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Coronavirus Today: How the virus got to the Bay Area

Good evening. I’m Diya Chacko, and it’s Tuesday, June 9. Here’s what’s happening with the coronavirus in California and beyond.

The initial outbreak of COVID-19 in the Bay Area was spawned by a mix of international and domestic arrivals, according to new research that combined epidemiology and genetic testing. In nine Bay Area counties where the coronavirus set down roots early, visitors arriving directly from China were only one of several sources of spread within the community, researchers found. Strains of the virus that had come by way of Europe were also widely evident, while the Grand Princess cruise ship — which sailed from San Francisco to Mexico and Hawaii twice in February and March — played the largest role in seeding the region’s outbreak.

More than four months later, parts of California are trying to reopen their economies without sparking new outbreaks. One concerning sign is that the virus’ transmission rate in Los Angeles County — the state’s epicenter of COVID-19, with more than 2,700 deaths — appears to be climbing again. Officials said it will take a few weeks to know whether hospitals will see an increase in COVID-19 patients, but it’s still possible to strike the right balance between reopening society and strict safety rules. “This is not an impossible task,” said Barbara Ferrer, the county’s health director.

Any increase in transmission is likely to take a disproportionate toll on the county’s Black, Latino and Pacific Islander residents. Their risk of dying from COVID-19 has been twice as high as that of white residents, new data show. In addition, the death rate for Latinos in L.A. County is now nearly double that for white people. For every 100,000 white residents of L.A. County, there have been 15 deaths; for every 100,000 Latino residents, there have been 29. “The very real impact of the injustices plays out every day ... and amplifies why racism is a public health issue,” Ferrer said.

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Even in the midst of the pandemic, a number of public health and infectious disease experts have come out in support of the ongoing protests against police violence toward Black people by signing a petition that originated at the University of Washington. It notes that Black people face dramatically worse health disparities stemming from longstanding systems of oppression and bias. “As public health advocates, we do not condemn these gatherings as risky for COVID-19 transmission. We support them as vital to the national public health and to the threatened health specifically of Black people in the United States,” it reads.

By the numbers

California cases and deaths as of 4:00 p.m. PDT Tuesday:

More than 134,800 California cases and at least 4,678 deaths as of 4 p.m. PDT Tuesday, June 9.
More than 134,800 California cases and at least 4,678 deaths as of 4 p.m. PDT Tuesday, June 9.
(Compiled by L.A. Times Graphics)

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

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The Newsom administration's roadmap to reopening California.
(Priya Krishnakumar/Los Angeles Times)

See which counties are reopening with our tracker.

Across California

The state will begin receiving shipments of much-needed N95 masks from Chinese automaker BYD in the coming days now that federal regulators have approved the company’s respirators, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced. The masks are part of a $1-billion deal Newsom struck with BYD in April, which had been delayed after the carmaker had difficulty certifying the masks’ effectiveness.

After several intense weeks spent defending her countywide mask order, Orange County’s chief health officer resigned Monday. Some residents and elected officials challenged the need for the widespread use of masks as businesses reopened — despite an uptick in cases — and the O.C. Sheriff’s Department had to provide her with a security detail after she received what officials deemed to be a death threat.

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Chuckawalla Valley State Prison has gone from having zero cases of COVID-19 to 993 confirmed in just three weeks. It’s the worst COVID-19 outbreak to hit the California prison system to date, with about 44% of the 2,256 men incarcerated there testing positive. Officials are trying to separate infected inmates from the general population, but social distancing is impossible because, as one inmate said, “there’s COVID-positive people everywhere.”

Yosemite National Park will reopen Thursday with a safety plan that allows half the usual number of June visitors and makes just one campground available. Lodging will reopen, but bus tours and park shuttles won’t operate this summer. As of Tuesday, the park will issue 1,700 vehicle passes per day through recreation.gov.

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

Emergency medical services across the country, already burdened by the high demands of COVID-19, have faced added pressure as they’ve responded to protests. The personal protective equipment they rely on to safeguard themselves from the coronavirus can be difficult to wear in a crowd, and switching from that gear to equipment needed to shield themselves from rubber bullets and tear gas can be challenging. “I don’t think there was a rule book for me really to figure out what we’re gonna do,” said the assistant chief of the Denver Health Paramedic Division.

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The cancellation of concerts and festivals has devastated the music industry, and while reopening policies vary from state to state, the return of large gatherings like concerts remains in the distant future. AEG, the parent company of the second-largest concert promoter in America, will significantly cut its staff in a combination of layoffs, furloughs and salary reductions set to take place July 1. “The unfortunate part is nobody knows when we’ll be back,” said one employee.

Having mostly contained the virus earlier than other countries, South Korea is turning its attention to recovery and fixing months of economic devastation while still struggling to stem smaller cluster outbreaks. Like governments elsewhere, including the U.S., the country handed out cash stimulus payments to most citizens to revive frozen local economies, but recovery is expected to be slow. “If there’s another outbreak in the fall, it’ll all be downhill,” a store owner said. “We’re not in the clear.”

Your questions answered

Today’s question comes from reader Ana Salazar, who wants to know: When will the DMV reopen? Reporter Patrick McGreevy has the latest.

The last of the California Department of Motor Vehicles’ 169 field offices that were closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic will reopen on Thursday, but only to customers who already have appointments, and not all services will be available, officials said Tuesday.

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The agency has begun rescheduling appointments that were canceled during the closure and notifying customers of the new dates.

Customers requiring in-person transactions — such as to obtain a Real ID license — will be allowed in, while others are being told to conduct their business on the DMV website. Behind-the-wheel driving tests are still not available because of physical distancing rules, according to DMV Director Steve Gordon.

Customers visiting DMV field offices are being asked to wear face masks and abide by physical distancing requirements.

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.

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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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