Los Angeles Times - 03.04.2020

(C. Jardin) #1


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P-ball only 30,066 $

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Lottery results

Kim Prather, a leading
atmospheric chemist at the
Scripps Institution of
Oceanography, wants to yell
out her window at every surf-
er, runner and biker she
spots along the San Diego
“I wouldn’t go in the wa-
ter if you paid me $1 million
right now,” she said.
The beach, in her estima-
tion, is one of the most dan-
gerous places to be these
days, as the novel
coronavirus marches si-
lently across California.
Many beachgoers know
they can suffer skin rashes,
stomach illness and serious
ear and respiratory infec-
tions if they go into the water
within three days of a heavy
rain, because of bacteria and
pathogens washing off roads
and into the ocean. Raw or
poorly treated sewage enter-
ing the ocean also poses ma-
jor health risks.
Prather fears that SARS-
CoV-2, the virus that causes
COVID-19, could enter coast-
al waters in similar ways and
transfer back into the air
along the coast.
In her research, Prather
has found that the ocean
churns up all kinds of par-
ticulate and microscopic
pathogens, and every time
the ocean sneezes with a big
wave or two, it sprays these
particles into the air. She be-
lieves that this new co-
ronavirus is light enough to
float through the air much
farther than we think. The
six-feet social distancing
rule, she said, doesn’t apply
at the beach, where coastal
winds can get quite strong
and send viral particles
“It’s not going to kill you if
you miss a few surfing ses-
sions, but it could if you go
out there and get in the
wrong air,” she said.
Scientists across the
globe are scrambling to
learn the basic characteris-
tics of the virus, and so far,
neither the World Health Or-
ganization, the U.S. Centers
for Disease Control and Pre-
vention nor local health
agencies have warned that
the virus can be spread by
ocean spray or coastal

And though the virus has
been detected in sewage, sci-
entists are still investigating
whether it remains infec-
tious in fecal matter — and
whether it survives treat-
ment in a wastewater facil-
ity. In the eyes of California
health officials, beaches
pose a threat by drawing
crowds of people who will
congregate too closely and
trigger a chain of infections.
It hasn’t been easy keep-
ing Californians off the
beacheven with those con-
cerns, despite stay-at-home
orders and officials urging
the public to avoid crowding
popular areas. By now most
beaches, trails and parks in
California have been roped
off in an effort to slow the
spread of COVID-19, which
has overwhelmed hospitals
and escalated medical emer-
gencies across the nation
and world.
Even the Coastal Com-
mission, usually the gate-
keeper of California’s land-
mark lawthat declares ac-
cess to the beach is a funda-
mental right, is allowing
local officials to put up tem-
porary signs and barricades
—citing the emergency need
to protect health and safety.
Patrol cars can be heard
blasting social distancing
rules along Ocean Avenue in
Santa Monica. In Manhat-
tan Beach, a surfer was
slapped with a $1,000 fineaf-
ter he ignored warnings by
police and lifeguards cau-
tioning him not to go in the
Prather, who directs the
Center for Aerosol Impacts
on Chemistry of the Envi-
ronment, a large research
hub at Scripps backed by
$40 million from the Na-
tional Science Foundation,
sent her researchers and
students home long before
California officials issued
stay-at-home orders. She
suspected this virus was
contagious by air, and knew
from past studies that co-
ronaviruses can be excreted
in fecal matter. She worries
SARS-CoV-2 could enter the
ocean from sewage spills,
and then reenter the atmos-
Coronaviruses are en-
cased by what she calls a
“hydrophobic” lipid, or fatty,
membrane. Fat tends to
float to the surface of water,
similar to oil in a vinaigrette
dressing. When waves break
and all the foam and bubbles
pop, Prather said, “all that
stuff — the viruses, the bac-
teria, pollutants, all the goo-
ey, oily stuff — just launches
into the air.”
Scientists are still debat-
ing the characteristics of
this latest coronavirus. Re-
cent research in the New
England Journal of Medi-
cine found that when the
virus was suspended in a
mist under laboratory con-
ditions, it remained “viable
and infectious” for three
hours — though researchers
have said that time period
would probably be no more
than halfan hour in real-
world conditions.
Charles Gerba, a profes-
sor of microbiology at the
University of Arizona who
has studied coronaviruses in
wastewater since the SARS
outbreak, said these kinds of
viruses have typically been
found to survive two or three
days in raw sewage.
With this new co-
ronavirus, he’s done a few
molecular tests: Though
he’s confirmed that the virus
does wind up in sewage, he
found that more than 90% of
this new coronavirus was re-
moved by typical wastewa-
ter treatment — “it’s very
sensitive to disinfectants.”
Still up for debate, how-
ever, is whether the virus in
the sewage is still infectious.
“One report says yes, an-
other report says no, so we
don’t really know yet for cer-
tain,” said Gerba, whose re-
search focuses on wastewa-
ter removal of viral patho-
gens. As for how long the
virus could survive in salt-
water, there’s not much
data, he said, but pathogens
like hepatitis A or norovirus
tend to survive much longer
in wild environments.
For Prather, she hopes to
fill in more data gaps and is
preparing to test the air par-
ticles along the coast for
signs of the virus — espe-
cially in areas known for in-
consistent water quality.
“People kept saying res-
piratory droplets and sur-
faces, surfaces, surfaces, but
I just felt like no way, this is
something special,” she


beware: Virus

may be lurking

Pathogen could be

carried to ocean in

runoff and then

kicked into the air by

the surf, scientist says.

By Rosanna Xia

ahead before we begin to see
the benefits of our efforts to
stop the spread of
As the COVID-
pandemic continues its
march across California, the
number of cases in the state
swelled to more than 11,
on Thursday — with the
death toll topping 240. Of
those cases, 40% have oc-
curred in L.A. County.
Amid the surge, officials
are continuing to urge the
public to carry on with un-
precedented social distanc-
ing measures while also
rushing to get more supplies
to hospitals amid a rise in
The rapid spread of the
virus brought new concerns
about whether the state’s
healthcare system can han-
dle the inflow of patients.
Many California hospitals

and local medical centers
are grappling with shortag-
es of supplies amid a
scramble to prepare for
what is expected to be a del-
uge of patients in the coming
Although the number of
infections continues to swell
statewide, Gov. Gavin New-
som said he believes the
state’s social distancing ef-
forts have made a difference.
“The ICU numbers and
the hospital numbers, while
they’re growing, are not
growing as significantly as
you’re seeing in other parts
of the country,” he said
Thursday. “We’re not out of
the woods by any stretch of
the imagination.”
Newsom said 816 patients
are in intensive care and
1,922 have been hospitalized
from COVID-19 in California
as of Thursday.
The governor also an-

nounced that Californians
won’t have their water
turned off because of unpaid
bills during the coronavirus
crisis, and those who already
had it turned off since March
4, when the statewide co-
ronavirus emergency went
into effect, will have their
service restored.
Newsom’s directive
comes in response to calls
from environmental justice
organizations for assistance
to low-income residents
facing mounting financial
“People are under enor-
mous pressure economi-
cally, and the last thing they
need to worry about now is
not having access to water,”
said Steve Fleischli, senior
director of water initiatives
at the Natural Resources
Defense Council.
Santa Barbara County
recorded its first deathfrom

the virus Wednesday. The
person was in their 60s and
had underlying health con-
ditions, public health offi-
cials said.
Orange County saw its
biggest single-day increase
in coronavirus infections
Wednesday, as officials an-
nounced 107 new cases and
three additional deaths. On
Thursday, officials added 56
cases to the list and three
deaths, bringing the coun-
ty’s death toll to 13.
Riverside County Sher-
iff ’s Deputy Terrell Young
died ofcomplications from
the coronavirus, the depart-
ment said Thursday. He had
served in the department for
15 years and was its first
member to succumb to the

Fry reported from Los
Angeles, Myers and St. John
from Northern California.

SHOPS ALONG Winston Street in L.A.’s wholesale district have closed as a coronavirus precaution. “This
will be a long haul, and we have many weeks of work ahead,” said Barbara Ferrer, L.A. County health director.

Luis SincoLos Angeles Times

Cases rise but Newsom says

social distancing is working

[County,from B1]

oped the group’s website
and crafted printable fliers
in English and Spanish.
In a matter of days, more
than 350 people signed up to
“Our government is al-
ready at capacity right now,”
Bickerton said. “We really
need to show up as neigh-
bors for each other right now
and fill in the gaps.”
Despite being told they
need to practice social dis-
tancing, Southern Califor-
nians — from Santa Monica
to Santa Ana — are finding
new ways to come together
and turn to their neighbors
for support and guidance.
Faced with unclear direction
from government officials,
communities across the na-
tion are taking steps to look
out for one another, forming
strong neighborhood ties.
“I feel like we are in a mo-
ment in time where we are
watching a lot of systems feel
like they are crumbling, and
we feel paralyzed. We feel
helpless in this big thing.
This is a tangible way for
someone to help,” Bickerton
said about Westside
Friends. “A lot of us are read-
ing the news and feeling anx-
ious and wondering what’s
coming, but we can turn to
our neighbors and offer to
pick up extra groceries.
Something simple can make
a huge difference.”
As of Tuesday, Westside
Friends had helped more
than 50 people. Bickerton
and Lim had deployed more
than 60 block captains
throughout the Westside
who reach out to their imme-
diate neighbors and serve as
apoint of contact for re-
quests for help. They cre-
ated a phone number people
can call for assistance. The
pair also launched a similar
program in San Bernardino
Lim said she hopes that
more people are encouraged
to start something similar in
their own communities.
She’s made the fliers, block
captain manual and other
information available on the
websiteso that others can
duplicate their efforts.
“It’s in our hands, and no-
body knows about your
neighborhood better than
you,” she said. “I feel like the

earlier people can organize
and create this network, the
better off everyone will be. If
you find what I’m doing in-
spiring, then do it too.”
During Westside Friends’
first week, people who called
for help tended to be disa-
bled, chronically ill and
elderly. One needed a meal
delivery. Another asked for
someone to pick up her
Yet another was a woman
who was immunocompro-
mised. She didn’t need help
but wanted to make sure
that she had someone to call
in case she did. Some who
called lived outside the
Westside area but had got-
ten a hold of thenumber.
Westside Friends still sent
The next wave of calls
came from people who had
been laid off. They asked for
By the third week, Bick-
erton said, they were work-
ing on providing mental
health resources and setting
up check-in calls or chats for
people who live alone. West-
side Friends also matched
more than 25 young volun-
teers with older folks. For
instance, a USC student is
now doing weekly grocery
deliveries and pharmacy
pickups for a senior citizen
in Mar Vista.
So far, the help is greater
than the need, Bickerton
In Santa Ana, it’s a simi-
lar story.

A little more than two
weeks ago, Nathaniel
Cooper, 38, recruited more
than a dozen of his neigh-
bors to serve as volunteers in
Washington Square, a his-
toric neighborhood in down-
town Santa Ana. They
walked door to door, drop-
ping off fliers on neighbors’
“So far it’s a glorified toi-
let paper ring,” Cooper said.
He described it as a good
thing but expects the need
to grow in the coming
weeks, as a wave of illness is
predicted to hit Southern
To date, the group has
fielded one call from some-
one who wanted to know
how to get tested for
COVID-19. That neighbor
was given the phone number
to the Orange County health
department. One neighbor
connected with another who
could help with child care.
In other cases, people
have helped connect infor-
mally on the Washington
Square Neighborhood
Assn.’s Facebook page. One
neighbor offered lemons on
her porch for the taking. An-
other offered free cat food.
One mother offered a free set
of toy train tracks.
But some are raising con-
cerns that such acts of kind-
ness could lead to inadvert-
ent spread of the virus.
In New York City, a coun-
cil member from hard-hit
Brooklyn was quoted as say-
ing he had concerns that vol-

unteers helping neighbors
could put some of the most
vulnerable at risk.
Bickerton said Westside
Friends already provides
guidelines on how to keep
oneself and others safe
during deliveries, such as
dropping off groceries at
doorsteps and frequent
hand washing. She said
the group will continue to
adapt and respond to the
risks involved.
“But even a grocery deliv-
ery involves handling by a
chain of people who could
spread illness. Any time a
package is handled or a door
is opened, we run a risk,” she
said. “We also run a risk of
leaving behind our commu-
nity members at a time of in-
credible need, from strains
on mental health to job loss
to a fear of the unknown. We
can’t afford not to help each
other now.”
In Culver City, Dan O’Bri-
en, who administers the
city’s unofficial Facebook
page, first put up a quick
post for volunteers on the
group’s page. It has more
than 10,000 members.
“If you want to help, just
say ‘me’ in the comments
field,” he posted. He had a
few hundred people chime
That’s when O’Brien, a
television and film editor,
decided to coordinate volun-
teers. He created a Google
document that volunteers
can fill out with what they
are willing to do. More than
150 signed up in the first few
In some ways, this kind of
grass-roots organizing can
be more efficient than gov-
ernment, which often con-
tends with inherent chal-
lenges, O’Brien said.
“We don’t have to deal
with all the hurdles they
have to deal with, making
sure all our I’s are dotted and
Ts are crossed,” he said.
But overseeing a Face-
book group of thousands of
neighbors presents its own
challenges, O’Brien said.
“Sometimes the page can
get political and quickly turn
ugly,” O’Brien said of the
Facebook page. “But just
when I’m ready to burn it all
down, someone will ask for
help and a thousand people
will jump in.”

Neighbors help neighbors in L.A.

CRISTIN LIMhelped launch Westside Friends, a
network assisting neighbors amid the pandemic.

Jason ArmondLos Angeles Times

[Neighbors,from B1]
Free download pdf