#childsafety | Coronavirus Today: More testing, finally

Good evening. I’m Soumya Karlamangla, and it’s Wednesday, Aug. 26. Here’s what’s happening with the coronavirus in California and beyond.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday that he plans to greatly expand coronavirus testing so that, ultimately, a quarter of a million tests can be processed each day. That would more than double the state’s current testing capacity.

Testing is a fundamental tool for controlling the COVID-19 pandemic. Without sufficient testing, separating the infected from the uninfected is difficult — and if they’re able to mix, the virus can spread. That’s an especially big problem for an outbreak in which many infected people are asymptomatic. But so far, testing just hasn’t been enough.

Newsom unveiled a $1.4-billion deal with medical diagnostics company PerkinElmer that he said will eliminate shortages of key chemicals that have hampered testing in the past and delayed the delivery of test results. The deal also will reduce the cost of testing. The contract sets up a new lab in Santa Clarita that will process up to 150,000 coronavirus tests a day at a cost to the state of as little as $31 per test, with results guaranteed in 48 hours.

Newsom said the work of the lab, expected to begin operating in November and reach full capacity in March, will hasten the state’s return to in-person instruction in schools and let more businesses reopen sooner.

Also on Wednesday, the Food and Drug Administration authorized a 15-minute test from Abbott Laboratories that will sell for $5. It will be the first rapid coronavirus test that doesn’t need any special computer equipment to get results.

By the numbers

California cases and deaths as of 4:15 p.m. PDT Wednesday:

Track the latest numbers and how they break down in California with our graphics.

See the current status of California’s reopening, county by county, with our tracker.

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Across California

With just a few days left in the legislative year, the California Senate was forced to cancel its floor session Wednesday after someone in the “Senate family” tested positive for COVID-19, according to a memo sent to all senators and staff. Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) now has to decide whether the chamber should move to remote voting or a hybrid model of in-person and virtual participation, to finish their duties by August 31.

UC Berkeley began classes for its fall semester Wednesday, with all students learning remotely. Chancellor Carol Christ spoke to reporters this week about what she called “the hardest situation I’ve ever encountered.” The university is facing its worst-ever financial crisis, the result of losing revenue from things like cancelled student housing contracts and athletic events that were called off, along with higher costs for cleaning, testing and new instructional technology. “The hardest thing in this pandemic is how fast facts on the ground change,” Christ said.

California high schools may be trying out remote learning, but student athletes are now allowed back on campus for in-person conditioning. This has meant mandatory temperature checks for players, N95 masks for coaches, and social distancing for everyone at practices. “We’re all in this together making the best of a tough situation,” said a player on the Harvard-Westlake football team.

In July, a Times investigation found that, since the beginning of the pandemic, state health officials had been sending inspectors from nursing home to nursing home without testing them first to make sure they weren’t spreading the virus themselves. Newsom vowed to make changes, but a month later, at least 60% of inspectors still have not been tested.

And Los Angeles County officials announced Wednesday that eight newborns have been born with COVID-19 since the pandemic began — the first such cases in L.A. County.

Resources

— For general safety, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds (here’s a super-fun how-to video). Stop touching your face, and keep your phone clean. Practice social distancing, maintaining a six-foot radius of personal space in public. And wear a mask if you leave home. Here’s how to do it right.
— Watch for symptoms including fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat and loss of taste or smell. If you’re worried you might be infected, call your doctor or urgent care clinic before going there.
— Need a COVID-19 test? Here’s how to receive a free test if you’re in L.A. County. And here’s a map of testing sites across California.
— Here’s how to care for someone with COVID-19, from monitoring their symptoms to preventing the virus’ spread.
— If your job has been affected by the pandemic, here’s how to file for unemployment.
— Here are some free resources for restaurant workers and entertainment industry professionals having trouble making ends meet.
— Advice for helping kids navigate pandemic life includes being honest about uncertainties, acknowledging their feelings and sticking to a routine. Here’s guidance from the CDC.
— In need of mental health services? Here are resources for coping during the crisis from the CDC and the L.A. County Department of Mental Health. L.A. County residents can also call (800) 854-7771 or text “LA” to 741741.

Around the nation and the world

Filmmaker Betty Kaplan spent seven years fighting to get her film “Simone” made, navigating financing setbacks, false starts and, in 2019, her own battle with cancer. Then in March, less than two weeks into shooting, production was shut down due to the pandemic. It didn’t resume until June — becoming the second U.S. production allowed to shoot amid the pandemic — and wrapped in July, without a single case of COVID-19. She detailed to The Times what her pandemic production looked like. “I don’t think I’ve ever made a film that’s had this much magic happen,” she said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention loosened its testing and travel guidelines. It no longer recommends that people without symptoms be tested, even if they have come in close contact with an infected person, or that travelers quarantine for 14 days. But California officials say they will continue with their more stringent recommendations regardless.

Winter is ending in the Southern Hemisphere, and country after country — South Africa, Australia, Argentina — has had a pleasant surprise: Their efforts to stop COVID-19 also apparently blocked the flu. Will that happen in the U.S.?

Your questions answered

Today’s question comes from readers who want to know: Why have child-care centers been allowed to remain open while schools are closed?

To answer this question, I consulted Times reporter Sonja Sharp, who has become our resident expert on child care amid the pandemic.

Child-care facilities, which include more than 30,000 preschools and day cares in California, have been allowed to remain open throughout the pandemic because they’re needed by essential workers, Sonja explained. Without child-care services, people who work in grocery stores and hospitals may not have been able to go to work.

It’s true that many kids in child-care centers are too young to follow rules about social distancing. They’re also likely to require very close physical contact with adult caregivers throughout the day.

That’s why centers must follow strict guidance from the state to prevent the spread of the virus, including requiring the children to wear masks and submit to temperature checks. All toys must be disinfected throughout the day, unless children are provided with with a box of toys that only they use.

In general, young children have also been found to be less likely to contract and transmit the virus than older kids. Yet despite these extra safety precautions, reluctance on the part of parents has made it difficult for child-care centers to make ends meet. Since mid-March, more than 1,200 licensed child-care providers in the state have closed permanently, accelerating a years-long trend that will make recovery from the pandemic all the more difficult.

Our reporters covering the coronavirus outbreak want to hear from you. Email us your questions, and we’ll do our best to answer them. You can find more answers in our Frequently Asked Questions roundup and in our reopening tracker.

For the most up-to-date coronavirus coverage from The Times over the weekend, visit our homepage and our Health section, sign up for our breaking news alerts, and follow us on Twitter and on Instagram.




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