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Coronavirus Today: California mostly closes again

Good evening. I’m Diya Chacko, and it’s Monday, July 13. Here’s what’s happening with the coronavirus in California and beyond.

Most of California is closing down again.

In a move that seemed inevitable after the rapid rise in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday announced a return to statewide restrictions on indoor dining and bars, theaters, zoos and museums. In addition, he ordered gyms, churches, hair salons, malls and other businesses to close in the 29 counties on the state’s monitoring list.

California has experienced more than 330,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 7,000 total deaths as of Monday, according to The Times’ coronavirus tracker. The number of residents currently hospitalized with COVID-19 is at a record high, with hospitals across the state reporting that beds are filling up fast, staffers are tiring and medications used to treat patients are in short supply. “I’m expecting things to go from bad to worse over at least the next couple of weeks,” said an intensive care unit nurse in Bakersfield.

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Besides today’s rollbacks, the coronavirus surge is prompting major changes to back-to-school plans in parts of the state.

The Los Angeles Unified School District will not reopen campuses on Aug. 18, and instead will continue with online learning until further notice, Supt. Austin Beutner announced Monday. “As much as we want to be back at schools and have students back at schools — can’t do it until it’s safe and appropriate,” he said.

Additionally, school team sports can’t be played without physical distancing, L.A. County health director Barbara Ferrer announced. That may delay — or even cancel — the county’s 2020 high school football season.

We’re here today in large part because of early failures in coronavirus testing and tracking. A Times investigation found key local spreaders in the state were going unnoticed and untraced in the outbreak’s early days. The federal shortage of test kits meant that only some people who had symptoms of COVID-19 were eligible for testing. Samples piled up in laboratories not equipped to handle the volume of tests, and there was a breakdown in the supply chain for materials such as swabs and reagents. The “failure was federal, state and local,” said the former coronavirus testing coordinator for Los Angeles County. “We all failed.”

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By the numbers

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

More than 332,800 California cases and at least 7,088 deaths as of 4:30 p.m. PDT Monday, July 13.
(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)
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See which counties are reopening with our tracker.

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Across California

As school districts plan for full-time or hybrid distance learning schedules for the fall semester, more attention is being placed on California’s ailing childcare system. Tens of thousands of babysitters, early childhood educators and home day care proprietors that working parents rely on will vote this month on whether to unionize. Organizers say they want more money, a greater hand in shaping rules and a radical expansion of the state’s alternative payment voucher program for low-income children. “We, the day care workers, we’re supporting those who are on the front line,” said a provider in Eagle Rock.

Among the unemployed, stories run rampant about the horrors of their dealings with the California Employment Development Department. Applications for benefits have gone missing, phone calls aren’t answered, and sensitive documents like passports and birth certificates have been faxed into a black hole of bureaucracy with no response. “I understand the system is overwhelmed. I totally get that,” said an unemployed hotel worker. “But that’s not a good enough excuse at this point when this many people are this desperate.”

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In good news for Angelenos, the five-day application period for a Los Angeles rent relief program is now open. The $103-million program can provide a grant of up to $1,000 per month, with a maximum grant of $2,000 per household, and will be paid directly to the tenant’s landlord on behalf of the renter. Eligible tenants are those whose household income is at or below 80% of the area median income. Those interested can apply at hcidla.lacity.org or call the city’s hotline between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. at (844) 944-1868, or (844) 325-1398 for those with speech or hearing impairments.

A coronavirus outbreak has struck Los Angeles Apparel, with more than 300 infections and four virus-related deaths among the company’s workers. It’s among the largest outbreaks at workplaces in L.A. County, according to officials who shut down operations at the South L.A. garment manufacturer on June 27 after finding “flagrant violations” of public health infection control orders. Company founder Dov Charney, infamous for his turbulent, misconduct-laden history at American Apparel, called the allegations of negligence “outrageous.”

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

For the few movie theaters still open, the recent surge in disease transmission in parts of the U.S. is drawing out what was already a slow financial recovery. Besides the fear of the virus, audiences are less inclined to visit indoor theaters because of a lack of new Hollywood films, as studios delay releases. The pandemic has, in effect, quashed the traditional summer box office season that normally accounts for 40% of annual ticket sales. “If we go a year without new movies, it’s over,” said the president of the National Assn. of Theatre Owners.

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Less than a month after reopening, Hong Kong Disneyland is shutting down again as part of a citywide effort to control new outbreaks. Hong Kong also ordered renewed limits on gatherings and fines for those who don’t wear masks. On the other side of the planet, Disney on Saturday reopened two of its Florida theme parks — the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom — even as the state’s number of COVID-19 cases continued to skyrocket.

Will face shields on helmets help keep the NFL‘s 2020 season on track? Oakley, which already provides visors for players, designed a shield that blocks the path of respiratory droplets without obscuring air flow, sound or field of vision. “We would love to get them on board” when it’s time to resume helmeted training, said the NFL’s chief medical officer.

Your questions answered

Today’s question comes from readers who want to know: Is it possible for an unborn baby to get the coronavirus?

Since the start of the pandemic, doctors have wondered whether in-the-womb infection could occur. HIV, Zika and some other viruses can infect a fetus this way, and early reports from China suggested the coronavirus could as well.

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Now, new research suggests it might be possible for the coronavirus to spread from mother to baby in utero.

Scientists from Italy studied 31 women with COVID-19 who delivered babies in March and April. They found signs of the virus in several samples of umbilical cord blood, the placenta and, in one case, breast milk.

However, only two of the newborns tested positive for the coronavirus at birth and neither became ill from it; that could mean “the possibility of fetal infection seems relatively rare,” according to the study’s lead scientist.

Additionally, children under age 3 rarely get seriously ill from the coronavirus, said a virus expert from London. “I would suspect that even if there was transmission to babies, it was not harmful,” he said.

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Ultimately, experts suggest pregnant women should take precautions against the virus because of the potential effects on their own health. Pregnant women with COVID-19 are more likely to be hospitalized and are at increased risk for intensive care unit admission and mechanical ventilation than women who aren’t pregnant, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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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