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Coronavirus Today: A breakdown in testing data

Good evening. I’m Diya Chacko, and it’s Friday, Aug. 7. 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.

California has recorded more than 10,000 coronavirus-related deaths, and now a breakdown in the reporting of test results is throwing the state’s pandemic planning and forecasting into chaos.

The problem stems from the electronic system CalREDIE, which reports coronavirus test results to the state’s disease registry system. “Simply put, the CalREDIE system was not built for this volume of data,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly.

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The state will develop a new tracking system, he said. For now, the California Department of Public Health has directed all laboratories to report positive results directly to county health departments until the problem is resolved.

The lack of reliable data is seriously curtailing efforts to make progress against COVID-19. The numbers are crucial for counties to make decisions about public health restrictions, for rural areas that are beginning to battle new infections and for schools that need to know whether they can bring students back to campus.

The uncertainty is one factor contributing to the lack of guidance colleges and universities say they’ve gotten from the state as they scramble to come up with reopening scenarios. Meanwhile, distance learning is threatening to undermine the educational and developmental progress made by children with disabilities, their parents say.

Even more children are likely to face uncertainty and stress if California’s eviction protections are allowed to expire. As many as 1 million families across the state — including some 365,000 in Los Angeles County — could find themselves at risk of being forced out of their homes, perhaps as soon as September, writes Times columnist Erika D. Smith.

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Essential workers, many of whom can’t afford to stay home, say they’re experiencing more stress from having to police the use of masks in their workplaces. Said one McDonald’s employee: “A company that makes billions of dollars a year is now expecting workers it pays minimum wage to police a culture war we are not trained for, and that could put us in danger.”

Meanwhile, California’s agency for protecting workers is struggling to police workplace safety and even to protect its own, staffers say. The ranks of California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, better known as Cal/OSHA, are severely depleted, they say, even as staffers deal with a massive backlog of coronavirus-related complaints. Internal emails shared with The Times suggest the agency was failing to implement the very COVID-19 guidelines it recommends to employers.

By the numbers

California cases and deaths as of 2:42 p.m. PDT Friday:

More than 543,600 California cases and at least 10,083 deaths as of 2:42 p.m. PDT Friday, Aug. 7.
(Compiled by L.A. Times Graphics)
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Track the latest numbers and how they break down in California with our graphics.

What to read this weekend

Reviving an old-school treatment for a 21st century pandemic. In 1901, Dr. Emil Adolf von Behring was honored with a Nobel Prize for pioneering the use of so-called convalescent serum as a treatment for diphtheria. Today, it may be our best option for treating COVID-19 as well — but reviving it won’t be easy.

Fishing the L.A. River is more than a quarantine hobby — for some urban anglers, it has become a form of therapy. As the pandemic stretches on, fishermen new and old say they have found a peaceful respite from the stresses of COVID-19 along the river’s banks, though most say they wouldn’t eat the fish they catch.

Edgar Alvarez, 23, of Los Angeles, heads out frequently to fish along the Los Angeles River.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)
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“Can you bless our quarantine room?” When the coronavirus shut down the Smithfield pork factory in Sioux Falls, S.D., it also decimated the city’s only Spanish-speaking Catholic congregation. Its 36-year-old priest is doing his best to hold his congregation together.

How do you shoot a portrait in the age of contagion? Photographer Ian Byers-Gamber has found a way to embrace the limitations of physical distancing and masks and make some intriguing photographs in the process. He does so from the safety of his car.

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What to do this weekend

Get takeout with the Times’ ultimate guide. The Times food team collected more than 100 restaurants into this interactive guide to help you find the best restaurant delivery and takeout options in the Los Angeles area.

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Get outside. Eager to hit the trail or the beach? How about taking a 22-mile bike ride from Torrance to Pacific Palisades? Here’s the latest on what’s open and what’s closed from Christopher Reynolds and Mary Forgione. You can sign up for the newsletter The Wild for more.

Read L.A. Affairs. Straight, gay, bisexual, transgender, nonbinary — The Times’ L.A. Affairs reader-submitted column chronicles the search for love in and around Los Angeles. Here are the latest entries, including an essay explaining how 20 weeks of quarantine saved one woman’s marriage.

Watch something great. Our picks for this weekend include a virtual benefit for Youth Orchestra Los Angeles and a K-pop dance party. Or watch a new movie; our film writer Mark Olsen rounds up reviews of a few in his Indie Focus newsletter.

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 some more great podcasts.

Explore the internet. Here’s the Times’ guide to the internet, for when you’re looking for self-care, learning, entertainment or just something interesting.

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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 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

A street performer dressed as Spider-Man on Hollywood's Walk of Fame. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
A street performer dressed as Spider-Man seeks out tourists on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

“It’s a ghost town here.” Summer is typically Hollywood Boulevard’s busy season, when tourists from around the world join locals to go to movies, nightclubs and eateries. But the pandemic has taken the street performers, tour buses and souvenir hawkers out of the picture and sent people scurrying away from sidewalk superheroes.

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.

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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.


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