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Coronavirus Today: ‘The most important variable’

Good evening. I’m Diya Chacko, and it’s Thursday, June 25. Here’s what’s happening with the coronavirus in California and beyond.

County health officials in the Bay Area were the first in California to issue stay-at-home orders, which experts say went a long way toward stemming the spread of the coronavirus. And many of those counties continue to make progress as the state attempts a careful reopening. Bay Area officials last week moved to allow small, limited gatherings, primarily outdoors, with the acknowledgement that people are meeting up and protocols are needed to keep them as safe as possible. “You all are now the most important variable in how our future will develop,” said the health officer for San Mateo County.

While San Francisco has recorded about six deaths per 100,000 residents, Los Angeles County has seen about 31 deaths per 100,000. And the seven-day weekly average of L.A. County’s confirmed new cases is still rising, prompting L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti to urge Angelenos to stay home as much as possible and dramatically ramp up capacity at the city’s testing sites to meet increased demand.

Once more, Gov. Gavin Newsom warned Californians “to take seriously this moment,” citing a surge in hospitalizations: As of Thursday, he said, patients hospitalized because of COVID-19 were up 32% in the last two weeks, double the two-week increase of 16% he had reported Monday.

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As stay-at-home orders have cut down on car traffic and encouraged outdoor recreation, city streets have been flooded with record numbers of bicycle riders. Bike sales across the United States were up substantially from last year — 65% greater than year-to-date 2019, according to data from the advocacy organization PeopleForBikes. It says it found in a survey that 9% of American adults said they had ridden a bike for the first time in a year because of the pandemic, and a majority of those expect to keep riding after shelter-in-place orders are removed.

If you live in Los Angeles and you’re looking for a bike trail to ride, here are nine suggestions from our Travel team. If you’re interested in scheduling a summer cycling trip, here are 10 of the top multiday bike tour destinations in the West. And for tips on bike safety during the pandemic, check out the “Your questions answered” section of this newsletter.

By the numbers

California cases and deaths as of 5:00 p.m. PDT Thursday:

Nearly 197,600 California cases and at least 5,750 deaths as of 5 p.m. PDT on Thursday, June 26.
(Compiled by L.A. Times Graphics)
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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)

See which counties are reopening with our tracker.

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Across California

Noting that the restrictions are becoming increasingly difficult to enforce, Santa Cruz County is fully reopening beaches starting Friday. The county has upheld some of the state’s strictest shelter-in-place orders longer than many other locales and had intended to keep the beach restrictions in place until after the July 4 holiday weekend. But “people are not willing to be governed anymore in that regard,” said Santa Cruz County’s health officer.

The Santa Monica Pier has reopened after having been closed for more than three months. The pier will be open for limited hours, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, with only some restaurants and shops open to customers. The number of people allowed at one time will be limited, and once capacity is reached, visitors will be required to line up. In addition, the Ferris wheel will be empty, and the merry-go-round will remain at a standstill.

Some Dodgers employees have tested positive for COVID-19, said the president of baseball operations. He did not specify how many or their roles. The club joins a growing list of teams that have acknowledged positive cases in recent days, including the Angels, Philadelphia Phillies, Toronto Blue Jays and Colorado Rockies — reminders of the challenges Major League Baseball will face in staging its 60-game season during the pandemic, after three months of tense negotiations over player salaries.

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 there.
— Need a COVID-19 test? Here’s how to receive a free test if you’re in L.A. County. And here’s a map of testing sites across California.
— 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 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.
Tempted to go out now that the economy is reopening? Here’s how you can assess your risk.

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Around the nation and the world

Under the coronavirus relief package approved this year, the IRS sent stimulus checks to more than 1 million dead peopleworth more than $1 billion total, according to the federal Government Accountability Office. The IRS has full access to Social Security Administration death records, but the Treasury Department, which distributed the payments, does not. The GAO recommended that Congress pass legislation giving the Treasury access to the death data to keep it from happening again if future stimulus checks are approved.

Several airports, including ones in Anchorage, Vienna and Reykjavik, Iceland, have begun offering COVID-19 tests as travel starts to revive. The idea is that travelers land, get tested and receive a quick negative result — thereby avoiding the 14-day quarantine period often required by many countries and islands. Hawaii is one place with such a requirement: Starting Aug. 1, anyone who shows proof they’ve tested negative for COVID-19 will be allowed to skip the mandatory two-week confinement period.

The Kentucky Derby, which has been postponed to Sept. 5 because of coronavirus concerns, will take place with a limited number of spectators present at Churchill Downs. The exact number of people who will be allowed at the event has not been determined, but those who are will be encouraged to wear masks and keep their distances.

Your questions answered

Today’s question comes from readers who want to know: How can I ride my bike while staying safe from COVID-19? Here are some answers from the California Bicycle Coalition.

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The most current edition of California’s stay-at-home order permits biking for exercise, recreation and travel in every county. Here are some things to keep in mind for your next bike adventure.

Plan your route ahead of your ride to make sure you can follow physical distance orders. That may mean avoiding busy trails or narrow bike paths.

Ride alone, or only with people you’re quarantined with. Make sure to maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from others you pass on the road. Avoid following closely behind other riders, and consider skipping organized group rides where bikers cluster closely together.

Also, “don’t be a daredevil,” the organization says on its website. “Now is not the time to test your limits and risk a broken bone or other injuries that would require a visit to the hospital.”

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And while there is far less car traffic on the roads, be aware that this can also mean that drivers are driving faster than usual and paying less attention.

Finally, it’s safe to use bike shares as long as you wear gloves and/or sanitize all the areas you touch, such as the handlebars.

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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