Coronavirus Today: Who can and can’t go to school


Good evening. I’m Faith E. Pinho, and it’s Monday, Sept. 14. Here’s what’s happening with the coronavirus in California and beyond.

School is back in session for some Los Angeles kids — small groups of students with disabilities and those learning English returned to in-person classes today. But what about everyone else?

The answer will vary from community to community throughout California — and as is so often the case with this pandemic, race, ethnicity and income are going to be factors. In more affluent areas, the number of COVID-19 cases is lower, and schools have more resources available to manage a safe return to in-person learning. Among them is Del Mar Union Elementary District in San Diego County, which opened its campuses on Tuesday.

Just 26 miles south, however, the National Elementary School District will have to wait. Infection rates in the majority-Latino neighborhood are still high, and campuses aren’t equipped to protect against the virus. One fifth-grade teacher explained that it would be a challenge to ventilate her classroom by opening the windows because the noise from a nearby fire station and naval base would be too distracting. Five of her 28 students have already lost a relative to COVID-19, so she takes the threat seriously.


“To me, it doesn’t seem like we could open,” she said.

In the Los Angeles Unified School District, most classrooms probably won’t reopen until at least November. But the district is getting ready with an ambitious coronavirus testing and tracking program. Although many details are still being worked out — such as how often students, teachers and staff will be tested — the plan is for everyone to get a baseline test in the next several weeks.

Once the system is up and running, results will be made available on a website that shows the number of active cases broken down by school, grade, classroom and small student “cohorts” within each class. The website won’t identify individuals who test positive, but families would be informed if someone in their child’s cohort is infected. For example, reporter Howard Blume writes, the site might say, “All families of students in Cohort 1A are notified to stay home and students in 1A will participate in online learning until health guidelines allow their return.”

In recognition that the virus can spread beyond school grounds, the district plans to provide tests to the household members of any student, faculty or staff member who has a positive test result or shows symptoms of having COVID-19. “Testing at schools will be for all in the school community, including many from neighborhoods which have lacked access to testing,” Los Angeles Unified Supt. Austin Beutner said.

By the numbers

California cases and deaths as of 8:01 p.m. PDT Monday:

More than 765,500 confirmed cases and more than 14,400 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.

A map of California showing counties by what tier they've been assigned, based on the status of their coronavirus outbreak.
The tiers to which California counties are assigned based on coronavirus risk level. These determine what can reopen.

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Across California

For all the gloom that has descended over much of California in recent days, there is a glimmer of hope: Over the last week, just 3.5% of the state’s coronavirus tests came back positive, the lowest positivity rate since the state began reporting the data in late March. A month ago, the positive test rate was nearly twice as high. The number of new confirmed cases has fallen to the lowest level since mid-June, according to a Times analysis of state data, and hospitalizations for COVID-19 dropped to their lowest levels since the start of April. Progress has also been made in reducing test turnaround times; Dr. Erica Pan, the acting state public health officer, recently said laboratories are now producing results in an average of 1.3 days.

Over the last decade, independent bookstores became central spaces in their communities, and their numbers finally started to creep up. But now beloved bookshops that have weathered some serious recessions are shutting their doors because of the pandemic. Brentwood’s Diesel bookstore is trying hard not to avoid that fate. The shop needs $400,000 to avoid closure and bankruptcy, owner John Evans said. Like City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, Angel City Books and Records in Santa Monica and others, Diesel is soliciting donations from the community through a GoFundMe page. If it survives, it will be one of the lucky ones.

The pandemic was a boon for the Southland’s lowrider clubs, known for their gussied-up old-fashioned cars. Shut-ins took to the streets for some safe outdoor entertainment, but over time, they brought with them trash, graffiti and even a parking lot brawl. The Los Angeles Lowrider Community, a coalition of 15 clubs, decided enough was enough and put a one-month moratorium on cruising their beloved Whittier Boulevard until things calmed down. “And surprisingly, it worked,” said a member of the Elegants Montebello car club. The lowriders returned to their “asphalt Eden” at the end of August with a cruise to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Chicano Moratorium and the killing of L.A. Times columnist Ruben Salazar.


— 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.

Around the nation and the world

One of the drug companies working on a COVID-19 vaccine is hiking its drug prices, even as it rakes in more than a billion dollars in federal funding. AstraZeneca raised prices on some of its best-selling medicines by as much as 6% this year while receiving U.S. and international grants to fund its vaccine research with Oxford University. Despite President Trump’s efforts to keep the cost of drugs in check amid the global pandemic, multiple pharmaceutical companies have boosted prices — and AstraZeneca is the worst, according to a Times analysis. The company said it would not profit from the vaccine during the pandemic, but it is unclear how that would be ensured since the Trump administration hasn’t required any commitments from drugmakers.

As President Trump downplayed the threat of the coronavirus early this year — intentionally, as he told journalist Bob Woodward in February — top health officials’ overall thrust was to take it seriously. Following recent revelations that Trump intentionally minimized the danger, the White House tried to counter the criticism by pointing to selected comments from experts to suggest they were on the same page all along. However, other comments from the time undercut that, and mixed messages added to the confusion. “It is irrefutable that he has played down the epidemic and sidelined trusted scientists, and in some cases, muzzled them,” said one expert who has advised Democrats and Republicans alike. “I categorically deny the idea that there wasn’t a strong consensus of public health experts at the time saying this was a very serious problem.”


Longtime Kroger employee Maria Hernandez, who survived a bout with COVID-19 and believes she contracted the virus at work, wants grocery chains like her employer to do more to enforce safety policies, institute regular testing for workers and listen to them on workplace safety issues. “I know my store inside and out,” she says. “By including its enormous workforce, Kroger could do a better job of protecting the lives of its employees and customers — and help stop the spread of this deadly virus.”

A question for you

With people spending more time at home than ever before, TV has become the medium of the moment. And as the Emmy Awards approach on Sept. 20, our reporters want to know how TV helped you get through this year. Is there a certain show that became your quarantine buddy? Or did you finally run out of things to watch on Netflix? Tell us by filling out this form.

If you need help finding new things to watch, our experts recommend catching up on these seven shows before the Emmys. Get our newsletter The Envelope for all our latest stories on awards season, from the Emmys to the Oscars.

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.