With the State of California surpassing one million confirmed coronavirus cases, thousands of people have been lining up for free COVID-19 testng at a sprawling parking lot outside Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. (Nov. 17)

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Plus: Tustin call center employees are uncomfortable returning to the office after 2 COVID deaths. And, bubbles foil a Bond-like escape.

I’m Winston Gieseke, philanthropy and special sections editor for The Desert Sun in Palm Springs, presenting you with the latest California news.

In California brings you top Golden State stories and commentary from across the USA TODAY Network and beyond. Sign up to get it free, straight to your inbox.

L.A. readies for 10 p.m.-6 a.m. curfew

A sign posted reads “Covid-19 Update. Effective Immediately. No Cash Accepted at Exits,” at a Los Angeles International Airport main parking lot in Los Angeles, Friday, Nov. 13, 2020. (Photo: Damian Dovarganes, The Associated Press)

Los Angeles County has updated its restrictions on businesses and is preparing to enact a mandatory curfew for all but essential workers if coronavirus cases keep rising.

The county, which has 10 million residents — about a quarter of the state’s total population — has seen daily cases more than double in the last two weeks. As a result, it ordered non-essential retail businesses to limit indoor capacity to 25% and restaurants to 50% capacity outdoors. In addition, all such businesses must close by 10 p.m., effective Friday.

If daily cases reach 4,500 and hospitalizations go beyond 2,000, the county says it will impose a three-week lockdown with a nighttime curfew from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Essential workers will not be subjected to lockdown or curfew. Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said as of Wednesday, the county was seeing almost 4,000 cases per day.

“Los Angeles County is at a critical moment to save lives and curb the spread of COVID-19,” said Ferrer. “Lives and livelihoods are at stake and our entire community will be affected by our collective action if we do the right thing.”

On Monday, after coronavirus cases experienced a major surge, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced an “emergency brake” on 28 counties, moving them into the purple — most restrictive — of four tiers for reopening. When you add in the counties already in that tier, it means that 94% of the state’s nearly 40 million residents are experiencing a “sobering” (Newsom’s word) number of cases.

Want to visit someone in a California nursing home? Here are the rules

Indio Nursing and Rehabilitation Center resident Priscilla Alvarez watches a pet parade organized by members of the Women’s Club of Indio outside the nursing home in Indio, Calif., on Saturday, October 31, 2020.  (Photo: Taya Gray/The Desert Sun)

If you have a loved one living in a California nursing home, chances are you’ll want to spend some time with them during the holidays.

However, the recent surge in coronavirus cases has led to businesses being forced to close their indoor operations. This also applies to in-room visits at nursing facilities.

That said, all skilled nursing facilities are required to have some other type of visitation in place, be it via video calls or “window visits.” Some even allow for socially distanced visits outdoors or inside in a large communal space, such as an auditorium — so long as masks are worn and distancing is practiced. Even if a county is in the state’s most stringent purple tier, its skilled nursing facilities can offer this type of indoor visitation as long as other criteria are met. 

Nearly 108,000 of the state’s COVID-19 cases — that’s 10.5% — have been among residents age 65 and older. However, this age group accounts for the most virus-related deaths, 74%.

More than 29,000 residents in nursing facilities have tested positive for coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic.

The main goal is for nursing homes to facilitate visitation “as often as possible as safely as possible,” said Misty Plumley, senior emergency medical services specialist with Riverside County.

Orange County to provide in-home coronavirus tests

 (Photo: Getty Images)

Getting a coronavirus test in the O.C. just got a whole lot easier.

Just in time for the inevitable holiday gatherings that state leaders and medical professionals have advised people to avoid, officials in Orange County announced their plans to hand out do-it-yourself kits to test saliva for the coronavirus.

The Orange County Register reports that starting next week, the county, in partnership with Aliso Viejo-based testing lab Ambry Genetics, will manufacture 11,000 spit tests for home use, which officials say are as accurate as nasal swab tests. Users will mail their samples to a lab with a prepaid shipping label, and results are expected within 24 hours.

“This is an extra step to ensure COVID-19 positive and asymptomatic people know their status before gathering during the holidays,” said Dr. Clayton Chau, Orange County Health Care Agency director and county health officer.

It’s expected that by the end of December, the number of available at-home tests will grow to 500,000 and will be paid for using emergency CARES Act funds.

Orange is among 41 counties in the state currently stuck in the purple (non-)reopening tier.

After COVID deaths, AT&T call center employees take to picket line in Tustin

Approximately 30 employees at an AT&T call center picketed Monday, saying working conditions in their Tustin facility were unsafe. (Photo: Negative Space,

Can you be forced to work in a space that’s been ravaged by COVID? That’s the question employees at an AT&T call center in Tustin are asking.

Of the 150 men and women who work in the call center, 46 have contracted coronavirus and two have died, said Kenny Williams, a local representative for Communications Workers of America.

One casualty, reports The Orange County Register, was Darrell Harper, who on Oct. 28 shared on Facebook that he was suffering from COVID. “I’ve not eaten or had any strength to move,” he wrote. “It’s worse than you thought. You are not in your body.” Later that day, he added: “This could have been avoided if they let people work from home.” Four days later, the 40-year-old was dead.

Three days after another co-worker, Gale Ballard, 51, succumbed to the virus, AT&T closed the building. A deep cleaning in the office and newly installed air filters were followed by an email from AT&T spokesman Jim Kimberly declaring that “this workspace is safe for employees to return.”

Approximately 30 employees did not agree; however, and picketed the location Monday, saying working conditions remained unsafe and they did not feel comfortable returning to their jobs.

Bubbles make wanted NorCal fugitive easy to spot after Bond-like escape

Federal officials said a Palo Cedro man used a submersible device in Lake Shasta an attempt to escape capture Monday on charges he defrauded investors in a $35 million scheme. (Photo: Photo courtesy of the U.S. Attorney’s Office)

In Northern California, a wanted man tried to escape federal agents by taking them on a car chase Monday that led to Lake Shasta, reports the Redding Record Searchlight.

Matthew Piercey, 44, of Palo Cedro, was on the lam after being indicted Nov. 12 by a grand jury that charged him with wire fraud, mail fraud, money laundering and witness tampering after he and a partner had reportedly defrauded investors of about $35 million through an alleged Ponzi scheme.

In a move almost worthy of James Bond, Piercey jumped into the lake and attempted to flee using a battery-powered underwater scooter that can tow a person at 3 or 4 mph. However, law enforcement officers were able to follow the trail of bubbles generated by the device, and Piercey was apprehended when he emerged from the water about 25 minutes later.

Piercey faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and fines ranging from $250,000 to $500,000 for each count.

Soccer club donates turkeys to L.A. families in need

A Thanksgiving turkey (Photo: Getty Images / LauriPatterson)

In feel-good holiday news, a major league soccer club in Los Angeles hosted a food drive Wednesday and distributed 1,000 turkeys and holiday meal bags to families hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, according to CBS Los Angeles.

Representatives from LAFC, who said the club’s goal was to unite the city, identified families in need with the help of the L.A. Unified School District and South L.A. Cafe, a local nonprofit.

“Hopefully one blessing that will come out of this horrible situation we find ourselves in is, we do need each other,” LAFC General Manager John Thorrington said. “And finding ways that we can come together to serve each other, to help each other.”

In California is a roundup of news from across USA Today network newsrooms. Also contributing: CBS Los Angeles, The Orange County Register.

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