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Coronavirus Today: Readers, I’m passing the torch

Good evening. I’m Diya Chacko, and it’s Friday, Aug. 21.

This is the last edition of Coronavirus Today that I’ll be hosting — our 121st since we launched back in March in the early days of the pandemic, when none of us knew anything about what lay ahead.

It’s been an honor to write to you all every day, to answer your questions and perhaps help alleviate some of the uncertainty, fear and heartache we’ve all experienced this year. To the hundreds of you who’ve reached out directly over email — I’ve loved getting to know you. If you’d like to be in touch, you can find me on Twitter and, for the next few days until I leave The Times for a new role at UCLA, at diya.chacko@latimes.com.

We’ve still got a long road to travel, so the newsletter will continue at its normal frequency. Next week, my colleague Soumya Karlamangla, The Times’ public health reporter, will temporarily take over hosting duties. You’ve seen her stories mentioned here many times, and I’m so pleased you’ll get to meet a journalist whose work has been an essential element of our California coronavirus coverage.

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For now, I want to thank you all for sticking with me on this journey and for trusting me with your attention, your questions and your safety.

Now 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.

Students in the Los Angeles Unified School District and their parents are keeping a positive outlook as classes begin. The district has not yet released figures on remote attendance or enrollment, although several classes observed by The Times were missing only a few children. However, technical difficulties such as fickle WiFi signals have some parents calling for more support. “This week is meant to be that week to find those issues,” schools Supt. Austin Beutner said.

To comply with the county’s strict public health rules, UCLA will sharply limit on-campus housing and in-person classes this fall. Nearly all classes will be held remotely when the fall quarter begins Sept. 28, and the campus will house only students who have no “feasible alternative.”

About 24 private elementary schools and one public school district in Orange County have had their waivers approved to reopen campuses — and roughly 100 other Orange County private and charter schools have applied for similar permission and are awaiting approval. Local officials believe the county may be removed from the state’s watch list on Saturday, which could begin the 14-day countdown for school reopenings.

Against the odds, the coronavirus “time bomb” that many researchers predicted would ravage Los Angeles’ homeless communities has yet to go off. There has been little spread of the virus in street encampments, and only 31 of the more than 1,300 cases among L.A. County’s homeless people have resulted in death — a mortality rate comparable to or better than that of the overall population. One reason might be the environment where nearly three-quarters of L.A.'s homeless people live: outside.

By the numbers

California cases and deaths as of 3:38 p.m. PDT Friday:

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More than 656,000 California cases and at least 11,892 deaths as of 3:38 p.m. PDT Friday, Aug. 21.
(Compiled by L.A. Times Graphics)

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

What to read this weekend

The surprising story of L.A.’s first known COVID-19 patient. A salesman from Wuhan, China, who was hospitalized in a secret ward in January was the sole patient known to be infected with the coronavirus here for five weeks. He played an important role in a frantic race to understand the deadly new virus before it hit the United States in full force.

“How do you not touch during, you know, those times of grief?” For California’s Latino communities, the grim cycle of illness and death is overwhelming mortuaries as operators try to improvise funerals that previously might have drawn extended family and mourners from far and wide.

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Felipe Juarez, a victim of COVID-19, is memorialized at Continental Funeral Home's first outdoor service.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

“I don’t take responsibility at all.” As President Trump prepares to accept his party’s nomination again, his legacy after one term in the White House will be forever tied to his mismanagement of the coronavirus outbreak.

Are Little Free Libraries helping us survive COVID-19? The Little Free Library nonprofit started up during the Great Recession, at a time when massive unemployment threatened many communities’ access to books. Today, the organization is playing a role just as important as the pandemic has forced people to buy and borrow as locally as possible.

A Little Free Library in Venice.
(Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)

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Movie theaters are reopening — but we’re in no rush to go back. Times film critic Justin Chang sat down with entertainment columnist Glenn Whipp to discuss the risks of going to theaters and the challenges of writing about a medium in flux.

Dating in a pandemic is tough. So actress, writer and producer Joanna Johnson made television’s first romance set in the COVID-19 era, a four-episode series on Freeform that dives into “the effects of quarantine on relationships that are old and new.”

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What to do this weekend

Get outside — and bring a picnic basket. Here are some ideas for picnic spots around Southern California from Rachel Schnalzer. And be sure to check 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.

Watch something great. Need a new TV show to get into? Here are five to try this week, including “Harley Quinn” on HBO Max. Additionally, our culture picks for this weekend include a Mexico-themed kickoff to a new Hollywood Bowl TV series and the Disney musical “Newsies.” And in his Indie Focus newsletter, Mark Olsen rounds up three new movies.

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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.

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.

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.

The pandemic in pictures

Dodgers right fielder Mookie Betts makes a catch against the Giants to end a home game on Aug. 9.
Dodgers right fielder Mookie Betts makes a catch against the Giants to end a home game on Aug. 9.
(Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)

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For this baseball season that’s unlike any other in history, fans have no presence at Dodger Stadium save those of life-size cardboard cutouts in seats.

So how many fan cutouts are there at the stadium? As of July 24, the team had sold 6,200, bringing in $1 million for their charity arm, former Dodgers broadcaster Ross Porter said.

According to Porter, retired sportscaster Vin Scully was asked if he would like to buy a cutout. He politely declined, saying, “I never sat in the stands.”

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, sign up for our breaking news alerts, and follow us on Twitter and on Instagram.


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