COVID-19 News Briefs for Friday, July 24, 2020

July 24, 2020

 The total US coronavirus case count surpassed 4 million on Thursday, with 1 million infections added in the last 2-1/2 weeks alone. Virus-related deaths and hospitalizations are also rising at alarming rates. Nearly 144,000 people in the US have died from the virus, and the daily number has grown steadily over the past several weeks. The uptick follows a national case surge that began in June and the US now averages over 66,000 new infections a day — more than double a month ago — and 39 states are seeing upward trends. About 60% of the hospitalizations are now concentrated in the South and the hardest-hit parts of Texas and Florida have approached the peak per capita rates of the hospitalization in New York City in the spring. Also, people younger than 50 made up almost 40% of the hospitalizations earlier this month, compared with 26% in late April

 The CDC estimates that health care workers accounted for 11 – 16% of Covid-19 infections during the first wave of the pandemic, with more than 100,000 medical professionals infected in the US, and nearly 550 deaths from Covid-19

 New research from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia shows that social distancing decisions mattered the most back in April, when the coronavirus was still expanding its reach across the US and found that the more assiduously we avoided nonessential outings, the less briskly the virus that causes Covid-19 spread. For
instance, when residents of a typical county cut their visits to nonessential businesses in half, a single infected person transmitted the virus to 46% fewer people than they would have in a county where business proceeded as usual. In some counties, that reduction could end the outbreak. The study aimed to measure 3 variables — social distancing behavior, population density, and ambient temperature — and the clearest finding was that social distancing matters most

 The US population’s growth was already slowing before the pandemic and from the beginning of the crisis to the end of 2021, the combination of more deaths, fewer births, and fewer immigrants could lead to something like 500,000 to 1 million fewer people in the US — and that deficit could be even larger if, next year, mortality remains high and immigration remains low. Population analysts said that would be a large drop and would reduce America’s population to its lowest level in 100 years

 Federal prosecutors are targeting business owners accused of cheating the Paycheck Protection Program, the government loans earmarked to keep employees on the payroll. Ever since the public backlash last April against some large, well-off nationwide companies that helped themselves to emergency government funds intended to rescue small businesses during the pandemic, federal officials have vowed to crack down on any abuses of the PPP. More than a dozen criminal cases were filed in recent weeks in 11 states. All involve allegations of blatant fraud, such as lying on applications, falsifying tax or business records, and misappropriating money. The SBA says it will review all loans of more than $2 million when and if those recipients seek loan forgiveness. A key attraction to the PPP loans was that as long as recipients conformed to certain rules about maintaining workers, the loans would be forgiven

 The CDC released new guidelines Thursday for reopening schools that emphasize getting students back in the classroom by laying out the social, emotional, and mental risks of keeping students at home. Among the recommendations are social distancing, wearing masks, and keeping the same groups of kids and teachers
together throughout the day. Also, schools should use other areas of the campuses for classrooms, like gyms or outdoor spaces. While the guidelines point out schools should consider local Covid-19 transmission rates, the CDC argues opening in the fall is best for students. In California, schools can only reopen if the county they are in has been off the monitoring list for 14 consecutive days — that means at least 80% of students will start the school year at home. Remote learning and delayed openings also pose a child care crisis for millions of essential and low-wage workers, especially those with young children, who may not be able to afford child care. The White House coordinator Dr. Birx said that while we know children under 10 do get infected, it’s not clear how rapidly they spread the virus, adding that more studies in the US are still needed

 The operator of Ann Taylor and Lane Bryant filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Thursday, the latest retailer to do so during the pandemic. About 40 retailers, including big and small companies, have filed so far this year, according to the S&P Global Market Intelligence, which exceeds the number of retail bankruptcies for all of 2019

 Citing the threat of Covid-19, both houses of the California Legislature plan to allow some members at higher risk for the virus to weigh in on pending bills from their districts when the Legislature reconvenes in Sacramento next week. The change in rules has drawn criticism from some current and former lawmakers. A resolution for limited proxy voting will be introduced when the Assembly returns from a forced break taken when 2 legislators and several staff members tested positive for Covid-19

 A surge in coronavirus cases in Mammoth Lakes has prompted that state to place Mono County on its watch list for the first time. The origins of 65% of new cases have been traced to restaurants, and a considerable number of people traveling to the Eastern Sierra seeking solace in the last few weeks

 Southern California home sales are up sharply from Spring but down year-over-year, and some agents are warning of a coming slowdown. Regional sales jumped 43.5% from May. In LA County, sales rose 40.8% from May, however, it was down 24.3% from a year ago. The median home price in LA County rose 4% from a year
earlier to $643,000

 State health officials sent a letter to all skilled nursing facilities in California instructing them to test all residents and staff at least once. If a home shows no cases, it must continue to test 25% of residents and healthcare workers on a weekly basis and ensure that all staff members are tested once per month. That goes much further than guidance from LA County which had instructed homes with no cases that they could skip testing staff and only 10% of residents weekly

 School districts, charters, and private schools in LA County may begin applying for waivers that would allow them to reopen elementary schools in person — but public schools will have to show they have union support. Districts may apply for a waiver for students in transitional kindergarten through 6th grade and the application must include letters of support from all labor partners, parent organizations, and community-based organizations that provide educational services for children in the district. In addition, districts must complete a “reopening protocol checklist” documenting steps to ensure public health directives are followed, including a plan for managing outbreaks, testing strategies for employees, and requirements that everyone over 2 years of age wear face coverings while on school campuses

 LA County is considering using parks and libraries as alternative learning sites for students as most schools remain shuttered amid the Covid-19 pandemic, officials said. The LA County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to support a proposal to allow children to use these spaces in unincorporated areas while school campuses are closed. The proposal asks the Department of Parks and Recreation to report back within 30 days with a plan to provide staffing, supervision, and programming to children, with hopes to imitate its parks’ summer camp model during the fall

 LA County officials unveiled a tiered enforcement plan to potentially cite and fine businesses that violate coronavirus health orders. Starting at the end of August, noncompliant businesses will face fines ranging from $100 for a first offense to $500, and a 30-day permit suspension for multiple offenses. Last weekend, county inspectors visited 507 restaurants, 69 hotels, and 174 residential pools, and found that the vast majority were complying with relevant rules

 Coronavirus is on track to claim more lives in LA County this year than any other disease except coronary heart disease. It has already surpassed Alzheimer’s disease, other kinds of heart disease, and strokes and has already killed nearly triple the number of people in LA County than died from flu and pneumonia during the most recent 8-month flu season. Between October and May, 1521 people died from flu and pneumonia; as of today, 4,300 people have died from Covid-19 in LA County

 LA County reported an additional 1,949 cases and 44 deaths. Totals are now 168,757 and 4,300 deaths. City Breakouts (Cases/Deaths): City of LA 68,624/2,001; Long Beach 7,225/2,001; Carson 1,112/38; El Segundo 94/0; Gardena 760/34; Hawthorne 1,209/29; Hermosa Beach 141/2; Inglewood 1,739/73; Lawndale 158/7; Manhattan
Beach 246/4; PV Estates 67/2; Rancho PV 208/12; Redondo Beach 366/9; Rolling Hills 5/0; Rolling Hills Estates 30/2; Torrance 928/56

Compiled by Charlene Nishimura

Media Sources: Los Angeles Times; New York Times; Washington Post; Wall Street Journal; Forbes Magazine; Business Insider; USA Today; CBS News; CNN; KTLA; OZY; ABC World News Tonight; Spectrum News 1; The Hill.com; WebMD; AP, Politico, Newsweek, Reuters, televised briefings from the White House, Governor Newsom, LA County Health Department, Mayor Garcetti; City of Torrance press releases; Torrance Area Chamber of Commerce press releases