COVID19 🦠 Newsbites
Amid a devastating Covid-19 surge, Los Angeles County ambulance crews told not to transport patients with little chance of survival
New infections have soared with about one in five residents who get tested for Covid-19 receiving positive results.

Los Angeles ambulance crews have been told to stop transporting patients with little chance of survival to hospitals.

LA County’s hospitals are full because of the latest Covid-19 surge. As of Monday, the county of 10 million people had just 17 available adult ICU beds, according to official data.

LA County supervisor Hilda Solis called the situation "a human disaster" and said "our health care workers are physically and mentally exhausted and sick."

The crisis is the result of holiday gatherings and travel, according to county public health director Barbara Ferrer, who said one person is now dying from the virus every 15 minutes in LA County — and warned that increases in cases look set to to continue for weeks to come. "We're likely to experience the worst conditions in January that we've faced the entire pandemic, and that's hard to imagine," she said.

Grammy Awards Postponed as Covid-19 Rages in Los Angeles
The delay comes less than four weeks before the ceremony was to be held, on Jan. 31. The event will now be held on March 14.

The 63rd annual Grammy Awards, set to be presented this month, have been delayed over concerns about Covid-19, which has been spreading rapidly in the Los Angeles area.

The show will now be held on March 14, according to a statement from Grammy organizers, although few other details were available about where, and how, the event would go on.

“The deteriorating Covid situation in Los Angeles, with hospital services being overwhelmed, I.C.U.s having reached capacity, and new guidance from state and local governments have all led us to conclude that postponing our show was the right thing to do,” said the statement, which was signed by executives at the Recording Academy, which presents the Grammys, and CBS, its longtime broadcast partner.

“Nothing is more important,” it added, “than the health and safety of those in our music community and the hundreds of people who work tirelessly on producing the show.”

Merkel announces an extension of the lockdown in Germany.
Chancellor Angela Merkel and state governors in Germany agreed on Tuesday to extend the nationwide lockdown by three weeks, until at least the end of January, and to tighten restrictions amid high rates of coronavirus cases and deaths and the fear that a more contagious variant of the virus could spread in Germany.

“The measures we have adopted today are drastic,” Ms. Merkel said in a news conference after the meeting. “They are not just a continuation of what we did before Christmas. Given the situation, they are tougher.”

Under the extended lockdown rules, members of a household cannot meet more than one person from another household; schools, child care centers, cultural sites and all but essential shops are closed. Ms. Merkel and the governors also agreed to limit movement to 15 kilometers from home for people living in areas in which there are more than 200 new infections a week per 100,000 people. It is the first such rule in effect across Germany since the pandemic began.

After the failure of lighter lockdown measures in November — under which both schools and most shops had remained open — the German authorities had set stricter rules in mid-December. Those restrictions, which were set to expire Jan. 10, cut short the pre-Christmas shopping period, discouraged family gatherings over the festive season and curtailed celebrations for New Year’s Eve.

In a Topsy-Turvy Pandemic World, China Offers Its Version of Freedom
Surveillance and censorship bolster Beijing’s uncompromising grip on power. But in the country’s cities and streets, people have resumed normal lives.

While many countries are still reeling from Covid-19, China — where the pandemic originated — has become one of the safest places in the world. The country reported fewer than 100,000 infections for all of 2020. The United States has been reporting more than that every day since early November.

China resembles what “normal” was like in the pre-pandemic world. Restaurants are packed. Hotels are full. Long lines form outside luxury brands stores. Instead of Zoom calls, people are meeting face to face to talk business or celebrate the new year.

The country will be the only major economy to have grown this past year. While such forecasts are often more art than science, one outfit is forecasting that the Chinese economy will surpass that of the United States in 2028 — five years earlier than previously predicted.

The pandemic has upended many perceptions, including ideas about freedom. Citizens of China don’t have freedom of speech, freedom of worship or freedom from fear — three of the four freedoms articulated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt — but they have the freedom to move around and lead a normal day-to-day life. In a pandemic year, many of the world’s people would envy this most basic form of freedom.

The global crisis could plant doubts about other types of freedom. Nearly half of voting Americans supported a president who ignored science and failed to take basic precautions to protect their country. Some Americans assert that it is their individual right to ignore health experts’ recommendations to wear masks, putting themselves and others at increasing risk of infection. The internet, which was supposed to give a voice to the voiceless, became a useful tool for autocrats to control the masses and for political groups to spread misinformation.

China’s freedom of movement comes at the expense of nearly every other kind. The country is about the most surveilled in the world. The government took extreme social-control measures at the beginning of the outbreak to keep people apart — approaches that are beyond the reach of democratic governments.

“There are actually a lot of parallels between how the Chinese government treats a virus and how they treat other problems,” said Howard Chao, a retired lawyer in California who invests in start-ups on both sides of the Pacific.

“It’s kind of a one-size-fits-all approach: Just completely take care of the problem,” he said. “So when it comes to a virus, maybe that’s not too bad a thing. When it comes to certain other problems, maybe not such a good thing.”