Coronavirus Today: What makes a workplace safe?


Good evening. We’re Diya Chacko and Sam Schulz, and it’s Friday, July 24. Here’s the latest on what’s happening with the coronavirus, plus ways to spend your weekend and a look at some of the week’s best stories.

As California’s coronavirus cases continue to surge, the White House’s coronavirus coordinator said Friday that the state now resembles New York, the epicenter of the COVID-19 crisis in the spring. L.A. County is seeing “too much community spread,” its public health director said, and in Orange County, officials are struggling to determine precisely where people are being infected.

But just as troubling, health officials say, is the way COVID-19 is stalking certain groups — such as essential workers and those in institutions like nursing homes and prisons — while sparing more of those who can stay home. On Friday, just after a Times investigation found that the state hasn’t been testing the inspectors it sends into nursing homes to ensure they comply with infection controls, Gov. Gavin Newsom said officials would implement an aggressive testing regime.

Californians of color are also far more likely to become infected or die from the coronavirus, and the most recent surge in cases is exacerbating those inequities. It’s hitting Latinos especially hard as essential workers get sick and then infect their families and communities. That kind of spread is of particular concern to officials, who are pushing for stronger enforcement of workplace safety rules to slow it. In L.A. County, where Latino residents are twice as likely as whites to contract the virus, officials have unveiled a tiered enforcement plan to cite and fine businesses that violate health orders.


State lawmakers are mulling whether labor laws need to evolve too. They’ve proposed expanding workers’ compensation eligibility so that more employees will be covered if they are diagnosed with COVID-19, increasing the number of sick days for food service workers and requiring employers to chip in for utility and internet bills for people working from home. One outstanding question is how long the fixes will need to be in place, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) said.

And though California’s working parents face a fall semester with their kids still home from school, few employers have plans to deal with child care. When schools closed this spring, the state’s biggest employers responded with measures like paid leave and flexible work schedules; now, many are still relying on emergency policies first intended as stopgap measures and others have cut back on new benefits. With many public benefits expiring, they may be forced to figure something out quickly.

The confusion reflects the country’s broadly jumbled approach to what to do about schools, much to parents’ consternation. Polling and interviews with parents nationwide show widespread disapproval with President Trump’s gung-ho approach to reopening classrooms. “It’s one of the most fundamental issues right now,” said one Republican pollster. “Particularly for parents, this is the issue.”

By the numbers

California cases and deaths as of 3:28 p.m. PDT Friday:

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

What to read this weekend

“If Black people have been the victims of COVID-19, we’re going to be the key to unlocking the mystery of COVID-19.” Black and Latino people have disproportionately suffered from the pandemic but have historically been less likely to be included in crucial medical studies. Now, there are growing demands that vaccine trial participants reflect American diversity.

Italy is struggling to keep the Mafia out of its painful recovery. With Rome’s notorious red tape, authorities say, organized crime has been quick to swoop in as relief funds waited to be dispersed, handing out groceries, masks and cash to families in need. And that helps the syndicates achieve their real goal.


“We’re in hell right now.” Texas’ Rio Grande Valley has become a landscape of prayers, graves and sorrow for Tejano families. Hospitals have built temporary COVID-19 wards to care for new patients, scores of bodies lie stacked in refrigerated trailers, and hundreds of contract nurses have been dispatched from other states amid a staffing shortage.

Mayra Vega, who tested positive while pregnant, is isolated from her son, born prematurely. The nurses took photos of him.
Mayra Vega, 27, who tested positive for COVID-19 while she was pregnant, is isolated from her son, David Alejandro Vega, born prematurely Thursday. But the nurses took photos and video of him.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

Did these baristas lose their jobs because of COVID-19 or because they were unionizing? Just a week after workers at Augie’s Coffee announced plans to unionize, the Inland Empire mini-chain shut down five locations and laid off 54 employees. The owners blamed the demise of their business on the ravages of the coronavirus — but the regulars aren’t buying it.

Battling the live-music apocalypse. As the live-events business falls off a cliff with the cancellation of concerts and festivals, the music industry has reached back to Southern California car culture for at least a temporary answer: drive-in concerts.

The problem with the pandemic and arts education. Young artists are doing their best to prepare to enter prestigious academies and university programs. But training often relies on in-person practice, staged ensemble shows and access to expensive equipment such as cameras and arts software. For some students, the pandemic has meant losing those resources.

Arianna Carson, who plans to study dance at SUNY Purchase in the fall, is photographed near her home in Rowland Heights.
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

In quarantine, high school coaches are discovering a passion for barbecue. With campuses closed and sports still in limbo, many Southern California coaches have been home since March. All that free time is leading to an all-out assault on smoking meat. (Getting hungry? There’s more on barbecue below, in our weekend recommendations.)


Motels are having a moment, thanks to the pandemic. These relics of the 1950s suddenly stand to benefit from travelers’ new aversion to stuffy indoor hallways and cramped elevators, as well as from the new appeal of road trips over air travel.

When barrio baseball ruled East L.A. In L.A.’s postwar, pre-Dodgers era, the emerging Latino neighborhoods of East L.A. and Boyle Heights, made up of native-born Chicanos and Mexican-born immigrants, were split by language and culture and needed something to unify them. That something was baseball.

Ernie Rodriguez, an outfielder who debuted with the Chorizeros at 16, shows a mural from his playing and coaching days.
“A lot of people couldn’t get to Wrigley Field or Gilmore Stadium. So the Sunday leagues became very big in the Boyle Heights community,” said Ernie Rodriguez, an outfielder who debuted with the Chorizeros when he was just 16.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

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What to do this weekend

Watch something great. Live solo shows by Broadway stars Megan Hilty and Audra McDonald, a Frida Kahlo museum talk and a disaster-flick Zoom parody starring Ben Stiller, Don Cheadle and Kristen Wiig — these are some of the 15 promising cultural events for your calendar consideration this weekend. And among the new movies Mark Olsen rounds up in his Indie Focus newsletter is one that might make you glad you can’t take a vacation.

Explore Los Angeles. Take yourself on an architectural tour of Wilshire Boulevard from the comfort of your car and discover glimpses of the city’s colorful past, including museums, movie palaces and a Masonic lodge. Eager to hit the trail or the beach? Here’s the latest on what’s open and what’s closed from Christopher Reynolds and Mary Forgione. You can sign up for her newsletter The Wild for more.


Enjoy L.A.’s best tastes of summer. Bill Addison rounds up his 11 favorite L.A. spots for barbecue (plus one further afield), Garrett Snyder recommends to-go frozen cocktails to wash it down, and Jenn Harris lists eight great summer desserts, from Philadelphia water ice on Melrose to funnel cake in South Los Angeles to pistachio-flecked bouza in Anaheim. If you’re doing the cooking, this salad from Ben Mims is an ode to summer’s freshest ingredients. Get our cooking newsletter for more.

Skip the parties. We consulted the experts on how best to decline invitations, politely and without sounding judgmental — yes, even if you already RSVP’d with a yes. Here are their answers to this and other pandemic social etiquette questions.

Listen to a podcast. Try “Coronavirus in California” for dispatches from the front lines. For stories from beyond the crisis, check out our podcast “It Was Simple: The Betty Broderick Murders,” written and hosted by columnist Patt Morrison. Here are more great podcasts, too.


— 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 Mental 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.

The pandemic in pictures

Sheila Noseworthy as Medusa at Lake Miramar.
(K.C. Alfred / San Diego Union-Tribune)

With Comic-Con online because of the pandemic, there’s a whole world of cosplayers with a lot of creativity to show off. Since they can’t strut their stuff the usual way, San Diego Union-Tribune photographer K.C. Alfred asked them to suit up and show readers their powers around San Diego County. Sheila Noseworthy, pictured above on Lake Miramar, made her Medusa costume out of foam and dollar store finds. Feeling nostalgic? Let The Times’ best photos from Comic-Cons past take you back.

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 in our reopening tracker.


For the most up-to-date coronavirus coverage from The Times over the weekend, visit our homepage and our Health section, listen to our “Coronavirus in California” podcast, sign up for our breaking news alerts, and follow us on Twitter and on Instagram.