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Science

Coronavirus Today: ‘Our professionalism is being exploited’

Good evening. I’m Diya Chacko, and it’s Tuesday, June 30. Here’s what’s happening with the coronavirus in California and beyond.

“Déjà vu.”

That’s the text message an emergency room physician in Los Angeles County sent to a Times reporter on Monday, when California recorded a record-breaking single-day jump of more than 8,000 new cases. More grim news came on Tuesday: The state passed the threshold of 6,000 coronavirus-related deaths.

California is on track to have recorded roughly twice as many new coronavirus infections in June as in May. Last month, there were 61,666 cases reported statewide; by Monday night, there were 114,196 reported for the first 28 days of June.

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Unlike in the first days of the epidemic, when the virus was largely concentrated in the state’s urban areas, infections are now rising in its northern and inland counties. It’s putting pressure on medical systems with fewer resources, and prompting some experts to warn that the state is experiencing not a second wave but a failure to maintain the flattened curve of the first one.

L.A. County health officials warn they might run out of hospital beds for COVID-19 patients in two to three weeks. Imperial County has exceeded its hospital capacity, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom. Intensive care unit beds in Riverside County nearly hit capacity Sunday, when patients occupied 99% of the usual number of beds.

Doctors, nurses and health officials are growing increasingly angry and fearful that hospitals will be overwhelmed by incoming patients, some of whom they won’t be able to save. “I feel like this is all setting us up to fail,” said a rapid-response nurse from the Inland Empire. Nurses at one hospital in Riverside County have gone on strike to protest what they say is understaffing and a lack of protective gear, with one nurse saying, “Our professionalism is being exploited.”

The upcoming July 4 weekend might be a crucial test of whether residents can adhere to public health orders and help slow the spread of the coronavirus. Some local restrictions, such as L.A. County’s beach shutdown and ban on fireworks displays, have already been put into effect. Newsom has said he plans to announce new restrictions on Wednesday. “If you’re not going to stay home and you’re not going to wear masks in public, we have to enforce, and we will,” he said.

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By the numbers

California cases and deaths as of 3:30 p.m. PDT Tuesday:

More than 226,800 California cases and at least 6,012 deaths as of 3:00 p.m. PDT Tuesday, June 30.
(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.

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Across California

Bars across the state, some of which only recently reopened, are being forced to announce last call once again. The state ordered closures in seven counties — Los Angeles, Fresno, Kern, San Joaquin, Tulare, Kings and Imperial — and recommended that local health officials issue restrictions in another eight (Riverside, Contra Costa, Santa Clara, Sacramento, San Bernardino, Ventura, Santa Barbara and Stanislaus). “People don’t social distance well after a couple drinks, and it’s one of the hardest environments to trace contacts in,” said Riverside County’s health officer.

San Diego County was not on either list, but it has issued restrictions on bars, wineries and pubs anyway. Establishments that serve food will still be allowed to serve drinks with meals, but no one will be allowed to stand around with drinks in their hands. “We don’t want to wait to be forced to take an action when we know it is the wise and responsible thing for us to do now,” said a county supervisor.

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More than a thousand people incarcerated at San Quentin, about a third of its population, are infected with the coronavirus after a transfer of prisoners from the California Institution for Men in Chino, the site of a massive coronavirus outbreak. Marin County officials revealed Monday that a San Quentin death row inmate found dead last week in his cell tested positive. As COVID-19 tears through prisons, Newsom is working to release more than 3,500 prisoners who are close to finishing their sentences and says almost 2,600 of the state’s roughly 113,000 prisoners have tested positive.

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.

Around the nation and the world

As he campaigns for president, Joe Biden plans to hammer home the message that President Trump is largely responsible for the carnage caused by the pandemic. In a speech presented today, Biden argued that Trump’s refusal to mobilize a competent public health response when the threat emerged made the impact of the pandemic markedly worse. The themes of Trump’s incompetency and divisiveness are not new to Biden, but the attacks are becoming considerably more potent as rates of sickness soar across the South and West and governors are forced to roll back businesses’ re-openings.

The Paycheck Protection Program expired Tuesday with nearly $135 billion in loans still not dispensed to small businesses. Initial funding for the program ran out rapidly, but the second round — another $310 billion — didn’t go as quickly after some large companies faced public backlash and accusations of misusing the program. Other firms were frightened off by the program’s vague, shifting rules, fearing they would be left on the hook for loans they could not repay. “The rumors quickly spread that it is dangerous, or can be dangerous, to apply for the PPP program,” said an attorney who represents businesses under federal investigation.

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The European Union will refuse entry to most Americans because of soaring coronavirus infections, even as it reopens its borders to travelers from 14 other countries. More than 15 million Americans are estimated to travel to Europe each year, while some 10 million Europeans head to the U.S. But bans on travel in both directions — Trump suspended U.S. entry of European visitors in March — remain in force.

Child labor experts are warning that the pandemic could force millions of children in developing nations out of classrooms and into the workforce. Months-long economic lockdowns and the threat of a global recession have worsened hardships for poor families, especially those who depend on informal jobs and lack social protections. “If these families go below the poverty line, they may have to make these ugly choices,” said UNICEF’s associate director of child protection.

Your questions answered

Today’s question comes from readers who want to know: What’s the status of coronavirus protections on planes? Former Travel editor Catharine Hamm has an update.

All major U.S. airlines are requiring passengers to wear masks.

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United and Alaska already require fliers to complete a health assessment affirming that they feel fine, haven’t been around people who are ill and agree to wear face coverings. Now all major U.S. carriers will implement it, according to the industry group Airlines for America. The instructions are that passengers should “bring a face covering and wear it at the airport, on the jet bridge and onboard the aircraft.”

There’s no getting around the requirement. Although the federal government hasn’t issued any restrictions, passengers will have to comply with the airlines’ mandate if they want to fly.

And there are consequences for those who don’t cooperate. One man who refused to wear a face covering on an American Airlines flight, even after crew members asked him to, was removed and banned from flying.

To create some distance between people, airlines such as Southwest, Delta and JetBlue have consistently blocked middle seats. But United and, more recently, American have said they cannot promise the empty seat. And in most economy-class configurations, an empty middle seat doesn’t give you the suggested six-foot distancing — so masks are even more necessary.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more guidelines for safe air travel, including instructions to wash your hands often, carry hand sanitizer, and pack your own food.

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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