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Coronavirus Today: How California bought some time

Good evening. I’m Diya Chacko, and it’s Thursday, May 14. Here’s what’s happening with the coronavirus in California and beyond.

A $19-billion spending cut. A $54.3-billion budget hole. And some “jaw-dropping” unemployment numbers. Still, things could be much worse for California, writes Sacramento bureau chief John Myers.

The revised budget Gov. Gavin Newsom released Thursday sharply curtails spending on public schools and an array of government services in an effort to erase the pandemic-driven $54.3-billion deficit by next summer. With $19 billion less in spending than he proposed in January, the new budget is a reminder of how much has changed in a matter of weeks, and it lays the groundwork for even deeper cuts should the federal government fail to provide billions more in assistance. With California’s jobless rate expected to peak at more than 24.5% this year, Newsom says the state will need at least $43.8 billion to cover millions of unemployment claims and plans to borrow much of it from the federal government.

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But in recent years, California has been stockpiling cash and paying off short-term debts, efforts championed by lawmakers and former Gov. Jerry Brown and largely embraced by Newsom. The state’s main cash reserves were at near-record levels before the pandemic, its $16-billion “rainy day” fund remains untapped, and there’s close to $40 billion of cash cushion. Those billions are now buying the state some valuable time and flexibility — a key difference from past financial meltdowns.

As more workplaces begin to reopen, experts warn that large ones such as offices and distribution centers could play host to super-spreading events, as when 52 workers became infected at a Safeway distribution center in the San Joaquin Valley. Evidence that such events play a major role in disease transmission makes it all the more crucial that employers and cities limit gatherings “to a pretty small number, like 10 or less, just to avoid the risk,” said the director of the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

Ever wonder what the virus actually looks like? Here are a few 3-D looks at its structure, re-created in detail by the biomedical visualization studio Visual Science, that shows its fatty outer membrane (gray), its protein core that contains RNA (green) and the crown of protein spikes (red) that give the coronavirus its name.

An atomic resolution 3-D model of the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2.
(Visual Science)
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By the numbers

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

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

The Newsom administration's roadmap to reopening California.
(Priya Krishnakumar/Los Angeles Times)
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See which counties are reopening with our tracker.

Across California

Los Angeles’ mask requirements have been expanded to the entire county. All L.A. County residents now must wear masks or have one with them at all times outside their homes, even when walking or running by themselves, and should put it on whenever “there are people around, whether it be at a trailhead or a parking lot or a sidewalk,” Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Thursday.

Hate crimes and incidents against Asian Americans have surged since the outbreak began, according to the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations. From February through April, civic groups and police departments fielded more than 100 reports of hate incidents, from racist epithets to bomb threats against “a major Asian American institution,” the commission director said. L.A. County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey urged anyone who has experienced a hate crime or hate-motivated incident to report it. You can do so by dialing 211.

Traffic might be down in L.A., but traffic deaths aren’t. The number of people killed in car collisions so far this year is about the same as it was this time last year, police say, blaming the “alarming increase” in deaths on city streets on a surge in speeding on streets with less traffic than usual and a higher number of people walking and biking. As businesses begin to reopen and traffic picks back up, drivers must “get used to the fact that there are other people in the streets,” said the deputy chief of the police department’s transit services bureau.

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The state’s community college system, the nation’s largest, is suing the federal government for denying coronavirus relief funds to more than half a million community college students, calling the eligibility restrictions unconstitutional. The federal relief package earmarked $7 billion for students in the form of emergency grants, but the Department of Education later said it could only go to those eligible to receive federal financial aid. That leaves out large numbers of undocumented students, students without high school diplomas and low-income students who never filled out federal financial aid forms because they received state tuition waivers.

Resources

— For general safety, 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. Practice social distancing, maintaining a six-foot radius of personal space in public. And wear a mask if you leave home. Here’s how to do it right.
— Watch for symptoms including fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat and loss of taste or smell. If you’re worried you might be infected, call your doctor or urgent care clinic before going.
— Here’s how to care for someone with COVID-19, from monitoring their symptoms to preventing the virus’ spread.
— If your job has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, here’s how to file for unemployment.
— 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 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
— In need of mental health services? Here are resources for coping during the crisis from the CDC and the L.A. County Department of Public Health. L.A. County residents can also call (800) 854-7771 or text “LA” to 741741.

Around the nation and the world

Across the U.S., the battle over stay-at-home orders and the pace of allowing businesses to reopen has become increasingly partisan and increasingly bitter. Urged on by President Trump, Republican officials in several swing states, including Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, are ramping up pressure on Democratic governors to move faster in reopening their economies, despite experts’ warnings of a surge in infections and deaths.

Canada, worried about the U.S.'s coronavirus response and high contamination rates, wants to keep the 5,525-mile border closed for nearly six more weeks, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau saying outbreaks in border states including Washington, Michigan and New York pose a danger to Canadians. There are fewer confirmed cases in the entire province of Ontario, Canada’s most populous, than in Detroit, which is closely linked economically and culturally to Windsor, Ontario, just across the Detroit River.

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Mexico is the only large country in the Western Hemisphere that has not announced an economic stimulus package to counter the fallout from the pandemic. As governments across the world boost spending, leftist President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has instead rejected bailouts, tax breaks and debt relief in favor of severe cost-cutting measures. “We have to seek austerity and consume only what we need,” he said, although economists across the ideological spectrum warned that austerity amid the crisis is pushing the nation toward disaster.

The dismal conditions in Palestinian and Syrian refugee settlements in Lebanon predate the outbreak. But as Lebanon balances the need to reopen with fears of a second wave of infections, officials, health providers and aid groups are worried about what it could mean for these communities — overcrowded, under-serviced and often ignored by the state. “If — God forbid — the epidemic spreads in the camps, we’ll have a huge problem,” said the head of the Lebanese-Palestinian dialogue committee.

Your questions answered

Today’s question comes from readers who want to know: How long does the coronavirus last on clothing? Here’s the latest on what we know, from reporter Lila Seidman.

Experts believe the virus can live for up to 24 hours on clothing and similar surfaces.

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A study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the virus could live up to three days on stainless steel surfaces and plastic, and up to 24 hours on cardboard. Clothing was not tested, but “you can pretty much think of a material like clothing to be somewhat more like cardboard material,” said an ER doctor at USC Verdugo Hills Hospital. Like cardboard, most clothing has absorbent fibers that appear to make the virus dry up more quickly than do hard surfaces.

For people who don’t work in high-risk settings or knowingly come into contact with the virus, experts agree that it’s not necessary to throw your clothes in the wash after returning from routine trips to the grocery store, pharmacy or a walk around the block. The virus is more likely to land on clothing from someone coughing or breathing, which is why keeping a six-foot distance is important.

As for shoes, the doctor says the ground is an area of potential contamination. He always switches shoes before reentering his home after an outing. For people who don’t do this, “you just have to consider the floor in your house a ‘dirty zone,’” he said. That means if you drop your keys on the kitchen floor, it’s good practice to sanitize your hands and the keys.

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 and our Health section, listen to our “Coronavirus in California” podcast and follow us on Twitter and on Instagram.


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