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Coronavirus Today: What got done, and what didn’t

Good evening. I’m Faith E. Pinho, and it’s Tuesday, Sept. 1. Here’s what’s happening with the coronavirus in California and beyond.

In a frenzied end to California’s legislative session, lawmakers passed a slew of measures aimed at providing economic relief for renters, families and low-wage workers struggling during the pandemic.

Hours before the state’s eviction moratorium was set to expire Monday night, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation immediately to extend eviction protections by five months for those who can’t pay their rent because of COVID-related financial hardship. If tenants meet certain requirements — paying at least 25% of the amount they owe and filing paperwork with their landlord — they can stay in their homes through Jan. 31.

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Other legislation now headed to the governor’s desk would extend aid to workers in the form of sick and family leave. One bill will require food-sector, healthcare and emergency response companies with more than 500 employees to provide two weeks of supplemental paid sick leave for full-time workers who were exposed to the coronavirus or contracted COVID-19.

Another would extend the state’s 12 weeks of job protections for workers on family leave to employees of small businesses; Newsom has said he will sign it. “Access to family leave is especially critical amid COVID-19 when workers need to take time off to care for themselves or their loved ones,” said Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), who sponsored the bill.

Additional measures include a bill that would require hotel, janitorial, airport, event center and building maintenance businesses to give rehiring preference to workers who were laid off during a state of emergency, plus another that would codify Newsom’s executive order that makes it easier for police, firefighters and other essential employees who contract COVID-19 on the job to be covered under the state’s workers’ compensation program.

Yet many legislators left the Capitol haunted by what they didn’t get done in this unusual legislative year. It ended just before midnight, with 10 senators voting from home because their exposure to a colleague with COVID-19 had forced them into quarantine.

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By the numbers

California cases and deaths as of 5:13 p.m. PDT:

More than 715,000 confirmed cases and more than 13,000 deaths.
(Los Angeles 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

A new state coronavirus data reporting system will be online in October, the Newsom administration announced Tuesday, a month after a state public health computer database failure caused the distortion of test results across California and disrupted the pandemic response. The state has signed a contract for a database that will handle all COVID-19 testing results, replacing the troubled one known as CalREDIE. Because of a glitch in that system in late July, up to 300,000 test results had not been uploaded to the database, raising doubts about the effectiveness of the state‘s actions taken to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

A variety of retail and service-oriented businesses in Los Angeles County may be back in business soon under Newsom’s new reopening plan. The Board of Supervisors met Tuesday to discuss the new system, which allows counties to let hair salons and barbershops statewide welcome clients indoors if they follow rules for social distancing, wearing masks and other health-related mandates. All retail and shopping malls are also allowed to reopen at 25% capacity but will have to keep common areas and food courts closed. County supervisors and Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer met Tuesday to discuss the new guidance, but no decision was made. Any change to the county’s guidelines will be announced Wednesday afternoon, Ferrer’s agency said.

Meanwhile, the entertainment production industry is reconsidering the safety of film sets following last week’s death of a 51-year-old assistant director from COVID-19. John Nolan worked on a shoot for a State Farm commercial in July, around the time he tested positive. The Santa Monica-based company that employed him said it conducted temperature screening for those on set, followed social distancing protocols, gave protective equipment to the crew and had COVID-19 compliance personnel on set. Still, some workers would like to see more precautions. “It’s just a sad situation that the unions and the production companies on commercials are yet to come to an agreement on testing,” one of Nolan’s colleagues said.

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After nearly 40 years of real estate transactions, litigation and debate among locals, the Hollywood Burbank Airport was almost ready to build a new $1.2-billion terminal. But the coronavirus and the airline industry’s ensuing economic nosedive threaten to stall the project once again. The airport reported an 81% drop in passengers in June compared with the same period last year. “I can’t imagine a project with a more solid footing than this,” said an airport deputy executive director. “The wildcard is COVID.”

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.

Around the nation and the world

New research shows that the antibodies people produce to fight a coronavirus infection remain in the body for at least four months after diagnosis and don’t fade as quickly as earlier reports suggested. That’s an encouraging sign for efforts to create coronavirus vaccines, because if they are able to prompt the body to make antibodies, their protection “may not be fleeting,” researchers wrote Tuesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Two other new studies demonstrate that saliva-based coronavirus tests are about as accurate as the more standard tests that use a long, stiff swab to collect a sample from the back of the nose. The saliva tests are less invasive, but that’s not their only benefit. Almost anyone can administer a saliva-based test, so there’s no need to visit a testing center. They also free up the time of medical personnel and spare them potential exposure to the virus.

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Talk of testing has mixed with politics in Hong Kong, where officials kicked off a massive one-week testing initiative on Tuesday, to the chagrin of some pro-democracy activists. Although the program is voluntary, skeptical residents fear China’s central government will use the tests to collect DNA samples. Critics have also complained that the test kits have a high rate of false-positive results. The Hong Kong government has dismissed the concerns.

The show will go on in Italy, where the 77th Venice Film Festival is scheduled to get underway on Wednesday. The first major in-person cinema showcase of the pandemic era marks a renaissance for Italy, which was slammed with COVID-19 cases in the spring. But it will be noticeably different than in years’ past. The public won’t be lining the red carpet, and coronavirus travel restrictions will keep most Hollywood stars at home. There’s also the roster of films, which includes several pieces created during quarantine. One of them, called “Molecules,” is described as “a haunting study of an empty, ethereal Venice.”

Your questions answered

Today’s question comes from reader Rob Gallinger, who wants to know: Why can’t we use public broadcast TV stations for classes?

Television is indeed being used for educational instruction — including, since very early in the pandemic, here in Los Angeles.

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In March, even before schools had closed, L.A. Unified School District officials partnered with PBS to develop educational programming for preschool through high school students, as Sonali Kohli and Howard Blume reported at the time. (Many other places in the U.S. that followed suit.) Reporter Arit John broke down details of California’s educational programming, which is still ongoing, in this piece that parents may still find helpful.

For families without other options, the TV programming is meant to stand on its own, as Arit reported. And this school year, under state policy, watching an assigned PBS show or any other TV show a teacher seems worthy can qualify as independent learning and count toward students’ required daily instructional minutes.

While teachers and education advocates praised the district for trying to meet the needs of low-income families without internet access, they also cautioned that TV learning works best as a supplement to educator-led programs. Elsewhere, however, TV is being used as a primary means of instructions — particularly in poorer and more rural countries, including Mexico, where TVs are far more common than home internet access.

My colleague Kate Linthicum delved into Mexico’s approach last month and found that while officials had determined TV the best option to reach students, there were still issues. For one thing, there was no way to know how many students actually tune into their lessons. There was also the question of what happens when a family with multiple school-age kids has only one TV. One working single mom with whom Kate spoke wasn’t sure how her two kids, 13 and 10, would both take classes.

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Patricia Gándara, a professor of education at UCLA, said that while televised instruction is “better than nothing,” it will result in more inequalities, with the poor suffering the most. “If you’re home with a parent who is well-educated and can guide you through these things, that’s pretty good,” she said. “If you’re just by yourself with the television, that’s another story.”

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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