COVID-19 News Briefs for Wednesday, July 15, 2020

July 15, 2020

 The US is now the only high-income country in the world in which the virus is spreading rapidly. Even in Sweden, which has had 1 of the least successful responses to the virus, the number of new cases has plummeted in the past 2 weeks. In Europe and Canada as well as the Asian countries of China, Japan, South Korea and several others, the virus is reported to be under control

 The government in the Philippines has empowered the police to go to homes in search of infected people. The move has triggered an uproar among human rights groups, which accused the government of employing repressive tactics

 The federal government may not have the capacity to supply medical professionals with personal protective equipment amid the latest surge in coronavirus cases, according to internal administration documents obtained by NBC News. For example, the Strategic National Stockpile and FEMA have fewer than 900,000 gloves in
reserve after shipping 82.7 million of them, or just 30% of the amount requested by state, local, and tribal governments, since the Covid-19 crisis began. In particular, nursing homes and long-term care facilities say there is a major PPE shortage. However, the White House chief supply-chain official countered that the supply situation is not that dire and said he has orders that will be fulfilled between now and mid-September, adding that states and hospital systems have been able to cover most of their needs through the commercial marketplace or Defense Logistics Agency. However, the administration’s internal data suggest the federal government’s ability to help meet any major surge in demand is limited

 The US consumer price index jumped 0.6% from the prior month, the first increase since February — gasoline prices jumped 12.3% and accounted for more than half of the gain in the overall CPI. As more states started to reopen their economies in June, the pickup in demand for goods and services helped to stabilize prices. At the same time, a spike in the Covid-19 cases in Florida, Arizona, Texas, California, and other Sun Belt states threatens to restrain sales and inflation

 The coronavirus pandemic is upending the US health coverage market in unexpected ways, forcing some insurers to issue refunds to customers this year and complicating the models they use to set the prices for next year’s premiums and co-pays. While insurers have had to pay out more money to cover coronavirus treatments, more people are reducing spending by putting off all but the most vital medical care. The sharp drop in elective medical procedures — like routine cancer screenings and wellness checkups — has cut spending so much that it’s skewing projections for next year’s plans. Some insurers, including Anthem, UnitedHeath, and Humana, have given members money back in some cases through premium rebates and waived co-pays on doctor visits. That’s because the Affordable Care Act requires insurers to spend at least 85% of premiums on medical claims. But researchers warned if most of the care deferred this year get pushed into 2021, medical costs could balloon by 10% above pre-coronavirus levels next year, which would make for the highest rate of medical -cost inflation
since 2007

 Nearly 110,000 US small businesses closed permanently from early March to early May, Harvard researchers reported. In states like Texas, Florida, and California, the resurgence of the virus and reopening rollbacks have forced many small businesses to shut down a second time — and for some, that means for good. Corporations are also facing steep challenges. Sales at Delta Airlines plunged 88% during the second quarter; major food brands like Coca-Cola and Lay’s have reduced the number of products they make during the pandemic, often leading to higher prices and fewer choices for consumers at grocery stores; automakers may be forced to pull back production as some workers call on plants to close over fears of the virus spreading. And laid-off workers will likely face more hardship after July, when the additional $600 a week they receive in unemployment is scheduled to end

 Public health experts warn that an office is an inherently risky environment for spreading Covid-19. But major tech companies like Apple and Facebook are starting to send some employees back to the office even as coronavirus cases are rising. There is little mandate from federal or state governments in how companies should deal with and communicate infections to employees, though there are guidelines — they recommend employers notify workers who come in contact with an infected person and advise sick and potentially sick employees to stay home. There are no obligations to close offices or tell employees of a confirmed Covid-19 case among staff, should one happen. Public health experts advise employers to be flexible about reopening and to do so on a trial basis

 Walmart and Sam’s Club will start requiring that all customers wear a face covering when shopping at any of their locations nationwide, starting July 20. They said about 65% of its 5,000 stores are in areas where there’s already some kind of government mandate for face coverings and said members will be given a complimentary mask if they do not have one

 Oklahoma hit a single-day record for cases on Wednesday and its governor announced that he had tested positive, becoming the first US governor know to become infected with Covid-19  State officials adopted new guidelines Tuesday outlining who should be prioritized for Covid-19 testing in California as cases surged and counties reported delayed lab results. Tier 1: Hospitalized patients with Covid-19 symptoms; Testing by state and local health officials to investigate and manage outbreaks; Close contacts of those who test positive. Tier 2: Anyone with Covid-19 symptoms; Those with no symptoms who work in highrisk setting and have frequent exposure to the public or to others who have the virus; Hospital patients who need to be tested before admission or transfer to another facility. Tier 3: Workers who have frequent interactions with the public and cannot maintain 6 feet of distance from others. Tier 4: Asymptomatic people who believe they have a risk for being actively infected; Routine testing by employers

 Essential Latino workers have been hit especially hard by Covid-19 — in California, Latinos make up 39% of the population but 55% of Covid-19 cases. This has led to growing calls to do more to protect essential workers especially in LA County where virus outbreaks are dramatically up at workplaces including warehouses, manufacturing plants, mail services, distribution centers, waste management, and retail. Experts say the biggest outbreaks have been in Southern California and the Central Valley where economies are reliant on Latino workers who tend to reside in densely packed communities where Covid-19 can easily spread through extended families. LA County Health Director Dr. Ferrer said that business owners and operators have a corporate, moral, and social responsibility to their employees and their families to provide a safe work environment and added that the county will be expanding testing sites significantly in areas of need and engaging in outreach to address these health equity issues

 LAUSD Supt. Beutner announced that because they could not adequately protect children and employees from coronavirus, online learning would continue and called for Covid-19 testing for all K-12 students and employees on a regular, even weekly, basis. The CDC doesn’t recommend widespread school testing, citing a lack of
evidence that it would reduce transmission, plus concerns about resources, parental consent, and student privacy. To conduct weekly screenings, the district would need to procure PPE, hire and train people to conduct the tests, and adopt a confidential system for record-keeping. Other key challenges are securing enough testing supplies and follow up contract tracing when someone tests positive  The Pasadena Tournament of Roses Associations said that the 132nd Rose Parade on January 1, 2021 has been cancelled, the first time in 75 years, because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. However, plans for the annual Rose Bowl, which is slated to be a semifinal game for the College Football Playoffs, will continue

 LA County reported the highest number of daily hospitalizations with 2,193 people currently hospitalized, with 26% of these people in the ICU and 17% on a ventilator. Data also shows younger people between the ages of 18 and 40 are being hospitalized at a higher rate than seen before. Today’s report showed an additional 2,758 positive cases and 44 deaths. This brings the totals to 143,009 cases and 3,932 deaths. Dr. Ferrer said that we are experiencing an “alarming and dangerous trend” and is reflective of behavior 3 weeks ago. She urged everyone to try to stay home as much as possible and follow health directives to try to reverse this trend. City Breakouts (Cases/Deaths): City of LA 58,925/1,866; Long Beach 5,849/151; Carson 925/33; El Segundo 82/0; Gardena 666/32; Hawthorne 1,002/27; Hermosa Beach 124/2; Inglewood 1,432/68; Lawndale 308/8; Lomita 117/7; Manhattan Beach 213/4; PV Estates 62/2; Rancho PV 185/12; Redondo Beach 318/9; Rolling Hills 4/0; Rolling Hills Estates 30/2; Torrance 792/51

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