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Coronavirus Today: A new kind of Halloween

Good evening. I’m Kelcie Pegher, and it’s Tuesday, Oct. 13. Here’s what’s happening in California and beyond.

It seems like everyone is starting to prepare for the holidays, whether that means buying plane tickets with their fingers crossed or planning to quarantine for 14 days before Thanksgiving in hopes of spending time with family and friends.

First we’ll have to get through Halloween. The holiday is just a couple of weeks away, and state health officials reminded us Tuesday that if we don’t celebrate safely, the rest of the holidays may be in jeopardy. They even released new official guidance to help.

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Though the rules stop short of prohibiting trick-or-treating during the pandemic, they do advise Californians to skip the sugar rush this year. And they have a point: Braving crowds to go from house to house in search of candy isn’t exactly a great way to practice social distancing. Instead, they suggest watching scary movies at home, moving activities like costume and pumpkin-carving contests online and dressing up for a walk around the neighborhood with your family.

One scary thing you may not have to worry about: getting busted by police or other local officials. “This is a recommendation,” said California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly. “Does that mean that trick-or-treaters will see some enforcement? Absolutely not.” The reason for the new guidance, he added, is “to provide a clear understanding of the risks and why we recommend strongly that we do Halloween differently than we have in the past.”

Last month, health officials in Los Angeles County issued a short-lived ban on trick-or-treating and other Halloween activities. Following blowback from residents, the guidelines were revised after just one day to say the activities were “not recommended.”

Need help finding new ways to celebrate? Plenty of businesses are offering drive-through Halloween activities, from the spooky to the scary — though they typically have a price tag of at least $50. And there are a few pumpkin patches offering curbside pickup and ticketed fall activities to keep crowd sizes manageable.

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By the numbers

California cases and deaths as of 4:20 p.m. Tuesday:

More than 860,100 confirmed cases and 16,600 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 level of coronavirus risk.
(Los Angeles Times Graphics )
The tiers to which California counties are assigned based on coronavirus risk level. These determine what can reopen.

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Across California

Will Los Angeles County ever get out of Tier 1? It didn’t happen today. L.A. County public health officials said Tuesday that an uptick in coronavirus cases here is due to a combination of social gatherings and workplace outbreaks. The state said L.A. County is averaging 7.6 new coronavirus cases per day per 100,000 residents. It’ll need to drop to 7.0 to move into a less restrictive tier.

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“The only way we get to Tier 2 is to really double down,” Barbara Ferrer, the county’s public health director, said during a Board of Supervisors meeting. “We’re going to have to get used to living our lives with a different set of rules.”

Although L.A. County remains mostly at a standstill, a handful of counties were given the green light for further reopening. Colusa, Kern, Kings, San Benito, Stanislaus and Sutter counties moved from Tier 1 to Tier 2, while Alameda, Placer and Santa Clara counties advanced from Tier 2 to Tier 3.

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.
— For domestic violence victims, the pandemic can pose a “worst-case scenario,” advocates say. If you or someone you know is experiencing 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

Enrollment in a clinical trial of an experimental antibody treatment for COVID-19 has been paused while the company developing the treatment investigates a possible safety concern. The timeout was recommended by an independent board that monitors clinical trials, and the company, Eli Lilly & Co., agreed. Lilly didn’t provide information about what caused the panel to recommend the stoppage. The company is one of several developing antibody therapies, which they hope will prevent patients with early COVID-19 symptoms from progressing to more serious cases.

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A day earlier, Johnson & Johnson said it had paused its late-stage trial of a COVID-19 vaccine candidate until it could figure out whether the “unexplained illness” of one of its participants was related to the shot. The company did not provide details about the illness, citing concern for the patient’s privacy. This is the second vaccine trial to be put on hold close to the finish line; a clinical trial of a vaccine developed by scientists at Oxford University and AstraZeneca has been paused in the U.S. since early September.

In Europe, more than 700,000 new coronavirus cases were reported last week. That’s a 34% increase from the previous week, with more than half of the new infections in Britain, France, Russia and Spain. Though many of the new cases are being found in young people, doctors are worried the virus could spread to older populations, as it did in the spring. Rather than shut down their economies as they did before, officials across Europe are relying on a patchwork of regional or targeted restrictions. The U.N. health agency appeared to support the new approach, with a WHO spokesman saying lockdowns should be a “last resort.”

Your questions answered

If you’re a parent of school-age kids, you might be desperate for an answer to a seemingly simple question: When will Los Angeles schools reopen?

Under state rules, campuses can open for all students 14 days after a county enters Tier 2, the red category, in the state’s system for determining the level of coronavirus restrictions. But as you know from reading this newsletter — thank you! — Los Angeles isn’t there yet.

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And even if it were, county health authorities have the power to impose further restrictions that would delay campus reopenings. Right now, the soonest schools could expect to open is sometime in November, my colleague Howard Blume reports.

L.A. Unified, the nation’s second-largest school district, has begun offering one-on-one tutoring. Long Beach Unified is moving forward with small-group instruction for students with special needs, such as those with disabilities or who are learning English, as permitted by the county.

A total of 50 schools, most of them private, have applied for waivers for its kindergarteners, first-graders and second-graders so they can come back to campus for in-person instruction. The county is considering these requests because it recognizes that online learning is particularly difficult for the youngest students. The first approvals are expected toward the end of October.

Need help for your child? Some students have started free tutoring programs.

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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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