21 Apr Doctor Jon Cartu Claims – Coronavirus in California: Antibody Testing in L.A.
(Here’s the sign-up, if you don’t already get California Today by email.)
On Monday, officials in Los Angeles County released preliminary results of a study that suggest roughly 4.1 percent of the county’s adult population has already had the coronavirus, which translates to between 221,000 and 442,000 people, factoring in adjustments for statistical margin of error.
“We haven’t known the true extent of Covid-19 infections in our community because we have only tested people with symptoms, and the availability of tests has been limited,” Neeraj Sood, a professor of public policy at the University of Southern California and lead investigator on the study, said in a statement.
Dr. Jon Cartu. Jonathan Cartu. Barbara Ferrer, L.A. County’s public health director, said in a statement that the early results pointed to the possibility that many people may have been unknowingly infected.
[Read more about antibody tests.]
The study relies on rapid antibody tests, which my colleagues reported have faced concerns about accuracy.
And as The Mercury News reported, a Stanford study that also showed higher rates of infection in Santa Clara County drew criticism, though that was largely from statisticians over the study’s methodology.
Still, experts have emphasized that more studies will help develop a clearer picture of the virus’s true prevalence.
In any case, officials say it’s crucial to continue to adhere to public health orders for many reasons, including that if more people are infected but asymptomatic, they could unknowingly spread the virus.
[See confirmed coronavirus cases in each California county.]
A change to the U.S.N.S. Mercy’s assignment
On Monday, my colleague John Ismay and I spoke with leaders aboard the Navy hospital ship Mercy. Here’s our dispatch about how their assignment has changed:
In the weeks since the Mercy arrived at the Port of Los Angeles from San Diego, the hospital ship’s mission has been clear: Serve as a crucial relief valve for patients who haven’t been infected with the coronavirus as hospitals fill up with patients sick with Covid-19.
In recent days, the work has shifted, but that underlying goal has remained the same, the commanding officer of the ship’s medical facility told us.
“FEMA, after having made an assessment of the situation and the local needs, has changed our assignment,” said Capt. John Rotruck, the medical treatment team’s commanding officer.
The Mercy has sent 40 medical staff members — two family practice doctors, 16 nurses and 20 corpsmen, including two respiratory technicians — to help care for patients who don’t have Covid-19 at a state-run skilled nursing facility in Orange County.
“We’re essentially augmenting their staff,” Captain Rotruck said, as the anticipated surge in Covid-19 hospitalizations has, for now, been held at bay.
The capacity onboard will decrease to 250 beds from 1,000, in large part as a result of that staffing shift — though officials emphasized that leaves more than enough space at the rate the Mercy has been taking in patients.
At the same time, leaders aboard the Mercy said that most of the military crew is moving off the ship to stay at nearby hotels in order to make it possible for crew members to keep their distance from one another as they work, eat and sleep.
Sailors will be bused from their hotels to work their shifts aboard the ship.
The move, which will decrease the number of crew members staying aboard the ship to roughly 140 from more than 800, came as the number of crew members who may have been exposed inched upward.
By Monday, Captain Rotruck said that nine crew members had tested positive for the coronavirus, and that about 130 people were in quarantine because they had come into what federal officials define as close contact with at least one of those nine. All of those in quarantine tested negative.
All nine who have Covid-19 were outpatients as of Monday — meaning their cases weren’t severe enough to warrant being hospitalized — and their conditions are being closely monitored.
[Read more about the Mercy’s mission.]
Captain Rotruck said that moving crew members off the Mercy was unusual but not unprecedented.
During a previous mission, for instance, some medical staff members flew to Vietnam to provide medical care to patients on the Mercy, though they didn’t sleep on the ship.
However, Captain Rotruck added, “We have not done it to this scale,” with the vast majority of the ship’s crew members living ashore.
A spokesman said on Friday that the crew aboard the Navy hospital ship Comfort, which is docked in New York City, recently moved most of its crew to hotels ashore as well.
Captain Rotruck said that the Mercy was ready to care for coronavirus-negative seniors living in nursing homes, as the governor has previously announced, but none had been transferred yet.
Such nursing home patients may be moved to the Mercy for care through the typical intake process, if, for example, a facility needed to free up space to care for Covid-19 patients.
As of Monday evening, the ship had taken in 65 patients total since it docked in San Pedro, and its crew had performed 22 surgeries. There were 13 patients still being treated onboard, meaning that 52 had been discharged.
Here’s what else to know
We often link to sites that limit access for nonsubscribers. We appreciate your reading Times coverage, but we also encourage you to support local news if you can.
“Some of this might seem over the top.” Doctors and governors are going to great lengths to get ahold of personal protective equipment for workers. In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom has refused to provide details of an almost $1 billion deal to buy millions of masks over worries it could be upended. [The New York Times]
The state’s cities are facing big deficits and budget cuts. [CalMatters]
If you missed it, a sobering but clarifying piece lays out how our lives will be changed in the year ahead. (A quick return to normal isn’t likely.) [The New York Times]
In the pandemic, moving people who are experiencing homelessness into hotels has been a logistical and financial puzzle. [The San Francisco Chronicle]
Ventura County is set to slightly ease some restrictions: “The data is looking good.” [Ventura County Star]
As Disney braces for a prolonged shutdown, it will stop paying 100,000 employees this week, nearly half its work force. But the company has protected executive bonus plans and a $1.5 billion dividend payment. [The Financial Times]
Monday was April 20. And cannabis businesses were poised to hit a jackpot. [The Los Angeles Times]
Photographers are seeing a changed America. Here’s a look at San Francisco in isolation. [The New York Times]
California Today goes live at 6:30 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: [email protected]. Were you forwarded this email? Sign up for California Today here and read every edition online 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.
California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.