Around the State: Schools, bars and gyms to reopen even as cases rise

California is gearing up to allow sports, bars and gyms, among other businesses, to reopen as early as this Friday. Public health officials are stressing that just because certain businesses are reopening doesn’t mean the threat of contracting COVID-19 is gone, and patrons will need to continue to follow stringent social distancing guidelines. The Department of Public Health has also released guidelines for the reopening of schools that include measures for intensifying cleaning and ventilation and increasing distance both in and outside of the classroom. Some suggest the guidelines, which could see only half of a school’s students in physical attendance on any given day, pose more questions than they answer.

Even as movie theaters get the green light to reopen and Napa Valley wineries welcome back visitors, California continues to see cases rise. While confirmed cases are slowing in the Bay Area, in Los Angeles — which has taken a less aggressive approach to combating the virus — the transmission rate is rising. As of yesterday at 9:55 p.m., cases in California numbered 137,057 and deaths had hit 4,749. California as a whole has risen to be the third-largest outbreak in the country, behind New York (379,482) and New Jersey (164,796).

Globally, COVID-19 deaths have surpassed 400,000, with more than 6.9 million people infected. The United States has surpassed 110,000 deaths and is nearing 2 million infected. But those numbers could have been much higher; a recent study found the early shutdown efforts in the United States prevented about 60 million novel coronavirus cases.

Sources: Los Angeles Times, California Department of Public Health, The San Francisco Chronicle, The OC Register, The Wall Street Journal, The Mercury News, National Public Radio, Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, The Washington Post

Health Check-Up: WHO recommends all individuals wear masks in shops, confined spaces

The World Health Organization (WHO) has released new guidance on wearing masks to control the spread of COVID-19. The agency now recommends individuals wear cloth masks with at least three layers of fabric while on public transportation, in shops or in other confined spaces. This brings the WHO’s recommendations more closely in line with many countries that have been requiring or encouraging masks for months, including the United States. The Director-General of the WHO reiterated when announcing the new recommendations that masks can create a false sense of security and that a mask alone will not prevent you from contracting COVID-19.

The current target for having an approved coronavirus vaccine available to the public is the first quarter of 2021, according to Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. There are at least 135 vaccines in development right now, some of which are set to enter widespread testing in humans as early as July.

Until a vaccine becomes available, experts have weighed in on how we can reprogram ourselves to more safely engage in activities like using the elevator, having friends over and attending a public protest.