COVID-19 News Briefs for Tuesday, June 16, 2020

June 16, 2020

 Researchers in England say they have the first evidence that the drug dexamethasone can improve Covid-19 survival. It is an inexpensive, widely available steroid and was found to reduce deaths by up to one third in severely ill hospitalized patients. The British government immediately authorized the drug’s use across the UK for coronavirus patients like those who did well in the study

 Tokyo on Monday reported 48 new Covid-19 infections, the highest daily number in more than a month, with 20 of the cases coming from mass testing of workers at nightclubs, which are set to reopen Friday. The resurgence comes as China locked down several Beijing districts to control a new outbreak. In South Africa, which reopened schools last week, 98 teachers and 1,800 students have tested positive

 The 5 largest known coronavirus clusters in the US are inside prisons and jails — while the country’s overall infection rate has remained relatively flat, the number of infected prisoners has doubled and deaths have risen 73% over the past month. Tight quarters, shared common rooms, and limited personal autonomy make
correctional facilities dangerous vectors for the virus. And while local jails have discharged thousands of inmates in response, state prisons have been reluctant to do so. In American jails and prisons, at least 67,000 have been infected, and at least 607 inmates and workers have died

 US retail sales jumped by a record 17.7% from April to May, which was more than double the consensus estimate from economists. The gain came after 2 consecutive months of record slumps due to the coronavirus pandemic which slowed consumer spending activity. The sharp rebound is a positive sign, however, the
pandemic’s damage to retail sales remains severe, with purchases still down 6.1% from a year ago  10 weeks after the Paycheck Protection Program was launched, the SBA says it has processed 4.5 million loans worth $511 billion, intended to help small businesses stay afloat and preserve jobs. The PPP was praised by
Congress for its positive economic impact, however, it has yet to make public the recipients of the taxpayer aid, and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin is now refusing to release what he says is “proprietary information”

 United Airlines announced that, starting on June 18, any passenger that does not comply with wearing a face covering when onboard a United flight will be placed on an internal travel restriction list — customers on this list will lose their travel privileges for a duration of time to be determined pending a comprehensive incident review

 Walmart has partnered with e-commerce giant Shopify, to expand its third-party marketplace site, and grab more of the pandemic-fueled surge in online shopping

 Parents are purchasing books, games, and crafts in skyrocketing numbers — sales of children’s nonfiction books jumped by 66% in the week ending March 21, and total toy sales in the US grew by 26% in late March, while board games and puzzles grew by 228% and building sets by 76%, according to a market tracking firm which attributes the increases to the Covid-19 restrictions

 Video games reached $977 million in revenue, up 52% from a year ago, and sales have increased 18% so far this year, in large part because of the coronavirus stay-at-home mandate. Experts said that video games are especially appealing because they offer a safe way to socialize and for kids, may be the only source of positive social interaction available. In some cases, games can be addictive but there is no conclusive evidence that video games lead to abhorrent or violent behavior

 24 Hour Fitness filed for Chapter 11 and will permanently close 130 gyms, including 18 locations in the LA area and Orange County, due to hardships caused by the coronavirus shutdown of gyms nationwide. The company plans to reopen a majority of gyms by the end of June, allowing members to access any gym. However, they are also asking for permission to end 135 club leases in addition to other leased sites to cut costs

 Arizona has become a national hot spot for Covid-19 infections — the percentage of positive cases has been rising sharply from 5% in May to 13% in recent days. The state has also seen a spike in hospitalizations and ICU capacity has passed 80%. Public health officials expressed alarm and believe that the state needs to require residents to wear masks in public places and better control bars and clubs, including limiting capacity, however, the state’s governor has fought back against calls from local officials to tighten regulations

 As Covid-19 cases in California continue to climb, and the death toll tops 5,000, Governor Newsom defended the state’s reopening rules — hospitalizations remain stable weeks after restrictions started to be modified and safeguards in place continue to effectively slow the spread, and he added that requiring residents to remain isolated would threaten their overall physical and mental health wellbeing

 California’s Imperial County, a rural community bordered by Arizona and Mexico, has the highest per capita rate of Covid-19 infections in the state — 1,048 per 100,000 people recorded in the last 14 days. A recent push by local business associations and the county’s Board of Supervisors to reopen has divided the community

 UCLA announced that the vast majority of fall classes will be virtual and only a small fraction offered on campus. Other steps to prevent the spread of coronavirus includes: making on-campus housing less dense; requiring face coverings; enforcing physical distancing; and having daily symptom checks. Other UC universities in the 10-campus system are releasing their own reopening plans. California State University, the largest 4-year system in the US, already announced they will cancel the vast majority of in-person classes in the fall and instead offer instruction primarily online

 The Vans US Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach has been cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic

 LA County reported 1,337 new cases and 33 deaths. Totals are now 75,084 cases / 2,959 deaths. City Breakouts (Cases/Deaths): City of LA 34,052/1,442; Long Beach 2,634/114; Carson 545/26; El Segundo 39/0; Gardena 363/28; Hawthorne 552/20; Hermosa Beach 45/2; Inglewood 770/58; Lawndale 162/6; Lomita 58/6; Manhattan Beach 89/3; PV Estates 46/1; Rancho PV 165/7; Rolling Hills 2/0; Rolling Hills Estates 18/0; Torrance 457/50

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