UPDATED: April 9, 2020
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.
We've been doing what we can for weeks now to help you combat fear by:
- Bringing you the most recent and accurate information
- Explaining what's happened -- and what's happening --in clear language (but let us know if we are 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 is taking 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.
As we confront what the new normal will be, we remain committed to helping you understand the changing reality, as we all continue to do our best to slow the spread of this deadly disease.
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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.
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.
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.
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
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).
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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."
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."
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 CDC has issued no coronavirus-related guidance regarding the use of anti-inflammatories as of March 20.
- 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.
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."