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Coronavirus Today: Why teachers are nervous

Good evening. I’m Kelcie Pegher, and it’s Friday, Oct. 16. Here’s the latest on what’s happening with the coronavirus, plus ways to spend your weekend and a look at some of the week’s best stories.

Though parents are expressing widespread dissatisfaction with online learning, two influential California teachers unions are pushing back against calls to reopen school campuses, arguing that it’s not yet safe to do so.

As my colleagues Howard Blume and Laura Newberry report, the unions and school districts need to sit down around bargaining tables to work out new schedules, new classroom arrangements and new workloads for operating in-person classes while the coronavirus is on the loose.

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The California Teachers Assn. and United Teachers Los Angeles are opposed to a piecemeal, school-by-school reopening. They say that would give students in wealthier neighborhoods yet another advantage in a pandemic that is already inflicting its pain disproportionately on lower-income communities and on students of color.

“We need to know that students in East L.A. will be just as safe returning to school as students in West L.A.,” said Sharonne Hapuarachy, an English teacher at Dorsey High School.

A poll commissioned by the research and advocacy group Education Trust-West found that parents in California think even less of distance learning now than they did in March. During the first week of October, just 35% of parents rated online learning as successful, compared with 57% in March.

Under state guidelines, no school in Los Angeles County can fully reopen because coronavirus transmission here is still “widespread.” However, school districts can offer in-person tutoring and bring back small groups of students with special needs, including those with disabilities and English language learners.

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Both the teachers unions and leadership at L.A. Unified want a comprehensive coronavirus testing strategy to guide the return to the classroom. But new advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention includes language that is out of step with LAUSD’s plan.

The CDC says it is “both unethical and illegal to test someone who doesn’t want to be tested, including students whose parents or guardians do not want them to be tested.” The guidance comes at a time when public trust in the CDC has been frayed by its willingness to let science take a back seat to politics.

Indeed, two new CDC appointees have been installed to keep watch on Dr. Robert Redfield, the agency’s director, as well as on scientists who work there, sources have told the Associated Press. The appointments were part of a push to get more “politicals” into the public health agency, according to an administration official.

Though presidential administrations appoint CDC directors, it is more common for an administration to put its overtly political appointees in Washington, D.C., rather than placing people in the agency’s Atlanta headquarters. Moves like this one have made the CDC a flashpoint in the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The White House declined to comment on the report.

By the numbers

California cases and deaths as of 1:30 p.m. PDT Friday:

More than 868,500 cases, up 70 cases today, and more than 16,800 deaths, up six today.
(Los Angeles Times Graphics)

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 the tiers to which counties have been assigned based on local levels 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.

What to read this weekend

Across the U.S., COVID-19 patients are starting to ask if they can receive the care and treatment President Trump enjoyed. In his recovery, Trump has been cavalier toward the virus, and that has sparked resentment among some of the families of the more than 218,000 Americans who have died in the pandemic. Even some of his supporters say they wish he would show some empathy. “I’m not jealous that he got this special treatment. I’m glad he did,” said Glenn Perkins, 74, who was hospitalized for 32 days in the spring for COVID-19. “But he’s all puffed up and prideful. He should look not at himself but at all the people who passed away.”

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Disneyland’s most devoted fans, who pay $500 to $1,400 for annual passes to visit on a weekly basis, are devastated by its continued closure. “For me, Disneyland is a stress release,” said 32-year-old Stacey Major. “It’s very freeing for me to be there for a day. I can watch parades and be with my friends and not feel any pressure.” Fans are coping creatively with Disney-inspired cooking blogs, costume challenges on TikTok and Instagram, shows on Disney+ and outdoor movie nights. Gov. Gavin Newsom has said he is in no rush to open California theme parks and has sent experts to Walt Disney World in Florida and other out-of-state parks to learn from their experience.

Disneyland loyalist Lauren Gabourel
Disneyland superfan Lauren Gabourel misses her weekly visits to the “happiest place on Earth.”
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

The federal budget deficit hit a new high of $3.1 trillion in the 2020 budget year — a whopping $2 trillion higher than the administration had estimated before the pandemic. Times business columnist Michael Hiltzik looked at the economic cost of COVID-19 for America, measured not just in reduced economic output but in premature deaths and other health losses. His total? $16 trillion — more than twice the tab for all wars the U.S. has fought in this century, and four times the output lost in the Great Recession. That makes the pandemic “the greatest threat to prosperity and well-being the U.S. has encountered since the Great Depression,” Harvard economist David M. Cutler and former Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Assn.

The pandemic is changing all of our expectations around relationships. Have you ever planned a wedding? Between the spreadsheets, vendor calls and family input, it can be challenging even in the best of times. But Times staff writer (and bride-to-be) Makeda Easter writes about how the pandemic has wiped the slate clean when it comes to making plans for the big day. And Carmen Rising chronicles the trials and tribulations of moving in with her boyfriend in March, just as the pandemic did away with the luxury of alone time. “Instantly, our plan to preserve our independently full lives had become obsolete,” she writes.

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What will the greater Los Angeles landscape look like after the pandemic is over? No one is sure, but to keep it from becoming a wasteland of big box corporate retail, Times columnist Steve Lopez is urging us to shop local when we can. Bookstores, hardware stores and restaurants are all in danger, and some are already gone for good. “I am afraid L.A. is going to lose some of its historical identity,” said Mark Echeverria, the owner of Musso & Frank Grill. “I think as a city we need to rally around our history and support it as much as we can.”

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What to do this weekend

Celebrate books. The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books goes online this year for the first time in its 25-year history. Our celebration of the written word begins Sunday morning with an event featuring actor Henry Winkler and continues through Nov. 13, when my colleague (and occasional newsletter writer) Soumya Karlamangla moderates a panel on pandemics. In between, we’ll hear from first-time children’s author Natalie Portman, religion scholar Reza Aslan, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen and former Gov. Jerry Brown, among many others. Sessions are free, but you’ll need to register in advance.

Get outside. If you’re looking for a safe way into the spooky season, try a self-guided driving tour of L.A.'s “witch houses.” If fall colors are more your thing, here are some places to check out autumn leaves. Willing to drive a little further? It just so happens that we’re entering the so-called Secret Season for travel deals to nearby locales such as Las Vegas, Scottsdale, Ariz., and the old standby, Lake Tahoe. Subscribe to the Wild for more on the outdoors and Escapes for more California travel ideas.

Watch something great. Our weekend culture watch list includes a star-studded reading of Gore Vidal’s drama “The Best Man” that features the likes of Morgan Freeman, Matthew Broderick and Phylicia Rashad — and you can see it for just $5. Our entertainment columnist Glenn Whipp highly recommends Spike Lee’s film adaptation of David Byrne’s Broadway show “American Utopia”; it hits HBO this weekend. The adaptation “offers a measure of hope that I can get through the rest of the year with my faculties intact,” Whipp said. And in his Indie Focus newsletter’s roundup of new movies, Mark Olsen writes about AFI Fest, which is virtual this year and open to all. “We decided to tackle going virtual and still bring films to audiences,” said Carly Rose Moser, the festival’s director of production and operations. “It’s why we do this.”

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Eat something great. It’s still hot out, and luckily Ben Mims answered our prayers for a heat-relieving fall meal with this delicious, low-effort chopped pear salad with buttermilk dressing. And while El Gran Burrito in East Hollywood may be closing for good, it’s not too late to get a big burrito or carne asada tacos.

Go online. Here’s The Times’ guide to the internet for when you’re looking for information on self-care, feel like learning something new or interesting, or want to expand your entertainment horizons.

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 ( 800) 799-SAFE (7233) or L.A. County’s hotline at (800) 978-3600. Here are more ways to get help.

The pandemic in pictures

The Roman Pool at Hearst Castle
The indoor Roman Pool at Hearst Castle in San Simeon, Calif., is decorated with eight statues of Roman gods, goddesses and heroes.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
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Nobody is quite sure when Hearst Castle will reopen to the public. But while it’s closed, the caretakers of California’s most famous mansion have been working on a long list of chores and improvements.

“We happen to be in the middle of our 100th anniversary right now,” said Dan Falat, superintendent of the California State Parks district that includes the castle. “We were actually getting ready to kick it off in April.”

L.A. Times travel writer Chris Reynolds was invited inside to see the improvements and restorations the team is undertaking, and you can too.

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.

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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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