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Coronavirus Today: When a job is more than a job

Good evening. I’m Soumya Karlamangla, and it’s Thursday, Aug. 27. Here’s what’s happening with the coronavirus in California and beyond.

In the era of COVID-19, jobs have become so much more than just jobs. For many Americans, their work — and how much it has, or hasn’t, changed in recent months — defines their experience of the pandemic.

Maybe you’re a teacher struggling to engage your students through a computer screen. Maybe you’re the owner of a once-thriving bar, now wondering how much longer you can afford to keep your doors closed. Maybe the new work-from-home lifestyle has felt like a respite, and even allowed you to take a few extended vacations.

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Or, maybe, as the death toll from COVID-19 mounted, you had to keep going in to work. Every day. While the virus circulated in your community.

Times reporter Margot Roosevelt explores the intersection of workplaces and COVID-19 in her latest story with a focus on who is responsible if an employee falls ill with the disease. Ralphs, Riverside Community Hospital and several other California employers have already been sued by staffers who came down with COVID-19. Many essential workers have even died from the disease; just Wednesday, officials announced that an L.A. Metro bus driver died of it.

Meanwhile, the California Chamber of Commerce and Republicans in Congress are pushing a bill that would shield businesses from liability in such lawsuits, which they say will only keep increasing. The issue is a sticking point in the stalled negotiations in Congress over drafting new legislation to include the much-awaited unemployment benefits for Americans. (In the absence of those federal payments, California officials announced Thursday that state residents will get $300 weekly in unemployment benefits, retroactive to Aug. 1.)

For essential workers who fall sick with COVID-19, the experience can permanently affect their relationships with their jobs. A quality control inspector at a slaughterhouse in the Central Valley who tested positive for the coronavirus in April still feels too sick to work. Headache, fever, chest pains, stomach problems still plague her even months later.

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“I was a person who didn’t believe in depression,” she said. “But now I’m like, I just should have died. I want to give up.

By the numbers

California cases and deaths as of 4:15 p.m. PDT Wednesday:

More than 689,405 California cases and at least 12,618 deaths as of 4:40 p.m. PDT Thursday, Aug. 27.

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

A positive coronavirus test for California state Sen. Brian Jones (R-Santee) meant that nearly every Republican in the Senate was barred from the state Capitol on Thursday. Jones and the lawmakers he had personal contact with in recent days are now under quarantine and must vote remotely, which presents a challenge as they try to wrap up their duties by the end of the legislative session Aug. 31. As of Thursday morning, the Senate still had nearly 280 bills awaiting action.

On Friday, Contra Costa County officials will allow gyms, nail salons and massage services to reopen for outdoor business. The move comes after a drop in the county’s case numbers and positivity rate, officials said.

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Eight USC athletes in football and water polo have tested positive for the coronavirus, forcing practice to be halted until at least Monday. Officials said the athletes contracted the virus off-campus.

In an unusual twist, dozens of people in Los Angeles County who were struggling to find work before the pandemic now have jobs — because of the coronavirus. They work at hotels and motels leased to the county through Project Roomkey to shelter homeless people who are at risk of serious complications if they become sick with COVID-19.

Doctors at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center have begun enrolling participants in a trial to test a COVID-19 vaccine produced by AstraZeneca. Their goal is to try to ensure that most, if not all, of the 500 people enrolled are over 65, have chronic illnesses or are members of underserved racial and ethnic groups — and it won’t be easy.

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.

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Around the nation and the world

Maria Van Kerkhove, a top scientist at the World Health Organization, says she’s becoming “a little bit concerned” that use of masks appear to be leading some people to think they don’t need to keep a safe distance from others. Staying safe from the coronavirus requires both masking and social distancing, she said.

In their third and fourth years of training, medical students start spending less time in classrooms and more time with patients in hospitals and clinics. But the pandemic has pushed them out of those spaces for months, making many of them feel like they’re falling behind. One student worries that “the class of 2021 is going to be the dumb class.”

COVID-19 has changed the way Hollywood releases movies. Coming to a theater near you? Not necessarily. The past several months have made way for experimentation with new methods of delivering films to audiences — but it’s unclear how much of it will stick after the pandemic subsides.

Our questions answered: Love in the time of corona

After the coronavirus outbreak prompted Chinese officials to quarantine millions of people, forcing them to stay home for days on end, the country experienced a surge in divorces. And some experts expect to see the same in the United States as couples chafe from spending every moment together in the confines of their homes.

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But that isn’t the case for everyone. Stay-at-home orders have brought some partners closer and maybe even awarded them extra time to dedicate to their relationship. The pandemic also prompted couples to quarantine together, moving in sooner than they would have otherwise. Some lucky folks have actually found love during the pandemic and met their significant other on a socially distanced date.

The Times is collecting your pandemic love stories. Fill out this form to tell us about your experience with your partner during this strange time. We’ll publish some of the tales for our readers to enjoy.

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.

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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