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Coronavirus Today: A pandemic’s long-lasting scars

Good evening. I’m Soumya Karlamangla, and I’ll be writing the Coronavirus Today newsletter this week. It’s Sept. 8, and here’s the latest from California and beyond.

One day, when we look back on the pandemic, we will be able to see not only the tragedy of thousands of lives lost but also the myriad smaller impacts that will be felt for years.

There will likely be a long-lasting mental health toll from the isolation induced by stay-at-home orders, a permanent re-imagining of how we work and play, and a reshaping of the cities and towns in which we live. Many of the businesses that lent character and charm to our neighborhoods may not exist when life returns to normal.

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That has already begun to happen. In Los Angeles, Beverly Soon Tofu, a Koreatown favorite that’s been open for more than 30 years, has announced it will be closing Sept. 20. The owners said a take-out only business didn’t make financial sense.

Angelenos on social media lamented the closure of the local institution, famous for its spicy tofu stew. “I wish I could tell younger me to eat here a thousand more times,” one fan posted on Twitter.

Also this weekend, chef Dominique Ansel, the inventor of the cronut, announced the closure of 189, his restaurant at the Grove. “We now join the list of Covid casualties, alongside our well-respected peers in the industry,” he posted on Instagram.

The news comes while some California counties move forward with reopening as the severity of their outbreaks subsides. On Tuesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom allowed Orange, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Placer and Amador counties to move into the next phase of reopening, which will permit indoor dining in restaurants up to 25% capacity. Those counties will also be able to reopen movie theaters and places of worship indoors, also at 25% capacity.

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In L.A. County, restaurants are still limited to offering outdoor seating and take-out.

By the numbers

California cases and deaths as of 5 p.m. PDT on Tuesday, Sept. 8:

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.

A map of California showing counties by what tier they've been assigned, based on the status of their coronavirus outbreak.
A description of the four tiers to which California assigns counties based on the severity of their coronavirus outbreak.

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Across California

California has begun sending $900 unemployment checks to jobless residents, after the previous federal unemployment assistance expired in July. Additional payments totaling $600 could follow, according to California Labor Secretary Julie A. Su. The jobless benefits are being funded by the federal government.

As its numbers improved, Orange County joined San Diego to become the only other county in Southern California not classified as having “widespread risk” under the state’s COVID-19 monitoring system. Seven other counties throughout the state are being monitored and could join them in the “substantial risk” tier, though Newsom said recent progress may have been undone by backsliding behavior over the Labor Day weekend. “Three-day holiday weekends have not been advantageous in terms of the mitigation of the spread of this virus,” he said.

In San Diego, boaters say it’s unfair that COVID-19 rules allow people from different households on commercial boats, but not private ones. They’re pushing to change that. Meanwhile, hundreds of students, faculty and staff at UC San Diego have asked the university to drop its plans to resume in-person classes and move thousands of undergrads into dorms. Coronavirus outbreaks at schools like USC, Notre Dame and the University of Alabama demonstrate the risk of reopening too soon, they wrote in an open letter: “To imagine that UCSD will be an exception to this rule is both arrogant and negligent.”

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.
— For domestic violence victims, the pandemic can pose a “worst-case scenario,” advocates say. If you or someone you know is experiencing such abuse, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or L.A. County’s hotline at 1-800-978-3600. Here are more ways to get help.

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Around the nation and the world

Amid worries that President Trump might rush the release of COVID-19 vaccines before they have been fully tested and proven safe, nine drugmakers leading the race to produce a vaccine vowed to put science ahead of politics. Their chief executives signed a joint pledge Tuesday promising to follow “high ethical standards and sound scientific principles” as they conduct their time-sensitive work. They also said they would hold off on seeking regulatory approval from the Food and Drug Administration or similar agencies around the world until Phase 3 clinical trials had been completed and the results reviewed.

Speaking of trials, AstraZeneca said late Tuesday that it had put tests of its coronavirus vaccine on a temporary hold after one participant in a late-stage study developed a “potentially unexplained illness.” Although the company did not offer details about the illness, there is concern that it could have been a side effect of the experimental vaccine. Independent vaccine researchers said the significance of the interruption was not yet clear, though one speculated that the participant in question had to be hospitalized.

Scientists are investigating why obesity seems to make people more likely to suffer serious consequences from COVID-19. Obesity’s effect on the immune system may help explain it, or the chronic inflammation that results from carrying extra pounds. Understanding the link may help explain why the U.S., where 42% of adults are obese, has experienced such a high death toll.

In England, British officials have banned gatherings of more than six people as coronavirus infections spike. The new law, which aims to curb gatherings of young people thought to be fueling new cases, applies both indoors and outdoors, including private homes, restaurants and parks. Failure to comply could result in a $130 fine.

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In Spain, intensive-care patients sick with COVID-19 are being taken to the beach, after doctors noticed that spending just 10 minutes watching the surf appeared to improve their well-being. It’s part of a broader effort to “humanize” the experience of being treated in the ICU. “It’s one of the best days I remember,” one patient said after he got to breathe in fresh air at a Barcelona beach.

Your questions answered

Today’s question is from readers who want to know: Why are playgrounds in L.A. County still closed? And what are the plans to reopen them?

Playgrounds have been off-limits since early in the pandemic — and that doesn’t appear to be changing any time soon. When L.A. County officials adjusted their health-officer orders last week to let barbershops and hair salons open, they did not loosen restrictions for playgrounds.

Along with batting cages, breweries and theme parks, playgrounds (both outdoor and indoor) are considered places “where more frequent and prolonged person-to-person contacts are likely to occur,” and therefore must remain closed, according to the order.

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L.A. County Department of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Katie Martel reminded me that you can still use parks to exercise, go for a walk with your family, or have a picnic. But any reopenings of playgrounds would be dictated by the county health department, she said.

“I haven’t heard if there’s an estimated time frame,” she said.

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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