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Coronavirus Today: Six new official symptoms

Good evening. I’m Diya Chacko, and it’s Monday, April 27. Here’s what’s happening with the coronavirus outbreak in California and beyond.

Thousands of Southern Californians descended upon beaches in Orange and Ventura counties to seek relief from the weekend’s record-breaking temperatures, despite pleas from officials to avoid them. Images of crowded shorelines went viral Saturday, raising questions about whether letting them stay open could thwart progress in slowing the spread of the coronavirus. And on Monday, Gov. Gavin Newsom criticized Californians who flocked to the coast, saying that ignoring restrictions could prolong the outbreak. He vowed to increase statewide enforcement of the stay-at-home order if necessary and chastised the cities and counties that opened their beaches.

Though health experts’ opinions vary slightly about the extent to which gathering in public spaces should be permitted at this point, most agree that people should keep a wide berth which can be difficult at beaches and nearby parking lots. “To not be prudent now is taking a chance, taking a real big risk,” said an infectious disease expert from UC Berkeley.

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With Californians experiencing lockdown fatigue, those in charge are struggling to find ways to keep the public from tuning out, with the right balance of grim news about deaths and seeds of hope about recovery. Adherence to health messaging has shown quantifiable results in flattening the curve, officials say, but they caution that we are nowhere near the end of this emergency and cannot become complacent.

As more information about the virus emerges, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has added six new symptoms to its official list for COVID-19. Along with the known symptoms of fever, coughing and shortness of breath, the new ones include chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat and new loss of taste or smell. As health experts continue to learn more about the disease, it is likely that other symptoms will be added to that list, said the head of a panel of epidemiologists that makes recommendations to the CDC about how to track and report diseases.

With millions of Californians suddenly eligible for unemployment benefits, the state’s Employment Development Department has struggled to process claims. Its technological shortcomings have plagued the agency for years but have now been thrown into stark relief by the current crisis. “I know this sounds crazy because we are in California, we are the tech center of the world, but our system is built on multiple antiquated systems, and because of that it is inflexible — it is very difficult to change,” California’s labor secretary said.

Are you getting a “payment status not available” error when you’re trying to learn the status of your stimulus check on the Internal Revenue Service’s website? Audience engagement editor Jessica Roy offers this advice: Enter your street address in all caps.

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By the numbers

California cases and deaths as of 4:30 p.m. PDT Monday:

Track the latest numbers and how they break down in California with our graphics.

Where is the coronavirus spreading?

Confirmed COVID-19 cases by country as of 4:30 p.m. PDT Monday, April 27. Click to see the map from Johns Hopkins CSSE.
Confirmed COVID-19 cases by country as of 4:30 p.m. PDT Monday, April 27. Click to see the map from Johns Hopkins CSSE.

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Across California

Newsom is expected to face more pressure this week to offer a clearer timeline for easing stay-at-home orders, as politicians in less urban areas argue the situation there is not as severe as in hot spots such as Los Angeles County and Silicon Valley. On Monday, a Republican congressional candidate and a gun enthusiast in Sacramento sued to challenge those orders.

The six Bay Area counties that issued the state’s first stay-at-home orders plan to keep those orders in place through the end of May, officials said Monday. Some restrictions will be slightly relaxed, although they did not go into detail. Meanwhile, the virus continues to devastate L.A. County, with total infections nearing 20,000 and deaths climbing past 900 last week. Officials say the actual number of those infected is probably far higher.

A loan program that aimed to help small businesses weather the economic downturn but quickly ran out of money has now reopened with a new infusion of cash. Amid concerns that much of the money was going to big corporations, several large companies have returned loans they received in the program’s early days — including the Lakers. On Friday, President Trump signed the bill that gave the program $310 billion in new funding on top of the $349 billion Congress authorized last month, which went out the door in days. Now it could run out again, and even more quickly.

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How to stay safe

Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds! Here’s a super-fun how-to video.
Stop touching your face, and keep your phone clean.
— Watch for symptoms including fever, cough and shortness of breath. If you’re worried you might be infected, call your doctor or urgent care clinic before going.
— Practice social distancing, such as maintaining a six-foot radius of personal space in public.
Wear a mask if you leave home for essential activities. Here’s how to do it right.
— Here’s how to care for someone with COVID-19, from monitoring their symptoms to preventing the virus’ spread.

How to stay sane

— Was your job affected by the coronavirus? Here’s how to file for unemployment.
— Here are all the ways to stay virtually connected with your friends.
— Visit our free games and puzzles page for daily crosswords, card games, arcade games and more.
— Here are some free resources for restaurant workers and entertainment industry professionals having trouble making ends meet.
— Advice for helping kids navigate pandemic life includes being honest about uncertainties, acknowledging their feelings and sticking to a routine. Here’s guidance from the CDC.

Around the nation and the world

Several states began to ease stay-at-home orders on Monday while continuing to urge social distancing. Tennessee let restaurants reopen for dine-in, Colorado let retailers with curbside delivery reopen, and Montana let retailers reopen fully while requiring them to adhere to strict distancing guidelines. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said his stay-home order will expire Thursday because it “has done its job.” Stores, movie theaters, malls and museums will be allowed to reopen at 25% capacity Friday, churches can expand capacity, and small-group sports such as golf and tennis will be allowed, he said.

Hawaii’s governor, however, has extended the state’s stay-at-home order through May, keeping beaches closed to sunbathers and swimmers and requiring businesses to remain shut. The order also extends mandatory quarantine rules: Anyone flying to the islands will have to quarantine at home or in their hotel for 14 days.

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As the pandemic devastates businesses that depend on live events, Saudi Arabia has bought a $500-million stake in Beverly Hills-based Live Nation, the world’s largest concert promoter and parent company of Ticketmaster. The Saudi sovereign wealth fund has also invested in other companies reeling from the crisis, including cruise operator Carnival Corp., but some firms, such as Endeavor, have been reluctant to take its money since the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

A property of the coronavirus economic relief law allows workers who see their hours cut as little as 10% to get the entire $600-a-week federal subsidy offered, state officials and employment experts say. But few companies and workers are taking advantage of the benefits so far — partly because of the unprecedented backlog of unemployment claims, partly because many business owners don’t yet fully understand the incentives to reduce employees’ hours rather than lay them off.

Your questions answered

Today’s question comes from readers who want to know: Does cigarette smoke spread the coronavirus? Here’s what reporter Lila Seidman found.

There hasn’t been much research into whether smoking spreads the coronavirus. One study found smokers did not expel more of a respiratory virus than nonsmokers, although they did cough more.

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“The smoke itself doesn’t seem to increase the amount of virus that gets in the air,” a UC San Francisco scientist said.

However, smokers are more at risk from COVID-19 because the disease’s main target is the lungs. Smoking damages the lung’s defense mechanisms, making it harder to fight off respiratory diseases, according to several doctors who specialize in conditions like pneumonia, asthma and tuberculosis.

Less is known about how coronavirus patients who use vaping and e-cigarette products are faring, but several doctors suspect their trajectory will mirror that of cigarette smokers. As for cannabis users, messaging in the medical marijuana space has been to switch to edibles or tinctures if possible.

Got a question? Our reporters covering the coronavirus outbreak want to hear from you. Email us your questions, and we’ll do our best to answer them. You can find more answers in our Frequently Asked Questions roundup, and in our morning briefing.

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For the most up-to-date coronavirus coverage from The Times, visit our live updates page, visit our Health section and follow us on Twitter and on Instagram.


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