What You Need to Know About the Coronavirus Outbreak

What You Need to Know About the Coronavirus Outbreak

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Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

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Over the weekend, confusion and fear about the widening coronavirus outbreak gave way to a heightened new reality for Californians forced to fit their lives around containment measures that might have seemed unthinkable just days ago.

[The Times has been tracking all the known U.S. cases on this map.]

Officials in the Sacramento area announced that the Elk Grove Unified School District — Northern California’s largest — would move up its spring break, closing schools for at least a week, after a family member living with multiple students in the district tested positive. (Although by Sunday afternoon, district officials were trying to assuage the concerns of parents and student athletes frustrated that they may have to miss games, according to The Sacramento Bee.) San Francisco Unified schools also closed.

Stanford University classes were set to stop meeting in person today, and The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Salesforce, the tech giant based in San Francisco, joined the ranks of companies ordering employees to work from home.

“I’m like on the run from the virus,” Zara Khan, a junior at the University of California, Berkeley, who left a study-abroad program in Florence for London, told my colleagues. “I could go back to the States, but that’s not even safe anymore.”

Today, as public health leaders at the federal, state and local levels continue to work to slow the transmission of the virus, passengers who have been stuck aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship offshore are set to disembark at the Port of Oakland.

In a statement on Sunday afternoon, Gov. Gavin Newsom said that the thousands of passengers who will be leaving the ship won’t be heading back to their home communities. They’ll be transported to federal isolation facilities or taken to hospitals, if necessary. Crew members will be quarantined on the ship itself, which won’t stay in Oakland.

Mr. Newsom emphasized that the people aboard the cruise have been through a terrible ordeal and that hundreds of them are fellow Californians.

“The City of Oakland, Alameda County and the Port of Oakland are stepping up in a major way, and their residents deserve universal praise,” he said. “They are showing the world what makes our state great — coming to the rescue of thousands of people trapped aboard this ship and helping tackle a national emergency.”

Passengers have compared their experiences over the past several days to being jailed. They’ve said that the operator of the cruise was slow to inform them of new developments.

[Read about how the failures on the Diamond Princess cruise ship shadowed the unfolding situation off California’s coast.]

As my colleagues have reported, the authorities have largely shifted from implementing efforts to halt the spread of the virus to figuring out ways to slow it as much as possible until experts can figure out how to vaccinate against and treat the illness.

In California, as in other parts of the world, experts say they’re increasingly focusing on how to protect people for whom the virus is most likely to be deadly.

This includes older people or people with existing health conditions, particularly if they’re living in close quarters, like the nursing home in Washington State where the nation’s first death from the coronavirus occurred.

My colleague John Eligon reported from Oakland that coronavirus risks are compounded by existing health problems for low-income people of color, who struggle with health issues at disproportionate rates. That, combined with a distrust of medical systems that have historically mistreated them, is creating a challenge for health workers that could have deadly outcomes.

And low-wage workers will be among those hit hardest by the growing string of event cancellations, according to The Chronicle.

The Los Angeles Times also reported that California faces a unique difficulty in coordinating a response across the state.

Counties, with their vastly different sizes, geographies and demographics, are in charge of running their responses to outbreaks, which means it’s tougher to assemble a clear picture of their shared task.


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  • Federal officials said on Sunday that regional lockdowns could become necessary in the U.S. and advised the elderly or those with underlying health conditions to avoid travel. Here are the latest updates. [The New York Times]

  • “This whole thing is just a big joke.” Across the country, officials were alarmed by how few tests for the virus are available to them. [The New York Times]

  • Here’s a look at how the virus hit the places where the most frail people in South Korea lived, and what it could tell us in the U.S. [The Los Angeles Times]

  • A reporter who lived through SARS and covered the Ebola outbreak explained what questions she’s asking, and addressed some common misconceptions. [ProPublica]

  • Facebook, Google and Twitter have been taking down false information about the outbreak as fast as they can find it. The World Health Organization has said it’s confronting an “infodemic.” [The New York Times]

  • Big ride-share and food delivery companies under pressure to treat their workers better have been talking about starting a fund to compensate drivers who have been touched by the outbreak. But many say the plans could be too little too late. [The Wall Street Journal]

  • Well before the coronavirus outbreak disrupted trade and shook supply chains around the world, President Trump was railing against globalism. The current situation is fueling that backlash. [The New York Times]

  • Planning a wedding? Here’s how your big day could be affected. [The New York Times]

  • If you’ve been hearing, “Stop touching your face!” but don’t know how … [The New York Times]

  • And here’s how to self-quarantine. [The New York Times]

Also: Tell us about your experiences in California communities affected by the outbreak. Are you self-isolating or under quarantine? Canceling travel out of concern? Has your business been affected by the cancellation or gatherings or events? Email us at CAToday@nytimes.com.


  • “We must rise to unite the party and country behind a candidate who reflects the decency and dignity of the American people and who can ultimately defeat Donald Trump.” Senator Kamala Harris endorsed Joseph R. Biden Jr. for president. She’s drawing speculation as a potential running mate for her formal rival. [The New York Times]

  • Gov. Gavin Newsom and his wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, reported about $1.2 million in income in 2018, mostly from their Napa wine businesses. Though Mr. Newsom has vowed to release his tax returns, reporters who reviewed the records were not allowed to photograph or copy them. [Politico]

  • Early primary results are offering clues to which congressional seats Republicans think they can win in November. Here’s where things stand. [The Fresno Bee]

  • Yesterday was International Women’s Day. Today, women in Mexico are set to “disappear” in protest of gender-based violence and discrimination. [The New York Times]

  • And since mostly everything else is upsetting, here’s Vanessa Williams reading an excerpt from “Phenomenal Woman.” [T Magazine]


California Today goes live at 6:30 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: CAtoday@nytimes.com. Were you forwarded this email? Sign up for California Today here.

Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, graduated from U.C. Berkeley and has reported all over the state, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles — but she always wants to see more. Follow along here or on Twitter, @jillcowan.

California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.

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