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Coronavirus Today: Hashing out stimulus payments

Good evening. I’m Diya Chacko, and it’s Monday, July 27. Here’s what’s happening with the coronavirus in California and beyond.

Senate Republicans on Monday unveiled a $1-trillion economic relief plan that would provide a second round of $1,200 coronavirus stimulus payments to Americans. However, federal unemployment payments would be slashed from $600 a week to $200. That’s in contrast to the proposal from Democrats, which the House passed back in May: $1,200 checks and an extension of the $600 weekly unemployment benefit.

Republicans and some employers have complained that the flat $600-a-week payment provides many low-paid employees with more money than they had received while working. On Saturday, Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin called the payment “ridiculous” and a disincentive for people to go back to work. Others, however, say keeping the payment at or near current levels would help stabilize the economy as the pandemic worsens.

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Indeed, many businesses have halted plans to hire new workers or bring existing employees back from furlough as states renew mandatory business closures to protect public health. This is exemplified by California’s ailing hair and nail salons, as owners struggle to break even while complying with restrictions that seemingly change from day to day. “We just don’t know what to expect anymore, but we are trying our best,” one owner said.

And for the many Californians who have begun driving for Uber and Lyft, economic necessity has forced them to choose between preserving their health and making ends meet. The two ride-sharing companies have continued to classify their drivers as independent contractors and are refusing to pay into California’s unemployment fund — making it harder for those drivers to get the economic benefits that could help keep them off the roads. “I told her, ‘Please, Mom, stop. People are dying,’” said a man whose mother drove for Uber and Lyft. She later died from COVID-19-related brain damage.

By the numbers

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

More than 457,500 California cases and at least 8,496 deaths as of 5 p.m. PDT Monday, July 27.
(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

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday said the state will allocate $52 million in resources to fight the spread of the coronavirus in eight Central Valley counties that have seen an increase in infections: San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Kern. San Joaquin County is so overwhelmed that military medical teams have been sent to two hospitals there.

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Advocates for agricultural employees say the pandemic has only amplified the brew of conservative politics, economic pressures and historic disparities that run through the farmlands of California’s inland counties. Many of the new COVID-19 cases are among farmworkers from the Latino communities of the Central Valley, and those workers have seen little attention from local officials so far. “It’s just disappointing how there is not a sense of urgency by public health or healthcare providers,” said the president of a farmworkers’ advocacy and services organization.

Meanwhile, from Orange County to Northern California, people continue to gather for large outdoor religious ceremonies without following the rules, prompting stern reprimands from public health officials.

Saturate OC, an evangelical worship event in Huntington Beach, drew up to 1,800 people Friday, organizers say — many of whom were not wearing masks or practicing social distancing. And video of a worship event held days earlier in the city of Redding in Shasta County showed a crowd acting much the same as the one at Saturate OC. “Unfortunately, the Saturate OC event promoters have not instituted safety protocols prescribed by the state and county,” said Huntington Beach officials, who cited the organizers for promoting an event without a permit.

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.

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Around the nation and the world

Across the U.S., broad skepticism of masks has fallen largely along party lines, with polls showing that Republicans are less likely to wear masks than Democrats or independent voters. Still, even skeptics of masks are making and selling them, now that the face coverings are required in multiple states and in retail chains such as Walmart, Target and Starbucks. “I don’t agree with it,” said a mask seller in Amarillo, Texas. “But if they want to buy them, I’m not gonna argue.”

Coronavirus-related travel restrictions have effectively invalidated short-term visas that allow for brief crossings into cities along the 1,954-mile U.S.-Mexico border. That’s upended work and life for many of the Mexicans and Mexican Americans accustomed to crossing the border to visit family, get medical care or shop. Those who are permitted to travel face increased wait times due to restricted crossings and temporary closures of processing lanes. “Now, it takes the whole day just to cross,” said a dual citizen who lives in San Diego and brings medicine to her mother in Tijuana.

In South Korea, the farming economy relies on on migrant workers who can no longer enter the country due to coronavirus restrictions. As crops ripen and rains loom, farmers and farmworkers are increasingly desperate for labor help — and they’re not having luck recruiting locals. “The housing and all the insects, a lot of them seemed to find it unbearable,” said a farmer in Gangwon province.

Major League Baseball has seen its return plans upended after a coronavirus outbreak among the Miami Marlins forced them to postpone tonight’s game against the Baltimore Orioles. And because the Marlins played against the Phillies in Philadelphia on Sunday night, that team’s home game versus the New York Yankees this evening was also postponed. The outbreak has called into question baseball’s strategy for its shortened, 66-day season — and with cases surging in many parts of the country, experts say the MLB predicament is a bellwether for the NFL and for college football, both of which have adopted similar coronavirus protocols for their upcoming seasons in the fall. “There are absolutely lessons to be learned from this,” said a vice dean at the University of Washington’s School of Public Health.

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Within the NBA, fears are growing about whether contracting COVID-19 could lead to health problems for players later in their careers. While we still don’t know a lot about the long-term effects of the disease, doctors agree that the potential effects on heart and lung function are a concern for athletes whose livelihoods depend on high-intensity exertion. “If you do get it, will it affect you to be able to play again?” said Clippers player Kawhi Leonard. “Everyone knows it hits everybody’s body different.”

Your questions answered

Today’s question comes from readers who want to know: Will the DMV will be issuing an extension for driver’s license renewals? Here’s what we know.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles has granted a one-year extension to senior drivers — those aged 70 and above — whose licenses are set to expire between now and December of this year. If you fall into that category, there’s nothing you need to do; the extension is automatic.

Drivers will not receive a new card or extension paperwork in the mail, but if you want documentation of the extension, you can request it online. If you need to travel by air, the Transportation Security Administration will accept driver’s licenses for up to a year after the expiration date.

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For those under the age of 70 with expired licenses, the deadline is coming up to renew: July 31. For most people it will be possible to renew online; visit dmv.ca.gov to see if you’re eligible.

If you need to make an in-person visit — to get a new license, to take an in-person driving test or to convert your existing license into a REAL ID — you must first make an appointment online. Expect somewhat of a wait; the DMV is rescheduling appointments that were canceled or postponed while its field offices were closed. Once that backlog is clear, the agency will make new appointment slots available.

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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