Coronavirus Today: ‘Death is haunting me’ | #seniorliving | #elderly | #seniors
Good evening. I’m Melody Petersen, and it’s Thursday, April 22. Here’s what’s happening with the coronavirus in California and beyond.
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While many parents have criticized the L.A. Unified School District for not reopening classrooms fast enough, the opinion has been different in working-class neighborhoods. That’s especially true for some Latino immigrant parents who fear for their lives as Los Angeles public schools reopen.
Some are cancer survivors with weakened immune systems. Others have chronic illnesses or have children with chronic illnesses. Some have vaccine allergies.
They have a question for school officials, writes my colleague Selene Rivera:
If we get sick or die from COVID-19, who will take care of our children?
“I feel like death is haunting me since California authorities gave the green light for school districts to open in person,” said Karla Franco Hernández, a 40-year-old mother who has rheumatoid arthritis.
Franco Hernández wants her children — 12-year-old Jeyline and 15-year-old John — to resume normal lives. But she’s wary of what they might bring home from their L.A. Unified School District classrooms.
“I am a high-risk person and I believe that school officials have ignored parents with chronic illnesses and the consequences that opening schools can cause at home,” said the immigrant from Jalisco, Mexico.
Franco Hernández belongs to a group of LAUSD parents who have been asking the district not to reopen schools. They sent a letter to the school board calling for Latino parents to have greater representation in the district’s decisions.
“Apparently, they make plans without taking into account that our Hispanic community has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 virus,” the letter states. “Too many families have lost loved ones and gotten sick from the pandemic.”
Gabriela Rangel of Maywood fears her family could join them. A 37-year-old single mother who has multiple sclerosis, she worries that her four children who attend LAUSD schools could accidentally expose her to danger.
Rangel emigrated from Mexico in 2003 and makes her living cleaning homes. She said that even worse than her own degenerative illness is her fear that Arleth, a third-grader with asthma, could be hospitalized.
“I have the need for my children to go to school in order to get more work, but at the same time I need to live for them. What would others do in my situation? I think I will have them at home a little longer,” she said.
By the numbers
California cases, deaths and vaccinations as of 6:07 p.m. Thursday:
Track California’s coronavirus spread and vaccination efforts — including the latest numbers and how they break down — with our graphics.
The University of California and California State University systems said Thursday they intend to require COVID-19 vaccinations for all students, faculty and staff on campus this fall — but only after the Food and Drug Administration gives formal approval to the vaccines and if supplies are sufficiently available.
Currently, the available vaccines are being distributed under emergency-use authorization. Some health experts expect the FDA to formally approve at least one of them by the fall.
More than three dozen colleges nationwide have already announced they will require vaccination for enrollment this fall, including Claremont McKenna and Harvey Mudd in Claremont. But the vaccine directive from UC and Cal State is the largest of its kind in U.S. higher education, affecting more than 1 million members of the two public university systems.
UC President Michael V. Drake, a physician, said that vaccinations are a “key step people can take to protect themselves, their friends and family, and our campus communities while helping bring the pandemic to an end.”
The vaccine is more than a ticket onto California college campuses. If you live out of state, it can also get you access to SeaWorld.
Even though Southern California theme parks have reopened, they have not been selling tickets to those living outside the state — a requirement of state public health officials. SeaWorld broke from its peers this week and opened its San Diego park to non-Californians who are vaccinated against COVID-19. Park officials said the move is allowed under newly revised state guidelines.
Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood, meanwhile, aren’t so sure: They’re still selling tickets only to California residents.
The confusion began this week when state officials quietly updated their statewide reopening blueprint, which now says that “fully vaccinated persons from out of state may visit or attend activities or events that are restricted to in-state visitors.”
The California Amusement Parks and Attractions trade group was caught off guard by SeaWorld’s move but later released a statement indicating it was on board with the park’s interpretation.
Yet other types of entertainment venues continue to struggle even as more of the California economy slowly reopens. Among the worries is that movie theater chains won’t survive.
The problems that led ArcLight Cinemas and Pacific Theatres to announce their closure last week are not unique to that company, reports Times staff writer Ryan Faughnder, and the chain may not be the last to fall from the pandemic’s effects.
While most industry insiders expect the company’s prime locations — such as the famed Cinerama Dome on Sunset Boulevard — eventually to return under new operators, last week’s announcement was a stunning end for a chain that seemed to do everything right, from its craft cocktail bars to its comfortable seats.
ArcLight and Pacific executives remain silent about their abrupt announcement. But it appears that a key factor in the decision to close was rent, which is the largest fixed cost for theatrical exhibitors.
Bills to landlords piled up for multiplex operators in the months after governments closed theaters in March 2020. That was especially true in Los Angeles, where cinemas remained shuttered for a full year. Once authorities allowed theaters to open, operators had to decide whether they could pay what they owed with attendance restricted at just 25% to 50% of capacity.
“It’s the amount of debt these companies have incurred,” said Jeff Bock, an analyst at Exhibitor Relations. “They couldn’t see a way to profitability over the next couple years.”
See the latest on California’s coronavirus closures and reopenings, and the metrics that inform them, with our tracker.
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Around the nation and the world
India reported more than 314,000 new infections Thursday — a global daily record — as a coronavirus surge in the world’s second-most populous country sent more sick people into a fragile healthcare system that’s already critically short of hospital beds and oxygen.
The situation is so dire that the New Delhi High Court on Wednesday ordered the government to divert oxygen from industrial use to hospitals. “You can’t have people die because there is no oxygen. Beg, borrow or steal, it is a national emergency,” the judges said in responding to a petition by a New Delhi hospital.
Lockdowns and strict curbs have brought pain, fear and agony to many lives in New Delhi and other Indian cities.
In scenes familiar across the country, ambulances are seen rushing from one hospital to another, trying to find an empty bed. Grieving relatives are lining up outside crematoriums where the arrival of dead bodies has jumped several times.
“I try to find beds for patients every day, and it’s been incredibly frustrating to not be able to help them,” said Dr. Sanjay Gururaj, a doctor at Bengaluru-based Shanti Hospital and Research Center. “In the last week, three patients of mine have died at home because they were unable to get beds. As a doctor, it’s an awful feeling.”
In science news, a new study of more than 2,000 pregnant women from dozens of hospitals around the world found that those with COVID-19 had a significantly higher risk of death and complications for themselves or their newborns.
The study underscores that pregnancy and COVID-19 can be a dangerous combination.
Compared with pregnant women who did not have COVID-19, those who did were 76% more likely to develop preeclampsia or eclampsia, the researchers found. They were also more than three times as likely to develop a severe infection that required treatment with antibiotics and five times as likely to be admitted to a hospital’s intensive care unit.
Strikingly, the risk of death was more than 22 times higher for the women with COVID-19.
The babies were at a disadvantage as well. Those born to COVID-19-positive mothers faced a higher risk of severe illness and death.
For pregnant women, “it really seems that COVID increases the likelihood of having an adverse outcome,” said Dr. Aris Papageorghiou, a fetal medicine specialist at Oxford University, and the study’s senior author.
Other new data offer a sign that COVID-19 vaccines are working.
Hospitalizations among older Americans have plunged more than 70% since the start of the year, and deaths among senior citizens appear to have tumbled as well.
The drop-off in severe cases among Americans 65 and older is especially encouraging because the elderly have accounted for about 8 out of 10 deaths from the virus since it hit the U.S.
COVID-19 deaths among people of all ages in the U.S. have fallen to about 700 per day on average, compared with a peak of over 3,400 in mid-January.
The trends in the U.S. mirror what is happening in other countries with high vaccination rates, such as Israel and Britain, and stand in contrast with the worsening infections in places like India and Brazil, which lag behind in dispensing shots.
“What you’re seeing there is exactly what we hoped and wanted to see: As really high rates of vaccinations happen, hospitalizations and death rates come down,” said Jodie Guest, a public health researcher at Emory University in Atlanta.
Your questions answered
Today’s question comes from readers who want to know: With vaccinations rising fast and infections remaining low, do I still need to wear a mask?
Yes. Public health officials at both the state and county level continue to require masks. And as California prepares to reopen fully on June 15 (with some caveats), there’s been no indication the mask mandate will be lifted.
Despite the recent progress, many health experts think an end to all face mask requirements would be premature, reports Times staff writer Colleen Shalby.
“Will we be masking in 2025? I doubt it. But it’s still too early to say when we will ditch them, and I think they’ll be one of the last things to go,” said Andrew Noymer, a UC Irvine associate professor of public health. “They’re cheap, they’re relatively easy to use and they work.”
The list of places where mask orders have been lifted is growing, but impatience could reverse the state’s progress, said Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, chair of the epidemiology and biostatistics department at UC San Francisco’s School of Medicine. To appreciate the risk, check out what’s going on elsewhere in the country.
“The virus is not gone — you only have to look at Michigan,” where cases and hospitalizations have soared in recent weeks, she said.
Noymer agreed: “There are so many wild cards in this pandemic.”
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