Covid-19 News Briefs for Tuesday, September 22, 2020

September 22, 2020

 The US death toll from the coronavirus topped 200,000 Tuesday, according the Johns Hopkins University. The bleak milestone, by far the highest confirmed death toll from the virus in the world, is thought to be much higher, in part because many Covid-19 deaths were probably ascribed to other causes, especially early on,
before widespread testing. Deaths are running at close to 770 a day on average, and a widely cited model from the University of Washington predicts the US toll will double to 400,000 by the end of the year as schools and colleges reopen and cold weather sets in. Worldwide, the virus has infected more than 31 million people and is closing in fast on 1 million deaths, with over 965,000 lives lost, by Johns Hopkins’ count

 Public health experts have long worried that the end of summer would bring a surge in coronavirus cases — the number of new daily confirmed cases in the US has jumped more than 15% in the past 10 days which is the sharpest increase since the late spring. This spike also coincides with a rising number of cases in other affluent countries, like Canada and much of Europe. The one piece of good news is that people infected today are roughly 30% to 50% less likely to die than those in the early spring, however, the US death toll is still horrific at over 200,000

 To attain herd immunity, a very large number of people, usually 70% to 90%, must be vaccinated, depending on the effectiveness of the vaccine itself. The seasonal flu vaccine is only 60% effective at best. And despite overwhelming evidence that vaccines are safe, physicians routinely confront resistance. The CDC reports that only 62.6% of children under 18 and 45.3% of adults received the flu vaccine during the 2018-19 season. And although it was declared eliminated in 2000, measles, a highly contagious disease that requires more than 90% vaccine coverage to achieve herd immunity, has made a comeback in the last decade. A LA Times survey suggests that fewer than 80% of Americans may get vaccinated for the coronavirus. In this scenario, even if a new vaccine was 80% effective, which is optimistic, only 64% of the public would be protected which doesn’t get to herd immunity. However, a protective rate of 60% would dramatically slow the pandemic in the US  Colleges and universities that reopened for face-to-face instruction might have caused tens of thousands of additional cases of Covid-19 in recent weeks, according to a new study conducted by researchers at the University of North Carolina, Indiana University, University of Washington, and Davidson College. The researchers estimated that an extra 3,200 cases a day occurred in the US that likely wouldn’t have happened had schools kept classes online

 On Monday night, the CDC issued new guidelines to help families stay safe during this Halloween. The guidelines include a list ranking the relative risk level of certain traditions, like trick-or-treating and pumpkincarving. Here is the website:

 Sizzler USA, one of the country’s first casual restaurant chains, has filed for bankruptcy because of Covid-19, which forced it to temporarily close its restaurants’ dining rooms which caused problems paying rent. The filing is only for Sizzler’s 14 company-owned stores — not its international locations or more than 90 franchised US restaurants. The 62-year old company began in Culver City and restaurants are predominantly on the West Coast with a majority in California. Once a pioneer in the industry, the chain has fallen out of favor with newer rivals like Applebee’s and TGI Friday’s and the industry faced a new blow this year because of the pandemic

 Three NFL coaches and their teams face over $1 million in fines for going mask-less during games

 For weeks, millions of Californians were smothered by smoke from a record explosion of wildfires and suffered sore throats, headaches, and chest pains. While most people were not threatened directly by the fires, smoke transported health dangers to nearly every corner of the state and air quality officials are aware of no precedent for so many people breathing such high levels of wildfire smoke for so long. Health experts are fairly certain that such levels of smoke did significant harm in the immediate term by aggravating chronic lung and heart conditions, triggering asthma attacks, strokes, and heart attacks. Scientists also suspect that heavy smoke has lowered people’s defenses against the coronavirus, and put them at greater risk of severe symptoms

 The share of Californians who tested positive for Covid-19 in the last week dipped below 3% for the first time. Just 3.1% of state residents who were tested over the last 2 weeks received a positive result, and that ratio dropped to 2.8% in the last 7 days, state officials said. Hospitals in California are treating the fewest patients with the virus since April, and admissions to the state’s ICUs have also been dropping steadily

 Under the latest state health guidelines announced Tuesday, nail salons can reopen indoors across California. Previously, such businesses were allowed to reopen only in counties in Tier 2 or higher on the state’s 4-tier reopening blueprint. Counties in Tier 1 — those deemed most at risk of widespread Covid-19 infection — will now have the option to let nail salons operate although counties still have the authority to keep shops closed. The decision follows months of outcry from business owners and salon workers who felt they had been unfairly targeted after Governor Newsom claimed the first Covid-19 case in the state originated at a nail salon which activists have said is false

 Teachers in 2 Orange County school districts have banded together with public protests and petitions, saying they are unwilling to go back to campus in the days and weeks ahead and signaling an undercurrent of broad concerns among educators over the safety of returning to in-person instruction. In the Newport-Mesa USD,
scheduled to open for students in second grade and younger next week, 75% of teachers surveyed said they weren’t satisfied with safety plans. And teachers at Irvine USD circulated a petition urging the district for classes to remain online because of concerns

 LA families with school-age children in Boyle Heights, South LA, and Watts struggled with access to computers and adequate internet throughout the spring semester while facing job losses and food insecurity — issues that hampered online learning amid the Covid-19 pandemic, a survey found. The survey, a collaboration by researchers from USC and the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, underscores how poverty has exacerbated the toll wrought by the pandemic and how challenging these problems are to overcome. It also suggests that the digital divide is continuing to harm the education of low-income Latino and Black students. About threequarters of families surveyed had experienced a loss of income and food insecurity during the pandemic and nearly 30% faced health challenges and housing insecurity. Even so, about 1 in 3 families made investments to support online learning, including paying for internet access

 One Fair Wage, a nonprofit that advocates for higher wages for restaurant workers, commissioned a study in New York that found tips had fallen between 75% and 90% since the pandemic began. The organization is now calling for a full minimum wage in a number of states where the tipped minimum wage is ridiculously low.
Others have called for standardized Covid surcharges and the dismantling of the tip system altogether. As critics point out, tipping fortifies racial disparities in income, with customers generally give white servers bigger tips than Black servers. In LA, low tips also seem inextricable from another big problem with reopening and reduced capacity. The city’s al-fresco permit program allowed many restaurants to operate with fewer seats outdoors but phase 2 of the program — which would streamline approval for additional outdoor dining in parking spaces and traffic lanes — seems to be on pause

 LA County’s $100 million-plus program to repurpose hotels and motels emptied by the coronavirus as safe havens for homeless people is ending after months of lackluster performance. After peaking at just over 4,300 guests — about 30% of its ambitious goal — the project will shed several hundred beds monthly until it closes down early next year

 LA County reported an additional 810 cases and 40 deaths. Totals are now 262,133 cases and 6,401 deaths. City Breakouts (Cases/Deaths): City of LA 106,404/2,730; Long Beach 11,550/238; Carson 1,818/60; El Segundo 130/1; Gardena 1,227/50; Hawthorne 1,921/45; Hermosa Beach 206/4; Inglewood 2,816/89; Lawndale 628/10; Lomita 239/9; Manhattan Beach 354/5; PV Estates 96/2; Rancho PV 297/13; Redondo Beach 550/11; Rolling Hills 11/0; Rolling Hills Estates 41/2; Torrance 1,405/68

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, STAT, 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