California Sun

Good morning. It's Thursday, April 23.

Official says February cases likely "tips of icebergs."
Governor tiptoes into loosening stay-at-home order.
And spring unfurls carpets of green across the state.



More details emerged Wednesday about the first known Covid death on American soil. Patricia Dowd was a seemingly healthy 57-year-old who died at home in San Jose on Feb. 6. What's known:

Given the disease's trajectory, it's likely Dowd was infected in early January.
She worked at a Silicon Valley semiconductor manufacturer that had offices around the world, including in Wuhan, China.
But she and other early cases had not recently traveled outside the country, suggesting community transmission. "Cases like these deaths likely represent the tips of icebergs," a public health official said. L.A. Times | Mercury News | N.Y. Times

Responding to the altered timeline, Gov. Gavin Newsom said he instructed coroners to do autopsies on possible Covid deaths from as far back as December. Mercury News


Protesters called on California officials to reopen the state in Los Angeles on Wednesday.

Mario Tama/Getty Images

As more U.S. states signaled a readiness to reopen, Newsom made a first cautious step in relaxing California's stay-at-home order. Hospitals can now resume elective surgeries, a move that will send thousands of idled health care employees back to work. The governor said he's been bombarded with questions about when other sectors of the economy could reopen. "The pressure to answer that question is very real," he said. The answer, he added, could come in "days, not weeks or months." S.F. Chronicle | Eater Los Angeles


Some other developments in the reopening debate:

Beaches in San Clemente, parks in Sonoma County, golf courses in Stanislaus County. Locals officials across the state are slowly opening things up.
Pastors in Riverside and San Bernardino counties asked a judge to let them resume in-person services. At a hearing on Wednesday, he said no. A.P.
A Fresno County school district kept open the possibility of reopening its schools in mid-May. "I really hope we can return to normal life very soon," a trustee said. Fresno Bee

"You've raised us well. If you're finished here, then you can go in peace."

Here's a heartbreaking and beautifully written story about one family's loss. Chanell Jackson, a nurse, was caring for patients on the fourth floor of a West Los Angeles hospital. Her father was in isolation on the fifth floor. For days, coronavirus kept them apart. Then doctors said it was time to say goodbye. L.A. Times


Brian Patnoe, left, who is hospitalized with Covid-19, visited family members at Mission Hospital in Laguna Beach on Wednesday.

Leonard Ortiz/O.C. Register via Getty Images

On Wednesday, California recorded its deadliest day of the pandemic yet, with 118 deaths. Here are the latest totals, according to tallies by the S.F. Chronicle and N.Y. Times:

Confirmed cases:
834,340 in U.S.
37,711 in California
6,834 in Bay Area
27,271 in Southern California

42,501 in U.S.
1,435 in California

Cumulative infections and deaths in California:

Deaths per 100,000 people in New York: 76.2. In California: 3.3. Here are state-by-state deaths rates. N.Y. Times
See trackers of cases in California, the U.S., and worldwide.

California is performing about 16,000 coronavirus tests a day, amounting to a smaller share of its population than almost any other state. To make reopening the economy more feasible, the daily testing volume needs to be at least 60,000, Newsom said on Wednesday. He couldn't specify how long it would take to get there, but part of the effort, he said, would involve recruiting 10,000 workers to help test and trace coronavirus cases. Sacramento Bee | KQED


A police cruiser patrolled Hermosa Beach on March 28.

David McNew/Getty Images

Cooping people up for so long has led to some predictable, and troubling, consequences. A few examples:

California calls to a suicide prevention line were up 40 percent in March. People have cited job worries and the inability to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, among other stressors. Sacramento Bee
On the first three Saturdays of the stay-home order, the volume of domestic violence calls to the LAPD more than doubled the average from February. "There have been more calls than ever," a detective said. Crosstown
Child abuse reports, conversely, have plummeted. Why? Teachers, doctors, coaches, and others have been unable to keep an eye on kids now hidden from public view. L.A. Times

In the eastern Coachella Valley, working-class residents scrape by in dilapidated trailers where the tap water is too poisonous to drink. Now farmworkers are losing their jobs. Esperanza Sanchez's last paycheck — a little more than $100 a month ago — won't cover her rent, let alone other expenses. "How am I going to do it?" she said through tears. L.A. Times


Southwest Airlines planes were idled at the Southern California Logistics Airport in Victorville on March 27.

Mario Tama/Getty Images

"Wow. This is insane."

With air travel in free fall, demand for aircraft storage space has skyrocketed. More than 400 commercial planes are being parked at a remote desert airport in Victorville. A pilot captured some great views from overhead, topping off the trip with a look at the Antelope Valley poppy bloom. (The views start about 4 minutes in). YouTube (~10 mins)


Other odds and ends:

The San Diego police filed a case against the woman who organized a "Freedom Rally" on Saturday. Naomi Soria, 27, said she was exercising her constitutional rights. Times of San Diego
Oil tankers carrying enough oil to satisfy 20 percent of the world's daily consumption are gathered off California's coast with nowhere to go as fuel demand collapses. Bloomberg
Over the last month, there has been a whopping 87 percent surge in citations for speeding in excess of 100 mph, the California Highway Patrol said. A.P.

Silverlake Conservatory of Music students sang from their homes.

This is just the best.

The Silverlake Conservatory of Music organized a chorale performance of David Bowie's "Space Oddity" with its young students. The kids sang individually from their homes with a guide track in their ears, then the parts were stitched together in a video to marvelous effect. YouTube (~4:30 mins)

Flashback: The nonprofit conservatory was founded in 2001 by Flea, the buoyant bassist from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. He called it the best thing in his life. Rolling Stone


California the beautiful


Spring has unfurled brilliant carpets of green across California's hillsides. Photographers shared some their pictures with the California Sun, all captured within recent weeks. A tour, below.

A radiant hill in Crockett Hills Regional Park in Contra Costa County.

Nikolai Gates Vetr/CC BY-NC 2.0

Oakland, looking glorious and unkempt.

Anthony Albert

A hill practically glowed near the Sunol Regional Wilderness in Alameda County.

Tim Woolery

Big Sur was draped in green and gold.

Brian Mack

A view of the colorful hills just east of San Diego.

Ryan Miller

● ●

Summer wildfire outlook: The risk is expected to be below normal across much of coastal Southern California, where dryness was all but wiped out by March rains. But hot, dry conditions were poised to bring high-than-normal risk to much of Northern California, including hard-hit areas of Wine Country and the Sierra foothills. National Interagency Fire Center


Thanks for reading!

The California Sun is written by Mike McPhate, a former California correspondent for the New York Times.

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