COVID-19 News Briefs for Saturday, July 25, 2020

July 25, 2020

 A new wave of coronavirus infections has put Hong Kong on edge and hospitals are now seeing more cases a day than they ever have during the pandemic. And health officials are unable to determine the origin of many of these cases despite having a robust contact tracing system in place. The government reported 73 cases on Monday, one of the highest totals for a single day since the virus emerged 7 months ago. Australia also recorded 501 new infections, its highest since March, and in Israel, cases are spiking and nearly 1 in 9 people are now unemployed with thousands of young people blocking the streets outside the prime minister’s resident to demand that he resign. The countries with the worst outbreaks, judging by new daily cases per million people, are Oman, Bahrain, Panama, South Africa, and the US

 Analysts are warning of a surge in consumer debt in the US if Congress fails to extend the program of increased unemployment benefits that was put in place to ease the effects of the coronavirus outbreak. Lawmakers are locked in negotiations over further stimulus to replace the pandemic unemployment assistance payments worth $600 per week for each claimant, which are due to expire today. Proposals are also being discussed to repeat the tax rebates that sent as much as $1,200 directly to people earning up to $99,000. Household debt in the US, excluding mortgages, stood at a record $4.2 trillion at the end of March

 McDonald’s announced it will be requiring customers to wear face coverings effective August 1. Walmart, Target, Kohl’s, and Starbucks also issued mask mandates in the last week

 The rising Covid-19 death count in California exacerbates the burden borne by essential workers and those in institutions, such as nursing homes and prisons who cannot work from home. The epidemic in the West is particularly among the Latino community — both in urban as well as rural, agricultural areas. The 7-day average for daily coronavirus-related deaths reached 102 on Thursday, the first time the number went over 100. More than 8,200 Californians infected with the virus have died

 San Joaquin County is so overwhelmed by Covid-19 that military medical teams have been sent to 2 hospitals and ICU beds are scarce. And the surge has hit farm workers especially hard. Though county figures say about 31% of overall cases are in the Latino community, some on the front lines estimate that up to 70% of cases from the recent spike have hit the Latino community, in a region where they account for 42% of the population. Experts agree that the official case counts across the state may be low because of testing problems. Latino workers, including farm workers who make up 93% of the state’s agricultural laborers, are bearing the brunt of California’s cases. Farm workers in particular live in crowded housing, many are transported to job sites in packed vans, and they have little access to healthcare, including testing and PPE equipment. When they fall ill, the realities of lost wages may drive them to work anyway, exposing others. Agricultural employee advocates say farm workers have been treated as disposable labor in California, and farm workers and their families say they have seen little help in San Joaquin

 California legislators have proposed expanding workers’ compensation eligibility so that more employees will be covered if they are diagnosed with Covid-19, increasing the number of sick days for food service workers and requiring employers to pay a portion of utility and internet bills for teleworkers. In addition, Governor Newsom said that because essential workers are getting more sick more often than others, he wants to expand Covid-19 services for them, including providing a safe place to recover and expanding hotel room subsidies now provided for the homeless, to essential workers who need to be isolated. He also plans to expand outreach so people know what services and benefits are available

 With most schools across California closed for the foreseeable future, families with financial resources are rushing to hire tutors and teachers to augment distance learning with children individually or in small groups in backyards or homes, creating an overnight coronavirus cottage industry — learning pods. Such cohorts of families, neighbors, or classmates are a consequence of parents who must fully get back to work and can no longer take on schooling and the pressure of supervising online learning alone. However, education officials recommend against podding because of health directives against gatherings with people who are not part of your household, and these moves are only available to those who can afford them

 LA County reported an additional 3,628 positive cases and 53 deaths. Totals are now 172,325 cases and 4,351 deaths. City Breakouts (Cases/Deaths): City of LA 70,218/2,024; Long Beach 7,368/161; Carson 1,145/38; El Segundo 94/0; Gardena 773/34; Hawthorne 1,240/29; Hermosa Beach 143/2; Inglewood 1,780/73; Lawndale
424/8; Lomita 161/7; Manhattan Beach 249/4; PV Estates 68/2; Rancho PV 210/12; Redondo Beach 369/9; Rolling Hills 5/0; Rolling Hills Estates 30/2; Torrance 945/56

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; 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