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Coronavirus updates: California stay-at-home order faces revolts

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Protesters brought a boat to the California capital Friday to protest beach shutdowns.
Protesters brought a boat to the California State Capitol on Friday to protest beach shutdowns.
(Anita Chabria / Los Angeles Times)

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

Skelton: Rural areas have a message for Newsom: One size doesn’t fit all in reopening California

Rebellion is infectious. Rural people are in revolt against Gov. Gavin Newsom’s statewide virus-fighting rules, which make little sense in burgs such as Bieber.

Bieber has hardly anything in common with the likes of Burbank or Balboa.

“There’s a bar, a restaurant, a hardware store, market, post office, school and a gas station with one pump,” says Republican state Sen. Brian Dahle of Bieber in Lassen County. “No stop light.”

Dahle grows cereal grains and represents 11 mostly mountain counties in the Senate. His wife, Megan Dahle, is a Republican assemblywoman.

In four of the senator’s counties — Modoc, Lassen, Sierra and Alpine — there hasn’t been one case of coronavirus, he says. Zero.

“There is no curve. It’s flat.”

“People are getting fed up” with the governor’s stay-at-home, business-shut-down orders, Dahle says. “They want to open up, get back to normal.

“We’re not like Los Angeles or San Francisco. Let’s get back to cooler heads. Let the people free.”

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With testing, Iceland claims major success against COVID-19

Winter storms isolated the northern village of Hvammstangi from the rest of Iceland. Then spring brought the coronavirus, isolating villagers from each other. Now, as summer approaches, residents hope life is getting back to some kind of normal.

High schools, hair salons, dentists and other businesses across Iceland are reopening Monday after six weeks of lockdown, after this North Atlantic nation managed to tame its coronavirus outbreak.

Iceland has confirmed 1,799 cases of the virus and 10 people have died. The number of new COVID-19 cases each day has fallen from 106 at the peak of the outbreak to single digits — even, on some days, zero.

“I didn’t expect the recovery to be this fast,” said Iceland’s chief epidemiologist, Thorolfur Gudnason.

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Trump acknowledges outbreak death toll could reach 100,000

President Trump on Sunday sharply revised upward his projected toll of U.S. coronavirus deaths, saying that fatalities could reach 100,000, even as he defied warnings from leading public health experts and renewed his calls for a quick reopening of businesses across the country.

Speaking at a Fox News event staged at the Lincoln Memorial, Trump acknowledged being warned in late January about the threat posed by the virus, but faulted officials who he said delivered their assessment “matter-of-factly — it was not a big deal.”

Earlier Sunday, health experts from inside and outside the government warned the s outbreak may flare up more fiercely in coming months, even as many U.S. states are moving to ease stay-at-home restrictions.

Several of the nation’s governors, meanwhile, acknowledged they were walking a tightrope, fearing intensified outbreaks even as some of them embarked on reopenings meant to ease deep economic distress in their states.

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Navy took lessons from coronavirus outbreaks on three other ships to act quickly aboard Kidd

Novel coronavirus outbreaks aboard three Navy warships have taught the military service valuable lessons that enabled it to respond quickly in late March when a sailor started displaying symptoms of COVID-19 on the guided-missile destroyer Kidd, a vice admiral in charge of the Navy’s surface force said last week.

The Kidd was conducting counter-drug operations in the eastern Pacific near South America when a sailor began showing symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, on April 22. Less than a week later, the ship was moored at Naval Base San Diego, with 243 of its roughly 330 sailors evacuated from the vessel.

Vice Adm. Richard Brown, commander of the Naval Surface Force Pacific in San Diego, said Friday that quick action by the Navy to bring the Kidd into port soon after its first case was reported likely prevented a broader outbreak among the crew.

“This virus is insidious,” Brown said during a conference call with reporters. “If we had left her out there, the entire crew would have got infected.”

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Some California businesses reopen in defiance of coronavirus stay-at-home orders

As Californians prepare to enter the seventh week of stay-at-home restrictions, signs of fatigue are becoming evident.

From the high desert to the beach enclaves of Orange County, a growing number of businesses deemed nonessential are choosing to reopen in defiance of orders from local and state authorities.

In Victorville, 24-hour fitness studio the Gym reopened Friday with an 8-by-10-foot printout of the Constitution posted by the front door. Employees changed the colors of the studio’s sign to red, white and blue and hung banners that read #GymsAreEssential and #ReopenAmerica, according to owner Jacob D. Lewis.

Lewis said he chose to reopen after hearing from members who were struggling with issues ranging from flare-ups of chronic health conditions to declines in mental health since they had been unable to patronize his gym.

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Coronavirus leaves Washington farmers with a big problem: What do you do with a billion pounds of potatoes?

The notice on Facebook was small and nondescript: “Free potatoes donated by Washington Potato Growers.” But that’s all it took.

Last Wednesday, the giveaway caused a massive traffic jam in Ritzville, a tiny Eastern Washington farming town.

Farmer Marvin Wollman had filled a tractor-trailer with 40,000 pounds of russet potatoes packed into 15-pound bags, and they were gone in nearly three hours.

The next day, Wollman brought another 40,000-pound load to the city of Moses Lake, and the line of cars stretched two and a half miles.

Wollman was moved by the response, but this was much more than charity.

The coronavirus pandemic has left Washington’s farmers with at least a billion pounds of potatoes they can’t sell, a new crop growing without any buyers and millions of dollars in debt they have no way to pay.

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China hid severity of coronavirus to hoard supplies, according to DHS report

U.S. officials believe China covered up the extent of the novel coronavirus outbreak — and how contagious the disease it causes is — to stock up on medical supplies needed to respond to it, intelligence documents show.

Chinese leaders “intentionally concealed the severity” of the COVID-19 pandemic from the world in early January, according to a four-page Department of Homeland Security intelligence report dated May 1 and obtained by the Associated Press. The revelation comes as the Trump administration has intensified its criticism of China, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying Sunday that the country was responsible for the spread of disease and must be held accountable.

The sharper rhetoric coincides with administration critics saying the government’s response to the virus was slow and inadequate. President Donald Trump’s political opponents have accused him of lashing out at China, a geopolitical foe b

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Santa Barbara News-Press owner compares COVID restrictions to Nazi Germany; editor exits

The Santa Barbara News-Press lost its editor in chief this weekend after the newspaper published an editorial by owner and co-publisher Wendy McCaw that accused Democratic lawmakers of using the coronavirus for their own political agenda and compared stay-at-home orders to Nazi Germany.

“Our liberties are being stripped for what, a virus?? Think about this,” McCaw wrote in the editorial, published Friday and titled “We are living in tyranny.”

She continued: “If this country can be put into this situation by a virus, what would it take to completely turn us into the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany? We are not that far away now, having to stand in line to get into supermarkets....”

A note at the end of the editorial read: “Wendy P. McCaw is the co-publisher of the News-Press and the views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the SBNP staff.”

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Some countries report new infection peaks, even as lockdowns ease

In India, crowds of migrant workers wait to board buses to return to native villages.
In India in late March, crowds of migrant workers wait to board buses to return to their villages amid a nationwide virus lockdown.
(Yawar Nazir / Getty Images)

While millions of people took advantage of easing coronavirus lockdowns to enjoy spring weather, some of the world’s most populous countries reported worrisome new peaks in infections Sunday, including India, which saw its biggest single-day jump yet.

Second in population only to China, India reported more than 2,600 new infections. In Russia, new cases exceeded 10,000 for the first time. The confirmed death toll in Britain climbed near that of Italy, a hot spot of Europe’s outbreak, even though the U.K. population is younger than Italy’s and Britain had more time to prepare before the pandemic hit.

The United States continues to see tens of thousands of new infections each day, with more than 1,400 new deaths reported Saturday.

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L.A. County cases top 25,000, with more than 1,200 deaths

Los Angeles County public health officials on Sunday reported 21 additional coronavirus-related deaths and 781 new cases overall, pushing the county’s total number to more than 25,000.

“The people lost to COVID-19 are mourned by all of us in L.A. County, and to their loved ones, we wish you peace and healing,” Barbara Ferrer, the county health director, said in a statement.

Long Beach, which has its own health department, reported 15 additional cases, bringing the county’s total to 25,677 cases and 1,229 related deaths.

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World-class pole vault competition in backyards proves entertaining

Renaud Lavillenie competes in a backyard pole-vaulting competition on Sunday.
(World Athletics)

The sport of track and field found a way to stage a world-class competition Sunday, keeping athletes at a healthy social distance — as in hundreds, if not thousands, of miles apart.

The “Ultimate Garden Clash” had three champion pole vaulters square off by video from their backyards on separate continents.

“I was really missing that competition feeling,” said Renaud Lavillenie of France. “It could be crazy, but even if it’s just a garden competition … I get the same feeling like if I was going for the world championship.”

The 2012 Olympic gold medalist shared first place with world-record holder Mondo Duplantis of Sweden in an unusual event with unusual rules.

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Bird-watching takes flight as Americans head back outdoors

Amateur bird-watcher Michael Kopack Jr. and two nuthatches last week in Angier, N.C.
(Michael Kopack III)

Conner Brown, a 25-year-old law student at Stanford University, spent the early days of the coronavirus outbreak following his brother as he spotted and collected characters in the “Pokemon Go” mobile video game.

Then, Brown noticed the birds.

“I thought, ‘Why don’t I take up birding?’ It’s like real-life ‘Pokemon Go.’ It’s super addicting because you can start logging them and you get a little collection. It’s really cool,” Brown said. He paused, then added, “They should really game-ify it.”

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California stay-at-home order faces revolts at beaches and in rural communities

Pressure to reopen parts of California continued to build over the weekend, with more rural counties vowing to ease stay-at-home restrictions and protesters marching against the closure of Orange County beaches, a move intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Polls show most Californians support stay-at-home rules, which have been credited with helping California avoid the massive death toll of New York and other hot spots, and fear that lifting them too soon could cause more outbreaks.

But the social-distancing restrictions have devastated the economy, and some parts of California that have not been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus are pushing to get back in business.

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Most states fall short of coronavirus testing thresholds

ATLANTA — As more states begin to relax their coronavirus lockdowns, most are falling short of the minimum levels of testing suggested by the federal government and recommended by a variety of public health researchers, an Associated Press analysis has found.

Three months into an unprecedented public health emergency, the White House has largely resisted calls for a coordinated plan to conduct the millions of tests experts say are needed to contain the virus. What federal officials outlined recently isn’t even an official benchmark, and AP’s analysis found that a majority of states are not yet meeting it.

With no specific guidelines, states are left to figure out what a successful testing program should be while they simultaneously try to reopen their shattered economies.

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Hollywood theaters in limbo: Photos

The New Beverly Cinema is closed in Los Angeles.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

At 8 o’clock on a Saturday night, the scene outside the Regal LA Live & 4DX theater complex in downtown L.A. would normally be packed. Moviegoers would be rushing to arrive by showtime, packing crosswalks and backing up traffic on a busy Olympic Boulevard. Across from the cineplex, taco trucks would be drawing their own crowds.

On this particular Saturday night, however, with California’s stay-at-home order in effect, there were no cars, no moviegoers, no movies.

L.A. Times photographer Jay L. Clendenin captures Hollywood’s movie houses in this pandemic moment.

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Migrants trapped in mid-route danger zone

Thousands of desperate migrants are trapped in limbo and are even at risk of death without food, water or shelter in scorching deserts and at sea, as governments close off borders and ports in the face of the coronavirus outbreak.

Migrants have been dropped by the truckload in the Sahara or bused to Mexico’s border with Guatemala and beyond. Others are drifting in the Mediterranean after European and Libyan authorities declared their ports unsafe. And around 100 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar are believed to have died in the Bay of Bengal, as country after country pushed them back out to sea.

Many governments say that a public health crisis requires extraordinary measures. These measures, however, are just the latest steps taken to clamp down on migrants.

“They just dumped us,” said Fanny Jacqueline Ortiz, a 37-year-old Honduran who was abandoned March 26 with her two young daughters at the El Ceibo border crossing with Guatemala, expelled first by the U.S. and then by Mexico.

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Bush issues a criticism-free call for national unity; Trump slams him on Twitter

President Trump lashed out Sunday at former President George W. Bush a day after his fellow Republican issued a message calling for national unity amid the coronavirus crisis.

In a morning tweet, Trump cited a Fox News anchor’s criticism of the former president and amplified it with his own commentary, expressing resentment that Bush did not speak out against Trump’s impeachment by the House last year.

“He was nowhere to be found in speaking up against the greatest Hoax in American history!” Trump tweeted. The president was impeached by the House in December and acquitted in February by the Senate.

Throughout the coronavirus outbreak, Trump has often used Twitter and White House briefings to excoriate political foes, sometimes firing back over perceived denigration of his pandemic response, but sometimes launching attacks over unrelated matters.

Bush’s three-minute video, shared Saturday on Twitter, did not criticize Trump over the pandemic response or anything else. In his video, the former president called on Americans to remember “how small our differences are in the face of this shared threat.”

The call for unity is in keeping with type of consolation often voiced by former presidents in the face of a national tragedy.

“In the final analysis, we are not partisan combatants, we are human beings, equally vulnerable and equally wonderful in the sight of God,” Bush said in the video. “We rise or fall together, and we are determined to rise.”

There is ample precedent for sitting presidents to consult with or call on predecessors in national emergencies, such as the Sept. 11 attacks or Hurricane Katrina, without regard to party affiliation. There has been no public indication that Trump has sought the counsel of any former presidents in the course of the coronavirus outbreak.

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Coronavirus patients could be cash cows for nursing homes

The nursing home industry has been devastated by the coronavirus, with outbreaks killing thousands of elderly residents and likely setting the stage for both increased regulations and huge legal liabilities.

But the health crisis presents operators with a potential financial upside.

Patients with COVID-19 could be worth more than four times what homes are able to charge for long-term residents with relatively mild health issues.

Some patient advocates and industry experts fear the premium pay available for coronavirus patients — and a simultaneous easing of regulations around transfers — could tempt some home operators to move out low-paying residents to bring in more lucrative COVID-19 patients, despite the obvious health risks to residents and staff.

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Homeless activists are losing patience with L.A.

Not long after L.A. County reported more than 1,000 new coronavirus cases on Friday, Davon Brown decided he was done putting himself at risk. So he put on a blazer and went to the Ritz-Carlton Los Angeles.

Joined by activists from Street Watch L.A., he told hotel staff they were interested in renting several rooms but wanted a tour first. The concierge happily obliged, he said, and took the group to room 2221.

Then he revealed his plan: “I’m homeless in Echo Park and I’m not leaving this hotel.”

Brown, who was later arrested and released, told The Times that he had planned to stay until government officials had commandeered enough hotel rooms to house every homeless person in Los Angeles.

“If I stayed outside,” he said, “I could die.”

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Senate returns to Washington despite city’s virus spike and Congress’ stalemate

WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is hauling senators back to Washington this week even as the city reports record numbers of new coronavirus cases and the two parties are mired in a stalemate over the next bill to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Republicans have demanded that any new economic relief measure must shield businesses that reopen from liability against lawsuits brought by customers and employees. Democrats have balked, saying workers need more protection, not less. Their chief demand is $1 trillion for state and local governments burdened by burgeoning costs and plunging revenues.

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Two more California counties to defy stay-at-home order, allowing businesses to open Monday

SAN FRANCISCO — Yuba and Sutter counties in Northern California are set to allow many businesses to reopen on Monday in defiance of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s statewide 6-week-old stay-at-home order.

The two counties near the state capital would join a sparsely populated county in California’s northeastern corner, Modoc County, with fewer than 9,000 residents, that on Friday allowed all businesses, schools and churches to reopen as long as people inside can stay six feet apart.

The move by Yuba and Sutter counties — with a combined population of 171,000 people and just 50 coronavirus cases and three deaths — comes as other California counties on the Central Coast and San Joaquin Valley are demanding to reopen more businesses. On Friday, Newsom said he could make an announcement within days about easing the state’s stay-at-home order.

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COVID-19 finally came. Armed with a plan, Mariposa County was waiting to fight back

Hailey Boland is swabbed for the virus at a Mariposa school gym.
Hailey Boland, certified nursing assistant, is swabbed for COVID-19 at a Mariposa school gym last week.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

MARIPOSA COUNTY, Calif. — Dr. Eric Sergienko was already in his office early last Tuesday when his cellphone pinged with the message he had been both expecting and dreading.

A 23-year-old woman in Mariposa County — the scenic, lightly populated mountain community Sergienko serves as health officer — had tested positive for COVID-19. It was 7:13 a.m., a time that has become seared in Sergienko’s memory the way others mark the birth of a child or the initial tremors of an earthquake.

More than 53,000 Californians have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, but in Mariposa County, Tuesday’s result was the first.

Though the case marked the arrival of a potentially deadly pathogen, it also allowed Sergienko to launch a contact-tracing system he had been working on for weeks, one of the final planks of a well-constructed response platform the county has been building for months.

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How a reclusive town worked to screen itself from the virus

A sign warns visitors away from Bolinas.
(Maura Dolan / Los Angeles Times)

BOLINAS, Calif. — When the coronavirus outbreak appeared likely to rage through the Bay Area weeks ago, residents of this hermit-like beach community tried to protect themselves by doing what they do best — keeping out strangers.

Despite a regional stay-home order, outsiders were inundating Bolinas, which sits just south of Point Reyes National Seashore in west Marin County. Yelling matches ensued. Residents posted themselves at the entrance to town and shouted at drivers, “Go home!”

Under a homemade “Bernie 2020" sign painted in red, residents hung two others: “Bolinas closed to visitors for duration of pandemic. Residents, deliveries only.”

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Unmasked and grouped together, shutdown protesters pose risk, White House official says

Demonstrators protest beach closures in Huntington Beach last week.
Demonstrators in Huntington Beach protest beach closures last week.
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

The sight of shutdown protesters crowded together in public, often unmasked, is “devastatingly worrisome,” the White House coronavirus task force coordinator, Deborah Birx, said Sunday.

But Birx, whose boss, President Trump, has called the protesters “very good people,” did not take issue with the demonstrators’ message that states should move more quickly to lift virus-related restrictions.

In an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” Birx instead focused on the need for physical distancing, whether by protesters or beachgoers in California.

Asked about demonstrators, some of them armed, who crowded into the Michigan statehouse last week, Birx said they risked infecting one another, possibly passing the virus on to those at high risk for severe illness or death from COVID-19.

“It’s devastatingly worrisome to me personally, because if they go home and they infect their grandmother or grandfather who has a co-morbid condition and they have a serious or very unfortunate outcome, they will feel guilty for the rest of their lives,” she said. “So we need to protect each other at the same time as we’re voicing our discontent.”

Asked whether it was safe for people to flock to beaches in California, Birx said that depended on proximity. “If it’s done with social distancing, yes,” she said. “If it’s not done with social distancing, no.”

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Protesters rally in Orange County to denounce Newsom’s beach closure

On the seventh Saturday of the state’s stay-at-home order, the division over mandatory closures widened, and the flashpoint in Southern California was once again the beaches of Orange County.

Surfers hopped fences. Walkers strolled with their dogs, and parking lots became impromptu Chautauquas to debate policy and voice opinion.

The actions are in defiance of the orders issued Thursday by Gov. Gavin Newsom calling for a “hard close” of all state and local beaches, a mandate that singled out the sandy stretches of Orange County for last week’s crowds who were seeking relief from an early heatwave.

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Solar and wind energy struggle as coronavirus takes its toll

Solar panels
U.S. solar energy has taken a hit with the coronavirus.
(Barbara Sax AFP / Getty Images)

The U.S. renewable energy industry is reeling from the new coronavirus pandemic, which has delayed construction, put thousands of skilled laborers out of work and sowed doubts about solar and wind projects on the drawing board.

In locked-down California, some local agencies that issue permits for new work closed temporarily, and some solar companies furloughed installers.

In New York and New Jersey, SunPower CEO Thomas Werner halted installation of more than 400 residential solar systems, fearing for his workers’ safety.

As many as 120,000 jobs in solar and 35,000 in wind could be lost, trade groups say.

“There are many smaller companies going out of business as we speak,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president of the Solar Energy Industries Assn. “Up to half our jobs are at risk.”

Leaders are confident the future is bright. But the worldwide slowdown is delaying a transition to cleaner energy that scientists say is not happening quickly enough to curtail climate change.

Even as some states move toward reopening, executives fear diminished incomes and work disrupted by layoffs and social distancing will do lasting damage.

The wind industry is plagued by slowdowns in obtaining parts from overseas, getting them to job sites and constructing new turbines.

“The industry was on a tremendous roll right up until the last month or two,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Assn. ”That reversal is stunning and problematic.”

Residential solar business has been hit especially hard, Hopper said, with door-to-door sales no longer feasible and potential customers watching their wallets. Deals with commercial buyers also have slumped.

New solar installations could be 17% lower worldwide than expected this year, and wind turbine manufacturing could fall up to 20%, according to consulting firm Wood Mackenzie.

“Pre-pandemic, there were great dreams and aspirations for a record-setting year,” said Paul Gaynor, CEO of Longroad Energy, a utility-scale wind and solar developer. “I’m sure we’re not going to have that.”

Fossil fuels such as natural gas and coal remain the leading providers of the nation’s electricity, with nuclear power another key contributor, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

But renewable sources — wind, solar, hydroelectric, biomass and geothermal — have jumped in the last decade as production costs have fallen and many states have ordered utilities to make greater use of renewable energy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Renewables produced nearly one-fifth of the country’s energy last year.

The EIA predicts renewable energy, despite recent setbacks, will grow 11% this year — an indication of the sector’s strong surge before the economy tanked. Meanwhile, coal-fired power is expected to decline 20% and gas generation to grow just 1%.

The setback for renewable energy still has been painful — even in California, where residential solar demand took off due to frequent blackouts and state laws requiring to new homes to produce as much energy as they consume.

“A lot of companies are just trying everything they can to just limp along and keep their workforce,” said Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director of the California Solar and Storage Assn.

Since his furlough in mid-March, Luminalt solar technician Tom Hicks has been collecting benefits but no salary — and he’s worried about mortgage payments.

“My 401k got crushed by 30% just like everyone else,” said Hicks, 55. “How much time do I have to recover?”

Still, there are hopeful signs. The Boston-based developer Longroad recently began a utility-scale solar project in California and secured new financing for another in Texas.

Sunnova Energy International, a Houston-based residential solar and energy storage service provider, is doing more videoconferencing and fewer in-person dealings with customers. But CEO John Berger said, “Our installations are still moving ahead, service is still moving ahead, we still see customers paying us.”

In eastern Kansas, construction has continued at Southern Power’s 200-megawatt Reading Wind Facility despite delayed parts shipments, company spokeswoman Helen Northcutt White said. Sixty-two turbines are planned for the facility, scheduled to go online in mid-May.

The wind and solar industries have asked lawmakers and federal agencies for help, including an extension of their four-year deadlines for completing projects without losing tax benefits. Similar assistance was granted during the 2008-09 recession.

It’s important to push for more responsible energy use as the economy reopens worldwide, said Andrew Pershing, chief scientific officer with Gulf of Maine Research Institute in Portland, Maine, which studies climate change and oceans.

“My hope is that we would use this as an opportunity to build toward an economy that doesn’t depend on burning coal and oil and that is more resilient to the climate impacts that are heading our way,” Pershing said.

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Newport Beach joins fight against Newsom’s Orange County beach closure order

The Newport Beach City Council on Saturday voted to back other Orange County coastal cities trying to block Gov. Gavin Newsom’s beach closure order and filed an amicus brief in support of the challenge.

Newsom closed the beaches over the objections of Orange County officials after crowds hit the sand last weekend. He said the closure is designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus and promised easing of some stay-at-home rules next week.

City leaders in Dana Point and Huntington Beach voted during emergency meetings Thursday night to approve filing for an injunction to block Newsom’s directive to close their beaches.

On Friday afternoon, Orange County Superior Court Judge Nathan Scott rejected a request from the two cities seeking a temporary restraining order to keep beaches open. He set a hearing for May 11 to consider the cities’ request for an injunction.

Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said his department did not plan to cite people simply getting out for beach exercise. He said most beachgoers have acted responsibly.

“As long as people are social distancing and doing what they’re expected to do, the sheriff does not have interest in criminalizing people enjoying the beach,” department spokeswoman Carrie Braun said.

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L.A. County reports 691 new coronavirus cases and 38 deaths

Los Angeles County public health officials on Saturday announced 691 new COVID-19 cases and 38 related deaths.

“For those of you who are grieving a loved one lost to COVID-19, we are so sorry for your loss,” Barbara Ferrer, the county health director, said in a statement.

The county has recorded a total of 24,894 cases and 1,209 deaths. More than 158,000 people have been tested for the novel coronavirus and received results, with about 14% testing positive, officials said.

“As we plan for L.A. County’s recovery phase, we are mapping a path forward that allows us to appropriately acknowledge the very real risks of COVID-19 and, together, do everything possible to continue to slow the spread and save lives,” Ferrer said.

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Newsom’s Orange County beach ban could have ripple effect along Southern California coast

People walk along the sand in Newport Beach in defiance of a beach closure.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s decision to close Orange County beaches to slow the spread of the coronavirus faces a test this weekend, and could have an impact on other Southern California shores.

Newsom closed the beaches over the objections of Orange County officials after crowds hit the sand last weekend.

Temperatures will be cooler this weekend, but officials are bracing for more visitors. And it remains unclear how aggressively the closure will be enforced.

Los Angeles County beaches are closed, but many in San Diego and Ventura counties remain open. Some leaders worry that the Orange County closure could send more beachgoers their way.

Coronado Mayor Richard Bailey expressed concerns that the beach ban in Orange County could affect San Diego.

“I’m definitely pleased that the state isn’t taking a heavy-handed approach with our county,” he said, “but I am disappointed that they are shutting down beaches in Orange County because that might create some compression and have a spillover effect on our beaches.”

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Most states fall short of coronavirus testing thresholds

As more states begin to relax their coronavirus lockdowns, most are falling short of the minimum levels of testing suggested by the federal government and recommended by a variety of public health researchers, an Associated Press analysis has found.

Three months into an unprecedented public health emergency, the White House has largely resisted calls for a coordinated plan to conduct the millions of tests experts say are needed to contain the virus. What federal officials outlined recently isn’t even an official benchmark, and AP’s analysis found that a majority of states are not yet meeting it.

With no specific guidelines, states are left to figure out what a successful testing program should be while they simultaneously try to reopen their shattered economies. If states don’t have robust testing, public health experts say they will be unable to detect outbreaks quickly enough to contain them, which could lead to more shutdowns.

“It’s dangerous and irresponsible,” said Lawrence Gostin, a public health specialist at Georgetown University.

In many states, testing has been limited to hospitalized patients, high-risk individuals and front-line workers. But most public health experts agree that containing the virus will require a massive expansion of testing that eventually includes millions of patients without symptoms, which is not happening now.

A testing blueprint released Monday by the Trump administration lacked any metrics state officials could use to make informed decisions. Instead, the document made clear that states are responsible for testing, saying the federal government is the “supplier of last resort.”

The closest the White House has come to issuing a benchmark does not actually appear in the document. At a recent briefing, senior administration officials said the government would provide each state with enough tests, swabs and related materials to screen at least 2.6% of their populations in May and June. Those hit harder by the outbreak would be eligible for additional assistance.

It was unclear how the 2.6% figure was reached. When asked about it, officials with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services described it as 2% of state populations per month without explaining the discrepancy. Officials also did not respond to questions about whether the administration has a target for how many daily tests should be done nationwide or when it would issue more details.

Only about 40% of states currently meet even the 2% testing threshold, according to AP’s analysis. The percentage is expected to rise as states increase their testing capabilities. The AP based the monthly testing rate for each state on the average number of new daily tests over the most recent seven days. The data are from the COVID Tracking Project and include counts up to April 30.

A White House spokesman said Friday that the administration’s testing threshold is only a suggestion and that states are ultimately responsible for deciding how to reopen in a “safe and responsible manner.” The administration says it is working to expand testing and has been highlighting plans first announced in March for additional testing sites at retail pharmacy chains.

States that do not meet the administration’s testing guidance, based on their current screening rates, include some that have been moving into the early stages of reopening, such as Colorado, South Carolina and Texas. Georgia, which has moved aggressively to ease restrictions and lift its stay-at-home order, is just under the 2% threshold.

Louisiana and Kansas, where Republican lawmakers have been putting pressure on Democratic governors to reopen, are falling short, according to the AP analysis. In Kansas, the governor and top health administrator expect to reach the 2% mark this month.

Florida, which announced its first phase of reopening will start next week, also falls short but has said it will be able to test 30,000 to 40,000 people a day if needed. Michigan, where the Republican-led legislature has sued the Democratic governor over the state’s stay-at-home order, is on track to test 2.2% of its population.

Former health officials and experts were critical of the testing blueprint and said the 2.6% or 2% population metric was too vague and didn’t take into account guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on who should be tested.

“Why don’t they say, ‘We’ll test everybody with any symptoms of coronavirus and all their contacts?’” said Dr. James Curran, a former assistant U.S. surgeon general who worked at the CDC for 25 years. “If that amounts to 2% that’s fine, but the guidelines are not to test 2%. The guidelines are to test who needs it.”

Many experts already say the national testing rate falls short of what is needed to safely ease social-distancing guidelines.

Researchers at Harvard have calculated that the U.S. needs to be testing roughly 500,000 people per day before considering easing restrictions this month. That’s a nearly 150% increase from the recent daily tally of approximately 200,000 tests.

“I’ve described it and I still describe it as an absolute bare minimum,” said Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute.

More than half of states are not testing their populations at the daily rate recommended by Jha and his colleagues. The Harvard team developed their statistics in mid-April and noted that projections for U.S. cases have increased since then.

Many states hardest hit by the crisis failed to reach the team’s testing recommendations, even if they were already testing more than 2% of their populations, according to an AP analysis using state-by-state figures provided by Harvard. States falling short of the Harvard numbers include many of the hot spots of the outbreak, including New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts.

Jha and his colleagues based their testing targets, in part, on the number of tests needed to screen enough people to push positive results below 10%, the level that the World Health Organization considers sufficient to contain the outbreak. More than 16% of U.S. tests nationwide are positive for the virus, according to figures compiled by the COVID Tracking Project website. That compares with a rate of about 3% in South Korea, a country praised for its aggressive testing.

Former CDC director Tom Frieden has recommended double the current testing levels. He said the U.S. should be testing at minimum 400,000 people a day.

Officials in at least 20 states have indicated their testing capacity is not adequate and said they are taking steps to address this, according to a review by the AP. But there is little consensus among states on how many people should be tested or whether that should include those with no symptoms.

Georgia, where in-person dining at restaurants is now permitted with restrictions, has not said how many people it would like to test but recently touted its ability to test more than 20,000 people on a single day and has encouraged more people to get tested. New Jersey, which has a slightly smaller population and a higher number of COVID-19 cases, has said it would need to conduct 20,000 to 30,000 tests a day to reopen.

Ohio wants to increase testing from 7,200 per day to 22,000 by May 27. Washington state, which has seen one of the largest U.S. outbreaks, has reported averaging 4,650 tests a day and wants to do more than 22,000 but lacks the necessary supplies.

Most states have convened advisory panels to help in setting guidelines, but they run the gamut in terms of expertise and will result in a patchwork of policies that experts say may be ineffective in containing a virus that doesn’t respect state borders.

“Treading water on testing is not going to get us out of this,” said Jeremy Konyndyk, a disaster preparedness expert who helped lead the Obama administration response to Ebola.

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Column: We all love a nostalgia trip like the ‘Parks and Recreation’ reunion. Here’s why it’s dangerous

Like millions of Americans, our family laughed and cried its way through the “Parks and Recreation” reunion special Thursday night. And the best known citizens of Pawnee were not the only people the show reunited.

Although there’s been a lot of TV watching in our house during the COVID-19 shutdown, most of it has been done separately on laptops or in subgroups around bigger screens; even when two or more of us agree on a movie or series, the chances of a unanimous vote are not good.

But we all love “Parks and Rec” and so there we were, lined up on sofas and chairs, shoving and shushing one another in the ways of a bygone era when there was an electronic hearth with cords to be managed, not cut.

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Drugs for heartburn, gout and depression now being tested as coronavirus treatments

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Michele Eve Sandberg/Shutterstock (10626372a) New York hospitals are studying a common heartburn drug as treatment for Covid-19. According to the doctor who initiated the trial. Preliminary results of the clinical trial of famotidine, the active ingredient in Pepcid, could come out in the next few weeks, said Dr. Kevin Tracey, president of Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research at Northwell Health, which runs 23 hospitals in the New York City area.So far, 187 patients have enrolled in the clinical trial, and Northwell eventually hopes to enroll 1,200, he said. Famotidine, found over the counter in Pepcid2020 Monday, 2020 in Hallandale Beach, Fla. Coronavirus outbreak, Hallandale, Florida, USA - 27 Apr 2020
Mandatory Credit: Photo by Michele Eve Sandberg/Shutterstock (10626372a) New York hospitals are studying a common heartburn drug as treatment for Covid-19. According to the doctor who initiated the trial. Preliminary results of the clinical trial of famotidine, the active ingredient in Pepcid, could come out in the next few weeks, said Dr. Kevin Tracey, president of Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research at Northwell Health, which runs 23 hospitals in the New York City area.So far, 187 patients have enrolled in the clinical trial, and Northwell eventually hopes to enroll 1,200, he said. Famotidine, found over the counter in Pepcid2020 Monday, 2020 in Hallandale Beach, Fla. Coronavirus outbreak, Hallandale, Florida, USA - 27 Apr 2020
(Michele Eve Sandberg/Shutterstock/Michele Eve Sandberg/Shutterstock)

In a race to find medicines that can tame the coronavirus and treat patients with COVID-19, researchers are scouring the formulary of available drugs and chemical compounds in hopes of finding something they could put to work immediately.

As a result, dozens of existing medicines have been waved through to clinical trials in record time. In roughly six weeks, the federal government’s running tally of registered clinical trials for COVID-19 treatments has swelled to 217. An additional 916 clinical trials of prospective coronavirus treatments have been proposed in other countries.

Remdesivir, a medication originally developed for Ebola, made news this week after clinical trial results showed it could shorten the recovery time for hospitalized COVID-19 patients by 31%. Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said it was the first proof “that a drug can block this virus.”

But it will take much more than that to build up a reliable arsenal of treatments that includes options for patients at all stages of the disease, and with symptoms ranging from mild to life-threatening. So the trials will continue.

Some of the drugs being tested aim to protect lungs that are under assault from the coronavirus. Some would disrupt the virus’ entry into our cells, or stop it from replicating once inside. A few would aid the immune system’s initial response to coronavirus infection, and many more might help by tamping down the immune system when it goes into overdrive, a condition that is killing some critically ill COVID-19 patients.

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First California county reopens despite state’s stay-home order; diners rejoice in the ‘new normal’

In the far northeast corner of California, “the new normal”began to take shape.

Tiny Modoc County on Friday began to reopen, with restaurants again serving food and other retailers swinging their doors open for customers.

Modoc County — which has recorded no coronavirus cases — was the first California county to reopen even as Gov. Gavin Newsom said his stay-at-home order remains in effect. He said Friday to expect changes within days but stressed that social distancing is still necessary to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The Modoc County reopening came with health rules. Restaurants and bars were allowed to host diners, but only at half the businesses’ capacity. People 65 and older and residents with underlying health conditions were still required to stay home except to conduct essential business, and large gatherings where people cannot stay six feet apart will still be banned.

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Thousands of healthcare workers are laid off or furloughed

Healthcare workers, championed as heroes of the coronavirus crisis and applauded for risking their lives to protect others, have been hit especially hard by the severe economic fallout wrought by the pandemic.

In California, thousands of nurses, doctors and other medical staff have been laid off or furloughed or have taken a pay cut since mid-March. The pain has been felt broadly, from major facilities such as Stanford Health Care to tiny rural hospitals to private practitioners. Across the nation, job losses in the healthcare sector have been second only to those in the restaurant industry, according to federal labor statistics.

Hospitals and doctors’ offices lost billions in revenue when they canceled elective surgeries and non-emergency visits to prepare for a possible surge in COVID-19 patients and to reduce the spread of the virus.

Patients also began scheduling fewer appointments and avoiding the hospital, even for medical emergencies, creating another hit for providers who were already hurting. The surge, in places where it did arrive, was not enough to compensate for the losses, experts say.

American healthcare is a business, and the economics are simple: Fewer patients means less money. And though some California hospitals are beginning to schedule elective surgeries again, experts say the healthcare industry is unlikely to bounce back immediately, as large swaths of the population are now struggling to make ends meet and may continue to avoid or put off medical care.

“For 35 years, job prospects in healthcare have been great,” said USC health economist Glenn Melnick. “This time, I think it’s going to have to slow down quite a bit” as hospitals and clinics learn to cope with lower revenue “in a permanent way.”

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Sun draws many outside in the U.S. and Europe, while coronavirus numbers in Russia grow

Gorgeous spring weather across the United States and Europe on Saturday drew people cooped up inside for weeks to the outdoors to soak in the sun, even as additional coronavirus hot spots in Russia and Pakistan emerged.

Though grateful to be outside, people were still wary — masks were worn everywhere, even on southern U.S. beaches and by some joggers in Spain. A New York City farmers’ market enforced the familiar six feet of space between people waiting to buy spring flowers. Mothers in Central Park reminded their kids to give people space. And small groups of picnickers kept their safe distances, while joggers moved past each other without a glance.

Retired New York attorney Stan Neustadter pulled down his mask to say it’s been important to his spirit to get out. “Why live like a rabbit? Plus I’m approaching 78, I’ve had a great run,” Neustadter said.

Police and park officials were spread out across New York City, which sent out 1,000 officers to enforce social distancing on the warmest day since mid-March. But they were more likely to break up large groups, leaving the nuisances of social distancing and hanging out safely outside to New Yorkers themselves.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said people need to go outside and enjoy the warm weather.

“Go for a walk, but respect the social distancing and wear a mask,” Cuomo said.

With gigs drying up at clubs and concert halls all over town, German native Julia Banholzer, a saxophonist, said she has taken to playing al fresco in Central Park for whoever happens by. On Saturday that was a steady stream of folks, most wearing masks, who left tips for her trio as they worked their way through a set of jazz standards.

“It’s great to have an audience after all these weeks,” she said. “All my dates have been canceled through September and I don’t know if any will come back this year. New York is a tough place, but this is just another tough period we need to get through.”

Meanwhile, fighter jets from the U.S. Navy Blue Angels and U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds drew people outside as they flew over Atlanta, Baltimore and Washington in honor of healthcare workers. In Atlanta, drivers stopped on a major highway through the city or found open places to look to the sky on rooftops or in a cemetery.

Elsewhere in the world, the pandemic’s danger was still evident. Russia and Pakistan reported their biggest one-day spikes in new infections.

Russia reported around 125,000 cases and more than 1,200 deaths. True numbers are believed to be much higher because not everyone is tested. In the far northeast, 3,000 of 10,000 workers at a vast natural gas field tested positive, Russian news agencies reported.

Moscow’s mayor said this week that officials are considering establishing temporary hospitals at sports complexes and shopping malls to deal with the influx of patients. Infection cases have reached the highest levels of government, with both the prime minister and the construction minister contracting the virus.

The virus has killed more than 238,000 people worldwide, including more than 65,000 in the United States and more than 24,000 each in Italy, Britain, France and Spain, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University. Health experts warn a second wave of infections could hit unless testing is expanded dramatically.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and those with health problems, it can cause severe illness such as pneumonia, or death.

In Spain, where COVID-19 has caused more than 25,100 deaths, people ventured out Saturday for the first time since a March 14 lockdown.

“I feel good, but tired. You sure notice that it has been a month and I am not in shape,” 36-year-old Cristina Palomeque said. “Some people think it may be too early, as I do, but it is also important to do exercise for health reasons.”

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said his country deserved relief after weeks of confinement. But he asked citizens to remain vigilant about virus precautions.

“Until we have a vaccine, we are going to see more outbreaks,” Sánchez said. “What we need to guarantee is that these outbreaks do not put our national health system in danger.”

Italy, which has suffered more than 28,700 deaths, the highest number in Europe, plans to begin easing its two-month lockdown starting Monday.

But Pakistan appears to be joining Russia with rapidly increasing case counts. On Saturday, Pakistan announced nearly 1,300 new cases, raising the total in the country of 220 million people to about 18,000.

Photos in newspapers showed large numbers of the faithful at Pakistani mosques and only some following social-distancing rules. Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government said it might ease controls, but doctors have pleaded for stricter lockdowns, warning an explosion of infections would overwhelm hospitals that have only 3,000 intensive care beds nationwide.

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Northern California official ousted after saying elderly, ill, homeless people should be left to die in pandemic

A planning commissioner of a Northern California city was removed from his post Friday night after saying that just as a forest fire clears dead brush, “the sick, the old, the injured” should be left to meet their “natural course in nature” during the coronavirus outbreak.

Via a Zoom meeting, the five-member City Council of Antioch, a city of about 110,000 people 35 miles east of Oakland, voted unanimously to remove Ken Turnage II as chairman of the city’s planning commission.

Turnage, who owns a home restoration company in Antioch, had characterized older people, the homeless community and people with weak immune systems as a drain on society who should be left to perish as COVID-19 sweeps through Contra Costa County, where it has killed 27 people and infected 891 to date.

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Philippine nurses, long treated like exports, now told to stay home to fight coronavirus

MANILA — After decades of exporting its nurses to other countries, the Philippines is now pressuring them to stay home to fight the coronavirus.

The country, which is experiencing the second-most deadly outbreak of the disease in Southeast Asia after Indonesia, has barred health workers with new contracts from overseas jobs and launched an emergency hiring program to shore up a medical system that was failing even before the pandemic began.

The changes mark one more twist in the complex history of Philippine nurses, whose professional origins date back to American colonial rule more than a century ago when they were trained to care for U.S. soldiers.

Often tapped to fill shortages in other nations, Philippine nurses are the backbone of many healthcare facilities across the world and disproportionately planted on the front lines against COVID-19. In California, nearly one-fifth of registered nurses are ethnic Filipinos in a state where less than 4% of the population is Filipino.
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‘It’s too soon’: In small towns and big cities, Georgia’s experiment in reopening moves slowly

JONESBORO, Ga. — At the end of a nine-hour workday, David Simmons sprinkled a cloud of lemon-pepper over a pile of chicken wings, stepped up to his cash register and shook his head.

He had cooked three batches of wings for two customers, bringing in just $23.97 — a fraction of the $300 he typically made each day at his small soul food joint.

“I don’t think it’s worth staying open,” the 48-year-old business owner said as he scanned his empty NoToSo’s restaurant in a strip mall in Jonesboro, a sprawling suburban town about 15 miles south of Atlanta. “I’m just hanging in here until I can’t.”

A week after Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp plunged the state into the middle of a national social experiment — rolling back restrictions on businesses in an effort to restart the economy after a monthlong shutdown to halt the spread of the coronavirus — many business owners and workers remain a long way from getting back to normal.
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Smithfield reopening key hog slaughterhouse this weekend while others remain closed

Smithfield Foods plans to reopen its large hog slaughterhouse in Monmouth, Ill., on Saturday after a weeklong shutdown due to cases of COVID-19 among workers.

The facility, which employs 1,700 people and accounts for 3% of U.S. pork products, was among three Illinois pork processing plants that closed last week. The company had previously said a “small portion” of its Monmouth employees had tested positive for COVID-19.

On Friday, it did not provide any details about the decision to reopen.

The company’s meat processing plant in St. Charles, Ill., remains closed a week after the Kane County Health Department ordered its temporary shutdown. The county on Friday said a worker at the plant died.
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White House blocking Fauci testimony, House panel spokesman says

WASHINGTON — A spokesman for a key House panel said Friday that the White House has blocked Dr. Anthony Fauci from testifying next week at a hearing on the coronavirus outbreak.

House Appropriations Committee spokesman Evan Hollander said the panel sought Fauci — the highly respected director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases — as a witness for a subcommittee hearing on the government’s response to the pandemic, but was denied. Hollander said the panel was informed by an administration official that Fauci’s testimony was blocked by the White House.

He wouldn’t identify who informed the committee that Fauci would not appear.

The White House said Fauci is busy dealing with the pandemic and will appear before Congress later.
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The coronavirus lockdown is miserable. Rushing herd immunity could be worse

You are so done with this coronavirus lockdown.

You’re tired of Zoom cocktail hours, the never-ending pile of dishes, Netflix.

You miss your friends. You want to hug your parents. You want to see people’s faces, no masks please.

And if you are among the more than 30 million Americans who filed for unemployment since mid-March, you are probably freaking out about your finances too.
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Coronavirus outbreak creates a college football recruiting year unlike any other

Unfiltered as always, Ed Orgeron offered up a strict rule on “film-only” scholarship offers in the 2007 college football recruiting book, “Meat Market.”

For a player to get an offer based on video scouting alone, the then-Mississippi and future USC and Louisiana State coach said, “He’d better damned well be a no-brainer.”

For good reason. In the musical chairs that is recruiting, little is taken for granted. Coaches want to see recruits in person. Players want to learn about schools for themselves.

The whole process revolves around this “seeing-is-believing” philosophy, and at no point during the months-long recruiting calendar do players and coaches see more of one another than the spring and summer before a prospect’s senior season.
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Stocks slide as Amazon and other companies detail coronavirus fallout

Stocks on Wall Street closed broadly lower Friday after Amazon and other big companies reported disappointing results, the latest evidence of how the coronavirus outbreak is hobbling the economy and hurting corporate earnings.

A day after closing out its best month since 1987, the Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 2.8%. The slide brought the benchmark index to its second weekly loss in a row.

The selling accelerated as the day went on, with energy stocks taking the biggest losses. Technology firms and companies that rely on consumer spending also accounted for a big slice of the decline.
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Rowdy crowd protests coronavirus lockdowns at California State Capitol in Sacramento

SACRAMENTO — Hundreds of protesters — possibly more than 1,000 — crowded around the California State Capitol Friday to protest Gov. Gavin Newsom’s social distancing orders amid a pandemic that has now killed more than 2,000 Californians.

Many of the protesters called Newsom a tyrant and showed their support for President Trump, evidenced by Trump 2020 gear everywhere, including for sale.

Susan Dorrity, a retired mortgage broker from Modesto, said the president was smart to leave decisions about closures to governors.

“Not opening up as of May 1 is on the governor, not on him,” she said. “God is behind Trump.”
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States reopen theaters, restaurants amid coronavirus outbreak as experts warn of second wave

Millions of people across the U.S. were able to venture out to movie theaters, retail stores, restaurants and other businesses for the first time in weeks as governors in several states allowed stay-at-home restrictions to expire.

In Texas, an executive order from Gov. Greg Abbott allows many retail stores, restaurants, malls and movie theaters to reopen at 25% capacity amid the coronavirus outbreak; in rural counties with five or fewer confirmed coronavirus cases, retailers can open at 50% capacity. In Utah, restaurants and salons and gyms also may open with some restrictions. Other states, including Idaho, Maine and Tennessee, are easing some restrictions, some over the objections of local leaders.

But governors in states extending or expanding their orders in the face of rising death tolls from the pandemic continued to face pushback and protests amid skyrocketing unemployment rates.
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Is time flying by oddly quickly during COVID-19? Here’s why you may feel that way

Think about your first day in quarantine. Does it feel like a lifetime ago? Or does it feel like yesterday?

Many people staying at home as a result of the coronavirus crisis are noticing time pass more strangely than usual. While some complain of days dragging on and on, others have taken to social media, explaining they feel the past several weeks have flown by eerily quickly.

Turns out, science can provide some insight into why our perception of time is a little wonkier than normal while in quarantine. Here’s what the experts say:
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Here is the latest list of Orange County communities with coronavirus cases

Orange County health officials on Friday announced 163 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the overall number of cases to 2,537.

Officials also confirmed five more deaths, for a total of 50 coronavirus-related fatalities.

The Orange County Health Agency reported 181 hospitalizations — a new single-day high for the county — with 61 of those patients in intensive care. Earlier this week, the county’s single-day highest number of people hospitalized reached 178, with 74 of those patients in intensive care.

Countywide, 34,128 tests have been administered, with 2,594 reported Friday, according to the healthcare agency.
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New Mexico invokes riot act to seal roads into Gallup as coronavirus cases surge

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The governor of New Mexico invoked the state’s Riot Control Act on Friday as she sealed off all roads to nonessential traffic in the city of Gallup to help control a surging coronavirus outbreak in the former trading post city on the outskirts of the Navajo Nation.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham also announced a ban on routine outings and ordered businesses to close from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. in the city of about 70,000 people along Interstate 40.

COVID-19 infection rates in Gallup and surrounding McKinley County make it one of the worst U.S. hotspots for the pandemic as patients overwhelm intensive care facilities.
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Some national parks will start to reopen Monday

Some national parks will open their gates in coming days, but far from all. The National Park Service announced Thursday that it would start “increasing access and services in a phased approach across all units of the National Park System.”

Here’s what to watch as the system rebounds.

In many cases, parks will reopen as they closed — by varying timetables, depending on the park and its region. The agency said the decisions would follow federal CDC guidance as well as that provided by regional and local health authorities.

Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah on May 6 plans to open trails around the red-rock spires of the Bryce Amphitheater, its most visited area. The main park road and viewpoints along the way will be open from the entrance to Rainbow Point. However, the visitor center, campgrounds, backcountry trails and restrooms remain closed (except for one at Sunset Point), a park announcement said.
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Major U.S. airlines will require masks to slow coronavirus spread

Take a flight, wear a mask.

All major U.S. airlines have joined JetBlue in requiring passengers to wear face coverings, and most are also mandating that flight attendants and other employees wear masks while working to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

JetBlue, United and Delta will begin the rule May 4. Southwest, Alaska and American are requiring masks starting May 11.

Most of the airlines that have announced the mask rules have cited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s findings that the use of cloth masks or face coverings slows the spread of the virus, which causes COVID-19.
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NBA postpones draft lottery and combine indefinitely because of coronavirus

The NBA announced it is postponing its draft lottery and combine indefinitely because of the coronavirus shutdown.

“More information on each event will be shared at a later date as the NBA continues to closely monitor the coronavirus pandemic and consult with infectious disease specialists, public health experts and government officials,” the league said.

While the draft itself is still scheduled for June, the overwhelming expectation is that it, too, will also be postponed.

The NBA draft lottery was originally scheduled to take place May 19 in Chicago. The combine was supposed to take place May 21-24 in Chicago.
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L.A. County reports 1,065 new coronavirus cases, 62 deaths

Los Angeles County public health officials on Friday reported 62 more deaths related to COVID-19 and 1,065 new cases of the coronavirus.

Long Beach, which has its own health department, reported an additional 42 cases, bringing the county’s total to 24,257 cases and 1,172 deaths.

“At the beginning of the month of April, I reported 79 deaths,” said Barbara Ferrer, the county health director. “So we have had devastating losses across our communities during the month of April.”

A total of 1,959 COVID-19 patients are in hospitals in L.A. County, with 27% of them in intensive care units and 17% on ventilators, Ferrer said, contrasting that with the beginning of April, when there were 900 people hospitalized.
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Newsom teases announcement in ‘days, not weeks’ on reopening California

SACRAMENTO — Under mounting pressure to lift the state’s stay-at-home order, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday said that he will make an announcement as early as next week on his plans to begin to ease restrictions on Californians to stem the spread of coronavirus.

“I just want folks to know we’re getting very close to making really meaningful augmentations to that stay-at-home order,” Newsom said at his daily news conference on coronavirus efforts. “I want to say many days, not weeks, as long as we continue to be prudent and thoughtful.”

The governor has described the next phase of his stay-at-home order as allowing some lower-risk businesses to reopen in communities across California, including retail locations, manufacturing sites and small businesses.

“The only thing that’s gonna hold us back is the spread of this virus,” Newsom said. “And the only thing that is sure to advance the spread of the virus is thousands of people congregating together. Practicing social distancing or physical distance, we can avoid that.”
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Here’s every celebrity slated for the 24-hour ‘Call to Unite’ coronavirus benefit

The stars — and spiritual luminaries — are aligning big time to raise funds and awareness for coronavirus relief efforts amid the public health crisis.

Oprah Winfrey, Julia Roberts, Quincy Jones, Daniel Dae Kim, George W. Bush, Charli D’Amelio, Naomi Campbell, Common, Jennifer Garner and many, many more have signed on to participate in “The Call to Unite,” a 24-hour livestream event benefiting service partners GiveDirectly and Points of Light.

Here’s everything you need to know about today’s star-studded show.

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FDA allows emergency use of drug for coronavirus

U.S. regulators on Friday allowed emergency use of an experimental drug that appears to help some coronavirus patients recover faster.

It is the first drug shown to help fight COVID-19, which has killed more than 230,000 people worldwide.

The Food and Drug Administration acted after preliminary results from a government-sponsored study showed that Gilead Sciences’ remdesivir shortened the time to recovery by 31%, or about four days on average, for hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

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Trump administration blocks public disclosure on coronavirus supplies

The Trump administration is refusing to disclose how it is distributing medical supplies for the coronavirus response that were brought to the U.S. at taxpayer expense through a White House initiative known as Project Air Bridge.

The administration instead has allowed six multibillion-dollar medical supply companies that are receiving government aid to import the supplies to block public release of the data, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

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Raucous protest in Huntington Beach demands beaches open, end of stay-at-home order

More than 300 protesters converged on Huntington Beach again Friday to demand stay-at-home rules in California be lifted and to express their displeasure with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s directive closing local beaches to slow the spread of coronavirus.

The crowd was significantly larger than a demonstration at the same site near the Huntington Beach Pier two weeks ago.

The raucous protest included people carrying banners that read “All Jobs are essential” and “Freedom: We the people.” One person had a sign that said “Recall Gavin Newsom.”

Parents walked hand-in-hand with children to the now-closed beach, while protesters, some bringing their dogs, arrived on bikes, skateboards and scooters. Several shared their grievances through chants, signs and occasional songs.

While some protesters wore face coverings, most neither wore marks nor followed social distancing guidelines of six feet of separation.
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Warning that cases could rise, ACLU sues O.C. sheriff to free more inmates

Accusing the Orange County Sheriff of failing to adequately protect inmates from the coronavirus, the ACLU has filed a federal lawsuit seeking to create more social distancing in the jails, with the first step being the release of medically vulnerable inmates.

The lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California accuses Sheriff Don Barnes of violating the constitutional rights of inmates and cites a public health expert who warns 500 inmates are medically vulnerable and that COVID-19 could quadruple in the jails without immediate action.

It asks a federal judge to order the release of “vulnerable and disabled people” in the jails with a public health expert appointed to oversee a comprehensive plan for social distancing, increased cleaning, quarantining and care as well as testing and the wide distribution of personal protective equipment.

As of Thursday evening, Orange County’s three jails had 122 inmates who have tested positive for coronavirus. Three sheriff’s deputies have also tested positive, but they have all recovered.
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Coronavirus sparks massive surge in demand for mental health services in L.A. County

As the number of coronavirus cases continues to increase in Los Angeles County, with more than 23,000 people infected so far, fear and anxiety have gripped residents worried about jobs, health and an uncertain future.

The county has recorded a massive uptick in calls and texts to its mental health help line as residents obey Safer-at-Home orders to remain socially distant, officials say. Such quarantine instructions put people at greater risk of anxiety, depression, insomnia and post-traumatic stress, Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger said Friday during a news conference that kicked off Mental Health Awareness Month.

The county has received roughly 4,000 calls per week in April, which is approximately a 25% increase over April 2019. People who have never utilized mental health services are reaching out for help during the coronavirus pandemic, Barger said.

“There is nothing wrong with asking for help,” she said. “It is a sign of strength in an uncertain time.”
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Treasury Secretary Mnuchin says well-heeled private schools should return federal loans

Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin on Friday stepped up his criticism of elite private schools that have received federal loans under the Paycheck Protection Program, calling on those with “significant endowments” to return the funding, which is designed to help small businesses affected by the coronavirus crisis.

Mnuchin’s remarks, shared in a tweet, came a day after The Times published a story reporting that Brentwood School — the exclusive K-12 facility in West L.A. that his children attend — had received a PPP loan.

The school, which according to the Internal Revenue Service had an endowment of about $17.4 million in 2017, told The Times on Thursday that the loan for an undisclosed sum would help it navigate a future that could include “a potential decline in enrollment and charitable giving, accompanied by increased demand for financial assistance and other escalating expenses.”
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Column: How states with early reopening orders are coercing workers into risking their lives

Anyone who thought that the COVID-19 crisis would produce lasting respect for low-wage service workers should feel like a chump, as certain states roll out their return-to-work orders.

That’s because the subtext of those orders, such as those issued by the governors of Iowa and Texas, is coercive. Workers who refuse to return to work at businesses that have been cleared to open will lose their unemployment benefits.

In other words, in economic terms they’ll have no choice between losing pay and placing their lives at risk from a coronavirus infection.
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Apple and Google won’t solve contact tracing. Here’s what will

A middle-aged woman arrived at a tent set up by St. John’s Well Child and Family Center for coronavirus testing on April 13, her mother in tow. When both tested positive, clinic staff began to ask more questions.

Can you give us the names of people you have been in close contact with? We need to make sure your family and friends and co-workers are safe, staffers explained. It turned out the women shared their two-bedroom apartment near Figueroa and 50th Street in South Los Angeles with two other families —14 household members total.

Within the next two days, clinic staff were able to contact and persuade other household members to come in for testing, said Jim Mangia, chief executive of the nonprofit, which operates 18 health centers and school-based clinics in Los Angeles and Compton. One other housemate tested positive and was instructed to self-isolate.
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Some California cities push back against governor’s stay-home orders

Gov. Gavin Newsom has said it’s too soon to lift the state’s stay-at-home order, doubling down on that commitment Thursday and calling for the “hard close” of all Orange County beaches.

But local governments from Southern California to the Oregon border were preparing to stage acts of resistance Friday, fed up with six weeks of restrictions that have curbed their movements in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

The Orange County beach closure was intended to avert a repeat of last weekend, when thousands flocked to sandy stretches that had been opened, even as shorelines in neighboring Los Angeles County remained closed.

“Specific issues on some of those beaches have raised alarm bells,” Newsom said Thursday. “People that are congregating there, that weren’t practicing physical distancing, that may go back to their community outside of Orange County and may not even know that they contracted the disease and now they put other people at risk, put our hospital system at risk.”
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I’m a boomer afraid of the coronavirus. My millennial roommate thinks it’s a joke

My Perspective | “It’s the boomer doomer,” my roommate said. Then he laughed.

I didn’t. Because I am a baby boomer.

Truth-in-humor descriptions of the coronavirus — such as “boomer remover” and other memes, which play on its enhanced risk to older folks — have been trending on social media. Apparently this delights some, like the 23-year-old standing across from me in the kitchen.
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With no cases, California county defies Gov. Newsom and reopens today

Modoc County, which has fewer than 9,000 residents and reported zero coronavirus cases, is set to become the first county in California to ease stay-at-home rules Friday, despite Gov. Gavin Newsom’s urging to keep them in place for now.

The remote county in far Northern California announced that businesses, schools and churches may reopen starting Friday, as long as people stay six feet apart.

“Our businesses are dying and people need to be able to feed their children and pay their rent,” said Heather Hadwick, the deputy director of the county’s Office of Emergency Services. “We live a different life than the rest of California. We’re very rural and naturally socially distanced in our everyday lives.”

Modoc County, which borders Oregon and Nevada, is one of the least-populated counties in the state, with fewer than 9,000 residents.
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After the canceled E3, video game industry plots Summer Game Fest

Microsoft, Sony, Electronic Arts, Bethesda and Activision are among the publishers who will participate in the so-called Summer Game Fest, a digital-only, multimonth event designed to promote current and upcoming game content.

Spearheaded by Geoff Keighley, the architect behind the annual Game Awards, Summer Game Fest will aim to somewhat replicate the teaser-heavy game events that accompany the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), typically held each June in downtown Los Angeles.

Yet with E3 canceled due to concerns around the spread of the coronavirus, Summer Game Fest will also aim to act as something of a hub for all of this summer’s announcements, which were highly anticipated among game fans due to new consoles from Sony and Microsoft on the horizon. It’s Keighley’s hope to move beyond just teasers and trailers of upcoming games to include demos, when possible.

“Our goal is to have a fully functioning digital pipeline for demos, gameplay across all platforms,” says Keighley, “so we can give fans access to more to play — that means demos, but also more in-game events, live game launches and so on.”
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