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Coronavirus Today: The Dodgers’ coronavirus surprise

Good evening. I’m Amina Khan, and it’s Wednesday, Oct. 28. Here’s what’s happening with the coronavirus in California and beyond.

After a three-decade drought, the Dodgers finally won the World Series Tuesday night to cap one of the most unusual seasons in baseball history. The COVID-19 pandemic had left its fingerprints everywhere: a 60-game schedule, stands filled with cardboard cutouts in lieu of fans, a four-round playoff and a championship at a neutral site in Arlington, Texas.

As if all that weren’t enough, the coronavirus threw one more curveball in the decisive Game 6: Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner was pulled in the eighth inning after testing positive for an infection.

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Columnist Bill Plaschke called the revelationsurreal and unbelievable — and so very 2020.”

The move left some fans reeling — particularly once Turner returned to the field with his wife, Kourtney, for a postgame celebration with his euphoric teammates. He took his turn holding the coveted Commissioner’s Trophy and posed for pictures near the pitcher’s mound. And while he kept his mask on at first, walking around and doling out hugs, he took it off to smile for a team photo.

Major League Baseball said in a statement that Turner had been placed in isolation after his test result came back and that he was breaking the rules by returning to the field.

“While a desire to celebrate is understandable, Turner’s decision to leave isolation and enter the field was wrong and put everyone he came in contact with at risk,” the league said in a statement. “When MLB Security raised the matter of being on the field with Turner, he emphatically refused to comply.”

The commissioner’s office will perform a full investigation, the league added.

An initial round of postgame tests on Tuesday night turned up no additional positive tests among the Dodgers or their American League opponents, the Tampa Bay Rays. Another round of testing took place Wednesday, and one Rays family member tested positive.

Turner tweeted that he felt “no symptoms at all,” and his teammates did not appear to begrudge his decision to celebrate.

Right fielder Mookie Betts said he missed Turner during the first moments after Julio Urías struck out Willy Adames to win the championship. “We didn’t get to fully celebrate like we wanted to. That kind of sucks,” he said. As for whether Turner should have remained isolated: “He’s part of the team. Forget all that. We’re not excluding him from anything.

Still, it will take some time to understand all the ripple effects of Turner’s decision, sports columnist Helene Elliott writes: “It’s all over now but the wait for those test results to come in.”

Readers have been sharing their opinions on Turner’s decision. “I love baseball as much as anyone, but Turner’s behavior was a slap in the face of the more than 230,000 people in the United States who have died from COVID-19,” one wrote. Another thanked the Dodgers and Lakers for bringing some joy to a chaotic and stressful year: “Our world has been turned upside down, but the Lakers and now the Dodgers have all made it right side up for a while.”

If you’re looking for an official celebration of the World Series championship, you’ll have to wait a little longer until it’s safe to do so, the team said in a statement. Blame the pandemic, of course.

By the numbers

California cases and deaths as of 6:31 p.m. PDT Wednesday:

More than 919,800 confirmed cases and 17,500 deaths.

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 showing the tiers to which California counties have been assigned for reopening based on local coronavirus risk.

A description of the four tiers California uses to determine when counties can let businesses open, based on coronavirus risk

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Across California

While Southland businesses lament that a bubbled NBA playoffs season and a distant World Series deprived them of much needed revenue, health officials are pulling a reverse, blaming Lakers and Dodgers viewing parties and public events for keeping coronavirus infections high. Officials say such gatherings are a significant source of viral spread in Southern California, especially among the young adults who are driving the outbreak here.

“Gatherings in large crowds to watch games indoors, people aren’t wearing their face coverings, people are yelling a lot — that’s just not sensible,” said Barbara Ferrer, L.A. County’s director of public health. Even congregating at outdoor restaurants while shouting and cheering and hugging strangers without wearing masks makes it “so easy to spread this virus,” she said.

Consider these numbers: About 55% of people who knew of a possible exposure to the virus also attended a gathering where two or more people were sick, the county said, based on contact-tracing interviews.

This pattern repeated itself across Southern California. In San Bernardino County, 61% of newly infected people surveyed said they had attended gatherings with friends or family. In Riverside County, a public health official expressed concern that more than 1,000 people showed up at the Banning Street Drag Race, a mass gathering with the potential to become a superspreader event. The majority of new infections come from such superspreader events, scientists say.

San Diego County, meanwhile, is at risk of being shunted from the red tier back into the most restrictive purple tier.

“People are lowering their guards — going back to how they functioned before COVID-19, going to gatherings,” said San Diego County public health officer Dr. Wilma Wooten.

Back in Los Angeles, public school campuses are not likely to open before January at the earliest, two L.A. Unified school board leaders told my colleague Howard Blume.

Safety is the first concern, the board members said. But additionally, trying to resume in-person learning would be academically disruptive to students, who would have to juggle changing schedules and classes so close to the end of the semester.

“This is finals time for the high-schoolers and the end-of-the-semester assessments for all the other grades,” said board Vice President Jackie Goldberg. “Why would we want to go back in December? ... This is the wrong time to do that.”

In our opinion section, editorial writer Karin Klein wants to hear from you about what the pandemic lockdowns have taught you about how students should learn. Klein has watched her 5-year-old granddaughter deal with rote learning and bundles of worksheets and parental supervision.

“The pandemic gives us a chance to rethink, in much bigger ways, what schooling should look like in the future,” Klein says. For example: Should students be divided by grade level, or should they progress at their own pace in each subject? Should they have a bigger say in what they’re learning? Is there too much repetition of topics such as the American Revolution and not enough devoted to others?

Send your thoughts to karin.klein@latimes.com. All ideas will be read and considered, she says.

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.

Around the nation and the world

The United States’ reticence to act like a team player in confronting the COVID-19 pandemic has created an opportunity for China and Russia to exercise more international influence.

The U.S. government has pulled out of international agreements and shunned the World Health Organization and its program to distribute coronavirus vaccines to the places where they are most needed around the world. It bought up 90% of the world’s supply of remdesivir when the drug began to show promise as a COVID-19 treatment.

In the face of these and other “America First” moves, other nations — even close neighbors like Mexico — have turned to China and Russia to buy vaccines. The vacuum left by the U.S. has allowed these two rivals to exercise a potent form of soft power, and they are taking full advantage, my colleagues Emily Baumgaertner and Patrick J. McDonnell write. It’s a fascinating geopolitical story told through a pandemic prism.

Belgium’s complicated political landscape is hampering its response to a serious coronavirus outbreak. The country’s current case rate stands around 1,391 cases per 100,000 people, higher than other hot spots like France and Spain. And its inability to get its own outbreak under control may have to do with two factors: the fact that Belgium is deeply divided politically, and the fact that its multiple “lasagna”-like layers of government can’t seem to produce a cohesive message and set of rules on how to deal with the pandemic.

Closer to home, the two U.S. presidential candidates are fitting their COVID-19 talking points neatly into their overall campaign strategies with less than a week to go before election day. Former Vice President Joe Biden is on the offensive, telling supporters that he would be able to heal wounds inflicted by the current administration and “overcome this devastating virus.” (One of his stops was in Warm Springs, Ga., where Franklin D. Roosevelt built a retreat to soak his paralyzed legs in soothing mineral waters.)

For his part, President Donald Trump boasted of his recovery from COVID-19 and downplayed the seriousness of the pandemic, which has recently worsened across the upper Midwest. At a rally in Lansing, Mich., Trump drew chants of “Lock her up” when he verbally attacked Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, whose efforts to control the virus’s spread in her state evoked such ire that she became the target of an alleged kidnapping plot.

In business, Boeing has said it will cut 30,000 jobs after watching revenues dry up. The pandemic has grounded airplanes and left little demand for new jets from struggling airlines. The company expects to cut its workforce down to 130,000 — a deeper loss than the 19,000-job cut it reportedly planned three months ago.

Your questions answered

Today’s question comes from a reader who wants to know: Will it be safe in July 2021 to hold large events, such as weddings?

The reader is concerned for a friend who has multiple risk factors for COVID-19 and whose child is planning to get married next summer. Will that be safe nine months from now?

“It all depends on the location, the risk tolerance of the attendees, and the mitigation measures you can put in place,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious-disease physician and senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

“Hopefully by that time we’ll have better testing — maybe home testing — to help make such events safer, but I think that by summer 2021 there will be new tools at our hands to decrease the harm from the virus, including the start of vaccination rollout to the general public,” he said.

Such events should be planned with possible mitigation measures in mind, including mask-wearing, social distancing and being outdoors, Adalja said. And if some people at the gathering are at higher risk for severe complications, it may be important to keep them even more physically distanced or protected, depending on their risk tolerance.

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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