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Coronavirus: What you should know right now, Friday afternoon edition

An LAUSD school
LAUSD says all schools in the district will be closed starting Monday.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
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It’s the afternoon of Friday, March 13. Here’s what you need to know about what’s going on with the coronavirus outbreak right now.

This is the latest installment in a series to help you stay informed on the latest news. Some of the stories linked here may be behind a paywall. Please consider subscribing to journalism you value. You can get 4 weeks of the L.A. Times online for $1 at latimes.com/subscriptions.

We also have a Coronavirus Today newsletter run by my colleague Diya Chacko. Our newsletters are always free. Sign up here:

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Now, the most important things for Southern Californians to know this afternoon:

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LAUSD is closing all schools starting Monday

More than 900 campuses serving 670,000 students will be shut down for two weeks while the district evaluates the extent of the coronavirus outbreak. For parents, this raises lots of questions.

If you don’t have child care, 40 family resource centers will open around the city to provide meals (80% of LAUSD students rely on free or reduced price meals for food; 18,000 LAUSD students are homeless) and other services starting on Wednesday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Locations are yet to be determined by the district.

To keep students learning, teachers are sending pupils home today with take-home plans to continue their education. Here’s the district’s Friday annoucement. Next week, lessons will be offered online and on three local public TV channels.

San Diego’s school district will also shut down starting Monday. San Francisco Unified and several districts in Ventura County including Simi Valley, Moorpark and Oak Park have also closed.

Here’s a parents’ guide to school closures because of the coronavirus. What to do?

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The Trump administration declares a national emergency

President Trump declared a national emergency Friday over the coronavirus outbreak. That allows more federal aid to flow to states and municipalities.

Earlier Friday, The Times reported that states with coronavirus outbreaks have wanted to expand Medicaid to help diagnose and treat people with the novel coronavirus. It’s not an unprecedented request: Similar expansions occurred as the nation dealt with 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and the H1N1 flu outbreak.

But the Trump administration had not taken any of the necessary steps to make that possible. That means states were slower to sign up poor patients for medical coverage, which could discourage those patients from seeking testing or treatment if they’re worried about getting stuck with a massive hospital bill.

For states with large homeless populations, expanding Medicaid could also create more funding for housing, mobile clinics and other services that would help control the spread of the disease among the unhoused.

Now that a national emergency has been declared, states will have access to waivers that will allow further Medicaid expansions.

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L.A. trying to limit economic fallout

Advocates in Los Angeles are pressing for an eviction ban and other measures to soften the economic blow of the coronavirus pandemic.

Members of the L.A. City Council are preparing to introduce a measure that would prevent renters from being evicted if they have coronavirus or have lost work as a result of measures taken because of the outbreak. The measure would also include some form of relief for homeowners, small businesses and landlords. The exact details are still being worked out.

In Italy, which has been especially hard hit by the virus, mortgage payments were suspended entirely, and lenders will be offering “debt holidays” so people and small businesses don’t have to make loan payments right now.

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What we’re wondering right now

Can I go to a nail salon?

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In these troubled times, more of us than ever could benefit from the uplifting power of a fresh manicure and brow wax. Health officials are not calling for hair or nail salons to shut down right now, so you could theoretically go. In the Atlantic, two experts were torn when asked about haircuts: Salon interactions tend to be one-on-one, lowering the infection risk; at the same time, we should probably all be considering reducing public outings whenever possible.

With manicures, another person is literally holding your hands. Also, when your nails are wet, it’s challenging to do a proper hand-washing. On the flip side: You are less likely to touch your face. Officially, there is no guidance suggesting you have to skip a salon appointment as long as you take proper health precautions. Personally, I’d avoid it. At the very least, get a gel manicure, where it cures right away and you can wash you hands immediately afterward.

Can I still order stuff online?

Yes, you can still order things online. Like things you buy from the store, someone could have sneezed or coughed onto your item. There is no official guidance from any health officials on what to do with items you ordered from the internet, but you can always wipe things down with disinfectant, then wash your hands. New tests show the virus can live for up to three days on certain surfaces. Did we mention you should wash your hands? Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face immediately after installing your new bidet.

Wired dug into a more philosophical aspect of this question: whether it’s ethical to be ordering online delivery at this time.

A reader asks: Is there a tracker showing how many tests have actually been performed in L.A. County or California?

I am not aware of any tracker being updated live with that information. Eight new cases of coronavirus in L.A. County were announced today, bringing the total here to 40. L.A. is expected to get more test kits this week, at which point officials expect the number of cases to expand significantly. Here’s our latest on that.

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In lighter news

Some people are less than thrilled about working from home. How could that be? Working from home is great. Here’s how to excel at it. (Please, if you take away nothing else from this: Mute yourself on calls.)

The L.A. Archdiocese says you don’t have to go to Sunday Mass for the next three weeks.

Lighter traffic. Easy reservations at the hottest restaurants. Short lines at Eggslut. Columnist Steve Lopez writes about the new Los Angeles.

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There’s never been a better time to get really into gardening. “When you feel like everything is out of control, what nurtures better than planting a seed, with the promise of bounty and health that comes with it?” Here’s what to plant right now. And if you’re an indoor gardener, here are some ideas for dramatic planters.

More from around the internet (some stories may be behind paywalls. Please consider paying for journalism you value.):

  • In the face of perceived government inaction in the U.S., people around the internet are taking a pledge to “stay the [expletive] home” to contain the spread of the disease. (Link. Note: contains swear words.)
  • AT&T is suspending broadband data caps. (Vice)
  • When to self-quarantine, and how to do it. (L.A. Times)
  • In a series of early-morning tweets, President Trump blamed the CDC and President Obama for the coronavirus testing delays. (NBC News)
  • The New York attorney general ordered Alex Jones to stop selling coronavirus “cures.” (CNBC)

Follow along with our liveblog (no paywall) for the latest news. Sign up for the free Coronavirus Today newsletter to get the latest news in your inbox. Have a question about coronavirus? Ask us here. See a link you want me to add to a future installment? Email me at jessica.roy@latimes.com.


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Sign up for the latest news, best stories and what they mean for you, plus answers to your questions.

You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.
Jessica Roy works on the audience engagement team at the Los Angeles Times.