California shuts down again as U.S. coronavirus crisis expands

SACRAMENTO (Reuters) – The California governor imposed new restrictions on businesses on Monday, and the state's two largest school districts, Los Angeles and San Diego, said children would not return to school for the new term as coronavirus Cases and hospital stays increased.

FILE PHOTO: People wear facial masks when using the boardwalk during Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) on July 1, 2020 in Huntington Beach, California. REUTERS / Mike Blake

Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, ordered bars and restaurants, cinemas, zoos, and museums nationwide to shut down to shut down indoors. Newsom said churches, gyms and hair salons in the 30 most affected counties must close.

"It is our job to soberly realize that COVID-19 will not go away until a vaccine and / or effective therapy is available," Newsom said at a daily press conference.

The governor said the move was crucial to curb a new surge in COVID-19 cases affecting hospitals in several rural areas of California.

The public school districts of Los Angeles and San Diego, two of the largest in the country with a total of 706,000 students and 88,000 employees, said in a joint statement that they would only hold online courses, referring to "vague and contradicting" guidelines for science and public health.

The districts said that countries that reopened their schools safely did so only after they saw declining infection rates and on-demand coronavirus testing.

"California has neither," the statement said, adding, "the rapid infection rates of the past few weeks have made it clear that the pandemic is not under control."

The union representing teachers in Los Angeles welcomed the strategy and said it was supported by 83% of its 18,000 ordinary members who replied to an informal online survey last week.

"Danger of death"

“Given the alarming surge in COVID cases, the lack of government funding to safely open schools, and the overwhelming risk of death to color communities of the working class, there is really no other choice that does not do thousands of them Endanger human lives, ”said United Teachers Los Angeles in a separate statement.

The decision to learn online puts the two districts in conflict with U.S. President Donald Trump, who has threatened to punish school systems that refuse to reopen classrooms by withholding federal funds or even revoking their tax exemption status.

Minister of Education Betsy DeVos maintained pressure on a television appearance on Sunday, saying that children need to return to their classrooms for both their own educational development and for their parents, who can return to work more easily.

"We know that children get the virus far less often than any other part of the population," DeVos told CNN. "There is nothing in the data to suggest that children who are back in school are dangerous to them."

The decision to leave students at home should also be a blow to parents who had difficulty working from home during the pandemic while caring for and raising their children.

"I know that my children have to go back to school," said Brenda Del Hierro, who has two children in schools in Los Angeles. “For their social and emotional well-being, they have to go back to school. But at the end of the day there is too much risk. "

California, along with Florida, Arizona and Texas, is the new US epicenter of the pandemic. According to a Reuters analysis, infections have increased rapidly in around 40 of the 50 states in the past two weeks.

Slideshow (2 pictures)

Despite nearly 28,000 new COVID-19 cases in the past two days, Disney World in Orlando welcomed the public on Saturday for the first time since March with guests wearing masks, undergoing temperature controls, and having to physically separate themselves.

Walt Disney Co (DIS.N.) faces a completely different response in Hong Kong, where the government has ordered the Disneyland theme park to be closed due to increasing coronavirus cases.

Reporting by Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento, Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles, Steve Gorman in Eureka, California, Rich McKay in Atlanta, Lisa Lambert and Doina Chiacu in Washington and Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; Written by Lisa Shumaker and Dan Whitcomb; Edited by Howard Goller and Bill Tarrant

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