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Coronavirus Today: A rising threat level

Good evening. I’m Diya Chacko, and it’s Tuesday, July 14. Here’s what’s happening with the coronavirus in California and beyond.

It took only a month for California to switch from reopening businesses to shutting them down again.

The state’s early and substantive stay-at-home orders in response to the threat of the coronavirus were touted as a success. But the same cannot be said of its attempt at safely reopening the economy, as evidenced by the still-rising numbers of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

The city of Los Angeles is close to reaching a threat level of red, “when everything shuts down again to our strictest level,” Mayor Eric Garcetti warned Monday. On Tuesday, L.A. County recorded a new high in cases and hospitalizations, with more than a quarter of those hospitalized being treated in intensive care. “We did the right thing before. And now we have to do the right thing again,” Garcetti said.

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We’ll know in a few weeks if this latest round of restrictions was successful.

In the meantime, businesses that need to close will probably lose any economic gains they had made since reopening, leaving more people without jobs — and without employer-sponsored health insurance. The full count of how many people have lost health coverage across the U.S. isn’t yet known, but the number could be in the millions, according to some estimates. And it may grow even larger as other states join California in tightening restrictions on businesses amid rising infections.

Yet there’s been no federal effort to publicize options such as Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program or any of the health plans available in marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act. California and other states that operate their own marketplaces have created special enrollment periods and ad campaigns to reach residents who have lost their insurance. But that’s not the case in other states such as Texas, patient advocates say. “There is a desperate need for strong, consistent consumer information,” said the associate director of a health advocacy group there.

By the numbers

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

Nearly 343,200 California cases and at least 7,221 deaths as of 5:00 p.m. PDT Tuesday, July 14.
(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 schools in Los Angeles, San Diego and some parts of the Bay Area announce that they will keep campuses closed and resume remote instruction full-time, their students are contemplating another semester spent completely online — with no sports, no plays and far less time away from home. “My senior year might not even be anything,” said a rising senior in the San Fernando Valley.

In contrast, education leaders in Orange County voted Monday to approve recommendations for reopening schools that do not require masks for students or protocols for social distancing — although they say they’re leaving reopening plans up to individual school districts. While Orange County has hosted growing opposition to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s mask order, the recommendations have prompted a backlash from O.C. parents and educators. More than 26,000 people have signed an online petition calling for adherence to the state’s guidance for schools. Additionally, the Santa Ana Unified School District has announced it will pivot entirely to distance learning to start the upcoming school year as “the safest option for SAUSD students, parents, and staff.”

Compliance with the statewide mask order has also been spotty within California’s courthouses, particularly among sheriff‘s deputies, public defenders and court officials say. Since courts began reopening, presiding judges have ordered those entering to mask up, but making sure everyone does has been challenging. “I am angry that my co-workers are being put in peril ... because we have a bunch of idiots over there who don’t want to follow the rules,” said a deputy public defender in San Joaquin County.

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Now that Phase 4 of reopening — which would bring back concerts, conventions and sports — appears further out of reach, Dodgers fans have the option of sending their virtual selves to games, for a price. The team will turn a photo of you into a cutout and display it in a seat all season, with proceeds going to the team’s charity arm, the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation. Just don’t expect to get too creative with your cutout: Neither cheering nor heckling an opposing team is permitted, as “offensive or negative references to any MLB team” are strictly forbidden.

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.
Thinking about going out? Here’s how you can assess your risk.

Around the nation and the world

There’s mounting evidence that masks protect you from other people, not just them from you. Wearing any kind of face covering will reduce the volume of virus particles that your body will take in; that matters because inhaling high levels of those particles can result in serious disease or death, said a professor of medicine at UC San Francisco. In other words, you might still become infected while wearing a mask, but the severity of your illness is likely to be much less than if you weren’t.

Even President Trump is now wearing a mask in public. The move could make it more politically palatable for White House staff and Republican governors and members of Congress to appeal to Americans to wear them, too. Meanwhile, Trump and his administration are also working to undercut the country’s most trusted coronavirus advisor, Dr. Anthony Fauci, with public criticism and reduced media appearances. Fauci, who has not appeared at recent White House task force briefings and has been largely absent from television, said it’s likely because he’s “not sugarcoating things.”

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Late-night host Jimmy Fallon and “The Tonight Show” team on Monday filmed their first in-studio episode at Rockefeller Plaza since New York’s shutdown began. The team had to follow safety protocols including multiple COVID-19 tests, temperature checks and use of face masks; guests were still interviewed remotely by video chat. To those watching, Fallon said, “I guess I’m here to show you that there is a light at the end of the tunnel if we all do our part to keep each other safe.”

Your questions answered

Today’s question comes from readers who want to know: How dangerous is the virus to students if in-person classes resume? Reporter Susanne Rust heard from officials in San Francisco as they discussed reopening campuses.

In preliminary guidance for schools released July 8, the San Francisco Department of Public Health said that age matters when looking at the risks that children pose to each other, and to adults. The risk of transmission is very low for elementary school-aged students, according to a pediatrician with the city’s health department. Evidence indicates that children, especially those under the age of 10, are less likely to be infected with COVID-19 and probably less likely to transmit it, she said.

However, the risk is likely higher for high school students, “probably closer to adults,” she said. “Middle school students are probably somewhere in between.”

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Adults in the school environment, i.e. teachers and employees, are most at risk of being infected with COVID-19 and spreading it, according to the guidelines, which were released as San Francisco schools make preparations to reopen.

“COVID-19 has mainly spread between adults, or from adults-to-children. Spread of COVID-19 from children to adults, or between children has occurred but has been much less common,” the guidelines read. They add that parents and family members should be discouraged from entering the school to reduce the potential for disease transmission.

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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