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Coronavirus Today: Will stay-at-home orders return?

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

Will we see a return to the strict stay-at-home orders we lived through in March and April? It’s not out of the realm of possibility for Angelenos if coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continue to surge, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti warned Wednesday. “COVID-19 hasn’t gone away,” he said. “In fact, it’s gotten worse.”

California reported 149 COVID-related deaths yesterday, the highest single-day death toll since the pandemic began. For weeks, daily deaths had remained steady even as cases and hospitalizations climbed. But the new record number seems to back up experts who feared the daily death toll would eventually surge as well.

“I hope that we figure out a way to take care of each other, to be sensible about what we’re doing,” said L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer. But she said reimposing a countywide stay-at-home order isn’t off the table.

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Given the data, it’s unlikely that Gov. Gavin Newsom’s ban on indoor dining and bar service in 27 counties, initially slated to last three weeks, will be lifted anytime soon. And some other local officials, including those in San Francisco and Santa Clara counties, have decided to keep indoor operations closed even though they’re not on the state’s monitoring list. The restrictions are a further blow for restaurant owners already suffering huge economic losses stemming from the original stay-at-home order. As one in San Diego put it: “We’re in this constant state of sinking.”

But the disregard for public health orders witnessed at restaurants and in many other public settings has exhausted and angered healthcare workers. Doctors and nurses, already overwhelmed by a months-long struggle to save the dying, say seeing the bad behavior of a vocal minority that refuses to wear masks makes them feel even worse.

“If you come into the hospital and you’re sick, I’m going to take care of you,” said a nurse in Oakland. “But damn, you would think you would want to try to protect the people that are trying to keep you safe.”

By the numbers

California cases and deaths as of 4:45 p.m. PDT Thursday:

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Nearly 298,400 California cases and at least 6,825 deaths as of 4:45 p.m. PDT Thursday, July 9.
(Compiled by L.A. Times Graphics)

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

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

See which counties are reopening with our tracker.

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Across California

As cases and hospitalizations rise dramatically, Southern California is also experiencing a shortage of medical services, from testing to treatment.

Officials in San Bernardino County say they have had to cancel hundreds of testing appointments, citing a shortage in materials, and the number of tests that the county can administer daily has shrunk from 4,500 to about 1,800.

With emergency rooms and intensive care units at capacity, Ventura County is enacting a coronavirus hospital surge plan to care for overflow patients. Hospitals are also considering restricting nonurgent surgeries to open up more space, according to the chief executive of Ventura County Medical Center and Santa Paula Hospital. “We’re extremely full right now,” he said.

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Hospitals in Orange County, where hospitalizations have jumped 97% in three weeks, are also preparing for a patient surge. “We can expect the impact on our healthcare system to get worse in the coming days and weeks,” the director of the O.C. Health Care Agency said.

In Los Angeles, nursing homes are under renewed scrutiny as allegations surface of illegal and unethical behavior during the pandemic.

City Atty. Mike Feuer just sued one, Lakeview Terrace in Westlake, accusing it of illegally “dumping” elderly and disabled residents onto the street and into homes not equipped to care for them. His lawsuit said the misconduct comes at a time when nursing homes have an incentive to dump long-term residents, for whom they are paid little, to make room for COVID-19 patients, for whom they are paid much more. The nursing home administrator denies the allegations.

Another nursing home, Hollywood Premier Healthcare Center, is accused of going weeks before telling a patient’s daughter that he had COVID-19. Jamie Ann Ivey says she was not told of her 78-year-old father’s diagnosis until the day before he died. “Why didn’t you notify me? Why wasn’t he sent to the hospital?” she asked. “Why did you keep him there?” Her lawsuit is one of a growing number accusing California nursing homes of negligence, reckless misconduct and elder abuse during the pandemic.

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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 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 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.
Tempted to go out now that the economy is reopening? Here’s how you can assess your risk.

Around the nation and the world

These days, Americans who get tested for the coronavirus at urgent care centers, community health centers, pharmacies and government-run drive-through or walk-up sites might end up waiting a week or more for the results. The testing laboratories are overwhelmed as demand has soared in the last month, and the sheer number of samples sent in for analysis is lengthening turnaround times. The delays are “the reason we are continuing in this spiral with COVID-19,” said Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who waited eight days to get results showing she was positive for the virus.

In an effort to stave off financial damage, most hospitals around the country are not canceling elective surgeries. These surgeries account for a significant chunk of hospital revenue, and the American Hospital Assn. estimates that the country’s hospitals and healthcare systems lost $202.6 billion between March 1 and June 30. But some healthcare workers fear that continuing elective surgeries amid a surge in coronavirus cases puts them and their patients at risk. “They continue to look at us as if we are disposable material,” said the president of the National Nurses United union.

Thousands of people left the Marshall Islands to seek better jobs and a healthier life in the United States, where they can work without visas. Now they find themselves facing a lethal crisis while their homeland so far remains free from COVID-19. The coronavirus is exacting an outsize toll on those in the U.S. In eastern Washington state, more than 394 of the 3,000 Marshallese citizens in Spokane County have tested positive, and three have died.

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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has no plans to revise its coronavirus guidelines for reopening schools in the wake of criticism from President Trump, who has been pushing for the rapid resumption of in-person classes. On Wednesday, Trump criticized the CDC’s guidelines as “very tough and expensive” and promised to meet with the agency. Today, its director said, “Our guidelines are our guidelines.”

Your questions answered

Today’s question comes from readers who want to know: Is there any link between blood type and COVID-19 outcomes? Here’s what scientists have discovered so far about blood type and COVID-19, from Science editor Karen Kaplan:

A handful of studies has suggested that people with some blood types are more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 symptoms, while those with other blood types are less likely to require that level of care.

In one study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers analyzed genetic data from thousands of people with and without COVID-19 in Spain and Italy.

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In this population, having Type A blood was associated with a 45% increased risk of having severe COVID-19. On the other hand, having Type O blood was associated with a 35% reduced risk of the disease. No other blood groups were associated with a greater or lesser risk of the disease.

At least two other studies, conducted by researchers in New York and China, found similar results.

There’s no determination yet on whether blood type has anything to do with the risk of being infected by the coronavirus. The data from Spain and Italy only suggested links between blood type and the severity of COVID-19 symptoms.

Furthermore, the reason for any link is not yet clear. Scientists have theorized that it may have something to do with how different combinations of A and B antigens might affect the immune system, or that the genes associated with blood type also affect the ACE2 receptor on human cells (which the coronavirus latches onto when it invades those cells).

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Ultimately, everyone should still take the proper precautions against transmitting the virus — no matter your blood type.

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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