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Coronavirus Today: Every California county has it

Good evening. I’m Diya Chacko, and it’s Wednesday, July 29. Here’s what’s happening with the coronavirus in California and beyond.

All 58 California counties now have cases of the coronavirus, and the state has reported a new record for COVID-related deaths in a single day.

Modoc County has confirmed its first two infections after months of being apparently untouched by the virus, and defiance of state safety orders as recently as early July. When Times columnist Erika Smith visited a few weeks ago, she noted that “almost no one wears a face mask” in the primarily rural community. As the county sheriff put it, “You have a choice here.” It remains to be seen whether that attitude will still prevail.

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That county is an example of how California has largely left enforcement of its mask order up to local jurisdictions that may not be interested. But studies show widespread mask wearing could cut coronavirus transmission in half, said Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s health and human services secretary — which would “not only protect our families and communities but help us move on the road of economic recovery.”

A growing number of officials and health experts say it’s critical now for California to act more aggressively, including pushing for masks and social distancing in workplaces and cracking down much harder on employers that don’t follow the rules for protecting workers.

In Los Angeles, the teachers union and school district officials are still debating the rules and schedules for distance learning even as the start of the school year approaches. The Los Angeles Unified School District’s plan, according to the union, would keep students home but require teachers to conduct classes virtually from inside classrooms. Union leaders say forcing teachers to return to campus, even without students, would pose unnecessary health risks.

And in Orange County, in an effort to reopen school campuses across high-risk counties for in-person learning, the Board of Education has voted to sue Gov. Gavin Newsom over his rules ordering schools to remain closed in counties on the state’s monitoring list. Earlier this month, the board was criticized for issuing recommendations that in-person learning resume without requiring students to wear masks and physically distance.

Many California students are still struggling with isolation, uneven online instruction or lack of access to computers, months after schools first shut down. But for some, distance learning has been a boon and a relief. For one LAUSD student, being at home helped alleviate his social anxiety. Another felt more relaxed, despite the bigger workload, and began eating healthier, sleeping longer and rushing less. “Sometimes those first classes were the toughest, because you’re just trying to wake up and focus,” she said of school before the pandemic.

By the numbers

California cases and deaths as of 4:42 p.m. PDT Wednesday:

More than 483,800 California cases and at least 8,883 deaths as of 4:42 p.m. PDT Wednesday, July 29.
(Compiled by L.A. Times Graphics)

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

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

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Across California

The Los Angeles City Council has voted to resume major cleanups around its “bridge housing” shelters, which were postponed in the early days of the pandemic for safety reasons. The cleanups typically require homeless people to move their tents, which advocates and health experts say puts them in danger of being exposed to the coronavirus.

Los Angeles County public health officials have ordered the closures of three food distribution facilities they say failed to report outbreaks that collectively sickened more than 140 employees — meat processing company S&S Foods in Azusa, fast-food condiment maker Golden State Foods in the City of Industry and tortilla distributor Mission Foods in the City of Commerce. The shutdowns signal the county’s crackdown to enforce its coronavirus safety measures, including potential fines.

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Outdoor dining has become a lifeline for California’s restaurants as they adjust to new rules and regulations that let them seat customers in parking lots, alleys, sidewalks and city streets. But business remains unsteady, and some are feeling the financial squeeze of creating a memorable experience outdoors on an already tight budget. “Ultimately you can [only] do so much to re-create the feeling of dining inside a restaurant,” said the restaurateur behind Dear John’s in Culver City.

As more people die in San Diego County, some residents want a clearer picture of the trends that have caused the disease to spread in some parts of the county more quickly than in others. Knowing the demographic breakdown of all tests conducted would shed light on whether current outreach efforts are succeeding in making sure those hardest hit are getting access to resources, said the founder of the civil rights organization People’s Alliance for Justice. “If we don’t know who is being tested, we can’t even argue about the issue of where resources should be put,” he said.

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

The GOP’s proposal for the next round of emergency economic relief includes a clause on liability protection for employers whose employees get sick at work. That would absolve employers of responsibility for taking any but the most minimal safety steps, making “workplaces immeasurably more hazardous for workers, and also for customers,” writes Times columnist Michael Hiltzik. “That’s because litigation — or the threat of litigation — is one of the bulwarks of workplace safety enforcement.”

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Chinese students still stuck in the U.S. because of coronavirus travel restrictions are falling prey to online scammers using the legitimate travel marketplace to sell plane tickets that never arrive. Victims have lighted up Chinese social media to commiserate about their losses and the reluctance of police in China or elsewhere to investigate. Looking back, one student at Syracuse University in New York feels foolish for being duped. But “I was too anxious to ask anything,” she says.

Instagram has removed a video from Madonna’s feed after flagging it for spreading misinformation about COVID-19. The video featured a Houston pediatrician widely discredited for promoting conspiracy theories about the coronavirus, and the caption wrongly claimed a vaccine for the virus “has been available for months,” according to screenshots shared Tuesday on Twitter. The post’s removal came just a day ahead of a House hearing where Mark Zuckerberg joined other Big Tech executives to testify on issues including the spread of disinformation on their platforms.

Your questions answered

Today’s question comes from readers who want to know: What is the status of the eviction moratorium for commercial tenants in L.A. County? Here’s what newsletter strategy editor Sam Schulz found.

L.A. County’s current eviction moratorium bans evictions of both residential and commercial tenants for nonpayment of rent due to the pandemic and is in effect through Sept. 30.

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Commercial tenants with at least 10 but fewer than 100 employees will have up to six months following the end of the moratorium to pay back any past due rent in equal payments unless they have made prior arrangements with the property owner. The county has said it may extend the end date on a month-to-month basis.

The moratorium does not apply to commercial renters that are multinational, are publicly traded or have more than 100 employees.

It also does not apply to renters located within a jurisdiction that has enacted its own moratorium. You can find lists of those here to see what moratorium applies to you.

Got a question? 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.

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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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