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Coronavirus Today: The risk to kids and teachers

Good evening. I’m Diya Chacko, and it’s Wednesday, July 22. Here’s what’s happening with the coronavirus in California and beyond.

As of this morning, California has more confirmed coronavirus infections than any other state.

California is by far the most populous state in the U.S., of course, so that helps account for the high number of infections. More alarming are the trend lines for new COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths — they’re still largely going up.

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Hospitalizations have reached record-breaking levels, and the death toll is worsening. To that end, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday that officials are redoubling efforts to secure protective gear and are preparing to expand the number of available hospital beds.

The current numbers reflect virus exposures from weeks ago, and officials are still holding out hope that we’ll start to see a payoff from the statewide mask order and the most recent business closures. However, those efforts might fall short since some parts of the state are resisting those restrictions.

Huntington Beach, a conservative Orange County stronghold, has emerged as a center of the rebellion against coronavirus safety measures. It’s where many people refuse to wear masks or physically distance and some residents remain skeptical about the seriousness of the outbreak. “They’re inflated,” one said of the rising number of infections and deaths. “It’s another way of shutting everything down … of the Democrats trying to get what they want.”

The attitude reflects a growing political divide over state-mandated safety measures. In fact, a conservative group that fought California’s lockdown restrictions has sued Newsom over his recent order forbidding schools in counties with high rates of COVID-19 from resuming in-person learning. The lawsuit argues that school closures will disproportionately hurt students from low-income families, students with disabilities and students of color. Indeed, families with financial resources are finding ways to supplement distance learning with tutors for individuals or small groups — and education researches say that is likely to further exacerbate the equity gap between the rich and poor.

School and state leaders acknowledge that students need in-person learning, but they say closures are necessary for student and staff safety. The problem is that we still don’t know much about the dangers of sending students back to campus. As discussed in yesterday’s newsletter, research indicates that most kids aren’t as susceptible to the disease, nor do they transmit COVID-19 as readily as their parents. However, children have also been more isolated at home than adults; their transmission rate could change if campuses reopen while the outbreak is still raging.

And don’t forget about the risks to teachers and school staff. As adults, they’re the ones most likely to suffer severe symptoms if they become infected. Teachers in Florida have sued the state to block what they call the “reckless and unsafe reopening” of public school campuses for face-to-face instruction. As “Daily Show” host Trevor Noah put it: “Unsurprisingly, teachers all across America are not enthused at the idea of having to put their lives at risk so that little Aiden can build a baking-soda volcano.”

UC Berkeley and UC Merced will begin the fall semester with fully remote instruction, reversing their original plans to offer a mix of online, in-person and hybrid classes. Both universities will make some on-campus housing available for students facing financial or physical hardships. “What you’re seeing is people having a great deal of respect for the power of this virus,” said the president of the American Council on Education.

By the numbers

California cases and deaths as of 6 p.m. PDT Wednesday:

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More than 419,400 California cases and at least 8,017 deaths as of 6 p.m. PDT Wednesday, July 22.
(Compiled by L.A. Times Graphics)

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

See the current status of California’s reopening, county by county, with our tracker.

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Across California

UCLA athletes are adjusting to on-campus workouts with thermometers, questionnaires and masks — but no locker rooms. Strength and conditioning coaches spent the first weeks testing athletes’ fitness and movement quality, including balance, agility and change of direction. After passing those tests, they slowly progressed to using full weights. Players work out in groups of no more than 10, and they’re required to stay six feet apart. “It’s tough, it’s different, but it’s the new normal,” said a defender on the women’s soccer team.

In the Inland Empire, where temperatures have soared recently, the pandemic is exacerbating the dangers posed by high heat. Fears of spreading the coronavirus have reduced the number of open cooling centers and available spots in air-conditioned shelters, putting elderly and homeless people at risk of dying from heat stroke as they try to avoid COVID-19. “I kept thinking, ‘I’m going to die out here,’” a homeless woman said.

People currently and formerly incarcerated in California’s prisons have described the terror behind bars as the virus raged inside, worsened by transfers between facilities. “Guys would yell, ‘Man down in 246! Man down!’” said one man recently released from San Quentin in Northern California. “You’d hear that five or six times a day, and you’d say, ‘Am I next?’” In Southern California, a federal judge has ordered that medically vulnerable people incarcerated in Lompoc’s federal prison complex must be transferred to home confinement to prevent further illness.

Mono County has been placed on the state’s monitoring list for the first time because of a surge in coronavirus cases tied to Mammoth Lakes restaurants. The county will mandate additional requirements at restaurants, bars and coffee shops. At least 84 people have tested positive for the virus, with 79 of those cases — and the area’s sole death — in Mammoth Lakes.

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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 Mental 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

One in six American museums is at “significant risk” of closing permanently because of financial stresses amplified by the pandemic, according to a new survey from the American Alliance of Museums. Most of the museums responding to the survey said they had only enough money to keep operating for the next six months or less. Many have been helped by the federal Paycheck Protection Program, but that funding “runs out for many museums this summer,” the group’s president said. “I fully expect we’ll see another round of layoffs and furloughs and potential closures.”

The 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo may not take place unless there is a vaccine or other medical advancement, the president of Japan’s organizing committee said Wednesday. It’s the latest in the back-and-forth between Japan and the International Olympic Committee, as IOC officials keep insisting the Games will take place next summer as planned.

As demand for streaming content grows, platforms are capitalizing on the rising popularity of East Asian television shows and films, including Korean dramas featuring K-pop stars. The streaming site Rakuten Viki, which has a function that lets viewers chat while they watch, now has more than 15 million subscribers around the world — up 50% from a year ago. Users “really like to share their fandom,” said the company’s chief executive.

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Wednesday marks the first day professional basketball players compete from within the NBA’s coronavirus “bubble” in Orlando. Our NBA writer Dan Woike and Lakers beat writer Tania Ganguli will be covering the season from within the bubble and sharing exclusive updates, photos and videos via text message. If you’ve been eagerly anticipating the return of NBA action, here’s how to sign up for Full-Court Text.

We’re asking you

This is where we usually answer your questions, but today, we’re the ones asking: Parents, what do you wish you knew about the coming school year?

Whether your child will have a hybrid schedule or resume classes completely online, it’s likely you’ll be juggling a ton of responsibilities in completely new ways. And we imagine you have some questions.

Do you want to know more about distance learning? In-person classes? The safety of students, parents and teachers? What the rules are for public schools — and are they different for private schools?

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You can submit your questions using this form, and we’ll do our best to get you answers.

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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