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Coronavirus Today: Tests and tear gas

Good evening. I’m Diya Chacko, and it’s Thursday, June 4. Here’s what’s happening with the coronavirus in California and beyond.

Even as businesses reopen and people take to the streets in droves to protest police brutality, Californians are still afraid of COVID-19. A new poll found most Californians support the current statewide restrictions to curb the coronavirus’ spread or want even tougher safeguards. That’s in spite of the economic toll on low-wage workers: Among Californians earning less than $40,000 a year, nearly half reported they or a member of their household lost a job, compared with 22% of those earning more than $80,000. It’s unclear whether the demonstrations would have affected the results of the poll, which was conducted before they began.

Many protesters have been taking precautions against spreading the virus, such as wearing masks, and infectious disease experts are urging police to stop using tear gas and pepper spray. Spraying people with tear gas causes them to cough, shout, scream, take their masks off and rub their eyes, nose and mouth — all pathways for introducing infection, a UCLA infectious disease specialist said. Protesters might not know they are infected; people who carry the virus can experience either mild symptoms or no symptoms at all, yet can easily transmit it to others.

And health experts say the temporary closures of most of Los Angeles County’s COVID-19 testing sites during the protests may hurt the region’s response to the virus. Reducing testing means reducing capacity to identify sick people so they can be isolated and kept from getting other people sick. Experts have pointed to the lack of widespread testing as a big factor in the jump in March case numbers.

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By the numbers

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

More than 122,000 California cases and at least 4,444 deaths as of 4:30 p.m. PDT Thursday, June 4.
(Compiled by L.A. Times Graphics)

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

The leaders of the Central Valley city of Atwater have declared it a “sanctuary city for business” in defiance of state coronavirus restrictions. But some residents say the “sanctuary city” designation, usually used to refer to cities that protect people living in the country illegally, is political grandstanding. “That’s especially gross here in Atwater because this is a community supported by agriculture,” a resident said. “There are plenty of undocumented people who support our local economy and are part of our community.”

Stanford is the latest major university to announce its plans for returning students and faculty to campus. The fall term will begin earlier, and the summer quarter will be incorporated into the regular academic calendar. Only half of undergraduates will be allowed back to campus each quarter, and those living on campus will be housed in rooms with private sleeping spaces, such as a single or a two-room double, in order to provide sufficient physical distancing.

The pandemic has thrown this year’s high school sports calendar into chaos. To plan for the next season, the California Interscholastic Federation, which governs high school sports, has been compiling information from districts and private schools about when they might resume classes for 2020-21. But any plan they come up with could produce hardships, such as costing athletes traditional college recruiting opportunities. “We have one chance to get it right,” a commissioner said.

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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 CDC.
— 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

New legislation would loosen key rules governing how businesses can spend federal Paycheck Protection Program money and how they must repay it. For many businesses, the fixes, expected to be signed into law soon, are welcome, if overdue. “If this was the format of the program when it originally came out, that would have been much more helpful,” said an L.A. restaurant owner. Meanwhile, the European Central Bank has boosted its coronavirus emergency support program by an unexpectedly large 600 billion euros in an effort to keep affordable credit flowing.

The NBA tentatively will restart its season on July 31 in Orlando, Fla., with 22 of its 30 teams participating, according to a plan approved by the league’s board of governors Thursday. Just one team voted against it. Play will resume at Disney’s 220-acre ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex; it was chosen because its multiple basketball courts, broadcasting facilities and hotels will help reduce travel and limit the number of people who might transmit the virus.

When the pandemic first hit, Nicaragua’s president assured his country there was nothing to worry about. Schools and businesses remained open as he encouraged residents to attend concerts, parades and sporting events. Now, one activist is saying government officials were purposely undercounting infections and deaths — and he’s planning to expose them.

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Your questions answered

Today’s question comes from Eva Tashman Kaplan, who wants to know: Is it safe to visit our national parks? Here’s what we know.

National parks across the U.S. are reopening to visitors with safety restrictions, including keeping facilities like visitor centers off limits and requiring visitors to wear masks. The National Park Service says its plan to resume operations involves a “phased approach to reopen park areas, beginning with outdoor spaces such as trails, boardwalks, observation decks, boat ramps, picnic areas, and other open landscapes.”

Most of California’s 11 national parks and recreation areas are now at least partly open or about to be. Here’s an updated list of their statuses from assistant travel editor Mary Forgione.

If you plan to visit, the NPS has some guidelines for you:

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— Before your trip, visit NPS.gov/findapark for current park conditions and availability of restrooms and other facilities.
— Pack the essential emergency items you might need in the event of minor injuries, sudden weather changes or unexpected delays, such as maps, flashlights, sun protection, warm clothing, a first aid kit, food and water. Make sure to bring face masks and hand sanitizer.
— Follow the guidelines for social distancing and give others plenty of room whether you are on a trail, at a boat launch or in a parking lot.
— First responders, parks and communities are still concentrating on responding to the pandemic, so consider postponing challenging hikes or trying new activities to avoid the risk of injury.
— If you brought it, take it with you. Trash pickup and restroom facilities will continue to be limited in many park areas.

For more stories and tips on exploring California’s outdoors, sign up for our forthcoming newsletter The Wild.

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 on our coronavirus roundup page.

For the most up-to-date coronavirus coverage from The Times, visit our homepage and our Health section, listen to our “Coronavirus in California” podcast and follow us on Twitter and on Instagram.


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