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The Times has joined forces with the University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, to expand coverage of how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting California.
More than 80 students and nearly 20 journalism teachers were organized to report on the impact of the new coronavirus in each of the 58 counties in California. They collect data, help correspondents and produce stories – the first of which is today’s dispatch on Mammoth Lakes:
For most of the year, approximately 8,000 people live in Mammoth Lakes, a 7,881 foot high resort in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. In high ski season, the population triples, a fact normally welcomed by civic officials.
But not now. Not when surrounding Mono County has the highest rate of coronavirus infection in the state. Not when the county’s only hospital has only 17 beds. Not when transferring a patient to another hospital means a special medical evacuation flight at a cost of up to $ 50,000, and still this option may be delayed by frequent blizzard conditions. And when the thin city air only worsens respiratory illnesses.
“I am absolutely terrified,” said Dr. Tom Boo, public health officer for Mono County, in an interview the same day, Mammoth Lakes decided to set up a roadside checkpoint to refuse tourists.
Dr. Boo and other county officials were amazed at how quickly the virus spread in this community. In late March, a case was confirmed in Mono County; two weeks later, 19 people were infected, one died, and four others developed symptoms severe enough to require hospitalization.
This relentless math is behind the growing fear that Mammoth Hospital, which has four ventilators and two I.C.U. beds, will soon be exceeded. To add to the concern, the special medical evacuation flight of an infected patient last month was delayed for hours by a snowstorm.
In a letter to the state health department, Thomas Parker, director general of Mammoth Hospital, said that, given the rapidly deteriorating conditions, the hospital was preparing for a surge of up to to 100 patients per day, several dozen probably needing respirators because of the altitude. “We anticipate that our ability to move to a higher level of care (Reno or Los Angeles) will soon be eliminated due to the overcrowding of these hospital facilities,” he added.
Dr. Boo expressed it more frankly: “In this situation,” he said, “people will die.”
[Unexpertexplique[Anexpertexplains[Unexpertexplique[Anexpertexplainsnumbers to watch for better understanding the coronavirus crisis.]
In the absence of good alternatives, the city has concentrated its efforts on the double challenge of emptying the city of skiers and snowboarders and blocking access to people fleeing Los Angeles and San Francisco to wait for the pandemic in their holiday homes .
“If they are here and they are sick, we cannot help them,” said Ingrid Braun, the sheriff of Mono County.
March 15, a day before San Francisco became the first major metropolitan area in the country to order residents to shelter on site, Dr. Boo declared a local health emergency in Mono County. The ski areas were closed, followed by hotels, motels and bars. Dr. Boo has since issued increasingly stringent directives, including the threat of a $ 1,000 fine and 90 days in prison for going to work, even for jobs deemed essential. The Mono County Tourism Commission has launched a social media campaign to discourage tourism – #MonoPause.
When people kept coming, local leaders simply considered closing the highway in town. They opted for a slightly less severe option: the establishment of the roadside checkpoint. Once this stage has obtained state approval, all who will be heading to Mammoth Lakes will be arrested and interrogated. Only residents and those with essential items will be allowed to pass.
“We are not xenophobic,” said Sheriff Braun. “We are really concerned that we can take care of the people who live here.”
[Learnmoreabouthow[Readmoreabouthow[Ensavoirplussurlafaçondont[Readmoreabouthowvulnerable ski communities respond with coronavirus.]
Dr. Boo spends restless nights thinking of new ways to protect his friends and neighbors. The hospital was divided into Covid-19 positive and negative zones. An ethics plan on who will have access to the lifesaving equipment is in place, an urgent matter since the state has said it could take weeks or months to provide half a dozen additional fans. And Dr. Boo wonders when it will be necessary to close everything that is still open – grocery stores included – to buy a little more time in the city.
“Lying here at 5:20 am, the story is not really a traffic checkpoint,” wrote Dr. Boo in a recent email. “It is a small mountain town and its small hospital on the verge of collapse.”
Annie Berman is a second year student at U.C. Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.
Here’s what you may have missed this weekend
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Captain Brett E. Crozier, from Santa Rosa, steered a tall Navy ship. Now, say his colleagues, his decision to challenge the Trump administration’s tale that the coronavirus pandemic is under control has left him quarantined, infected, and fired.[[[[The New York Times]
And, if you missed it, here’s the story of a leak from a letter from Captain Crozier asking for help from the Navy as the virus spread on the ship he led: “Sailors don’t need to die.”[[[[The Chronicle of San Francisco]
A man from San Gabriel returned from a business trip and started to feel bad. He lost his sense of taste and smell. About a week later, he was dead. “I tried to get it tested from the start,” said his wife. The man, who tested positive after his death, is probably one of the what worries experts is the many deaths from coronavirus. [The New York Times]
Even after Governor Gavin Newsom ordered a statewide moratorium, sheriff’s services still evict tenants. The tenant groups said the ban was insufficient and too limited to protect vulnerable residents.[[[[CalMatters]
Federal court rejected emergency plea for early release of thousands of California inmates in the midst of the coronavirus crisis. But the decision was procedural, and state officials said it did not affect their plans.[[[[Sacramento bee]
Hospitals in San Diego weigh patients treated in college dorms. A hospital in Los Angeles will use 3D printing to make ventilator parts. Statewide, hospitals roll out proven fixes and new ideas to make way for a wave of coronavirus patients.[[[[California Healthline]
“Anyone could have Covid-19. ” As millions of Americans take refuge in their homes, many workers – from flight attendants to firefighters – are unable to do so. [The New York Times Magazine]
“There is no politician, there is no member of the city council, there is no billionaire, who is more influential in Beverly Hills than Gloria.” Nate ’n Al’s, the beloved grocery store, suddenly closed, which means Gloria Leon, 69, a veteran waitress there, is the hottest free agent in the city.[[[[The Los Angeles Times]
California Today goes online at 6:30 a.m. Pacific Time on weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: CAtoday@nytimes.com. Did you receive this email? Sign up for California Today here and read each edition online here.
Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, a graduate of the U.C. Berkeley and has been reporting across the state, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles – but she always wants to see more. Follow us here or on Twitter, @jillcowan.
California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.