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Coronavirus Today: 1 million deaths

Good evening. I’m Lila Seidman, and it’s Monday, Sept. 28. Here’s the latest coronavirus news in California and beyond.

More than 1 million people across the globe have lost their lives to COVID-19. It’s a staggering figure that nonetheless fails to convey the immense personal and global suffering the coronavirus has wrought.

Guadalupe García had to wait all day at a cemetery in Mexico City to receive the ashes of her grandfather, a victim of the pandemic. Even in death, the coronavirus robbed the family of the chance for a traditional interment. “It’s a horrible sense of impotence,” García said. “My grandfather was like my father to me. He raised me. Today is one of the saddest days of my life.”

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Halfway around the world in Lebanon, leaders are struggling to keep the economy afloat amid rising cases and political gridlock. It’s led to impossible choices. “With the financial situation and all the pressures … obviously those who run businesses don’t want a lockdown,” said Dr. Firass Abiad, who heads the public facility in Beirut tasked with treating coronavirus patients.

And the pandemic surges on. The United States has seen more deaths from COVID-19 than any other nation — about 205,000, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Brazil is second, at more than 141,700 deaths, followed by India, where more than 95,500 people have succumbed.

In the U.S., President Trump’s erratic handling of the virus — including assurances it would “go away” — has become a major source of criticism from Democratic challenger Joe Biden as the November presidential election nears. Many fear a spike in cases is around the corner as the cold-weather flu season approaches.

“We need to hunker down and get through this fall and winter because it’s not going to be easy,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s infectious disease chief, said recently. “Don’t ever underestimate the potential of the pandemic.”

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By the numbers

California cases and deaths as of 6:22 p.m. PDT Monday:

More than 813,000 confirmed cases and more than 15,600 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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A map of California showing the tiers to which counties have been assigned based on local levels of coronavirus risk.
The tiers to which California counties are assigned based on coronavirus risk level. These determine what can reopen.

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Across California

With the November election just weeks away, the pandemic is changing what it looks like to run for office in Los Angeles. Candidates are debating over video calls rather than in community centers or church halls. They’re barely using — or forgoing entirely — campaign offices that would ordinarily be full of volunteers, yard signs and cold pizza. And door knocking, long revered as the gold standard for reaching out to voters, is a nonstarter for many candidates. It’s unclear how these changes will affect the upcoming contests in Los Angeles, where spots on the City Council, the county Board of Supervisors and the Los Angeles Unified school board are up for grabs. “It’s a brand-new world,” said one political consultant. “You can’t make predictions when there’s no patterns to go off of.”

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Los Angeles County saw a continued decline in serious cases of COVID-19 over the weekend, with fewer than 700 patients hospitalized on Sunday. During the summer surge, there were three times as many people in the hospital with COVID-19. Officials were worried that gatherings over the Labor Day weekend would trigger another spike, but it hasn’t materialized. “I’m grateful that so many people are doing their part to protect their fellow neighbors, workers and family members from COVID-19,” said Barbara Ferrer, director of the L.A. County Department of Public Health. “It is clear that the actions people are taking have reduced the number of people hospitalized and dying.”

However, across the state, not all communities are faring the same. New data from Orange County show how much more wrenching the pandemic is for Latinos. Test positivity rates in Santa Ana and Anaheim — two populous cities that are both more than 50% Latino — have been more than double the rate for Orange County as a whole. Many of those impacted are low-wage essential workers in the service industry. “They are exposed to COVID, and a lot of them don’t know about their workplace rights,” one immigrant rights activist said.

Passengers at LAX and San Francisco International Airport flying to the Aloha State will soon be able to get a pre-flight coronavirus test before stepping on the plane. Starting Oct. 15, Hawaii will waive its 14-day quarantine rules for visitors who have proof of a negative test within 72 hours of departure to the islands. Hawaiian Airlines will make that easier by offering drive-through tests at sites near the airports for $90 to $150, so that those who test negative will be able to show island authorities a fresh negative result. Echoing a similar plan by United Airlines, the goal is to boost traffic to the islands.

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

Scientists now have a better understanding of how to prevent and treat COVID-19, due in part to the more than 1 million people around the world who lost their lives to the coronavirus. Both through trial and error and in organized clinical studies, the doctors and nurses taking care of patients have learned more about which therapies work and which don’t. Those lessons appear to be having an effect: People who are infected with the virus are faring better than in the pandemic’s early days. There are signs that death rates are declining and recovery times are faster, experts said.

An Ohio man went on Facebook and vowed never to wear a face mask. Two months later, he was back on the site to report that he had COVID-19 and was struggling to breathe. The internet responded to that post with critical comments and more than 3,000 “laughing” emoji. It’s the modern-day incarnation of the kind of public shaming that has long been hurled at those accused of flouting health recommendations during pandemics, according to academics who have studied the phenomenon. But they say the pace and speed of social media have given the practice a tougher edge. Shaming can help people feel reassured that they have done things correctly and that the other person must have made a mistake, said Sherry Turkle, an MIT professor who studies social media. “It’s a way of putting a wall between ourselves and the people who are getting sick,” she said.

India’s confirmed coronavirus caseload reached 6 million on Monday, double the 3 million cases it recorded barely a month ago. Only the U.S. has had more confirmed cases, at 7.1 million. New infections in India are currently being reported faster than anywhere else in the world, in part because of expanded testing. The world’s second-most-populous country is expected to overtake the U.S. and become the pandemic’s worst-hit country in coming weeks.

A collection of 60 violins that survived the Holocaust and were supposed to be played in concerts across the globe were recently shipped from Southern California back to Tel Aviv. Those performances, including one with the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony, were postponed and then canceled due to the pandemic. In normal times, playing the antique instruments is a way to remind the world of the millions who perished in concentration camps — to give a voice to the voiceless, said violinist Niv Ashkenazi. “We do have many testimonies from survivors, which is so important, and we must keep those stories alive,” he said. “But there are millions more who didn’t survive. ... To me this represents those people.”

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Your questions answered

As wildfires engulf swaths of California, a number of Times readers have wondered: Could the masks we’ve all grown accustomed to wearing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus also help mitigate the ill health effects of the air pollution the fires have caused?

That depends on the kind of mask you wear, as my colleagues found when they answered readers’ questions about air quality.

“You need a really good mask to protect against pollution,” said Tyler Knowlton, a spokesman for Plume Labs, which developed the air quality index that the AccuWeather app uses to track pollution levels.

For tiny pollutants, cloth masks may offer only 40% to 65% protection, according to a 2016 study. That’s better than nothing if you must go outside.

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Knowlton recommends N95 and anti-pollution masks. But anti-pollution masks commonly have valves to let air out and make breathing easier, which means they’re effectively useless at preventing coronavirus spread.

The pandemic makes it particularly important to protect ourselves from air pollution as best we can — and to recognize the disparate impacts of both the pandemic and pollution on low-income people and communities of color, from coast to coast.

“There’s evidence that air pollution exacerbates the lining of your lungs and causes more inflammation, and that inflammation makes it easier for COVID-19 to infect your lungs, so you could get sicker if you are exposed,” said Dr. Georges C. Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Assn. “Those are early studies, from the last few months, but that tends to be pretty clear.”

The symptoms of pollution exposure and of COVID-19 can be similar, too, as Soumya Karlamangla noted in this newsletter earlier this month in response to a reader’s question about how to distinguish between them. Both can cause dry cough, sore throat and difficulty breathing.

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If you’re experiencing other symptoms, such as fever, chills, body aches or diarrhea, then something other than smoke is ailing you and it could be COVID-19, the CDC says. You can input your symptoms into this tool to learn what to do.

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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