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Coronavirus updates: California will ‘do the right thing’ on restrictions, Newsom says

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

Coronavirus updates for April 16 are here

Column: Newsom is helping immigrants amid coronavirus pandemic. There’s nothing Trump can do about it

Three years ago, President Trump complained to Fox News that California was “out of control.” What he meant was that the state was out of his control. It still is.

And states always will be, no matter who is occupying the Oval Office.

Trump must have been asleep in his high school civics class when the teacher lectured about states’ rights and the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Trump has been knocked down by federal courts a few times when he tried to force his will on California.

The “out of control” gripe was a reference to legislation pending in Sacramento to declare California a “sanctuary state” for immigrants living here illegally. The president threatened to withhold federal funds if the Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown enacted the bill. They did. But Trump wasn’t allowed to block funds already appropriated by Congress.

Last Monday, Trump declared he had “total” authority to reopen states that governors had shut down to slow the spread of the coronavirus, even if they objected. Governors ignored him and proceeded with their own planning. Trump soon backed off and told the governors he was authorizing them to call their “own shots” — so-called authorization they didn’t need.

One of my favorite California rebuffs of Trump came last week when Gov. Gavin Newsom authorized payments of $500 each to undocumented workers — up to $1,000 per household — as partial reconciliation for their snub by the president and Republican U.S. Senate.

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‘Under siege’: 55 deaths at New York care home blamed on COVID-19

As residents at a nursing home in Kirkland, Wash., began dying in late February from a coronavirus outbreak that would eventually take 43 lives, there was little sign of trouble at the Cobble Hill Health Center, a 360-bed facility in an upscale section of Brooklyn.

Its Facebook page posted a cheerful story encouraging relatives to quiz their aging loved ones about their lives, and photos of smiling third graders at a nearby school making flower arrangements for residents.

That quickly changed. By the middle of March, the CEO began sending increasingly alarmed emails about banning visitors, screening staff, confining residents, wiping down all surfaces, and having all-hands-on-deck meetings to prepare everyone for the coming coronavirus “freight train.”

Now listed with 55 deaths it can only assume were caused by COVID-19, among the most of any such facility in the country, Cobble Hill Health Center has become yet another glaring example of the nation’s struggle to control the rapid spread of the coronavirus in nursing homes that care for the most frail and vulnerable.

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India reports biggest one-day virus spike as lockdown eased

India recorded its biggest single-day spike in coronavirus cases on Monday as the government eased one of the world’s strictest lockdowns to allow some manufacturing and agricultural activity to resume.

An additional 1,553 cases were reported over 24 hours, raising the national total past 17,000. At least 543 people have died from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus, and epidemiologists forecast the peak may not be reached before June.

The shelter-in-place orders imposed in India on March 24 halted all but essential services. Starting Monday, limited industry and farming were allowed to resume where employers could meet social distancing and hygiene norms, and migrant workers can travel within states to factories, farms and other work sites.

The loosening of restrictions comes as India continues to ramp up testing, build up stocks of ventilators and personal protective equipment and prepare makeshift isolation wards and dedicated COVID-19 hospitals.

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A zoo without visitors: Animal care goes on as revenue dries up amid coronavirus crisis

Belmont Park shuts down and nobody gets to ride the Giant Dipper roller coaster. Legoland closes and tiny plastic bricks don’t get fashioned into buildings at Miniland USA.

Shutter a zoo, though, and the animals remain. They need food and care, and that costs money. You can’t furlough a flamingo. You can’t lay off a lion.

So it is that Don Sterner found himself with 4,000 exotic butterflies and no one to show them to.

Sterner is a wildlife care manager at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, where the 43-year veteran is in charge of the birds. This time of year, he also oversees the popular Butterfly Jungle, which for two decades has temporarily taken over an aviary at the park with a riotous splash of flowering plants and fluttering wings.

Butterfly Jungle was supposed to open March 21 and run through Mother’s Day. But those plans, like countless others, were upended by the coronavirus pandemic. The Safari Park and its sister facility, the San Diego Zoo, which together last year drew 5 million visitors, closed to the public on March 16.

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Storage facilities are open despite coronavirus. For some, it’s more rent they can’t pay

After flying back to her parent’s house in Washington state in February after two years abroad, Kirsten Barrie hoped she would be able to retrieve her items from a storage facility in Glendale, where she used to live, and bring them back up north before figuring out her next move.

Then, state-by-state, the country started to shut down as cases of the deadly novel coronavirus began to spread. Residents in both Washington and California were ordered to stay at home except for essential needs in late March.

But come April 1, a $1,200 bill for Barrie’s Public Storage unit was still due. The sum included March and April’s rent — at $500 a month — in addition to late fees. Another fee was slapped on for paying the entire amount a few days after the first of the month.

Amid forced closures of nonessential businesses across California, storage facilities have stayed open.

Some people moving in with relatives or downsizing their living space to save money amid the public-health-turned-economic crisis are leasing space in storage facilities to stash belongings they can’t bring with them, said McKall Morris, a spokeswoman with Extra Storage.

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This Bay Area town is among the first to offer coronavirus testing to every resident

The remote Bay Area town of Bolinas is among the first communities in the world to attempt to test all of its residents for the novel coronavirus.

Bolinas, population 1,600, will offer free tests Monday through Thursday to residents 4 years and older up, according to a statement from UC San Francisco, whose staffers will administer the tests.

The community-wide testing effort was spearheaded by two locals, venture capitalist Jyri Engestrom and pharmaceutical company executive Cyrus Harmon. Nearly the entire town was registered for testing as of Friday, according to the Mercury News.

The drive-through test will entail a mouth and throat swab to check for active infection and a finger prick to detect antibodies, a crucial step in determining who has already had the virus. A second round of testing will follow two weeks later if enough money is raised.

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California reports first prison inmate death caused by the coronavirus

California corrections officials announced the first prison inmate death Sunday from complications related to the novel coronavirus.

The inmate died at a hospital after contracting COVID-19 at the California Institution for Men in San Bernardino County, the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said in a statement.

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What Germany is doing right to fight the coronavirus

Germany has one of the lowest coronavirus case fatality rates. While 50 out of every 1,000 people with confirmed infections in the U.S. have died, in Germany it’s only 26 per 1,000.

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‘Delusional’: Governors call out White House on dearth of coronavirus testing

Even as President Trump on Sunday continued to tout the nation’s capacity for adequate coronavirus testing, several governors took to the airwaves to vehemently challenge his assessment and to complain that the federal government had been laggardly in helping provide support for health systems and local economies.

“I am right on testing,” Trump tweeted Sunday. “Governors must be able to step up and get the job done. We will be with you ALL THE WAY!”

Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, among others, countered Trump, saying it was “delusional” to believe enough testing was in place to move quickly on easing restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the deadly virus.

“We are fighting a biological war,” Northam said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” adding that governors have been left “to fight that war without the supplies we need.”

“Our president, obviously, has been unable to deliver on tests,” Northam said.

U.S. testing rates for the coronavirus lag behind those of many other countries weathering the pandemic, with several governors and health experts saying that the White House has not stepped up to order the production of sufficient supplies of tests, nasal swabs and other necessary materials and has also failed to coordinate a national response.

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California will ‘do the right thing’ when lifting stay-at-home orders, Newsom says

The number of coronavirus cases in California topped 30,000, with nearly 1,150 deaths, as officials said that science — not political pressure — would determine when they began to reopen the economy.

Although the state is seeing the rate of new infections from the coronavirus declining, Gov. Gavin Newsom said rising death counts were a major concern.

“For those who think we are out of the woods … I caution you on the basis” of the death toll, Newsom said Saturday.

As for lifting some stay-at-home orders, Newsom added: “We are going to do the right thing, not judge by politics, not judge by protests, but by science.”

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California lessons from the 1918 pandemic: San Francisco dithered; Los Angeles acted and saved lives

A handout picture provided by the California State Library shows people waiting in line to get flu masks on Montgomery Street in San Francisco in 1918. Unlike Los Angeles, San Francisco stressed mask wearing, but not social distancing during the Spanish flu pandemic.
A handout picture provided by the California State Library shows people waiting in line to get flu masks on Montgomery Street in San Francisco in 1918. Unlike Los Angeles, San Francisco stressed mask wearing, but not social distancing during the Spanish flu pandemic.
(Hamilton Henry Dobbin / California State Library)

The big, striving city on the south coast moved fairly quickly at the first signs of danger — shutting down bars, pool halls, sporting events and more.

Its rival to the north waited at least a week longer to order closures, as its leaders went mask-happy, betting that their best weapon against the onrushing contagion was face coverings, and going slow on what is now referred to as “social distancing.”

The two great cities charted their disparate paths in the months that followed, straining — amid rudimentary science and massive public pressure — to craft the proper response to the greatest infectious disease emergency in modern memory.

Some 102 years later, this tale of two cities offers some cautionary insights as a few states, responding to President Trump’s urging, take steps to open up.

Los Angeles and San Francisco in the early 20th century were vastly different places than they are now. But they already had distinct cultures and leaders who responded to the great Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 in markedly different ways, thereby producing distinctly different outcomes.

At the helm in one city was a headstrong public health commissioner, who defied the mayor and city council to lock down his city, but only so much. The other also had a physician as its chief health officer, but one who relied even less on quarantine-style limitations, grasping, instead, for a dubious solution.

Yet Los Angeles, San Francisco and 20 other cities across America shared one common failing, a mistake that would spur a “double hump” of contagion. That second surge of influenza infections in 1918 hit both Los Angeles and San Francisco and killed more people than the first wave in other cities, such as Denver, Kansas City, Milwaukee and St. Louis.

“The really important lesson of 1918 is to keep interventions in place as long as possible,” said Alex Navarro, assistant director of the Center for the History of Medicine at the University of Michigan. “Because once the controls are removed, it’s very difficult to reinstate them.”

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Advocates say hundreds of immigrants detained in California are on hunger strike. ICE says only two

On April 8, Jose Mendez, an immigrant held at Adelanto ICE Processing Center near Victorville, said things had noticeably changed at the facility: Some guards had started wearing masks, detainees could no longer leave their cells for yard time and meals were delivered to them.

Mendez said detainees had asked for their own masks, gloves and cleaning supplies to protect against the coronavirus, and facility staff promised they’d get some. But they never delivered, he said. The 38-year-old had grown increasingly concerned about the virus, particularly because he has high blood pressure and diabetes. He wanted to get out but didn’t have a lawyer.

Two days later, Mendez and other detainees in his pod complained to guards who weren’t wearing masks about lack of protection against the virus. He said their complaints were never addressed.

“We all collectively decided that we’d start a hunger strike if they won’t change,” Mendez said. “If one person becomes infected, we all do.”

Advocates say hundreds of immigrants detained in California facilities are now on hunger strike over conditions that leave them vulnerable to contracting COVID-19.

But officials with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Friday that two detainees are on hunger strike at Adelanto and none at any other facility. According to ICE policy, facility staff must record detainees not eating for 72 hours before designating a hunger strike.

“ICE does not retaliate in any way against hunger strikers,” the agency said. “ICE explains the negative health effects of not eating to our detainees. For their health and safety, ICE closely monitors the food and water intake of those detainees identified as being on a hunger strike.”

Across the country, 124 immigrants and 30 ICE employees at detention centers have tested positive for the virus. With 18 confirmed cases, the second-largest outbreak among ICE detainees at any facility is at Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego.

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This federal judge is risking his life to save homeless people from the coronavirus

U.S. District Court Judge David O. Carter tours skid row in April.
U.S. District Court Judge David O. Carter tours skid row in April.
(Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times)

“Anybody want to test my accountability by walking with me in a few moments down to skid row?”

U.S. District Judge David O. Carter leveled the question at a room full of attorneys on a recent Tuesday afternoon.

“Do you all believe me, or do you want to see it?” he pressed. “Do you want to see it?”

At 76 years old, Carter knows he should be at home and away from people, not in a cavernous ballroom in the basement of the Alexandria Hotel surrounded by attorneys and journalists, or outside leading a tour of the largest concentration of homeless people in the country. Public officials have warned that his age puts him at high risk for contracting the coronavirus and dying of COVID-19.

But as the pandemic has unfolded, Carter, long known as brash, verbose and stubbornly hands-on, has been on a mission to force changes in the living conditions for the homeless people of L.A.

He is the judge assigned to a lawsuit filed last month against the city and county of Los Angeles by the L.A. Alliance for Human Rights. The group of business owners and downtown residents, among others, is demanding solutions to what they see as unsafe and inhumane conditions in encampments — especially given the pandemic.

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L.A. County reaches ‘very sad milestone’ as coronavirus-related deaths rise

Los Angeles County on Saturday ended a grim week in the battle against the coronavirus, announcing 81 new deaths and setting another record for single-day fatalities.

Deaths have increased significantly in the last week in Los Angeles County, even as there are growing signs that the number of new coronavirus cases across California is beginning to level off and decline in some places. The county already accounts for a disproportionate number of coronavirus deaths in the state.

In the last week, deaths among L.A. County residents have roughly doubled and now stand at more than 570, said Barbara Ferrer, the county’s public health director.

“Today marks a very sad milestone for our county,” Ferrer said in a statement Saturday. “We are reporting the highest number of COVID-19 deaths for any one day since the beginning of the pandemic, and our deepest condolences go out to each and every person grieving the loss of their loved ones.”

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Gang workers helping keep residents indoors, safe during coronavirus crisis

Gernay Quinnie Jr. helps people who live in a vacant parking lot in South Los Angeles.
Gernay Quinnie Jr., left, with Reclaiming America’s Communities Through Empowerment helps people who live in a vacant parking lot in South Los Angeles.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Gernay Quinnie Jr. slipped on a mask and gloves on a recent morning and set out to quell tensions in his West Athens neighborhood.

He talked a young man through a conflict with his mom. He helped a group of young people make food boxes for neighbors. He then drove to a nearby homeless encampment to pass out food and toiletries and explained how to properly use a mask and gloves.

The tasks all carry an added threat of contracting the coronavirus, and Quinnie, who suffers from an immune disorder, is especially at risk.

With much of Los Angeles County shuttered because of the pandemic, Quinnie is one of many gang-intervention workers still on the streets, tending to the neighborhoods where they grew up, places where historical disparities in access to healthcare, jobs and adequate housing make residents especially vulnerable to infection and death.

“If I don’t go out, who else is going to do it?” said Quinnie, 38, who has worked with Reclaiming America’s Communities through Empowerment, an intervention and prevention group, for about a year.

The intervention workers — some themselves former gang members — help reduce violence and retaliation and broker peace between rival street gangs. Los Angeles County is one of a handful of places that has designated such work as essential during the coronavirus pandemic.

These days, the workers are also using their street credibility to dispel misinformation and educate people about the coronavirus. They’re also trying to adapt to the needs of their communities, whether it’s walking door-to-door to feed the newly unemployed and the homeless or setting up Zoom meetings for young people to ask questions about the virus.

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Not a student? Not a problem as L.A. schools become food pantries for all amid coronavirus crisis

Benjamin and Samuel Zuniga look to education to improve their future. But for now, the brothers are relying on their school district to help put food on the table.

“People are just living off what they can afford basically,” said Benjamin, who takes college classes but lost his job, as have other family members. His brother Samuel, a Venice High School junior, is the only family member who attends a Los Angeles public school. But the L.A. school district is feeding the entire six-person clan.

“Of course we take advantage of all the food giveaways,” Benjamin said. “Just thank God.”

Although campuses are closed, school districts throughout the state have taken on a critical role during the coronavirus crisis: feeding children shut in at home and paying for it with money from the federal school-lunch program. Morning drop-off lanes have been transformed into food pickup drive-throughs; school buses in rural areas leave food boxes at familiar bus stops; families stand clustered outside campuses in walk-up lines, spaced six feet apart by cones, to receive “grab and go” bags.

But the largest, perhaps most generous and financially risky school system effort in the state, if not the country, is underway at 63 campuses in the Los Angeles Unified School District, which is giving away meals not only to students, but for anyone who shows up — no questions asked, except: How many do you need?

“This is a community in crisis,” said L.A. schools Supt. Austin Beutner. “Anyone who arrives looking for food — we’re assuming needs the food — and we’re going to provide it.”

Since March 18, the nation’s second-largest school district has emerged as a mammoth food distribution operation, serving about 9.8 million meals so far at campuses strategically located through the school system’s broad expanse and partnering with the Red Cross and the regional food bank.

To put it in perspective, the Red Cross said it helped provide 382,100 meals and snacks in the wake of the devastating 2018 California wildfires; 4.5 million after Hurricane Harvey, which struck Texas and Louisiana in 2017; and 12.8 million that same year after Hurricane Maria ripped through Puerto Rico.

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On the road to Las Vegas, rural residents think coronavirus fears are overblown

Glenndon Bundy at his ranch in Alamo, Nev.
Glenndon Bundy at his ranch in Alamo, Nev.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

CALIENTE, Nev. — Glenndon Bundy adjusted his cowboy hat and leaned against a wooden post near the shoulder of Highway 93. A dry wind blew past; not much happening. A manager at the Sunset View Inn waved him over.

“People are overreacting to this damn coronavirus thing,” he told Bundy, taking a drag from his cigarette. “Every election year there’s a new disease! It’s being blown out of proportion.”

Bundy stood silent and listened. It’s best out here in Alamo, an hour and a half outside Las Vegas, to give a man space, let him unwind.

Running north through Las Vegas, out on the eastern end of Nevada’s open roads, is lonely Highway 93: a stretch where hundreds of miles of desolate terrain separate rural towns that resemble America’s rustic Wild West past. The desert sand stings the eyes with the slightest gust and hopes and dreams lift and die in the great expanse.

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Trump careened through a critical week in the coronavirus crisis

President Trump leaves the podium in the Rose Garden.
President Trump leaves the podium after a news conference in the Rose Garden last week.
(Mandel Ngan / AFP/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — When AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka was shown a draft last week of President Trump’s plan to reopen the economy, he worried it didn’t offer enough testing for the coronavirus to ensure that millions of Americans could safely return to work.

“I’ve heard people say we have all the tests we need,” Trumka said. “That’s just not the case right now on the ground.”

So after he was named to a presidential advisory group, Trumka planned to raise his concerns in a conference call. But with dozens dialed in, the head of the country’s largest federation of labor unions never got to speak.

In the end, it didn’t matter. The draft that Trumka saw Tuesday was the same set of guidelines that Trump announced Thursday, recommendations that took scant notice of crippling supply shortages and insufficient tests in much of the country.

Days after Trump said he was considering “without question the biggest decision I’ve ever had to make,” he put the onus on the nation’s governors to shoulder the challenge — and assume the blame if the deadly virus doesn’t cooperate — rather than take responsibility himself.

Like many of Trump’s promises and announcements, his much-touted advisory councils — packed with corporate executives, Wall Street leaders and other boldfaced names — were more about public relations than substance, an attempt to create an appearance of support for what the president had already decided.

It was a week when the pandemic killed more Americans faster than ever before — more than 38,000 have perished since COVID-19 appeared — and the Labor Department reported that an unprecedented 22 million people had filed unemployment claims in the previous month.

But in what might have been the peak of the crisis, Trump offered contradictory and partisan messages, careening from one controversy to the next, while alternately boasting of his performance and grumbling about his media image.

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How Trump let the U.S. fall behind the curve on coronavirus threat

Medical workers load a patient into an ambulance Tuesday in Wuhan, China.
(Costfoto/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — The first day President Trump mentioned the coronavirus in public, only one American was known to be infected. He assured the rest of the country it had no reason to worry.

“We have it totally under control,” Trump said Jan. 22 from Davos, Switzerland. “It’s going to be just fine.”

Behind the scenes, however, even some of his close aides thought the virus posed a much greater threat to the nation and to Trump.

Three months later, the United States leads the world in reported numbers of people infected and killed by the virus, with more than 39,000 dead. States, counties and local hospitals are desperately bidding against one another for scarce ventilators and other lifesaving equipment in a marketplace dominated by chaos, profiteering and fraud. And the country’s economy is in free fall, with more than 20 million Americans filing unemployment claims in the last month.

Trump has at various times called the catastrophe unforeseeable or blamed the World Health Organization and China; his predecessor, who he claimed left him an “empty shelf” of medical equipment; and state governors whom he accused of mismanaging the health crisis.

But from the first international reports of the virus’ appearance in China in late December until Trump declared a nationwide emergency in mid-March, his administration delayed or bungled basic but crucial steps to contain the spread of infections and prepare the country for a pandemic, according to a Times review of internal government records and interviews with administration officials and outside experts.

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Governors say — despite White House claims — they need supplies, federal help to ramp up testing

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, shown in February 2019.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, shown in February 2019, says her state needs supplies in order to increase testing.
(Al Goldis / Associated Press)

President Trump came under new criticism Sunday from governors who said the White House was pushing to reopen the country’s economy without a proper testing regimen in place for coronavirus infections.

Trump last week unveiled guidelines for easing, in phases, the shelter-in-place restrictions that shuttered many businesses across the country. The president declared at a briefing Saturday that the country had “tremendous testing capacity” and accused opponents of “trying to politicize the issue of testing.”

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, said it was “delusional” to assert that there was enough testing in place to move quickly on easing restrictions.

“Our president, obviously, has been unable to deliver on tests,” Northam said on CNN’s “State of the Union.

Although U.S. testing rates lag behind those of many other countries weathering the pandemic, Vice President Mike Pence said Sunday that smaller numbers of tests could suffice if carefully targeted. He also said states needed to step up their efforts.

“We’re doing 150,000 tests a day now,” Pence said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” adding that “if states around the country will activate all of the laboratories that are available in their states, we could more than double that overnight.”

But governors, including some Republicans, said more federal action was needed to bring testing up to effective levels. Some public health experts have said widespread measures to reopen the economy will need to be accompanied by half a million tests a day.

“I think this is probably the No. 1 problem in America, and has been from the beginning of this crisis — the lack of testing,” Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Hogan, who heads the National Governors Assn., said he had “repeatedly made this argument to the leaders in Washington on behalf of the rest of the governors in America.”

Some state executives pointed out that the federal role was crucial in certain aspects of the testing process. Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, a Republican, said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that states “shouldn’t be making their own decisions on that stuff.”

“Everything associated with testing has to be approved by the CDC and the FDA, as it should be,” Baker said on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” referring to the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, whom Trump has often singled out for criticism, said on NBC that states like hers had the capacity to ramp up testing if they received needed supplies as part of a coordinated federal effort.

“Part of the story in Michigan is we have the capacity to double or triple the number of tests that we are doing, but we need some of these supplies,” she said, citing chemical reagents and swabs. “You can’t process all of these tests if you can’t take the sample and protect it and move forward though testing.”

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Disney stops paying nearly half its workforce

Walt Disney Co. will stop paying more than 100,000 employees this week, nearly half of its workforce, as the world’s biggest entertainment company tries to weather the coronavirus lockdown.

Suspending pay for thousands of so-called cast members will save Disney up to $500 million a month across its theme parks and hotels, which have been shut in Europe and the U.S. for almost five weeks.

But slashing fixed costs in a more severe way than other theme-park owners, such as NBCUniversal and Warner Media, poses significant risks to the reputation of the century-old empire behind Mickey Mouse.

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Protesters fed up with stay-at-home orders rally in San Diego

SAN DIEGO — One month into a statewide stay-home order that has upended daily life as we know it, protesters took to the downtown streets Saturday and demanded that California reopen.

“I think at [this] point people have had enough and they want to get back to work again,” said retired Point Loma resident Darla Clark, noting many of her friends have lost their jobs. “This is definitely where the cure is going to be worse than the disease.”

The rally, which mirrored several others staged across the nation in the last week, ignored repeated calls from health experts and local public officials to keep the restrictions in place for potentially several weeks longer to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

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Treasury secretary, top Democrats confident new coronavirus aid will be approved soon

WASHINGTON — The White House and leading congressional Democrats expressed optimism Sunday that a bipartisan agreement would soon be struck on a new round of coronavirus aid.

Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), in appearances on the main news talk shows, said they expected the next phase of funding would win congressional approval in coming days.

Along with deaths and illnesses from COVID-19, economic distress has mounted in the United States. Jobless claims over the last month have soared to about 22 million.

Mnuchin, appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union,” said the $400-billion deal being worked on included $300 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program to aid small businesses. The program’s first-phase funding of $349 billion was quickly depleted.

The plan under discussion also calls for $75 billion for hospitals and $25 billion for testing, he said.

The Treasury secretary said talks were continuing Sunday and that he hoped the Senate would pass the measure Monday and the House OK it Tuesday.

“I think we’re making a lot of progress,” Mnuchin said. On the same program, Schumer said he was “very, very hopeful” an accord would be reached.

Pelosi, interviewed on ABC’s “This Week,” said she believed a deal was “very close.”

A main point of contention appeared to be funding for state and local governments. Mnuchin ruled that out, but Schumer said Democrats were “pushing hard” for such provisions.

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South Korea reports just eight more cases over 24 hours

SEOUL — South Korea has reported eight more cases of the coronavirus over the past 24 hours, the first time for a daily jump in the country to drop to a single digit in about two months.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the additional figures released Sunday took the country’s total to 10,661 with 234 deaths.

It said 8,042 of the total had recovered and released from quarantine and that 12,243 others were under tests to determine whether they contracted the virus.

South Korea’s caseload has been waning in recent weeks since it recorded hundreds of new cases every day between late February and early March, mostly in the southeastern city of Daegu and nearby areas.

Despite the recent downward trend, South Korean officials have warned about the possibility of a broader “quiet spread” with people easing up on social distancing.

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LAPD says 63 employees have tested positive for coronavirus

As of Saturday, the Los Angeles Police Department had 63 employees who had tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Among those employees, 22 have recovered and returned to duty, one is hospitalized, and the rest are isolating themselves and recovering, according to the department.

The Los Angeles Fire Department, in turn, has reported 20 employees who have tested positive, 11 of whom have recovered and are back at work; nine are isolated and recovering.

Law enforcement sources have told The Times that LAPD officers who have symptoms related to the coronavirus now have the option of moving into the Biltmore Hotel in downtown L.A., paid for by the Los Angeles Police Foundation. Firefighters can isolate themselves in fire station community rooms.

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Broadway star Nick Cordero to have leg amputated in COVID-19 complication

Nick Cordero, center, in "Rock of Ages" in Hollywood on Jan. 11.
Actor Nick Cordero, center, during a performance of “Rock of Ages” in Hollywood on Jan. 11.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Broadway star Nick Cordero, who recently starred in a new production of “Rock of Ages” in Hollywood, is set to have his leg amputated after suffering complications linked to the COVID-19 disease.

The Canadian actor, who has a 10-month old son with former dancer Amanda Kloots, was to have his right leg amputated Saturday due to blood clotting in the limb following infection from the novel coronavirus, Kloots shared on Instagram Saturday.

The Laurel Canyon-based couple had moved to L.A. for Cordero’s role in the Broadway production. In March, he was admitted to Cedars-Sinai hospital in March with pneumonia and later diagnosed with COVID-19.

He has spent 18 days under sedation in the intensive care unit of the hospital and has received assistance with his breathing through extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), Kloots said.

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Hundreds of workers shelter in stables at Santa Anita, trying to survive racing ban

A worker rinses out his toothbrush in a stable doorway at Santa Anita Park where horse racing has been shutdown, but life around the backstretch goes on during the coronavirus pandemic on April 18.
A worker rinses out his toothbrush in a stable doorway at Santa Anita Park where horse racing has been shut down, but life around the backstretch goes on during the coronavirus pandemic.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Peacocks wail from a nearby arboretum, the sound ringing through a parking lot along the backstretch of Santa Anita Park racetrack. On a crisp Saturday morning, there are more than 200 cars, most of them belonging to those who bathe, brush, walk, exercise and train the hundreds of horses in the stables.

Inside is a community that on a given day might swell to 1,700, including the more than 700 people who, as part of their compensation, live in small dorm-style rooms set in well-worn buildings near the barns. The workers, many of them immigrants from Mexico and Central America, still have jobs because facilities that care for animals are considered essential and therefore exempt from stay-at-home-orders that have closed many Los Angeles County businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But their futures are tenuous. On March 27, county health officials ordered Santa Anita to stop holding races, effectively amputating the industry’s financial arm.

Santa Anita made a proposal to the county commissioner and public health officials last week, seeking to restart live racing. The decision to shut down “was based on the definition of what constitutes an essential business,” the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said in an email. Some people in the business wonder whether there wasn’t a different reason.

Activists lobbied hard last year to rein in the sport as 30 thoroughbreds died after racing or training at the track. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Gov. Gavin Newsom were publicly critical and at times called for a halt to the races. This season, 11 horses have died at the track, including two after racing stopped.

County health officials did not answer an email asking whether pressure from animal rights groups had an impact on last month’s decision to close down racing.

Oscar de la Torre, a labor organizer who engages with workers on the backstretch, thinks shutting down the sport was the plan all along. “It’s pretty obvious that’s what they intend to do,” he said.

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Santa Monica City Manager Rick Cole resigns, citing divisions over coronavirus budget cuts

Outgoing L.A. Deputy Mayor Rick Cole, left, in 2012 with the Rev. Tom Elewaut of the San Buenaventura Mission in Ventura.
Outgoing L.A. Deputy Mayor Rick Cole, left, in 2012 with the Rev. Tom Elewaut of the San Buenaventura Mission in Ventura.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Santa Monica City Manager Rick Cole resigned Friday, citing divisions over drastic budget cuts as the coronavirus decimates the wealthy beach city’s tax revenue.

With restaurants, bars and stores closed since mid-March to prevent the spread of the virus, city officials are projecting a $72-million shortfall through the end of June and an additional $154-million shortfall for the following year.

Cole has been under fire by some residents who accuse him of rushing to cut programs and city staff. A petition demanding the removal of Cole and Assistant City Manager Katie Lichtig received more than 2,800 signatures.

“Rick and Katie are abusing power while the city is in a state of emergency and also are exploiting the emergency to blame the coronavirus for the dire financial situation we are in,” the petition states.

In a farewell message on the city’s website, Cole said the huge budget shortfall created by the need for social distancing “puts us all in a nearly impossible situation.”

“It almost certainly will result in personnel reductions that will be devastating to the livelihoods of colleagues I’ve been proud to lead — and devastating to community services I’ve been committed to enhancing,” he wrote.

He said he was recognizing his own limits and offering to step down to facilitate the necessary top-to-bottom restructuring in city government.

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L.A. County reports highest one-day total with 81 new coronavirus-related deaths

Los Angeles County on Saturday reported 81 new deaths related to COVID-19, the county’s highest one-day death toll by far from the disease caused by the coronavirus.

“Today marks a very sad milestone for our county,” Barbara Ferrer, the county’s public health director, said in a statement. “We are reporting the highest number of COVID-19 deaths for any one day since the beginning of the pandemic, and our deepest condolences go out to each and every person grieving the loss of their loved ones.”

In the last week, deaths among L.A. County residents have roughly doubled and now stand at more than 570, she said.

Of the people who most recently died, 56 were older than 65, 18 were 41 to 65, and one person was 18 to 40, Ferrer said. Sixty-three of the people had underlying health conditions.

The county also announced 642 additional coronavirus cases Saturday, for a total of more than 12,000.

“We are especially concerned about the overwhelming number of residents residing in our nursing homes who have passed away,” Ferrer said, noting that she’s asked for state and federal support to help ensure that nursing homes are safe.

“This includes asking for supplementary staffing and PPE [personal protective equipment], increased ability to test residents and employees, and improvements in infection control capacity at nursing homes,” she said.

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Some cities are blocking California efforts to protect homeless people from coronavirus, Newsom says

California’s effort to move homeless people into hotel and motel rooms to protect them from the coronavirus has gotten thousands off the streets, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Saturday, but advocates say the program has been slow and uneven in some areas, hampered by red tape and local opposition.

Appearing at a Motel 6 in Campbell in hard-hit Santa Clara County, Newsom said Saturday that his Project Roomkey has so far secured 10,974 hotel and motel rooms for homeless people and that 4,211 — about 38% — are occupied.

Newsom cited “real progress in just a few weeks to procure these sites to start getting people off the streets, out of the shelters and into these safer settings.”

The governor, who wore a protective face mask as he arrived at the event, also announced that the Motel 6 chain has offered to house homeless people at an additional 47 motels in 19 California counties that have about 5,025 rooms.

Still, he acknowledged that Project Roomkey is facing some obstacles at the local level. Cities, including Laguna Hills in Orange County, are fighting efforts to put homeless people in hotels.

“Cities are blocking these efforts at a time of crisis,” Newsom said without naming any resistant municipalities. “Cities that are blocking those efforts — please consider the morality of those decisions.”

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As protests occur across U.S., Cuomo urges unity

A big number of Trump supporters rally on Main Street in Huntington Beach against business closures due to the coronavirus pandemic.
A big number of Trump supporters rally on Main Street in Huntington Beach against business closures due to the coronavirus pandemic.
(Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times)

As growing numbers of protesters challenge coronavirus restrictions across the nation, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an impassioned plea Saturday for the nation to remain united as it fights the pandemic.

“The emotion in this country is as high as I can recall, people are frustrated, we’re anxious, we’re scared, we’re angry,” Cuomo said during his daily briefing, emphasizing that the crisis is mentally and economically devastating. “Look, if you have partisan divisions splitting this nation now, it’s going to make it worse… This is no time, and no place for division. We have our hands full as it is. Let’s just stay together, and let’s work it through.”

Cuomo spoke before scheduled protests began in Texas, Maryland, Indiana and Wisconsin against ongoing stay-at-home restrictions enacted to fight the spread of the coronavirus. Several such demonstrations have already taken place across the country this week, including in California, Michigan, Ohio and New Jersey.

On Saturday in downtown Annapolis, Md., dozens in their vehicles drove in circles and honked during a lunchtime protest. One woman waved a sign out her window that said, “I want to save my business!!! I need to work!” Another man scrawled on his pickup truck, “The face mask you were duped into wearing symbolizes you loosing your freedom of speech.”

Outside the Texas statehouse in Austin, protesters chanted, “Fire Fauci!,” referring to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert who is widely credited with influencing President Trump’s approach to the coronavirus pandemic. Right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones made an appearance.

The protests come at a time when governors are weighing measures for reopening their economies without easing restrictions so quickly that they risk a new surge of infections, and without adequate testing capability. On Friday, Florida allowed some beaches to reopen — resulting in throngs crowding Jacksonville shorelines not wearing masks or practicing social distancing. Texas announced plans to ease some restrictions starting next week.

Trump, after claiming sole authority over such matters and later reversing course and saying he was leaving such decisions up to the states, seemed to encourage protests Friday when he took to Twitter and wrote “LIBERATE” three states led by Democratic governors. Protests have already taken place in the states — Michigan, Minnesota and Virginia — and Trump later defended the protesters.

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California names nursing homes with coronavirus outbreaks

For the first time, California Department of Health officials have detailed the names of nursing homes across the state with coronavirus infection outbreaks and the number of cases at each facility.

Among the hardest hit facilities are the Brier Oak on Sunset nursing home in Los Angeles, where 80 residents and 62 staff members have tested positive, according to the state’s list. The Country Villa South Convalescent Center in Palms has had 58 patients and 15 staff test positive, and the Garden Crest Rehabilitation Center in Silver Lake has had 35 patients and 35 staff test positive.

Nursing homes have become a tragic focal point of the coronavirus pandemic, with their older residents, many of whom have underlying health conditions, accounting for a large percentage of COVID-19 deaths across the country. More than 30% of those who have died in Los Angeles County were residents of long-term care facilities; more than 70% of the deaths in Long Beach have been nursing home residents.

The California Health Department list names 261 skilled-nursing facilities across the state with more than 3,000 positive cases among residents and staff. The health department website said the list was a snapshot representing the 86% of the state’s 1,224 skilled-nursing facilities that have reported data within the last 24 hours.

But in at least one case, the state numbers appear to be out of date. At the Redwood Springs Health Care Center in Tulare County, site of one of the most devastating outbreaks in the state, the most recent figures obtained by the Los Angeles Times found that 106 residents and 50 employees had tested positive for the virus as of Thursday. The state lists 91 residents and 46 staff members. A spokesman for the facility also reported that 10 residents have died after testing positive. The state data do not include deaths.

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U.S., Canada to keep border closed 30 more days

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the U.S. and Canada have agreed to keep the border closed to nonessential travel for another 30 days.

Trudeau says it will keep people on both sides of the border safe amid the pandemic. U.S. President Trump said Wednesday the U.S.-Canada border would be among the first borders to open. Nearly 200,000 people normally cross the border daily.

The U.S. has more confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths from COVID-19 than any country in the world. The U.S. and Canada agreed last month to limit border crossings to essential travel amid the pandemic. The agreement was due to expire this week.

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State-funded L.A. ‘surge hospital’ opens at St. Vincent Medical Center

A temporary state-funded hospital opened this week on the shuttered St. Vincent Medical Center campus near downtown Los Angeles in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Los Angeles Surge Hospital, which is operating at the St. Vincent complex, is accepting only individuals diagnosed with COVID-19, said Julie J. Sprengel, acting chief executive of the hospital and Southwest Division president of Dignity Health Hospitals. Patients are transferred by the county from community hospitals, Sprengel said.

The hospital, which opened Monday, had eight patients as of Friday morning, said Dr. Christina Ghaly, director for the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services.

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Ticketmaster offers fans refunds for concerts postponed

The ticket retailer Ticketmaster is finalizing plans to issue refunds for up to 18,000 postponed events in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Parent company Live Nation announced that refunds for those concerts, including stadium dates from Taylor Swift at the now-postponed opening of SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, will be open to fans requesting them starting May 1, for a 30-day period.

The postponements, which affect shows scheduled through July, represent a big swath of the 55,000 events currently listed on Ticketmaster for 2020. Future cancellations and postponements will be dealt with at a later date.

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COVID-19 concerns prompt hunger strikes and protests inside Otay Mesa Detention Center

Detainees in at least 11 units at the Otay Mesa Detention Center have said they are beginning hunger strikes this week over continued concerns about their safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to advocates who communicate with them daily.

Otay Mesa, run by private prison company CoreCivic, holds people in immigration custody as well as those who are awaiting trial or sentencing in federal criminal court. It has been a hot spot for the novel coronavirus among U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers.

As of Thursday afternoon, 18 ICE detainees and nine U.S. Marshals Service inmates at the facility had tested positive, according to facility documents obtained by the San Diego Union-Tribune. The virus had spread to at least nine units, comprising nearly half of the facility.

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As coronavirus spreads, medical workers in Mexico face attacks, intimidation

Esther García was walking toward a bus stop after completing her shift when a young man approached her. Then he tossed a plastic bag filled with liquid at her.

The bag struck the left side of her head, splashing her face with its caustic contents — a mixture of water and bleach. The attacker ran off as Garcia felt burning in her eye and her vision went blurry.

“I was filled with fear,” she recalled. “I started to cry. I didn’t understand what was going on.”

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Need for supplies to fight coronavirus opens door to unusual brokers — and scammers

The three businessmen owned a commercial moving company and a print shop, and sold ATMs. They didn’t know the difference between a respirator and ventilator, but that didn’t stop them last month from leaping into the frenzied marketplace for medical equipment to battle the coronavirus.

In a matter of days, the trio orchestrated a successful $3.4-million deal for 1.5 million N95 respirator masks for healthcare providers in Illinois. The unlikely brokers, who teamed up with three people in China and dubbed themselves the “Magnificent Six,” represent a new breed of middlemen linking desperate states and hospitals to suppliers.

Filling a vacuum created by the Trump administration’s refusal to take control of the medical supply chain amid the pandemic, such brokers are battling each other in a Wild West-like bazaar for sales of critical equipment. It’s a market ripe for fraud and abuse —federal authorities have warned hospitals and local governments to be wary of scam artists — and experts say confusion and price-gouging are common. In the chaos, hospitals and states have been forced to vet their vendors, to weed out schemers and unreliable agents, slowing the acquisition of crucial gear.

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Judge rejects more inmate releases from California prisons

A federal judge has denied an emergency motion that would force California officials to develop a plan to further reduce the state’s inmate population by thousands in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus, saying the state has already implemented myriad changes.

In his ruling Friday, U.S. District Judge Jon S. Tigar said lawyers for the inmates had to demonstrate that Gov. Gavin Newsom and correctional officials were indifferent to protecting the inmates and therefore in violation of their federal rights.

Inmates want the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to create a detailed plan that would change the way prisoners are housed in the state’s 35-prison system and release more inmates or house some outside of prisons.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented and no one questions that it poses a substantial risk of serious harm to plaintiffs,” Tigar wrote in his ruling. “But given the numerous and significant measures the state of California has taken and continues to take in response to COVID-19, the court cannot conclude that state officials have been deliberately indifferent.”

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Malaria drugs fail to help coronavirus patients in controlled studies

The malaria drugs touted by President Trump as potentially “the biggest game changers in the history of medicine” have received a decidedly more sober assessment of their coronavirus-fighting potential from researchers in China, France and Brazil.

Both chloroquine and its close relative hydroxychloroquine offered signs that they may ease some of the hallmark symptoms of coronavirus infection in patients who were hospitalized with COVID-19. But the drugs largely failed to deliver improvements on other key measures when evaluated in rigorous research studies.

In research done in France, hydroxychloroquine reduced neither deaths nor admissions to intensive care units among patients who received it. In a study conducted in China and another in Brazil, the two drugs failed to help patients clear the coronavirus faster.

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Coronavirus infections could be much more widespread than believed, California study suggests

In the weeks since the coronavirus outbreak has squelched daily life in America, researchers have struggled to assess the true spread of the virus. But initial results from a Northern California study on coronavirus antibodies suggest it has circulated much more widely than previously thought, according to a report released Friday.

The preliminary study, conducted by researchers at Stanford University, estimates that between 2.5% and 4.2% of Santa Clara County residents had antibodies to the new coronavirus in their blood by early April. Antibodies are an indication that a person’s immune system has responded to a past infection.

Though the county had reported roughly 1,000 cases in early April, the Stanford researchers estimate the actual number was between 48,000 and 81,000.

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Ventura County faith leaders demand officials allow socially distant gatherings

Faith leaders in Ventura County are arguing that a stay-at-home order violates their 1st Amendment rights, and have asked county officials to revise portions of the rule to allow them to keep holding religious gatherings while following safety guidelines.

The clergymen — Rob McCoy, a pastor at Godspeak Calvary Chapel in Newbury Park, and Michael Barclay, a rabbi at Temple Ner Simcha in Westlake Village — on Thursday expressed the “wish to exercise their religious freedom in a manner that respects the current social distancing restrictions and the health and safety of the community,” according to the demand letter sent to the county.

Should the county fail to accommodate the request, attorneys for the clergymen said, they are prepared to file a lawsuit and seek an injunction against the county order, which took effect in March.

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Bay Area counties issue order for residents and workers to wear face coverings on public transportation or in taxis

San Francisco and other Bay Area counties issued orders Friday to require residents and workers to wear face coverings in essential businesses and when riding public transportation or in taxis.

Dr. Grant Colfax, the city’s director of public health, said at a news conference the orders will not replace the six-feet social distancing requirement

When stay-home orders are eventually relaxed, “by then people will already be in the habit of wearing face coverings,” Colfax said.

Children under 12 will not be required to wear masks, and masks should never be placed on children under 2, he said.

Mayor London Breed said the orders will be enforced by police.

“If you are not a police officer, don’t act like one,” she said. “We are not expecting people to police one another.”

Colfax also announced that a city jail inmate has tested positive for the coronavirus, the first since the pandemic hit. The inmate was isolated, and investigators are checking on others who might have had contact with the person. Officials have been testing all new inmates during booking, Colfax said.

So far 1,058 San Franciscans have tested positives out of 10,077 tested, Colfax said. Twenty residents have died.

Ninety-one patients have been hospitalized for COVID-19, and about 30% of them are in intensive care units, he said.

The city had 1,048 acute care and 445 intensive care beds available Friday “to meet the demands of the surge,” Colfax said.

City officials also announced a new program that will give the elderly and disabled access to taxis at an 80% discounted rate for making essential trips to stores and doctors. City transportation leaders said city staff will police bus stops to ensure people waiting are six feet apart and buses will limit ridership to ensure distancing onboard.

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‘Live free or die:’ Protesters march against California stay-at-home rules in Huntington Beach

A group of more than 100 protesters converged on Huntington Beach in a demonstration against California’s coronavirus stay-at-home rules, part of a series of national demonstrations organized by conservative groups.

The protesters — some with President Trump banners and American flags — mostly were not wearing masks or practicing social distancing of standing at least six feet apart. And they offered views about the spread of the coronavirus that different sharply from scientific findings and experts’ recommendations.

One of the first people to trickle into Friday afternoon’s protest in Huntington Beach was 62-year-old Paula Doyle.

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Orange County’s coronavirus death toll hits 28 as overall cases passes 1,500

For a third straight day, health officials have confirmed three additional coronavirus-related deaths in Orange County — bringing the region’s total toll to 28.

The Orange County Health Care Agency also announced 77 more COVID-19 cases Friday, for a new cumulative total of 1,501.

The mortality rate associated with COVID-19 in the county is now roughly 1.8%. Of those who have died, 15 were at least 65 years old; 10 were ages 45 to 64; two were in the 25-34 age range; and the other in the 35-44 range, according to the county.

The latest update continued a reversal from earlier this week, when the county added only 28 new cases combined on Monday and Tuesday — the lowest two-day total in three weeks.

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Grim toll at California nursing homes: 3,500 infected with coronavirus, Newsom says

SACRAMENTO — More than 3,500 people who live or work in one of California’s nursing homes have tested positive for coronavirus, Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Friday.

Newsom said that figure, gleaned from tests conducted in the 400 facilities across the state, should serve as a reminder of the need for maintaining the statewide rules on physical distancing and staying at home.

“Our seniors, the people that literally raised us, built this middle class,” Newsom said. “These are folks that are still most at risk.”

The governor pointed in particular to the results from a nursing facility in Tulare County, where he said 157 of the 167 people — either residents or employees — tested positive.

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Under pressure to reopen the economy, governors lay out varying paths

Pressured by President Trump to reopen the economy, governors across the nation on Friday laid out varying paths as they tried to balance public health in the midst of the coronavirus crisis with the crushing financial pressures facing the nation’s workers.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced that his state would reopen state parks, allow retailers to offer to-go sales and let physicians and nurses perform diagnostic tests and surgeries that had been put on hold to ensure hospital capacity for COVID-19 patients.

These moves, which start next week, include safeguards such as social distancing requirements to minimize the risk of infection. Additional openings — possibly including restaurants and movie theaters and an easing of the state’s stay-at-home order — will be announced April 27, he said.

“We have demonstrated that we can corral the coronavirus,” Abbott said as he announced the creation of a “strike force,” including medical experts, elected officials and business leaders, to guide the effort to reopen his state’s economy.

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WeWork is all about community. Will social distancing crash its business model?

It was the hot idea out of the last financial crisis: Save money on office costs by bringing strangers together in hip, well-appointed communal working spaces. But can WeWork and other providers of shared office space survive social distancing?

WeWork and its kind are reeling as the pandemic drives away customers and challenges the future viability of their shoulder-to-shoulder business model.

New York-based WeWork, the biggest provider of co-working space, missed April rent payments to some of its landlords and has had to close some of its offices temporarily to clean up after they were exposed to the novel coronavirus. Other co-working providers have simply shut down, at least until the end of the crisis.

WeWork, which has faced a host of financial problems in the last year, including a botched initial public offering, has drawn up a post-pandemic plan that emphasizes open space, a potentially income-sapping move that may not be enough to soothe apprehensive tenants.

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From Taylor to Elton to J. Lo: How Hugh Evans (and Lady Gaga) assembled ‘One World’ in just two weeks

In a festival season with no music festivals, Global Citizen has been working to bring pop’s biggest acts into a shared virtual space.

On Saturday at 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET, the international aid group with ties to the United Nations will present “One World: Together at Home,” an all-star special featuring the likes of Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish, Jennifer Lopez, Paul McCartney, Elton John and the Rolling Stones — each of whom will perform from wherever they’re sheltering in place amid the COVID-19 pandemic that’s brought the live-music industry (and so much more) to a standstill.

Set to be broadcast on ABC, NBC and CBS — and streamed on virtually every major tech platform — the show is meant to “celebrate the front-line community health workers who are the heroes in all of this,” Global Citizen Chief Executive Hugh Evans, 37, said in a phone call this week from New York. But Evans is also looking to raise money for the World Health Organization at a moment when President Trump has ordered the U.S. to halt its funding.

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Michelle Obama will read your kids a story by video on Mondays

Get ready for storytime with Michelle Obama.

Penguin Young Readers, Random House Children’s Books, and PBS Kids announced Friday that the former first lady will be hosting a series of online read-alongs for a month of Mondays.

Obama will launch “Mondays With Michelle Obama” on April 20 by reading aloud “The Gruffalo,” written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler, and continue with other selections through May 11.

“As a little kid, I loved to read aloud. And when I became a parent, I found such joy in sharing the magic of storytelling with my own children — and then later, as first lady, with kids everywhere,” Obama said in a statement Friday.

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Disabled veterans will automatically receive stimulus checks without having tax return on file

Disabled veterans will automatically receive their up to $1,200 stimulus checks without having to file a tax return, the IRS announced Friday.

The IRS has begun sending the payouts to the millions of Americans for whom it has direct deposit information, but questions have lingered over how best to get the money to people who don’t normally earn enough to have to file taxes, including millions of disabled veterans.

For weeks members of Congress have pushed the agency to use existing Veterans Administration contact information to get the money to veterans rather than requiring the veterans to file a separate tax return. The IRS did not provide a timeline for when the funds would arrive.

Congress specifically instructed the IRS to use Social Security Administration information to rush payments to Social Security recipients, but failed to make a similar edict for other groups traditionally unlikely to file a tax return including disability benefit recipients and disabled veterans.

Earlier this week the IRS said it would deliver the checks to disability recipients in early May using the same method by which they normally receive Social Security benefits.

Retired Army counterintelligence specialist Melvin Willmirth, 54, of Santa Monica said he hasn’t had to file a tax return in 10 years because while his VA benefits meet his needs, they aren’t enough to require one. The $1,200 would let him pay off some debts, he said.

“It would change everything. I would be just fine,” Willmirth said. “That $1,200, man, it would be a bit of a game changer.”

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Newsom asks CEOs and former governors to join economic task force

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Gavin Newsom tapped former governors, Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook, Disney Chairman Bob Iger and other business executives and politicians on Friday to guide the state’s economic recovery from the coronavirus outbreak as unemployment climbed and millions of Californians sought financial support.

The governor said his chief of staff, Ann O’Leary, and billionaire climate activist and former Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer would head the new Task Force on Business and Jobs Recovery and develop recommendations for the government and companies to improve the economy, create jobs and help Californians get back on their feet.

“We are now in a pandemic-induced recession in the state of California,” Newsom said. “These are sobering and challenging times.”

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Journal the pandemic and those weird grocery store trips — with help from Michelle Obama

How many times have you thought lately, I should write this down? We’re living in Never Before times: Pillaged grocery-store aisles. Skyrocketing unemployment rates. Nurses begging strangers for N95 masks on Twitter.

Yes, reality is now dystopic, but we’re also living in unprecedented times for journaling. These are Golden Wow days. You should be writing this down. Not only will you thank yourself later, you will be grateful now.

You’re snorting with laughter behind your mask. With what time? How?

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The crisis hastens the collapse of local newspapers. Here’s why it matters

Jeff vonKaenel has weathered wildfires, recessions and getting sued by a mayor in his nearly 50 years running weekly newspapers.

But the Sacramento newsman met his gravest challenge yet last month when public health officials urged cancellations of large gatherings to slow the novel coronavirus’ spread.

Four days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s advisory, the 69-year-old owner of the Sacramento News & Review and sister publications in Chico and Reno made the “brutal” call to stop the presses and lay off 40 staffers.

“This could be the death knell, not only for us, but for the dailies that we compete with,” vonKaenel said in an interview.

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MLS extends moratorium to June 8. Shortened season could affect player salaries

Major League Soccer announced Friday it had extended its moratorium on games another four weeks, to June 8, adding for the first time that it is exploring changes in player compensation if a full 34-game season is not played.

“We are seeking to work collaboratively with the [players union] to find a solution that provides a safety net for all players, opportunity to earn full salary in the scenario where all matches are played with fans, and in particular provides protection for the players at the lower end of the salary scale,” the league said in a statement.

The league and the players union are discussing “significant salary cuts,” with the league seeking reductions of up to 50% if games are canceled, ESPN reported Friday. That percentage could change based on games played and games played without fans in attendance.

Players making less than $100,000 this season would not be affected. Those proposals were debated during a conference call between league and union officials Thursday.

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U.S. hospitals are desperate for sterile gowns

TRENTON, N.J. — U.S. hospitals are so desperate for sterile gowns to protect workers that some are resorting to having staff wear coveralls, Tyvek suits and ponchos. That’s according to a new survey from hospital consultant Premier Inc. illustrating how fighting a shortage of protective face masks can exacerbate another.

The survey finds companies that make personal protective equipment recently boosted manufacturing of N95 and surgical masks so much in response to pleas from hospital workers that now hospitals are having more trouble getting sterile gowns than masks. That’s because they’re often made from the same type of textiles.

Premier helps its 4,000 hospital members get medicines and supplies at discounts. It said 700 hospitals replied to the survey conducted April 11-15.

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Outbreak at Safeway distribution center: One worker dead, 51 infected

One worker at a Central Valley Safeway distribution center has died of complications related to the coronavirus, and 51 others have been infected, officials said this week.

Andrew Whelan, a spokesman for Albertsons Cos., which owns Safeway, said 3% of the roughly 1,700 workers at the Tracy facility in San Joaquin County had tested positive for the virus, and additional health and safety measures are now in place.

The center provides groceries to about 300 stores throughout Northern California, Nevada and Hawaii.

“We continue to reinforce with all associates the importance of social distancing as the most effective tool we have to combat the spread of COVID-19,” Whelan said in a statement Friday. “We have also closed all common areas in addition to encouraging associates to take lunches and breaks by themselves.”

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University of Wisconsin orders workers to take one furlough day off per month for a year

University of Wisconsin System President Ray Cross is ordering everyone who works in system administration to take one furlough day per month for the next year.

Cross sent an email to nearly 600 system administration employees Friday announcing that, starting in May, they all must take one furlough day per month until June 2021.

System spokesman Mark Pitsch says the move will result in $3 million in savings as the system grapples with the coronavirus pandemic’s economic fallout.

The system shut down in-person classes in March, told students to move back home and canceled all spring sports. The moves are expected to cost the system nearly $170 million in the spring semester alone. The losses include refunds for on-campus parking, dining and housing, technology purchases to move classes online, payments to student workers who lost their jobs and nonexistent athletic ticket sales.

System regents on Thursday authorized Cross to implement furloughs among administration workers and chancellors to order campus-based furloughs.

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No country has herd immunity, WHO says

Evidence suggests herd immunity hasn’t yet been achieved anywhere and that only a low number of people have antibodies to COVID-19, Mike Ryan, head of the World Health Organization’s health emergencies program, said at a news briefing in Geneva. Countries should be careful not to assume that people who show antibodies to COVID-19 in blood tests have immunity, said Maria Van Kerkhove, a WHO epidemiologist.

Countries must impose stringent food safety and hygiene standards on wet markets that sell animals and fish for food when they reopen, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. While such markets are necessary as millions of people depend on them as a source of food, the sale of wildlife for food should be banned, according to the WHO. The novel coronavirus outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan, China.

Reported cases in Africa rose 51% in one week, though Asia and some European countries demonstrate that it’s possible for that continent to try to contain the virus, Van Kerkhove said. “We’re constantly fearful of disease exploding in places like Yemen, Syria and Iraq, or in many fragile states where people are displaced and living in overcrowded conditions,” Ryan said.

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WHO concerned by jump in cases in Africa

LONDON — The head of the World Health Organization says he’s concerned by a recent jump in COVID-19 cases across Africa.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says in the last week there has been a 51% increase in cases and a 60% jump in deaths. He says due to a lack of testing “it’s likely the real numbers are higher than reported.” Tedros says WHO and partners are working to boost Africa’s testing capacity and that 1 million test kits are set to be rolled out across the continent starting next week.

Tedros says WHO has been in recent talks with leaders including French President Emmanuel Macron, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, philanthropist Bill Gates and others to speed vaccine production and figure out how the shots might be equitably distributed among the world’s population.

Tedros also clarified WHO’s guidance on “wet markets,” the markets across Asia where live animals and wildlife are often sold for food.

Although the origin of COVID-19 has not yet been identified, many scientists suspect the virus jumped to humans from animals at a wet market in Wuhan, China. Tedros says the markets are “an important source for food and livelihoods for millions of people around the world” but that they have often been poorly regulated. Tedros says WHO is recommending that these markets only be reopened “on the condition that they conform to stringent food safety and hygiene standards.”

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‘Porch pirate’ burglars prey on homes getting deliveries

Thieves are exploiting new workplace rules that have resulted in delivery drivers avoiding opening gates, knobs and latches in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus, police say.

While crime is down dramatically across Los Angeles, police say some “porch pirates” are taking advantage of the increasing prevalence of home deliveries as residents find new ways to conduct business during the pandemic.

LAPD Assistant Chief Robert Arcos said that, while overall thefts are down because more residents are adhering to the state’s stay-at-home orders, package thefts are still occurring.

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Upset ‘Ellen’ crew says top producers haven’t been communicating

The core stage crew of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” is reportedly making noise over how top producers have behaved during the coronavirus pandemic.

Communication appears to be the biggest complaint, though most of the crew members aren’t working and have seen their pay dramatically reduced, according to Variety.

The more than 30 crew members didn’t see a word in writing for more than a month regarding their hours or pay, or even asking about their health, two insiders told the trade outlet. Phone calls have been returned occasionally by a production coordinator, but little information was provided, they said.

Because of that, crew members who were worried about being furloughed reportedly didn’t know whether they should prepare to apply for unemployment. The show usually shoots four days a week.

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San Diego Comic-Con 2020 is officially canceled

San Diego Comic-Con 2020 has been canceled for the first time in the event’s 50-year history.

Comic-Con International announced Friday that its annual pop-culture convention would not be held this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. The event, which draws more than 135,000 attendees in and around the San Diego Convention Center each year, will return July 22-25, 2021.

Comic-Con had been holding off on its decision in hopes that the situation around COVID-19 would improve by summer. But with California officials indicating that the state’s restriction on large gatherings will continue into the summer months, it had been expected that an event like San Diego Comic-Con would not be able to proceed.
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In the post-pandemic world, the U.S. economy could be totally different

WASHINGTON — When the U.S. economy reopens, whether sooner or later, chances are it won’t look the same as it did only a few months ago before the coronavirus outbreak.

And the wider and deeper the pandemic runs, the more profound the future changes in American life are almost certain to be. Already the climb out of the deep economic hole looks to be long and slow.

“The world that we are going to live in for at least the next two to three years will be totally different than what we are used to,” said Sung Won Sohn, president of SS Economics and a professor at Loyola Marymount University.
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Cal State to suspend SAT, ACT requirement during the crisis

California State University, the largest public university system in the nation, announced Friday it would suspend its SAT and ACT testing requirement for students seeking admission in 2021-22 amid continued uncertainty over the educational impacts of the coronavirus outbreak.

The admission adjustment represents a major shift for the CSU system, which educates nearly half a million students and currently relies exclusively on the combination of an SAT or ACT score and a student’s GPA to determine acceptance eligibility.

The decision by the 23-campus system follows a similar one by the University of California earlier this month.

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Phil McGraw and Mehmet Oz stoke controversy with remarks

Two of television’s most well-known daytime hosts are under fire for their comments questioning stay-at-home restrictions put in place to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

In a Thursday appearance on the Fox News show “The Ingraham Angle,” Phil McGraw suggested it was dangerous to shut down the economy in order to stop the pandemic.

“The fact of the matter is 40,000 people die a year from automobile accidents. 480,000 from cigarettes. 360,000 a year die from swimming pools, but we don’t shut the country down for that. But yet we’re doing it for this?” said the host of “Dr. Phil,” who is not a licensed doctor. (He also incorrectly stated how many people die in swimming accidents each year; that number is closer to 3,600 a year, not 360,000, according to the CDC.)

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Taylor Swift concerts scheduled to open SoFi Stadium in July are canceled

The first major event scheduled at SoFi Stadium won’t take place.

Taylor Swift, whose concerts July 25 and 26 would have opened the $5-billion stadium in Inglewood, canceled all her live appearances for the remainder of the year Friday because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“Fighting COVID-19 is an unprecedented challenge for our global community and the safety and well-being of fans should always be the top priority,” the singer-songwriter said in a statement.

Swift was billed as the first woman to perform the opening concert at an NFL stadium.
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Mexico seeks older doctors, nurses to care for non-coronavirus patients

MEXICO CITY — As pressure on Mexico’s health care system increases, the government is asking healthy doctors and nurses between the ages of 60 and 65 to sign up for work at hospitals that are not treating coronavirus patients.

The appeal is open to medical workers who are active, unemployed or retired, but also considered more vulnerable to the COVID-19 disease because they are older. Their deployment would free up younger doctors and nurses to focus on coronavirus patients in separate facilities as Mexico braces for an expected peak in infections in May.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced the initiative, saying older workers who respond would be assigned for one month ending on May 23. Those workers would receive a 30% increase on top of salaries commensurate with their experience and skill. The goal is to boost the medical work force by about 20,000 people.

At least 486 people in Mexico are confirmed to have died after contracting the new coronavirus.

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Italy registers a few thousand new cases daily

ROME — Even as authorities in parts of Italy’s hardest-hit areas seek to ease lockdown restrictions, the nation continues to register a few thousand new cases of COVID-19 daily.

According to numbers supplied by the Health Ministry, there