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Sen. Rand Paul tests positive for coronavirus, Louisiana governor issues stay-at-home order

The latest updates from our reporters in California and around the world

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Riverside County medical personnel administer a coronavirus test to a driver at a drive-though testing facility at Diamond Stadium on March 21, 2020 in Lake Elsinore, California. Those tested have symptoms or have had a risk of exposure.
(Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)

The Los Angeles Times will provide around-the-clock updates on COVID-19 from across Southern California and around the world.

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Amid restaurant shutdown, Lucques lays off staff and closes for good after 21 years

There will be no fond farewell for one of L.A.'s most venerable restaurants.

Amid a statewide restaurant shutdown with no clear end in sight, Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne have decided to permanently close Lucques, their 21-year-old Californian-Mediterranean restaurant, more than a month and a half early.

Goin said in an Instagram post Sunday that the duo had laid off their staff, spent the last few days packing up the Melrose Avenue space and were now closed for good.

“Definitely not how @carolinestyne and i had envisioned it,” she wrote. “When we announced a week ago wednesday we had a job planned for every lucques employee—72 hours later we were in the unimaginable position of laying off our staffs at all the restaurants—people we love like family, people who can not sustain this shutdown...our hearts are broken.”

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Japan to require 14-day-quarantine for visitors from U.S.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced Monday that Japan will require a 14-day quarantine to all visitors from the United States, including the Japanese and Americans, effective Thursday and until the end of April.

Abe made the announcement at a government task force on the coronavirus, citing the escalating COVID-19 infections around the world, especially in the U.S. and Europe in recent weeks.

Japan on Sunday raised a travel advisory for the U.S., urging the Japanese citizens not to make nonessential trips to the U.S.

He said the U.S. recently took similar measures and urged Americans not to make nonessential trips to Japan, requiring a 14-day quarantine for entrants.

Abe said Monday’s quarantine requirement is in line with measures taken by other countries, including the U.S., and shows Japan’s commitment to join international effort to stop the further spread of the coronavirus.

He said Japan will continue to launch “flexible border control measures without hesitation” and urged his ministers to keep their caution levels up high.

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Troubled cruise ship with 2,000 passengers docks in Honolulu

The Norwegian Jewel cruise ship docks at Honolulu Harbor on Sunday.
(Associated Press)

A cruise ship that had to cut short its trip because of the coronavirus and mechanical problems docked Sunday in Honolulu’s harbor.

The Norwegian Jewel, which carried about 2,000 passengers, docked in the late afternoon, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

The ship has problems with its propulsion, which will be repaired at Honolulu’s harbor, the Hawaii Department of Transportation said. The repairs to the ship must be made without passengers aboard, the department added.

“A detailed plan is being developed with Norwegian Cruise Line that keeps passengers isolated to avoid any potential strain on Hawaii’s resources, while also addressing the well-being of the cruise line passengers who have been at sea for a very long time,” said Jade Butay, director of the Hawaii Department of Transportation.

The ship had to cut short its 23-day cruise of Australia and French Polynesia because many ports were closed due to the coronavirus, the ship’s owner, Norwegian Cruise Line, said in a statement. The passengers last disembarked in Fiji on March 11, the transportation department said.

Charter flights have been arranged for ship passengers on Monday and Tuesday to Los Angeles, Sydney, London and other cities, the company said.

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First inmate in California’s prison system tests positive for coronavirus

The first inmate within California’s prison system has tested positive for COVID-19.

The prisoner is at California State Prison, Los Angeles County, state corrections officials announced on Sunday night.

The officials also said that five prison workers have COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Two are at California State Prison, Sacramento, outside of Folsom; one is at Folsom State Prison; and two are at the California Institution for Men in Chino.

The prisoner in L.A. County was in stable condition and being treated on site, according to a statement from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The department said the prisoner reported feeling unwell and was put into isolation Thursday, was tested Friday, and the results came back Sunday. The agency would not provide information on the health of the infected workers.

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‘It’s like losing a family’: An L.A. nightclub and its workers fight for survival during the coronavirus outbreak

Johnny Luna of Boyle Heights has been laid off because of the Coronavirus
Johnny Luna of Los Angeles works with with his music and entertainment equipment at his apartment March 19.
(Jason Armond/Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times)

On March 12, Johnny Luna showed up for work at Lodge Room in Highland Park. The 33-year-old father of two is the lighting director for the club, a 500-capacity independent music venue right off a popular stretch of Figueroa Street. He runs the lighting boards at the Wiltern, the El Rey and other venues too, but that evening, he was booked to DJ in Lodge Room’s adjacent restaurant, Checker Hall.

But fears of the coronavirus had been circulating all week, and the club’s usual crowds had thinned out. Only two people were in the restaurant. The venue’s general manager gave Luna a free dinner and sent him home.

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Column: Pull up a chair and hear Vin Scully give a message of hope and optimism

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We are surrounded by a cacophony of chaos, our lives filled with words of warning and dread and doom.

I need a sound of spring. This being the formerly opening week of the postponed baseball season, I crave the melodious tones of the ballpark, the bunting, the hope.

So, what the heck, I call Vin Scully.

And, wouldn’t you know, he answers on the first ring.

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Canada won’t send athletes to Tokyo Olympics unless Games are postponed

The Canadian Olympic Committee says it won’t send athletes to the Tokyo Games unless they’re postponed for a year, becoming the first country to threaten such a move in the face of the coronavirus outbreak.

The committee sent out a statement Sunday evening saying it was willing to help the International Olympic Committee search for alternatives, but that it was not safe for athletes, “their families and the broader Canadian community for athletes to continue training for these Games.”

“In fact, it runs counter to the public health advice which we urge all Canadians to follow.”

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California seeks ‘major disaster’ declaration from Trump over coronavirus

Gov. Gavin Newsom asked President Trump on Sunday for a declaration of a “major disaster” in California to help the state respond to the COVID-19 pandemic with mass care and emergency assistance, unemployment assistance and disaster legal services, among others.

“Unfortunately, California has been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19,” Newsom wrote to Trump. “Besides California being home to nearly 40 million people, which itself poses significant logistical issues few other states face, California partnered with the federal government in several extremely complex and challenging repatriation missions, which strained California’s resources and impacted California’s healthcare delivery system.”

Newsom noted in the letter that he has issued 10 executive orders in the last week to facilitate a quick response to the outbreak.

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Mitt Romney to self-quarantine after having contact with Rand Paul

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North Korea says Trump has sent a letter to Kim Jong Un offering coronavirus help

SEOUL —President Trump sent a personal letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, seeking to maintain good relations and offering cooperation in fighting the coronavirus outbreak, Kim’s sister said Sunday.

The latest correspondence came as Kim observed the firing of tactical guided weapons over the weekend, drawing criticism from South Korea, as nuclear talks remained deadlocked.

In a statement carried by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency, Kim’s sister and senior ruling party official, Kim Yo Jong, praised Trump for sending the letter at a time when “big difficulties and challenges lie ahead in the way of developing ties” between the countries.

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Louisiana governor issues stay-at-home order as coronavirus infection cases skyrocket

Bourbon Street is empty due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Bourbon Street is empty early last week. After ordering bars, restaurants and other businesses to close, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards has issued a stay-at-home order.
(Chris Graythen / Getty Images)

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards issued a stay-home order Sunday and closed nonessential businesses statewide as the state’s coronavirus infection cases skyrocketed.

“This emergency is going to get worse before it gets better,” Bel Edwards said. “We’re in a race against time with this coronavirus and its spread in Louisiana.”

Louisiana now has the third-highest number of cases per capita after New York and Washington, the governor said. Since the first case was reported about two weeks ago, 830 cases have been reported and 20 deaths.

“We have the fastest growth rate of confirmed cases in the world,” Bel Edwards said, showing charts that compared the spread of the virus in Louisiana to countries in Europe where hospitals have been overwhelmed.

“There’s no reason to believe we won’t be the next Italy,” he said.

More than half the state’s cases and all but five of the deaths have been in the New Orleans area, including the Lambeth House nursing home, where 24 residents have been infected and seven have died.

The virus has spread to more than half of the state’s parishes. So far, only 2,113 people have been tested.

The governor said projections show the state could run out of healthcare capacity in as soon as a week. He canceled elective procedures and said the state was trying to add 200 intensive care beds as soon as possible.

“We have to take more aggressive measures now and limit our social contact,” he said.

The governor said he issued the order, which lasts from Monday night until April 12, after speaking Friday with Vice President Mike Pence and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

He said he made sure Pence and the president knew how fast the coronavirus had been spreading in Louisiana and that the state needed federal help in dealing with shortages of doctors, nurses, ventilators, masks and other protective equipment for healthcare workers.

“This fight has taken place simultaneously across the country, and so, from where are we going to get more doctors and nurses?” Bel Edwards said. “Louisiana cannot compete with New York and its purchasing power” for medical supplies.

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Crowded California beaches pose a challenge for strict coronavirus stay-home rules

California’s sweeping stay-at-home order to slow the spread of the coronavirus resulted in a weekend like no other, with people staying indoors and keeping six feet apart when outside.

But there were some exceptions — including the state’s beloved beaches.

Complaints of noncompliance have popped up on social media and apps such as the neighborhood forum Nextdoor.com. The Marin County Sheriff’s Office on Saturday tweeted out a photo of people congregating on the coast, imploring residents to stay home.

“We understand the communities’ frustrations with the LARGE amount of people traveling to the Coast today and NOT practicing social distancing. We are working with the Public Health Officers to address the issue. Please stay at home!” the Sheriff’s Office said.

While traffic was free-flowing in much of Southern California, there were still some backups Saturday on Pacific Coast Highway in the Santa Monica area.

The sense of fear seemed distant as the shadows lengthened over Santa Monica State Beach on Saturday afternoon. Alan Cohn, 90, and his partner, Elaine Cohen, 80, looked over a scene of people tanning and working out. One man did yoga. A group of four played volleyball.

“Would you believe we’re in the middle of a pandemic right now?” Cohen asked.

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Beware the coronavirus scams: Colloidal silver, herb remedies and fake test kits

In the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, public health officials have made it clear: There is no pill, vaccine or supplement that can cure or prevent the virus.

But that hasn’t stopped scam artists from trying to take advantage of people’s fears.

In Peru, a curandero claiming to have “a pact with the devil” promised to treat coronavirus among other ailments. On Craigslist, a now-removed post claimed: “I think I found how to prevent coronavirus ... from my grandmother’s herbal remedy recipe card.” And a televangelist recently promoted his “Silver Solution” on his show, suggesting the concoction would boost the immune system and kill the virus within 12 hours.

These are just a few examples of people who are trying to capitalize on the coronavirus panic, and there are countless others — from price gougers selling hand sanitizer for hundreds of dollars to fake at-home coronavirus test kits coming from out of the country.

Officials are aggressively pursuing scammers, threatening legal action if they continue.

The FDA has issued warning letters to seven entities that it says have made false claims about coronavirus cures or treatments, including “The Jim Bakker Show,” which is already facing legal action from federal and state agencies.

Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer and L.A. County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey have formed a coronavirus task force dedicated to scouring the internet and brick-and-mortar stores for fraudsters and price gougers.

Feuer’s office is already investigating two Los Angeles companies: CEN Group LLC., which on its website, SafeBabyHealthyChild, promoted vitamin C as a coronavirus treatment, and the website modernbeyond.com, which was selling face masks.

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Riverside County confirms sixth death connected to the coronavirus

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Sen. Rand Paul is 1st U.S. senator to test positive for coronavirus

Rand Paul announced Sunday that he was infected with COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. The Republican from Kentucky becomes the first U.S. senator to test positive for the illness.

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Coronavirus turns this wedding virtual

Tara Eames and Anthony Durante shared their wedding with guests on Zoom.
(Tara Eames)

Tara Eames never thought she would get married at home, livestreaming to virtual guests.

Eames, 46, a marketing consultant in Devon, Pa., had planned to marry Anthony Durante, 49, at her sister’s house, followed by a larger reception. But last week, as the state’s courthouses started to close, they got nervous. They worried about what would happen if one of them became seriously ill with the coronavirus and they were not yet married. Pennsylvania has a “self-uniting” marriage license that doesn’t require an officiant, but you still need the license.

On Tuesday, they drove to Allentown and got their license. The next day, the state’s courthouses closed.

“We got it just under the wire,” Eames said.

They still needed two witnesses. Eames said her 20 year-old son, home from college and taking classes online, volunteered, along with a family friend.

“It feels like love being stronger than fear,” she said.

The groom, a Marine veteran who works in economic development, agreed.

“It’s been a dark couple of weeks. We figured people could use some happiness and hope,” he said.

The pair used the online-meeting tool Zoom to broadcast their nuptials Saturday afternoon. Eames wore a flowered dress; Durante, a suit.

“We told people in our invitation you can wear a tuxedo or your pajamas,” she said.

Durante fashioned his bride a bouquet out of red roses picked up at the grocery store. Their witness brought a cake. Tuxi, their black-and-white cat, served as ring bearer. Friends snapped screen shots.

How did it feel? Eames was radiant afterward.

“Fan-freaking-tastic!” she said.

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LAPD expected to cancel vacations, work 12-hour shifts to combat coronavirus

LAPD personnel assemble personal safety kits for field officers earlier this month.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

The Los Angeles Police Department is expected to switch to 12-hour shifts for its officers in the coming weeks and cancel all vacations as a way to staff up in response to the coronavirus outbreak, a law enforcement source told the L.A. Times.

The department is also planning to assign officers to each of the city’s new emergency shelters, which are expected to grow in number, according to the source familiar with the plans who was unable to speak publicly about them.

The plans are still being finalized but are part of a larger effort by the LAPD to mobilize and be of assistance during the public health crisis.

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Fauci: U.S. is ‘not necessarily’ on Italy’s trajectory

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious-diseases specialist, said Sunday that although the United States was “not necessarily” on the same trajectory as that of Italy — which has the world’s highest coronavirus death toll — “we’re going to get hit. There’s no doubt about it.”

Italy’s death toll stands at more than 4,800, including 793 on Saturday alone, Italian officials said.

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, said in an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that some aspects of Italy’s crushing death toll were not yet fully understood by scientists.

“If you look at the dynamics of the outbreak in Italy, we don’t know why they are suffering so terribly,” he said, adding that “many of us believe that early on they did not shut out as well the input of infections that originated in China and came to different parts of the world.”

U.S. prospects might have been improved by bans on travel from China and Europe.

“We have from the beginning been able to put a bit of a clamper” on outside cases, he said.

U.S. cases are concentrated on the West and East coasts, and New York City is home to about one-third of cases. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, appearing on NBC’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday, said, “New Yorkers and all Americans deserve the blunt truth: It is only getting worse.“ And in fact, April and May are going to be a lot worse,” he said.

Fauci said federal resources were being “clearly directed toward hot spots that need it most.”

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How do you become infected with the coronavirus?

The new coronavirus has traveled unseen paths from Wuhan, China, to virtually all corners of the globe. Evidence of its movements abound, from the proliferation of people wearing face masks to the sudden absence of toilet paper on store shelves.

How did a virus that didn’t even exist just a few months ago manage to infect more than 300,000 people and cause more than 13,000 deaths? How exactly does this pathogen spread?

Here’s what scientists have learned so far about the virus known as SARS-CoV-2, which causes the disease known as COVID-19.

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Students hit hard as L.A. community colleges try to work around an epidemic

On Wednesday morning, Los Angeles Trade Technical College student Milagro Jones logged onto his laptop from a one-bedroom apartment in South Los Angeles to attend an online class on human evolution. His 5-year-old daughter, Lydia, at home from preschool, played nearby.

This was supposed to be the first day of online courses after the Los Angeles Community College District announced it would suspend most in-person classes due to the novel coronavirus.

To Jones’ surprise, nobody else — not even the teacher — was online.

“I didn’t know why,” he said.

At the nation’s largest community college district, communication about the coronavirus has been confusing. Less than half of the faculty had been trained in “distance education” before the pandemic hit. Employees lacked access to systems to enable working from home. There were not enough laptops for students and teachers to access online instruction.

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California courts paralyzed by coronavirus, with justice hanging in balance

When he strode to the bench inside the Compton courthouse Friday morning, Superior Court Judge Michael J. Shultz was wearing two items more necessary than his pleated black robe: a pair of latex gloves and a face mask.

Miles north in downtown Los Angeles, caution tape had been placed over entire rows inside the criminal justice center’s notoriously hectic arraignment court to put as much distance as possible between those in the gallery.

Even the simplest of courthouse functions had to be altered. When an attorney asked to approach Superior Court Judge Emily Garcia Uhrig as she worked her way through more than 100 items on her calendar in a Van Nuys courtroom Friday, the judge seemed to eye the bench cautiously, taking stock of the risks of having others so close to her.

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Teachers find many obstacles as they try to keep kids learning amid coronavirus

Misti Kemmer, a fourth-grade teacher at Russell Elementary School in South Los Angeles, is working hard to keep her students learning now that schools are closed. She shares detailed lesson plans on Google Drive, sends messages to families every day and delivers YouTube lectures from her home.

But only three or four of her 28 students accessed their schoolwork last week, she said. Some don’t have computers and others are without internet access. One student can only open assignments on her father’s phone when he gets home from work.

“She’s trying to look at all this stuff on a tiny cellphone after dinner hours,” Kemmer said. “How much is a 9- year-old going to get done?”

“There’s this whole distance-learning thing, but how much learning is actually going on?” she added.

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L.A. County strengthens coronavirus bans: Nail, hair salons, drive-in movies among closures

All gatherings are banned

All public and private gatherings are prohibited anywhere within the jurisdiction of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, which, the order said, includes all unincorporated areas and cities in the county except Long Beach and Pasadena, which have their own health departments.

Previously, only gatherings of 10 or more people were banned.

Nail and hair salons are ordered shut

On Thursday night, Los Angeles County had classified personal grooming services as an essential retail business exempt from an earlier order to close non-essential stores. On Saturday night, the county clarified that personal grooming services “are non-essential services that are closed.”

Golf courses ordered shut

On Saturday morning, golfers took refuge in golf courses around the county. By Saturday night, the county said in a statement that golf courses are ordered closed.

Indoor malls and shopping centers

Indoor malls and shopping centers must shut.

Essential businesses in outdoor malls and shopping centers can remain open.

How essential businesses must operate

Essential businesses need to take the following precautions:

  • Require customers, visitors and workers to be separated by 6 feet, to the extent feasible;
  • Provide hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol or hand-washing facilities with soap and water;
  • post a sign at the entrance instructing people to go away if they are sick, such as having a fever or cough;
  • clean and sanitize the premises.

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‘Time to wake up,’ Newsom says, again urging Californians to stay home in coronavirus fight

SACRAMENTO —
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Saturday urged Californians to abide by his statewide order to stay at home and, if they choose to venture outside for necessities or recreation, to keep a safe distance from others to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Newsom also said his administration is working to clear up confusion over whether his historic executive order issued Thursday conflicted with more stringent mandatory restrictions by some California counties and cities. Negotiations with local governments are underway to sort through the “deeply complex” issues involved, he said.

Newsom’s plea for residents to avoid unnecessary social contact comes after scattered reports across the state that some people have been flocking to the coast, gathering with friends or failing to keep proper social distance from others.

The governor stressed that even those who don’t show any symptoms of COVID-19, including young adults who appear to be less likely to become gravely ill if they do contract it, need to cooperate for the good of others in their communities.

“Be a good neighbor. Be a good citizen. Those young people that are still out there on the beaches thinking this is a party time — grow up,” Newsom said during a news conference on Facebook and Twitter on Saturday afternoon. “It’s time to wake up, time to recognize it’s not just about the old folks. It’s about your impact on their lives. Don’t be selfish, recognize you have a responsibility to meet this moment.”

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Half of NBA and NHL coronavirus cases are linked to Staples Center. What happened?

The NBA’s reach extends across the globe, broadcasting to more than 200 countries and territories while generating almost $9 billion in annual revenue. Its top players are the most powerful in sports, able to reach tens of millions and spark change with a single social media post. The behemoth’s reach and influence across cultures and time zones is built on a massive sum of interconnected parts.

It is a fragile behemoth too, those same woven connections vulnerable to the chain reactions upon which a pandemic preys.

However, a pandemic didn’t seem to be on the minds of players as recently as the first week of March, when the insouciance of the NBA mirrored that of sports at large and the rest of the country.The games went on, with the usual casual human contact: hugs, high-fives, news conferences in cramped locker rooms, charter flights, hotel stays. Life went on, with grocery shelves still filled with cans of beans, bags of pasta, toilet paper. The spread of the novel coronavirus, which had reached the front pages, nonetheless still felt like someone else’s problem.

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Newsom moves California to ‘targeted’ testing, enlists Musk and Cook in coronavirus fight

California’s battle to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus has been joined by some of the state’s most prominent technology companies, Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Saturday, while its health officials are looking to pay new attention to what he called “targeted” testing of the state’s residents.

In an afternoon update, Newsom said the ramp-up of testing should include gauging the effectiveness of state and local efforts to get a handle on community-acquired infections.

“We need to have, I think, a different conversation in this country around testing,” Newsom said in a briefing streamed live on social media. “And that is smart testing, targeted testing. And really delineate what is the purpose of testing.”

Newsom, who has made late afternoon or evening updates to Californians a semi-regular occurrence in recent days, also praised offers of help from tech industry leaders and other business executives across the state. He said Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple, has pledged one million medical masks to be donated specifically to California’s coronavirus efforts. And he said manufacturers in Los Angeles’ garment district and in Northern California had reached out to sew additional masks if needed.

A key need in California and across the country is ventilators, necessary for some of the most serious COVID-19 patients, and the governor cited new efforts by two entrepreneurs to assist in producing the medical equipment. Newsom said that Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, Inc. and Space X, has promised to use the supply chains that support his companies for help in assembling ventilators. The governor also said that K.R. Sridhar, the CEO of Bloom Energy, agreed to help quickly modernize some 200 older ventilators that the state has on hand. The original manufacturer, Newsom said, had estimated doing so would take about a month.

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A third LAPD officer tests positive for the coronavirus

A third Los Angeles police officer has tested positive for the coronavirus and was exhibiting symptoms inside an LAPD station for several days this week, according to law enforcement officials who spoke to The Times on Saturday on condition of anonymity.

The officer, who had recently returned from a vacation out of the country, was “coughing and sweating” during roll call in Central Division, which patrols areas that include downtown L.A., two of the officials said.

Despite protests from several officers in the station, the affected officer was allowed to work for at least two days this week, according to the officials. It was not immediately clear if the officer went out on calls or otherwise interacted with the public.

The officer was tested for the virus, and a positive result came back Saturday, according to three law enforcement officials. Additional officers who worked with the afflicted patrol officer are expected to be quarantined, officials said.

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Prison lockdowns and influenza symptoms spread, along with call for early releases

An aerial view of Mule Creek State Prison in Amador County, Calif., where reports say inmates are being monitored for the novel coronavirus.
(California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation)

Early release from prison is on the table as a state task force begins discussions on how to navigate California’s incarcerated population through the coming storm of the novel coronavirus.

U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller on Friday ordered the task force during a telephone status hearing. The hearing was for updates on prison mental health but instead dwelt almost entirely on COVID-19. The task force’s first meeting was Saturday, involving lawyers for the governor’s office, corrections department, Department of State Hospitals and those representing prisoners in long-running litigation over prison conditions.

At Mueller’s direction, said plaintiff’s attorney Michael Bien, “population is on the table.”

The corrections department has steadfastly declined to answer questions about how many inmates are under watch with influenza-like illness, how many have been tested for COVID-19 and how many are under quarantine.

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Palestinians report first two cases of coronavirus in Gaza Strip

GAZA CITY — The Palestinian Health Ministry announced the first two cases of the coronavirus in the Gaza Strip early Sunday.

In a news conference, Yousef Abu Rish, a Health Ministry official, said the two confirmed coronavirus cases in the Gaza Strip were in two citizens who returned from Pakistan on Thursday.

Abu Rish said both individuals had been in quarantine in a school in Rafah, a city in the southern Gaza Strip, since their return and did not enter public areas in the Gaza Strip. They have been transferred to a newly built, dedicated isolation ward in the Rafah field hospital.

Hamas, the militant group that controls the Gaza Strip, announced it was stopping prayer in mosques and closing restaurants, cafes and wedding halls in the strip.

The developments added to fears of a potential outbreak in the crowded enclave, which has an overstretched healthcare system after years of an Israeli-Egyptian blockade and Palestinian political division.

The blockade has rendered Gaza off-limits to foreign tourists, and Israel and Egypt have shut their borders with the territory as part of measures aimed at containing the virus.

Palestinians returning home can still enter Gaza, but they are sent to quarantine centers.

Special correspondents Noga Tarnopolsky in Jerusalem and Rushdi Abu Alouf in Gaza City contributed to this report.

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Eerie calm before the storm gives ER doctors time to prepare, worry about what’s to come

As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases continues its steep climb in California, many local emergency rooms remain eerily quiet, doctors say, giving them time to prepare but also time to agonize about what could be coming their way.

The L.A. County-USC Medical Center, the flagship hospital of the second-largest municipal health system in the country, can often feel like a war zone, said a physician who works there and spoke on the condition of anonymity. But in recent days, it has been strangely quiet.

Poor people who often use the emergency room as a combination urgent care and doctor’s office have stayed away, he said. “They have stepped up and the nonemergency [patients] that used to overwhelm our waiting room really have stayed home. The ER waiting room has never been this empty.”

Another physician, at Kaiser in Los Angeles, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the joke among the staff is that the only people showing up in their emergency room, “have coronavirus or are having a heart attack.”

An emergency room physician working at hospitals in San Bernardino County told The Times on Saturday morning, “patients are actually listening and the ER is just being used for emergencies.”

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His colleagues at Fox News called coronavirus a ‘hoax’ and ‘scam.’ Why Tucker Carlson saw it differently

Like other journalism organizations, Fox News has gone into overdrive to cover the coronavirus crisis in recent weeks, hiring medical experts and expanding its live broadcast hours to give viewers up-to-date information. The network has also moved aggressively to protect the health of its employees, allowing most of its anchors to broadcast from their homes.

It’s a sharp turn from the attitude of its prominent conservative opinion hosts on the network such as Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham, who earlier in the month were saying the COVID-19 outbreak was being overplayed by the media and used as a political weapon by Democrats against President Trump. Fox Business Network anchor Trish Regan, who described the pandemic as an “impeachment scam” on March 9, has been put on hiatus.

But their colleague Tucker Carlson took a different path after a government official warned him that the pandemic was potentially dangerous and devastating. He warned his viewers of the dangers of the virus while steering clear of criticizing the Trump administration.

When it didn’t appear that the White House was listening, Carlson went to the president in person to deliver the message. While conservative and provocative — his problematic remarks on immigration have alienated many major advertisers from his nightly program — Carlson has become the least predictable cable news talking head. He spoke to The Times on Friday from his Florida home where he has been broadcasting in recent weeks.

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A disaster foretold: Shortages of ventilators and other medical supplies have long been warned about

WASHINGTON — Fear was growing in hospitals across the country in 2009 as a frightening epidemic that came to be called the H1N1 swine flu swept across the globe.

From Galveston, Texas, where a hospital ran out of test kits, to Loma Linda University Medical Center in San Bernardino, which had to set up tents to handle a crush of patients, to New York, where hospitals scrambled to bring on extra emergency staff, it appeared the nation’s healthcare system would be overwhelmed.

The worst did not materialize. The lesson, though, was clear: The nation needed larger caches of standby medical supplies and hospitals that were better prepared to handle a surge of infected patients.

A decade later, the coronavirus crisis is exposing many of the same gaps. Inadequate supplies of protective masks, ventilators, intensive care beds and other medical resources are forcing mass closures of schools and businesses and restrictions on everyday activities as public officials rush to slow the virus so America’s medical system isn’t overwhelmed.

“So much that was predicted has come to pass,” said Marcia Crosse, former head of the healthcare section of the Government Accountability Office. Since the early 2000s, the GAO, the federal government’s leading internal watchdog, has issued a steady stream of reports about poor pandemic planning.

As the current crisis has widened, President Trump has attempted to deflect responsibility for his administration’s poor planning, suggesting the coronavirus outbreak was inconceivable.

“Nobody knew there would be a pandemic or epidemic of this proportion,” the president said Thursday.

The opposite is true. The GAO, public health experts and others issued a steady drumbeat of warnings that America would sooner or later face a widespread infectious disease outbreak or a major bioterrorism attack and was woefully unprepared.

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UC Irvine reports coronavirus case; Orange County total rises to 78

UC Irvine announced that a non-student resident living in campus family housing tested positive for coronavirus but is in good condition.

“The risk to the general campus population remains low,” UCI said in a statement. “As testing becomes more available in the coming weeks, it is likely that we will become aware of additional positive cases within the UCI community.”

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FAA halts flights to New York City airports

The Federal Aviation Administration is temporarily halting flights to New York City-area airports because of coronavirus-related staffing issues at a regional air-traffic control center.

In an alert posted online, the agency advised air traffic controllers to “stop all departures” to Kennedy, LaGuardia, Newark and other airports in the region.

The directive also affects Philadelphia International Airport.

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California’s order to stay at home doesn’t replace stricter local rules

The intersection of the 101 and 110 freeways in downtown Los Angeles on March 20, 2020.
The intersection of the 101 and 110 freeways in downtown Los Angeles on March 20, 2020.
(Carolyn Cole/Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times)

SACRAMENTO — After a day of confusion about the reach of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s historic executive order telling residents to remain at home to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, the state announced that more stringent sets of mandatory restrictions implemented by some California counties and cities will remain in place.

“This is a statewide order. Depending on the conditions in their area, local officials may enforce stricter public health orders. But they may not loosen the state’s order,” state health officials said in a statement released late Friday night.

The governor’s stay-at-home order will remain in effect until “further notice” and could be changed as conditions warrant, the statement said. Issued under broad powers granted to the governor in the state’s Emergency Services Act, Newsom’s executive order is enforceable by law.

Anyone who violates the order could be charged with a misdemeanor, but Newsom said that he did not believe that would be necessary.

The Newsom administration also released a 14-page report explaining which businesses and workers are considered essential and exempt from the stay-at-home order, as well as more detail about personal activities that are allowed and prohibited.

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Californians learn what is ‘essential’ during the coronavirus outbreak

San Jose police Chief Eddie Garcia gave a livestream lesson Friday in what an “essential service” is — and what it isn’t. In the previous 48 hours, he said, his officers had discovered 55 violations, most by businesses that kept their doors open when they should have been closed to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.

The offenders included flower shops and gyms, a video game store, a flea market, a car wash, a gun store, eight smoke shops — and a billiards hall.

“A billiards hall? Are you kidding me?” Garcia asked, visibly frustrated during the Friday morning news conference. “I mean, I don’t know how a billiards hall thought they could be open during this time. Education is going to turn to enforcement very soon.”

It was almost all quiet on the western front Friday, as Californians navigated Day One of an Oregon-to-Mexico stay-at-home order issued Thursday by Gov. Gavin Newsom. Ever in the vanguard, for better or worse, the Golden State was the first in the country to shut down because of novel coronavirus. Northern California municipalities such as San Jose and San Francisco beat California to it, issuing shut-down orders even earlier in the week.

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See 8 hauntingly beautiful shots of Hollywood under ‘stay home’ order

On Thursday evening, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a statewide “stay at home” order. Newsom’s executive order also marks the first mandatory restrictions placed on the lives of all 40 million residents in the state’s fight against the novel coronavirus. The order also prohibits gatherings in enclosed spaces of more than 10 people.

Los Angeles Times photographer Jay L. Clendenin and videographer Mark Potts document the first night of the order in Hollywood.

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Does air pollution make you more susceptible to coronavirus? California won’t like the answer

The rapid spread of the novel coronavirus has many people wondering what environmental factors, beyond age and underlying health problems, make some individuals more vulnerable to COVID-19 than others.

That’s especially true in California, where residents have long struggled with the nation’s worst-polluted air.

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Why is the coronavirus so much more deadly for men than for women?

Men are faring worse than women in the coronavirus pandemic, according to statistics emerging from across the world.

On Friday, White House COVID-19 Task Force director Dr. Deborah Birx cited a report from Italy showing that men in nearly every age bracket were dying at higher rates than women. Birx called it a “concerning trend.”

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ICU beds already near capacity with non-coronavirus patients at L.A. County hospitals

Intensive care beds at Los Angeles County’s emergency-room hospitals are already at or near capacity, even as those facilities have doubled the number available for COVID-19 patients in recent days, according to newly released data obtained by The Times.

Fewer than 200 ICU beds were available Wednesday, with most ICU beds occupied by non-coronavirus patients, according to the data which covers the roughly 70 public and private hospitals in Los Angeles County that receive emergency patients.

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L.A. County tells doctors to skip testing of some patients

Los Angeles County health officials advised doctors to give up on testing patients in the hope of containing the coronavirus outbreak, instructing them to test patients only if a positive result could change how they would be treated.

The guidance, sent by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health to doctors on Thursday, was prompted by a crush of patients and shortage of tests, and could make it difficult to ever know precisely how many people in L.A. County contracted the virus.

The department “is shifting from a strategy of case containment to slowing disease transmission and averting excess morbidity and mortality,” according to the letter. Doctors should test symptomatic patients only when “a diagnostic result will change clinical management or inform public health response.”

The guidance sets in writing what has been a reality all along. The shortage of tests nationwide has meant that many patients suspected of having COVID-19 have not had the diagnosis confirmed by a laboratory.

In addition to the lack of tests, public health agencies across the country lack the staff to trace the source of new cases, drastically reducing the chances of isolating people who have been exposed and thereby containing the outbreak.

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In L.A. County hospitals, ICU beds are already near capacity with non-coronavirus patients

Testing for Covid-19 is going on at UCLA Medical Center, where people can drive up and get tested if they have the symptoms. Photograph taken on March 18, 2020.
Testing for Covid-19 is going on at UCLA Medical Center, where people can drive up and get tested if they have the symptoms. Photograph taken on March 18, 2020.
(Carolyn Cole/Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times)

Intensive care beds at Los Angeles County’s emergency-room hospitals are already at or near capacity, even as those facilities have doubled the number available for COVID-19 patients in recent days, according to newly released data obtained by The Times.

Fewer than 200 ICU beds were available Wednesday, with most ICU beds occupied by non-coronavirus patients, according to the data which covers the roughly 70 public and private hospitals in Los Angeles County that receive emergency patients.

The figures, which haven’t been disclosed previously, offer the first real-time glimpse of capacity levels at hospitals from Long Beach to the Antelope Valley and raise fresh worries that the hospital system, which is already strained by shortages, could soon run short of beds.

“I am very concerned. We have a limited number of ICU beds available in L.A. County,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn, who urged residents to heed social-distancing orders to reduce infection rates and strain on medical resources. “I would like to begin exploring every possible solution to increase the capacity of our hospital system, including building pop-up hospital sites.”

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As Los Angeles confronts coronavirus, a slower city is visible from above

As businesses and schools close in response to the coronavirus pandemic, some of Los Angeles’ most visible signs of human activity are fading. Freeways are open. Skies are clear. Ports are slowed.

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California’s final presidential primary results may be delayed due to coronavirus

SACRAMENTO —The final results from California’s presidential primary might not be known until late April, after Gov. Gavin Newsom gave local elections officials additional time to tally the votes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Newsom issued an executive order on Friday adding 21 days for California counties to report results from the March 3 statewide primary. By law, counties normally have 30 days after an election to complete the official count and submit those numbers to the secretary of state.

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Gov. Gavin Newsom deploys California National Guard to assist food banks during coronavirus outbreak

SACRAMENTO —Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday deployed the California National Guard to assist food banks statewide serving residents whose needs have not been met due to food shortages during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Newsom said the short-term deployment will initially assist a food bank distribution warehouse in Sacramento County and will also assess the needs of other California counties that have requested assistance with their food bank programs.

“It’s in these times of crisis that Californians are at their best, coming to the aid of those in their community who are most in need. Food banks provide a critical lifeline for families, and are needed now more than ever,” Newsom said in a statement released Friday night. “Families across our state are suddenly losing work, and millions of Californians most vulnerable to COVID-19 are staying home to protect their health and the health of others.”

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Homeless people have concerns over new facilities and protection from coronavirus

As Los Angeles hustled to convert some of its shuttered recreation centers into shelters for homeless people at high risk from the coronavirus, some homeless people said they had concerns about the new facilities and how they would be protected from COVID-19.

“All over the city they’re telling people not to congregate, yet they’re telling homeless people to congregate in these recreation centers,” said David Busch, a longtime activist who is homeless in Venice. “What protection are we going to have?”

Busch, 64, said he had been trying to isolate himself in his tent since the virus began to spread.

Like other homeless people in the city, the shutdowns have had particular impact on his daily life: As libraries and coffee shops shuttered in Venice, Busch has struggled to find somewhere to charge his phone, ultimately resorting to a bus with charging ports.

“I ended up riding the bus for five hours, for two days in a row, just to get my electronics charged,” Busch said.

In Chatsworth, Rita Dunn said she and other homeless people have nowhere to shower after Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti ordered gyms to shut down. Last night, some of them went to a grocery store and found little left on the shelves. The only milk left at the store, Dunn said, was Snickers-flavored.

Despite those hardships, Dunn was not eager to go to a shelter. “I don’t think that cramming in beds is going to be effective,” she said.

Dunn, an artist who is running for her neighborhood council, believes she already got the virus earlier this year, when she suffered pain in her joints and a cough that was “like glue in my lungs.” The same symptoms had swept through an entire group of homeless people after they were ejected from another spot in Chatsworth, she said.

“Everybody here could hear hacking and coughing all night,” Dunn said. “Nobody had any concern about us then.”

And in Van Nuys, Jennifer Freilich was wrestling with whether she would go to a shelter, weighing the possible risk of a bigger crowd against a roof over her head. She wondered out loud why the city hadn’t set up more shelters long before the pandemic.

“Why does it take a virus to do that?” Freilich asked.

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Could California see 25.5 million coronavirus cases in two months?

On Wednesday, in a letter asking President Trump for help handling the novel coronavirus, Gov. Gavin Newsom made a startling prediction: More than half of Californians could be infected with the fast-moving sickness in two-month period.

That would be 25.5 million people, with the potential for more than 5 million — 20% — requiring hospitalization. The state is attempting to build capacity in its hospitals to about 100,000 beds.

Taken together, the potential number of patients is alarming, given the capacity to help them.

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Film academy considers Oscar eligibility rules change with coronavirus theater closings

“Crip Camp,” a documentary about a “summer camp for the handicapped run by hippies” that inspired the disabled rights movement, opened the Sundance Film Festival in January with volunteers turning away ticket holders because every seat in the Eccles Theater was spoken for.

Outside, there was a massive scrum with rumors flying that Barack and Michelle Obama, executive producers on the film through their company Higher Ground, might be attending. That proved to be wishful thinking, but their absence didn’t dampen the response to the movie. “Crip Camp” left Sundance with the festival’s Documentary Audience Award, great reviews and the feeling that it could follow the path of “American Factory,” the Netflix/Higher Ground film that won the documentary Oscar this year.

“Crip Camp” might still wind up at the Oscars. But if it does (provided the Oscars actually take place), it will be traveling a different path — as might every movie with awards aspirations in 2020, owing to the current COVID-19 pandemic.

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Metro expects ‘massive’ budget hit from coronavirus as ridership plummets

Ridership on California’s largest transit system has fallen by more than half during the coronavirus outbreak as life in Los Angeles County has all but ground to a halt, officials said Friday.

On Wednesday, trips on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s six rail lines were down nearly two-thirds compared with a typical day, and bus ridership was down by about 53%, the agency said.

Metro does not plan to shut down the system, which is a “lifeline” for people who still need to commute to essential jobs, take care of relatives, go to medical appointments and run errands, Chief Executive Phil Washington said Friday.

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Some of Mexico’s wealthiest residents went to Colorado to ski. They brought home coronavirus

Each winter, some of Mexico’s wealthiest residents flock to the snowy slopes of Colorado to ski, shop and socialize.

This year, at least 14 — and likely many more — came home infected with the coronavirus.

In a country that has not yet been hard hit by the pandemic, the travelers have become a focal point of efforts to prevent the virus from spreading widely.

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In the age of coronavirus, California sees cannabis as essential

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ICU beds already near capacity with non-coronavirus patients at L.A. County hospitals

Intensive care beds at Los Angeles County‘s emergency-room hospitals are already at or near capacity, even as those facilities have doubled the number available for COVID-19 patients in recent days, according to newly released data obtained by The Times.

Fewer than 200 ICU beds were available Wednesday, with most ICU beds occupied by non-coronavirus patients, according to the data which covers the roughly 70 public and private hospitals in Los Angeles County that receive emergency patients.

The figures, which haven’t been disclosed previously, offer the first real-time glimpse of capacity levels at hospitals from Long Beach to the Antelope Valley and raise fresh worries that the hospital system, which is already plagued with shortages, could soon run short of beds.

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Tracking coronavirus in California

After an outbreak in China, the coronavirus pandemic has killed thousands and reached nearly every corner of the world, including California.

Scientists say the true number of U.S. cases is probably far above the official tally of positive tests. But here’s what we know so far about the statewide spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.

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‘Hamilton’ at the Pantages cancels shows through mid-April due to coronavirus

“Hamilton” at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre has suspended nearly three more weeks of performances because of the coronavirus.

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit musical, part of the Pantages-Dolby Theatre Broadway in Hollywood lineup, has scrapped shows through April 19. The production announced Friday afternoon that it has automatically initiated refunds for ticket holders of these performances and is encouraging patrons to rebook seats for a later date in the run, which ends Nov. 22.

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Authorities suspend payment by case for tolls on seven Bay Area bridges

To combat the spread of the coronavirus, authorities ordered the suspension of collection of tolls by cash on the seven state-owned bridges in the Bay Area, including the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

Toll collection will now only be done electronically.

Drivers without Fastrak electronic transponders will be mailed a bill for the toll, using information gathered by the bridges’ toll booth camera system.

The Golden Gate Bridge, which is not operated by the state, switched to all-electronic tolls in 2013.

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Why Asia now looks safer than the U.S. in the coronavirus crisis

In January, as Singapore racked up the highest numbers of coronavirus infections outside China, an alarmed Shasta Grant searched for flights back home to Indianapolis.

The 44-year-old American writer, who moved to this island city-state with her family eight years ago, worried that their adopted home would be ravaged again by a runaway disease and that the school where her husband teaches and their 12-year-old son studies would be closed. She feared food shortages, overwhelmed hospitals and travel bans.

But her husband persuaded her not to flee. Two months later, Singapore and other Asian nations have largely corralled their outbreaks while the virus roars across North America and Europe, leaving Grant dumbstruck at how quickly the U.S. went from a distant spectator of the epidemic to one of its primary victims.

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Army Corps of Engineers to convert hotels, dorms for hospital units amid coronavirus’ spread

In a dramatic sign of the coronavirus’ anticipated toll, the Army Corps of Engineers is planning to convert vacant hotels, college dormitories and other facilities into intensive care wards with tens of thousands of makeshift hospital beds, first in New York but probably expanding to California and other states.

That announcement Friday at a Pentagon news conference by Lt. Gen Todd T. Semonite, commander of Army Corps of Engineers, marks an escalation of the U.S. military role. Already it is providing 2,000 ventilators and 5 million protective masks and preparing to dispatch hospital ships on both coasts. Governors are calling up thousands of National Guard troops.

Yet, the armed forces face serious limitations in joining the response to the COVID-19 outbreak, current and former officials warn, not least because their expertise is in handling battlefield injuries, not infectious disease. Military doctors are already providing essential services to a more than a million service members and their families, and medical personnel in the reserves are hard at work —in their own communities.

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Two more patients have died in Santa Clara County

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Member of Pence’s staff tests positive for coronavirus

A member of Vice President Mike Pence’s office tested positive for coronavirus, his office confirmed Friday.

Neither Pence nor President Trump had “close contact” with the individual, his press secretary said.

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Yosemite National Park shuts down over coronavirus

Yosemite National Park shut down to all visitors Friday, according to a park release. The park closed at 3 p.m. “at the request of the local health department,” the statement said.

There will be no access permitted into the park until further notice. The closure will be enforced 24/7.

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Coronavirus testing hits with another snag

One week after the Trump administration promised a massive expansion of free coronavirus testing, the commercial labs tasked with the effort say they need emergency funding to meet rapidly increasing demand, marking the latest snag in the problem-plagued program.

In a letter sent to congressional leaders Wednesday, the industry trade group for the laboratories requested $5 billion and expressed concern over whether they would bear the costs of the administration’s promise that testing would be free for all Americans.

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MLS extends moratorium on organized team practices through March 27

Major League Soccer on Friday extended its moratorium on organized team practices through March 27 in response to the continued spread of the novel coronavirus.

MLS placed a four-day ban on training sessions last week, then extended that into the weekend before adding another week to the moratorium Friday. Under the ban, team training facilities can be accessed for physical therapy purposes only and players cannot work out together because that would violate social-distancing practices.

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Standardized testing: Important changes to AP, SAT; K-12 tests canceled

The Trump administration announced Friday that states will be allowed to cancel federally mandated standardized tests in K-12 schools for the current year, as part of an ongoing disruption of familiar student performance measures caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

Also, high school students will be able to take Advanced Placement tests at home and the SAT college admissions test is canceled through May, among other schedule changes.

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California isn’t a ghost town under coronavirus rules. But it’s pretty quiet out there

Chaz Manzanares and Andrew Luna stood beneath gray skies Friday morning in the nearly empty parking lot at the closed Del Amo Fashion Center. Their voices carried through the vast, empty parking lot, which usually has valet parking and idling drivers stalling for elusive parking spaces.

The two were waiting for a quick employee meeting. Manzanares works as a restaurant server in the mall, as does Luna’s girlfriend.

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Unsure if California coronavirus rules hit your business? Good luck finding out

Loren Pochirowski, who runs a small manufacturer of radio equipment and power supplies in Irvine, Calif., watched Gov. Gavin Newsom’s statewide stay-at-home order on television with intense interest Thursday. He was left scratching his head.

He’d hoped for clarity on the most important question in his life right now: Should he close his business, or keep it open?

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“It’s a stake in the back”: ‘Nonessential’ businesses close after stay-home orders

For more than 100 years, California Floral Co. has stood sentinel in downtown Los Angeles.

The florist predates the founding of Warner Bros, UCLA and the first concerts at the Hollywood Bowl. It made it through World War II and closed for only a day or two during the 1992 L.A. riots. But the novel coronavirus could bring California Floral to its knees.

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