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Coronavirus Today: The toll on essential workers

Good evening. I’m Diya Chacko, and it’s Tuesday, July 28. Here’s what’s happening with the coronavirus in California and beyond.

In last night’s newsletter, we lightly touched on the situation in the Central Valley, where the virus’ rapid spread is drawing increased attention and resources from the state. Today, we know a bit more about who is getting sick.

The demographics of those being infected in California’s agricultural zones are the same as those who have been suffering in big cities and suburbs: essential workers, many of them Latino, who can’t afford to stop working when they fall ill on the job and who tend to share housing with their extended families.

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From the Central Valley to the Eastside of Los Angeles to the Mission District in San Francisco, the rate of coronavirus transmission is much higher than in whiter, wealthier neighborhoods. Public health officials and medical experts say the pattern of spread underscores the deep inequities of California’s pandemic, which has disproportionately affected Black and Latino communities and poorer regions. “Stay-at-home orders do little for the low-wage essential workers that face the greatest risks,” said a UC Merced sociology professor.

For many Latino Californians, the situation is taking a toll on their mental health. They are much more anxious that they will become sick or affected financially by the coronavirus than other groups, a new poll by the Public Policy Institute of California found. Calls are growing for the state to do more to protect essential workers by making workplaces safer, ramping up testing and improving access to healthcare and other services for communities seeing major outbreaks.

In an effort to obtain more resources for schools and a variety of other government services, Democrats in the California Legislature have unveiled a new effort to significantly raise taxes on high earners. Assembly Bill 1253, which would raise rates on those with incomes of $1 million and higher, highlights arguments by liberal legislators and interest groups that more government resources are needed to address deep-seated inequities. “There’s a lot of pain and suffering out there, and we need to put every idea on the table,” said Assemblyman Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles), the bill’s author. Critics say it could be an economic drag on the state.

With the extra $600-a-week jobless aid provided by the federal government expiring this month, state lawmakers are also weighing a supplemental unemployment benefit to make up the shortfall. Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) said there is support among Democrats for providing up to $600 weekly to jobless Californians if the federal pandemic benefit is not extended. “We know that that money has been fairly critical in keeping the number of evictions lower than we had imagined,” Ting said.

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By the numbers

California cases and deaths as of 4:12 p.m. PDT Tuesday:

More than 470,700 California cases and at least 8,679 deaths as of 4:12 p.m. PDT Tuesday, July 28.
(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

Imperial County has the highest mortality rate in the state, averaging 25.5 deaths per 100,000 people — four times that of L.A. County. The spread of the virus has only worsened the myriad health and economic problems many residents were already facing. “It’s no secret that prior to this pandemic, the county was in dire need for resources,” said the county’s public health director. “COVID-19 just came along to aggravate its situation.”

San Diego County’s fitness businesses and churches may see a reprieve from months of closures with a proposal that would make it easier to operate in public parks. If the proposal is approved by the county Board of Supervisors, those businesses would have fees waived and faster access to permits to use reservable public areas.

In Oakland, the epicenter for confirmed infections in Alameda County, public officials are telling residents to avoid Lake Merritt. One of the area’s most popular gathering spots, the lake has grown increasingly crowded with families, vendors and people partying in the evenings. “It is pretty mellow at noon. By 4 o’clock it is packed, and by 6 o’clock it is kind of crazy,” said Oakland’s director of interdepartmental operations.

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The Los Angeles Opera has postponed for an entire year all four productions that had been scheduled for fall as it grapples with the loss of roughly $9 million in revenue for the 2019-20 fiscal year. Instead, new programming for fall 2020 will be presented digitally, and the company is trying to raise money with a virtual version of its annual gala for the L.A. Opera Relief Fund, which is helping artists and staff members affected by the pandemic.

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

A controversial concert that was headlined by the Chainsmokers on Saturday night is under investigation — and sharp online scrutiny — after footage surfaced of attendees appearing to ignore safety guidelines. On Monday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he was “appalled” by the Southampton event and said the state Department of Health would investigate. “We have no tolerance for the illegal & reckless endangerment of public health,” he said.

While Major League Baseball struggles with an outbreak, professional soccer has so far seemed to be keeping the coronavirus at bay. Major League Soccer said Monday that it had performed 7,615 tests without a confirmed positive, and its return-to-play tournament has advanced to the knockout stages. The National Women’s Soccer League finished its eight-team 29-day tournament in suburban Salt Lake City on Saturday without any players or team officials testing positive in its quarantine bubble. “The fact that we haven’t had any positive tests, it’s given some sense of calmness towards all the players in the bubble,” said LAFC midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye.

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All around the world, the coronavirus and its restrictions are exacerbating food scarcity in already hungry communities by cutting off meager farms from markets and isolating villages from food and medical aid. Virus-linked hunger will lead to the deaths of 10,000 more children a month over the first year of the pandemic, according to the United Nations. “The food security effects of the COVID crisis are going to reflect many years from now,” said the World Health Organization’s head of nutrition. “There is going to be a societal effect.”

Our questions answered

Today, we’re the ones asking you: How might our society change for the better after the COVID-19 pandemic?

When the pandemic began, The Times’ opinion team asked Californians for their thoughts on how our democracy, economy and society might be improved after the pandemic.

We received more than 3,700 responses on multiple platforms, with answers that identified big holes in our social fabric, and expressed hope for a more equitable and better-prepared future. You can read more about them here.

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But that was in early May. So much has changed since then, including the killing of George Floyd and the country’s subsequent reckoning with policing and race — not to mention the worsening health and economic toll as the coronavirus continues its destructive spread.

So we’re asking you again: What are the changes you want to see in California as we reimagine our future?

If you have not yet filled out our survey but would like to, please submit your answers here.

And if you already submitted a survey response but would like to contribute additional feedback, please do so here.

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Thanks for your time, and stay tuned for more from The Times’ “Reimagine California” project.

Our reporters covering the coronavirus outbreak want to hear from you, too. 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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