a no-fee debit card with between $700 and $1,500 -- is available to qualified residents. You must live in the city of L.A., have been below the federal poverty line before the pandemic, and lost a job or at least half your income because of the pandemic. Immigration status will not be considered. Sign up online or call 213-252-3040 through April 16.
- There's also a public, crowd-sourced resources list for L.A.
And a community resource list that's updated by various L.A. city employees.
Here's a list of non-cheesy self help books.
Let Oscar the Grouch or Grover explain this situation to the small humans in your life. They recorded coronavirus PSAs for us and you can them on the phone: (626) 831-9333.
And here are some ways to help teenagers cope.
The state has resources for people in abusive situations (and for people who know people in abusive situations).
There are also local resources if you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence:
- LA County Domestic Violence Hotline (24/7 Confidential): (800) 978-3600
- LA County Domestic Violence Resources En Español
- Domestic Violence Shelter 24-hour Hotlines (PDF Download)
- Resources for People Experiencing Domestic Violence
- And, while many court proceedings are on hold right now, filing a domestic violence restraining order application is still possible.
- L.A.'s top prosecutors have also launched a campaign with extensive resources related to domestic violence and elder abuse.
- Here are resources if you suspect child abuse or neglect:
-LA County Child Protection Hotline: 1 (800) 540-4000
-Alliance for Children's Rights
-Court Appointed Special Advocates For Children (CASA of LA)
-Childhelp National Abuse Hotline: 1 (800) 422-4453
If you are experiencing homelessness and don't have a permanent mailing address to receive federal stimulus money (Economic Impact Payment), use a DPSS district office location as your mailing address by calling the Customer Service Center at 1-866-613-3777
WHAT'S THE NEW DEADLINE FOR TAXES?
You now have until July 15 to file your state and federal tax returns.
The IRS automatically extended the deadline.
No forms or fees required.
California has done the same.
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.
- 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
The federal Coronavirus Relief Act also requires employers with less than 500 employees to provide two weeks of paid, virus-related sick leave and family leave.
And in California, a statewide executive order adds two weeks of extra paid sick leave for essential food service workers (like grocery store employees, fast-food employees, and farmworkers) who have contracted or been exposed to the coronavirus -- or been ordered to isolate or enter quarantine.
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 continue to urge people to stay at home, even when they're sick, unless they believe they need hospital-level care. Meanwhile,
- The county is working to set up set up telemedicine services
- It's opened a new "surge hospital."
- The Los Angeles County Fire Department is using telehealth to reduce non-emergency hospital trips.
- L.A.'s convention center is being converted into a field hospital
- The Navy hospital ship Mercy is at the Port of Los Angeles, which adds one-third more hospital beds to city's current capacity (the ship was meant to decompress our hospital system).
- Local hospitals prepped with emergency triage drills, installed temporary tents and facilities, and re-trained on protective equipment
On March 23, Gov. Gavin Newsom said California needed 1 billion gloves, 595 million masks, and two million shields for three months of protection for health care workers. A few days later has said we needed 50,000 additional hospital beds. The state also said it was looking to tap more potential medical staff to handle a possible 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.
But some health care workers are concerned for their safety and don't think enough is being done to protect them.
"Right now, there's a lack of supplies -- specifically protective equipment, PPE's -- so we're not feeling too safe because we still have to go home to our families," a health care worker at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center told us back in March.
AP reported on April 16 that 10 nurses were suspended from Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica after refusing to work with COVID-19 patients until N95 face masks were provided, according the National Nurses United. They were subsequently reinstated, AP reported, and the hospital said it would be supplying the masks to nurses working with infected patients.
Meanwhile, as the state continues to look for hand sanitizer, testing reagents, and other supplies to help in the fight against coronavirus, more than 2,300 individuals and companies filled out applications on the state's site for contributing supplies.
Here's a looks inside L.A.s new "COVID only" surge hospital.
Meanwhile, the L.A. County Sheriff's Department has come up with a partial solution to the mask shortage: a decontamination center that can clean as many as 30,000 used N95s a day.
Staff at the county's four public hospitals and 27 clinics use 10,000 masks a day; LASD, which operates the jails, uses another 10,000 a day. The process -- involving dangerous chemicals and a dishwasher-sized machine on loan from UCLA -- is called hydrogen peroxide vaporization, and it must adhere to CDC guidelines.
WILL HOSPITALS ACCEPT HOMEMADE MASKS?
It depends on the hospital.
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.
Sew Helpful Brigade said they've distributed over 3,000 masks to workers at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, Long Beach Medical Center, and UCLA. They needs 200 more volunteer sewers.
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.
An analysis by California Healthline found that many of the hardest hit nursing facilities had problems in the past including low staffing levels and health violations for not following infection control rules.
L.A. health officials were working with CDC staff to improve infection control practices at skilled nursing facilities. On April 22, L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said approximately 40% of all deaths countywide were at institutional facilities.
In Long Beach and Pasadena, health departments also have new rules for skilled nursing and assisted living facilities, including face masks for workers, and twice daily temperature checks (even if there's no confirmed case on-site).
Also, paramedics and emergency medical technicians (EMT's) have been granted temporary permission to work in L.A. County nursing homes to help alleviate staffing shortfalls due to COVID-19 outbreaks.
At all skilled nursing facilities in the city of Los Angeles:
- Notices must be hand-deliver to all residents and workers with the most recent date testing was offered, and the next date it will be offered.
- Notices must be updated and circulated once a month, and at least two days prior to testing.
- Notices must be publicly displayed at the main entrance of every facility.
- Notices must be provided to anyone who asks -- whether in the media, government or general public.
If you'd like to volunteer at a senior facilty, here's the sign up to information.
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.
A labor deal announced April 9 between LAUSD and its teachers union formalized how the district will operate during the shutdown. United Teachers Los Angeles shared full terms of the deal. Some specifics:
- Teachers will provide instruction for, on average, 240 minutes (or, four hours) per day.
- Teachers should set regular schedules and stick to them. The idea is to "avoid scheduling conflicts."
- Teachers will hold three regular "office hour" sessions per week.
- Students' grades can still go up, but they can't go down.
- Live video instruction is not mandatory.
The agreement also covers issues of pay -- including for substitute teachers -- and evaluations.
Superintendent Austin Beutner said school facilities will not reopen "until state and local health authorities tell us how it is safe and appropriate to do so," and that campuses would be closed until authorities set up a "robust system of testing and contact tracing."
We closed school facilities on March 13th so our schools did not become a petri dish and cause the virus to spread in the communities we serve. That has worked. We do not want to reverse that in a hasty return to schools.
By the end of this school year, LAUSD will have spent approximately $200 million on its pandemic response: $78 million for meals, perhaps $50 million for expanded summer school, $31 million to train teachers for distance learning, $23 million to close the digital divide, and $9 million for safety equipment.
As for how the grading will work, many districts have relaxed their policies:
LAUSD will not issue any "F's" this semester -- and no overall grade will drop lower from where it stood in March.
Long Beach Unified elementary students will not receive report cards at all this semester. Middle- and high school students will receive pass-fail grades.
Corona-Norco Unified students grades' can only improve from their March level.
Santa Ana Unified will likely revisit its grading policies soon. While details are still in the works, Superintendent Jerry Almendarez told students in a video update: "We don't want you stressing out about your grades."
- On the other hand, San Bernardino City Unified has not changed its grading policies or practices, spokeswoman Linda Bardere said in an email.
On April 27, Gov. Gavin Newsom said he's "considering" asking California's K-12 schools to begin the 2020-21 school year much earlier than normal -- perhaps even as soon as late July -- over concerns about "learning loss."
On May 4, Beutner said LAUSD leaders have "made no decisions" about whether the fall semester -- still scheduled to begin on August 18 -- will involve students in classrooms, online or both. He said it's not clear what the public health conditions will allow.
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.
In another attempt to help students access online education, Google has committed to rolling out 100,000 free Wi-Fi hotspots throughout the state.
There are also some low-cost home internet deals to help bridge the digital divide. Here are a few options:
AT&T: The company's Access program offers internet service at $5-10 per month for low-income families. Through April 30, the company is offering two months of Access service for free. They've also expanded eligibility to all households enrolled in Head Start or receiving free or reduced-price meals at school. Families can apply here or call: 855-220-5211 (in English) or 855-220-5225 (in Spanish). For all other households, AT&T has paused disconnections and late fees through May 13, and is also "temporarily" waiving overage fees on home internet data.
Charter Spectrum: Teachers and families with school-aged children who aren't already Spectrum customers can sign up for two free months of internet service. After those 60 days, a spokesman says the company will offer a "discounted promotional price" for another 10 months. Customers can cancel at any time. Spectrum also offers low-cost service for certain qualifying low-income households. Families can sign up here or call 844-488-8395.
- Starting on March 20, existing T-Mobile customers on smartphone plans will receive an additional 20 gigabytes of data to use their phones as hotspots for the next 60 days. The company is also expanding data allowances for schools using their wireless plans.
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. Legally-protected learning plans are to be "implemented to the maximum extent possible," according to a labor deal announced April 9.
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. Here's the outline for how providers should prioritize enrollment of new families.
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.
L.A. and state officials have also expanded child care options for hospital workers.
"Child care is foundational to getting people back to work," Gov. Gavin Newsom said. "If they cannot get the kind of quality child care that they deserve they are less likely to get back to work and jump start this economy."
However, in the rush to create new ways for essential workers to access child care, questions about how they'll deliver services remain unanswered.
As of April 23, 66% of L.A. County's licensed preschools and child care centers had closed, according to the state's department of social service.
Type in your zip code and find local child-care facilities, along with more information about each one.
Essential worker parents who want a list of providers that fits their specific needs can get a free referral at this website, or by calling (888) 922-4453.
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. And there's also an extension on all payment deadlines.
The changes will be in effect until at least May 15.
Here's the full list of "relaxed enforcement" categories from LADOT:
- Residential street sweeping
- Expired registration on a vehicle
- Peak/rush hour and gridlock zone parking restrictions
- No ticket/tow for abandoned vehicles and overnight parking
- Vehicles displaying recently expired permits within preferential parking districts will have a two-week grace period following the expiration to renew
- No parking fine increases until after June 1
- Extended grace period for people dropping off or picking up
- Immediate extensions on all deadlines for payments until June 1
- LADOT will supply a temporary, print-at-home permit to residents within a preferential parking district who have renewed their permit but will not receive the new hangtag before their current permit expires
- Metered parking
- Time limits within preferential parking districts for vehicles without a valid or recently-expired permit
- Posted time limits zones in residential and commercial areas
- Posted temporary no-parking for repaving, street repair, and other street maintenance
- No blocking emergency access (alleyways, fire hydrants, etc.)
- Colored curb zones
- Parking restrictions for City-owned lots
HAS TRASH COLLECTION CHANGED?
More people at home can mean more garbage piling up. So pick-ups are increasing in the city of L.A.
L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that the city will temporarily be providing additional garbage and recycling pick-ups at single-family homes and apartments serviced by the city's sanitation department.
If you have more trash than will fit in the bins, meet the sanitation trucks when they arrive (while keeping physical distancing and mask recommendations in mind). Refill your black and blue bins after the trucks eat the first round, and they'll take those too.
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?
L.A. Superior Court Presiding Judge Kevin C. Brazile announced on March 16 that the largest unified trial court system in the United States would be temporarily shut down.
When it was reopened a few days later it was for "essential or emergency matters."
All civil and criminal trials were suspended.
And jurors were not to report for service until April 16 (and no additional prospective jurors were to be summoned).
Meanwhile, courtrooms have been pivoting to remote proceedings.
The county says 32 courtrooms in 17 courthouses in each of the court's 12 judicial districts will use the new technology.
Now, people charged with a felony or misdemeanor will have the option to be arraigned remotely using a conferencing service called WebEx.
And all essential juvenile dependency hearings are now using remote technology, and delinquency hearings are being held "to the extent permitted by law" in all juvenile courthouses.
There are also plans for a remote technology pilot for mental health conservatorship hearings at the Hollywood Courthouse.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO L.A.'S BUDGET?
There are massive proposed cuts to the city budget.
The new fiscal year begins July 1, and the city is facing a staggering loss of tax revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic. Mayor Eric Garcetti has declared "a state of fiscal emergency as part of the 2020-2021 budget."
A revised estimate of city revenues forecasts a $231 million shortfall this fiscal year, and up to $598 million short next year.
Garcetti signaled that there will be furloughs for the city's civilian workforce, and he estimated city workers are expected to forego about 10% of their salaries. The city's hiring freeze is also continuing.
Based on an estimate from the city housing department, the $2.1 million could help several hundred families.
- Police and fire
- Homeless services
- Cultural programs
- Public Works
- Parks and recreation
- Urban forestry
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.
The city also launching its first trailer program, which will be used to house homeless Angelenos who are high-risk and asymptomatic (over 65 and/or have chronic medical conditions). The trailers were given to the city by the state. The goal is to have 300 trailers city-wide.
And, despite the city's financial distress, Garcetti said spending on homelessness by the City of Los Angeles will remain steady. The budget line is projected to reach just shy of $430 million in the next fiscal year.
On May 4, Garcetti said the city has opened 24 temporary shelters at recreation centers, which are currently housing 900 people. They're at 87% capacity, and anyone who needs a bed should call 211, he said. He said the numer of hotel rooms secured so far across the county: 2,711.
If you are experiencing homelessness and don't have a permanent mailing address to receive federal stimulus money (Economic Impact Payment), use a DPSS district office location as your mailing address by calling the Customer Service Center at 1-866-613-3777
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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, Fiona Chandra, Caitlin Hernandez, Carla Javier, Nick Roman, Emily Elena Dugdale, Brianna Lee, Frank Stoltz, 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.