Soumya Profile picture
health reporter at the Los Angeles Times. on the COVID beat. former rosalynn carter mental health fellow. reach me here: soumya.karlamangla@latimes.com
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26 Feb
The vaccine rollout is a mess. Across 50 states, there are 48 different ways that the vaccine is being distributed.

“It’s a little bit like designating one part of the swimming pool for urination and hoping for the best.”

latest from me and @CShalby latimes.com/california/sto…
Almost every state has made up its own list of who should get early access to the vaccine: police officers, teachers, incarcerated people, psychiatric patients, pregnant woman. There are CDC guidelines, but only three states are still following them. latimes.com/california/sto…
The patchwork has created a frustrating situation in which the place you determines if you can get a vaccine yet. Not only does each state have its own list, but within California, there are as many as 61 more as counties are allowed to do their own thing.
Read 5 tweets
23 Feb
Thought I'd collect and share some differing perspectives about the California variant and acknowledge that there's a lot of debate about it! So the UCSF researchers found some stuff that seemed alarming...
Yet the California variant is already dominant here, yet things aren't getting worse -- far from it
the California variant has been around for months, yet it didn't suddenly take over like B117 has, suggesting it is not as worrisome

“It’s not as big a deal as the others,” said Harvard epidemiologist William Hanage, referring to other well-known variants
Read 7 tweets
22 Feb
California is vaccinating around 200,000 people a day, according to Gov. Newsom. Since the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines each require two doses, it would take 13 months to vaccinate everyone in the state at this pace.
Newsom says that the vaccine supply the state is receiving is low and "simply not what we’re capable of administering, meaning we could do exponentially more."
Important note here: The FDA will likely approve the Johnson and Johnson vaccine this week, which is a single-dose vaccine. So that will hopefully rapidly bring our vaccination rate up, since it'll add another vaccine to the mix and also only requires one shot for coverage.
Read 6 tweets
21 Feb
In LA, we’re vaccinating neighborhoods hardest-hit by COVID at the lowest rates — the opposite of how you’d distribute a vaccine if you wanted to prevent the most transmission and deaths. latimes.com/projects/la-co…
These trends also means that we won’t be able to get the pandemic control, because we won’t prevent outbreaks in the neighborhoods most likely to have them. And then they’ll spread to elsewhere.
If a house were on fire, you’d put the most water on that house to stop the fire and prevent it from spreading. Ignoring that house and watering houses a few blocks away makes no sense and allows the fire to keep going, grow in size and destroy other houses.
Read 5 tweets
11 Feb
So the CDC changed its masking guidance yesterday to recommend tighter-fitting masks as well as double masks. But they specifically warned against layering KN95s, which surprised me given how common that combo has become

This is how they explained it when I followed-up:
KN95s and N95s work very well on their own and adding masks on top or underneath could "affect how well they fit the face and decrease their effectiveness" and also make them hard to breathe through and uncomfortable, officials say.
"Masks that are not comfortable may not be worn by people as long as they are needed. It's important for consumers to find a mask that fits well but that also is comfortable enough that they can wear it for prolonged periods, if needed," reads a CDC statement sent to me.
Read 8 tweets
10 Feb
The status of COVID variants in California:

-159 cases of the B117 UK variant
-1,203 cases of West Coast variant
-no cases of P1 variant, believed to have emerged in Brazil
-two cases of the South African B1351 variant -- one in Alameda and one in Santa Clara County
What we know about these variants:

-the B117 variant is believed to be about 50% more infectious. it's prevalence in the US is doubling every week
-research on the B1351 variant suggests it may make some vaccines less effective. it's an issue to keep an eye on
Some more details about B1351 in California:

In the Santa Clara County case, the person infected returned from international travel in mid-January and began experiencing symptoms several days later.
Read 4 tweets
10 Feb
LA County officials say that food and agriculture workers will become eligible for vaccination here in the next two to three weeks.
That sectors breaks down like this. About half a million people in this category in LA County.
LA County officials say that childcare and education workers will become eligible for vaccination within the next two to three weeks. There are nearly 700,000 people who qualify under this category in the county.
Read 5 tweets
10 Feb
How many people are wearing cloth masks on top of KN95s?

The CDC's new masking guidance recommends wearing a cloth mask over a disposable mask, but it asks that people NOT layer KN95s. KN95s are meant to be worn on their own, it says.
I'm trying to find out more soon on why they're recommending this, but I'm wondering if it's because KN95s have a structure to them and if you put something on top it might flatten the mask, and reduce the tightness of the seal? Hopefully will know more soon.
This is from the CDC's new masking guidance: cdc.gov/coronavirus/20…
Read 5 tweets
10 Feb
The CDC is updating its mask guidance today to recommend new ways to make masks fit more tightly, including double-masking, knotting the ear loops or using a moldable nose wire. This is based on new science released today.
CDC researchers conducted an experiment in which they simulated aerosolized COVID-19 transmission between two people, and found that exposure was reduced by more than 95% when both people were wearing a cloth mask over a medical procedure mask.
"Masks work, and work best when they have a good fit and are worn correctly," says CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.
Read 9 tweets
8 Feb
Officials say that there are now five confirmed cases of the B117 coronavirus variant -- often called the UK strain -- in LA County.
LA County public health director Barbar Ferrer: "I would just note: there's no way that we don't have a fair amount of variant circulating, a fair amount of mutated virus circulating. It's just a question of how much and does it become dominant."
Barbara, not Barbar 🤦‍♀️
Read 8 tweets
8 Feb
LA County is reporting 93 new deaths from COVID and 2,741 new cases today.
A huge drop in coronavirus cases in LA County Image
Also a big drop in COVID hospitalizations Image
Read 8 tweets
31 Jan
I just heard someone say that North Dakota and Arizona have way lower death rates from COVID than California, and that they've managed it without all our rules.

That's just not true! Everyone loves to bash California, but our death rate from COVID ranks 33 out of 50 states 🙃
Nearly 41,000 Californians have died from COVID -- about 1 of every 1,000 residents

If we had the same death rate as Arizona or North Dakota, we'd have around 75,000 dead. Even the rate of Florida, which everyone love to compare us to, would bring our toll to 50,000
Idk why people think California is doing so much worse than it is. It might be news coverage highlighting how big our surge has been -- it was undoubtedly huge, I don't dispute that -- or just that people like to make fun of California
Read 12 tweets
31 Jan
LA County has confirmed its second case of the B117 variant, the one that is widespread in the UK and is believed to be more contagious.
The specimen, which came from a clinical facility, was sequenced as part of routine surveillance by the health department. Officials say they believe the variant is already spreading in the county and continue to test samples.
"Presence of the B.1.1.7 variant in L.A. County means virus transmission can happen more easily, and residents and businesses must more diligently implement and follow all of the personal protective actions and safety measures," according to a press release from the health dept.
Read 6 tweets
29 Jan
outdoor dining reopening in LA today. this is what health officials have to say about it:
employees must wear face masks AND shields. tables must be eight feet apart. TVs must remain off. people eating a restaurant can't be in groups larger than six and must all be from the same household.
customers need to keep their masks on until their food arrives, and then put it back on after they are done eating. people must also put their mask on when their server approaches their table, or when they leave their table.
Read 8 tweets
26 Jan
So Gov. Newsom announced that the stay-at-home orders are being lifted. I talked to a bunch of epidemiologists to see what they were thinking about the news. Just like the public, their reactions varied widely
Some experts thought it was too soon. California has just started to turn around its numbers and it doesn't make sense to reopen things before they get lower, they said, because if there's another surge it will build upon this one that isn't over yet
UC Berkeley's Dr. John Swartzberg said that California has reopening too soon too many times.

“It’s like we’re climbing this mountain. We go two steps up and we just take one step back, and we take two steps up from there and one step back and we keep just having more cases."
Read 11 tweets
25 Jan
A happy San Francisco Mayor London Breed says that Gov. Newsom's lifting of the stay-at-home order is good news. The city's COVID numbers are all trending downwards and outdoor dining can resume. "It's good news."
"You can get your hair done, you can get your nails done," starting on Thursday, Breed says. Outdoor museums, zoos, outdoor entertainment like skateparks and indoor funerals for up to 12 people were all banned but now will reopen on Thursday.
There will also be capacity increases at grocery stores and retail shops, Breed says.
Read 5 tweets
25 Jan
Gov. Newsom just started his press conference. It's gonna be a doozy!
Newsom says that ICU capacity will be above 15% across the state by Feb. 21st
Gavin is really Gavin-ing today: "The goal of this announcement is to socialize our projections as well as illuminate and further advance an understanding, a deeper understanding, of what today means and it doesn't mean."
Read 7 tweets
25 Jan
after California instated stay-at-home orders for most of the state in early December, our mobility -- a measure of how much everyone is moving around -- dropped to the lowest level since May. that undoubtedly helped turn around our terrible surge
maybe the rules can be loosened as things are improving, but they're barely improving! there are still way too many people in the hospital and health care workers are still stretched so thin ... like, look at this graph
the worst-case scenario we talked about so much, the surge-upon-a-surge, was about what would happen if there was a Christmas or NYE surge on top of the Thanksgiving/fall surge. as in, what happens when cases are already really high and they start growing again...
Read 13 tweets
25 Jan
California officials just announced that the regional stay-at-home orders have been lifted across the state.
There were three regions that were under the order as of today – San Joaquin Valley, Bay Area and Southern California -- and are no longer. Sacramento already exited on Jan. 12.
“Californians heard the urgent message to stay home as much as possible and accepted that challenge to slow the surge,” said state public health officer Dr. Tomás Aragón. “Together, we changed our activities knowing our short-term sacrifices would lead to longer-term gains."
Read 9 tweets
25 Jan
So if this does happen, my guess would be that a stay-at-home order would remain in place in LA County because we approved one before the state’s was imposed. Same with outdoor dining. But I guess we’ll find out tomorrow!

Never a dull day during the pandemic...
Things in LA are trending in the right direction, but they’re still bad! There are still 6,697 hospitalized with COVID in LA County. At the peak in the summer, there were 2,200. Easing up now, before things are fully better, would set us up for that dreaded surge upon surge.
The only reason we were able to turn things around in LA is because people reallyyyy cut down on their activities. And that’s great and we should be proud of ourselves. But we all know by now what happens when we stop doing those things 👀
Read 4 tweets
23 Jan
I just realized that an Indian folktale my dad told me when I was a kid prepared me to cover COVID and my mind is blown. so this is how it goes:

(stay tuned if you want to understand how COVID outbreaks seem to suddenly become unstoppable!)
an Indian king made all of his subjects give him the rice they grew every year and didn't leave them any of the surplus. then there was a famine and the villagers had no rice and the king wouldn't give them any because he wanted to save it for himself
a smart little girl convinced the king to give her just one grain of rice today and then for the next thirty days, double the rice he had given her the day before. so tomorrow, he'd give her two grains, the next day four grains, and so on for thirty days
Read 12 tweets