Coronavirus Today: Where things went wrong


Good evening. I’m Diya Chacko, and it’s Thursday, Aug. 13. Here’s what’s happening with the coronavirus in California and beyond.

Did California’s success at flattening the curve fairly early in the pandemic ultimately work against us?

Los Angeles County’s quick and deliberate response to the coronavirus — which included shutting down businesses, universal testing and pushing residents to wear masks — was praised as a model for how other counties nationwide should have raised their defenses against COVID-19. But when the infection curve flattened in early May, officials rushed to restore normalcy.

That’s where it all went wrong.

The Times reviewed months of public statements and documents from officials and compared them to health data to understand what set the stage for the deadly resurgence of the virus. The result is an interactive timeline that illustrates how a rush to reopen drove L.A. County into a massive health crisis.


These days, state and local officials are cautiously optimistic that the rate of virus transmission is starting to decline. It’s a signal that Gov. Gavin Newsom’s second shutdown, which began in late June and broadened in early July, is finally having its intended effect.

The question is: Did we learn enough from our mistakes to understand how to keep the virus at bay as millions of students head back to school campuses across the U.S.?

At colleges and universities, which have taken a patchwork approach to safety because of the lack of federal guidance, professors are torn on whether to enter their classrooms at all. “If I see people not following health protocols at the university, I’m going remote and I’m not seeking any permission,” a professor at Northern Arizona University said. “They can fire me if they don’t like it.”

A bar chart shows students in districts serving low-income areas were less likely on average to have a computer or internet
(Ben Poston / Los Angeles Times)

Yet at the same time, there’s no doubt distance learning has had profound effects on millions of elementary and high school students, exacerbating serious disparities in public education for those enrolled in districts in high-poverty communities. Only about half the students in low-income-serving districts had computers available for school work when campuses closed, though about 87% of those in the most affluent districts did, The Times found in a survey of 45 Southern California school districts.

The Times has put together some resources on distance learning for parents. See the Your Questions Answered section of this newsletter to read them.

By the numbers

California cases and deaths as of 4:09 p.m. PDT Thursday:

Around 598,000 California cases and at least 10,870 deaths as of 4:09 p.m. PDT Thursday, Aug. 13.
(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

As landlords prepare to resume evictions across the state, advocates say migrant farmworkers will bear the brunt of them. Many who are also working in essential jobs are scared that their immigration status will be used against them if they don’t comply with landlords, and they have little access to legal advice or government aid. If the state hopes to reopen its economy, it will need these workers, a UCLA professor of Chicana and Chicano studies said. “You are not going to be able to get them back if you have basically created a poverty situation where they are going to disappear.”

In Los Angeles County, at least, tenants who have suffered financial setbacks because of the pandemic can begin applying Monday for emergency rent relief. The program is open to all renters who meet the qualifications, regardless of immigration status. To apply, a tenant must apply online at or call 211 for help applying.

A coalition of scientific experts, industry and government leaders and foundations is also looking into the possibility and cost of at-home coronavirus tests, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Wednesday, adding that such an effort might “get our children back to school.” Health experts agree that widespread and easy access to testing is essential for cities to reopen without causing a new surge in case numbers.


— 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 millions of people and businesses waiting for a new round of coronavirus economic relief will have to keep waiting now that Congress has left Washington for a summer break without agreeing on a stimulus package. Even if a deal is hashed out in the coming weeks, it won’t get a vote until after Labor Day.

A major point of contention in the package is about $10 billion in funding for the U.S. Postal Service, intended to help it process an anticipated surge in mail-in ballots for the 2020 election. President Trump said Thursday that he opposes the additional funding on his unfounded belief that mail-in voting would lead to voter fraud, acknowledging that his position would starve the agency of money Democrats say it needs to handle mail-in ballots. Critics say he and his allies are trying to undermine faith in the postal service, with the end goal of suppressing the November vote.

Two infectious-disease experts and members of the NCAA’s COVID-19 advisory panel said Thursday that it would be prudent to shut down fall college sports during the pandemic. Moving ahead with the season would be “playing with fire,” one expert said, because of the risk of heart inflammation from COVID-19. Another pointed to the nation’s inability to keep the virus from spreading unabated. “My advice to colleges is if you cannot do it safely, you should not do it,” said the executive associate dean at the Emory University School of Medicine.

Your questions answered

Today’s question comes from readers who want to know: How can I support my child as they begin a new semester of distance learning? Here are a few suggestions Times reporters have put together that are free for all to read (you may have to register for an L.A. Times account, which is also free).

As millions of students begin the school year entirely online amid the pandemic, parents are worried about how the lack of in-person learning will affect them mentally, emotionally and even physically.

Some parents who must go to physical workplaces are wondering how they’re going to manage without access to child care. Reporter Lila Seidman has some tips on where to look for help; some school districts and employers alike are offering ways to support working parents.


Schooling from home can be even harder if you don’t have a computer or Wi-Fi, or if you usually relied on free meals at school. Here’s a list of resources from reporter Faith E. Pinho on where to get access to technology and meals for your child.

And finally, parents are worried about their children’s social and emotional development as safety takes priority over in-person interactions with classmates and teachers. There are ways for parents to facilitate that development from home, according to several experts.

“Children will develop socially and emotionally in lots and lots of different contexts,” one expert said. Here are some of the ways parents can help their children progress.

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.