On Thursday, when L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer sniffled during one of her daily televised pandemic briefings, my mind went to the obvious.
Was she OK?
TV reporter Dave Lopez was wondering the same thing and asked that very question.
I have allergies, Ferrer said, apologizing. No, Im not sick.
A couple of months ago, Ferrer was virtually unknown to most people. Now shes such a familiar presence, appearing daily on TV with L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and county Supervisor Kathryn Barger, a runny nose has us worried about her.
In Ferrers role as the top health officer in a county of 10 million people, shes in the middle of every tough conversation about which businesses and institutions have to shut down, whether public and private hospitals are equipped and prepared to handle a possible surge, and what each of us has to do to make a difference.
Shes our very own local version of White House infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci, the straight-talking over-worked doctor now so visible that I feel as though I can tell how many hours of sleep he gets each night.
I met him once, Ferrer said of Fauci, whose work she praised. That wasnt surprising. Ferrer generously praises public health officials and workers at every level federal, state and local for their efforts.
So who is this woman were all getting to know so well? Whats her daily routine inside the command center? And is she going to be able to help us flatten the coronavirus curve and save lives?
As to who she is, shes not one to talk herself up. But Ferrer revealed a lot about herself when she asked several hours after I interviewed her by phone between TV briefings Thursday if I could either not write about her at all, or at least make the column about all of her colleagues who get to work extremely early and go home late every night.
Shes right about the collective effort, but its Ferrer who steps to the microphone to deliver the daily statistics on the number of new cases and the latest mortality figures.
Im sad to report an additional 13 deaths today, Ferrer said at the early afternoon briefing with Garcetti on Thursday.
Later that day, appearing with Barger, Ferrer delivered more news about the pandemic, along with a somber expression of compassion and unity, and a sincere measure of hope.
To all of you who either are praying for or caring for people who are sick with COVID-19, or youve lost a person to COVID-19, please know I keep you in my thoughts and prayers every day, and I share your sorrow at the loss of life, but I do know that were brave and theres another side were going to get to, Ferrer said.
In this time of crisis, shes doing a good job of keeping people informed and trying to anticipate whats next, said Dr. Jonathan Fielding, who preceded Ferrer, and being honest about what she knows and doesnt know.
On Sunset Boulevard in Los Feliz, Greg Barris, (in cowboy hat) picks up fresh produce he ordered through County Line Harvest, a local vegetable farm. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Chantael Duke, 32, sits on the steps off of Sunset Boulevard in Los Feliz. She lost her two jobs due to coronavirus closures. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Juliann Hartman, center, and her husband, Butch, wave signs they created to cheer up people mid-pandemic on Calabasas Road in Calabasas. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
Grace Carter, 15, of Riverside, practices a dance routine at home after dance classes and school were canceled. She has to use the Zoom app on her iPhone to practice with her dance group."Its hard. My bedroom is a smaller space. I miss all my friends at the studio, " Grace said. (Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)
Dusk falls as the sound of silence envelopes an empty downtown Los Angeles on April 2, 2020. (Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times)
A man works from his home during the COVID-19 pandemic breaking out in Long Beach. (Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times)
Jerome Campbell takes a walk along Ocean Blvd. at dusk in Long Beach. (Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times)
A San Bernardino County healthcare worker takes a sample at coronavirus drive-through testing at the county fairgrounds in Victorville. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
A Metro general service employee disinfects a bench in Boyle Heights. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)
Vendors sell masks along San Pedro Street in the nearly deserted garment district of Los Angeles. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
A runner jogs past the Pottery Barn in Pasadena. Some businesses in the area have boarded up the front of their stores during the coronavirus pandemic. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
Raquel Lezama and daughter Monica Ramos collect meals for the family at Manual Arts High School. Lezama was laid off from her $17.76-an-hour job at a Beverly Hills hotel. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
Homeless artist Matteo defends his work against removal by the Los Angeles Sanitation Department and police in Venice. (Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)
Kylie Wortham, who was laid off because of the coronavirus, relaxes with a book in a hammock overlooking the beach in Huntington Beach. The pier, beach parking lots and most shops are closed. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
People wearing personal protective equipment shop at the Santa Monica farmers market. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)
A medical staff member carries a digital inverter generator into Cedar Mountain Post Acute nursing home after 51 residents and six staff members have tested positive for coronavirus in Yucaipa. Two residents have died. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
The Iron City Tavern in San Pedro tries an incentive to lure takeout customers. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
The streets of San Pedro are quiet as people remain in their homes due to the coronavirus. (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times)
Healthcare workers gather outside UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center to call for further action from the federal government in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Kristen Edgerle of Victorville collects information from a blood donor before drawing blood at The Richard Nixon Presidential Library blood drive during the coronavirus pandemic in Yorba Linda. (Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times)
Jonathan Sanchez, manager of Choppys Produce Company at the LA Wholesale Produce Market, stands with an excess of inventory in the wake of the coronavirus Covid19 shutdown as LAs produce wholesalers are seeing their business decline over 80%. (Al Seib/Los Angeles Times)
A woman has the sidewalk all to herself while walking along California St. in downtown Ventura. Foot traffic is very light as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. (Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times)
A city worker, wearing a protective suit and mask, sweeps around the Echo Park Community Center that is one of several recreation centers in Los Angeles that has been converted for homeless housing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The center is filled to capacity with over 30 beds available to the homeless. (Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)
Shauna Jin of Los Angeles, with her dog, Bodhi, practices social distancing with John Kiss of Los Angeles at the entrance of Runyon Canyon Park in Los Angeles. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)
A maintenance worker cleans the entrance of Runyon Canyon Park in Los Angeles. The park is closed to the public because of the coronavirus. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)
A lending library had some additional useful items, including a roll of toilet paper and cans of beans and corn, in a Hermosa Beach neighborhood. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
Protesters drive by the Getty House, the home of L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, in Hancock Park. Tenant advocates are demanding a total moratorium on evictions during the coronavirus crisis. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Security guard Marcos Ayala of East Los Angeles helps the Hermosa Beach Police Department close off the Strand and a two-mile stretch of Hermosa Beach. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
The Strand and oceanfront of Hermosa Beach are closed in an effort to prevent crowds and slow the spread of the coronavirus. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
Mong Noiboonsok, left, and Rena Chastan have lunch at Crystal Springs picnic area in Griffith Park. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
Venice residents Emily Berry and Gavin Kelley take a break at Venice Beach. Berry, a cocktail waitress at Enterprise Fish Co., lost her job due to the coronavirus outbreak, and Kelley, a manager at a performing arts school with a focus on music, said that he still has a job and that classes at the school will resume online this coming Monday. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
Israel Torres touches up a new sign at a closed store along the boardwalk in Venice Beach. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
The JW Marriott at L.A. Live is sharing a message of hope with red lights in 34 windows, creating a 19-story display on the hotels north side. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)
A Playa del Rey beach is nearly empty after L.A. County announced the closure of all beaches and trails in an effort to reduce crowds and slow the spread of the coronavirus. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
The Manhattan Beach Pier is locked, and a city sign explains why in three repeated messages: Lot closed, COVID-19 and Social Distancing. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
Juan Diaz Jr., a lifelong Dodgers fan, prays that the season will start by May in front of Dodger Stadium on what would have been opening day. (Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times)
Hayley, CEO and founder of Love My Neighbor Foundation, right, dances with Crystal Armster, 51, while she and her colleagues continue to feed the homeless on skid row amid the pandemic. (Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)
A masked passenger on a Metro bus in downtown Los Angeles. (Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)
Members of the Los Angeles Fire Department wear protective gear while handing out coronavirus test kits at a parking lot on Stadium Way near Dodger Stadium. (Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times)
Dede Oneal waits for a coronavirus test at the Crenshaw Christian Center in South Los Angeles. (Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)
A man in a mask passes a closed restaurant along Spring Street in downtown Los Angeles. (Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)
The Westfield Topanga mall parking lot in Canoga Park is empty amid coronavirus closure rules. (Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times)
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When it comes to coronavirus, she's L.A.'s version of Dr. Fauci - Los Angeles Times