Coronavirus updates: Testing in L.A. now open to asymptomatic essential workers

A sign in Huntington Beach encourages people to practice social distancing.
(Michael Probst / Associated Press)

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 24-26 are here

Japan to approve remdesivir to treat coronavirus

Japan said it will approve remdesivir, a closely watched antiviral drug made by Gilead Sciences Inc., for the treatment of COVID-19 patients in the country.

The drug is expected to be the first approved COVID-19 drug in Japan, ahead of a Japanese-developed anti-flu drug favipiravir.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters Tuesday that Japan has been part of a multinational joint testing of remdesivir since March and it was moving ahead overseas. Japan has a fast-track permit for emergency use of drugs approved overseas.

Remdesivir was originally developed to treat Ebola. A leak by the World Health Organization of a Chinese clinical trial suggesting the drug was not effective in severe cases, cast doubts over its effectiveness. The drug has been also used for SARS and MERS, but it is still under investigation for COVID-19.

Japan is currently testing favipiravir, jointly developed by Fujifilm and Toyama Chemical Co., at Japanese hospitals. Experts say both remdesivir and favipiravir can be effective when used in an early stage of COVID-19.

“We will do our utmost to deliver effective drugs for the patients as soon as possible,” Suga said.


CSU Maritime Academy set for face-to-face classes in May

California State University Maritime Academy will be allowed to reopen its campus for a limited number of students, allowing them to complete their spring semester in face-to-face classes, according to a letter from the school’s president sent Friday.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office confirmed the news in a statement, noting that the academy trains merchant marines and maritime workforce required for shipping and logistics.

“This specialized maritime workforce is essential to the California economy, as 90% of U.S. trade moves by sea,” the statement says. “Nearly $500 billion of trade moves through the Los Angeles and Long Beach port alone — the largest on the U.S. Pacific Coast — supporting roughly 200,000 jobs.”

CSU Maritime, located on 92 acres on the Vallejo waterfront, has 1,051 students, according to its website.

Bob Art, vice president for University Advancement at Cal Maritime, told KABC-TV Channel 7 that many classes are hands-on and cannot be taught virtually. Newsom’s administration provided the school with conditions that allow limited in-person instruction for 513 merchant marine officer cadets after May 10, “including strict, unique health and safety guidelines,” according to the statement.

Each cadet and instructor will be screened each morning for symptoms of COVID-19. Other safety measures include maintaining physical distance, using personal protective equipment and having access to hand sanitizing stations.

“This is the only academy of its kind in the state and does not serve as a precedent for other colleges or universities in California,” Newsom’s office said in its statement.


Garcetti says some L.A. stay-at-home rules could be eased in weeks

Mayor Eric Garcetti seemed optimistic that social distancing measures were proving effective and said he believed “the curve really is beginning to flatten,” even suggesting that easing restrictions under the city’s safer-at-home order could be weeks away.

Testing capabilities were continuing to increase, according to Garcetti, who said asymptomatic essential workers including delivery, ride-hail and taxi drivers, as well as journalists, will now be able to be tested for the virus.

“These are folks that are on the front line, helping us get where we need to go, delivering food to our apartments,” he said.

Garcetti also announced the city’s implementation of a program announced by Gov. Gavin Newsom last week that would pay out-of-work restaurant employees to cook meals for seniors. The mayor said the program would put 150 people back to work immediately. Depending on their income level, people who are either older than 65 or ages 60 to 64 with a preexisting medical condition may be eligible to receive meals from the program.

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‘You stayed classy, San Diego,’ mayor says of residents at beaches

SAN DIEGO — Most San Diego residents who took advantage of the newly reopened beaches on Monday were careful to follow the rules, prompting a “thank you” from Mayor Kevin Faulconer.

“I’m happy to report you stayed classy, San Diego,” Faulconer said at his afternoon briefing.

The mayor said lifeguards and police officers were out in force, prepared to educate residents about what is and isn’t allowed — but it was largely unnecessary.

Lifeguard Chief James Gartland said that while the water was crowded during the early morning, it thinned out as the day progressed. Although most people followed the rules, he added that there were some “trouble spots” on boardwalks and at pocket beaches.

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More flying changes: American and JetBlue want you to wear a mask

As the COVID-19 pandemic decimates demand for air travel, U.S. carriers have taken several unprecedented steps to increase onboard safety. The latest: urging passengers to wear face masks.

The world’s largest carrier, American Airlines, said Monday that passengers will be handed a mask and hand sanitizer when boarding some flights, starting in early May. Travelers will be urged to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines to wear a face mask, but the airline won’t require masks onboard.

“We are looking out for our customers’ well-being to give them peace of mind while they travel with us,” Kurt Stache, American Airlines’ senior vice president of customer experience, said in a statement.

The program will be expanded to all flights based on the supply of masks and sanitizer, airline representatives said.

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Coronavirus testing in L.A. now open to asymptomatic essential workers

Mayor Eric Garcetti seemed optimistic that social distancing measures were proving effective and said he believed “the curve really is beginning to flatten,” even suggesting that easing restrictions under the city’s safer-at-home order could be weeks away.

Testing capabilities were continuing to increase, according to Garcetti, who said asymptomatic essential workers including delivery, ride-hail and taxi drivers, as well as journalists, will now be able to be tested for the virus.

“These are folks that are on the front line, helping us get where we need to go, delivering food to our apartments,” he said.

Garcetti also announced the city’s implementation of a program announced by Gov. Gavin Newsom last week that would pay out-of-work restaurant employees to cook meals for seniors. The mayor said the program would instantly put 150 people back to work. Depending on their income level, people who are either older than 65 or ages 60 to 64 with a preexisting medical condition may be eligible to receive meals from the program.

The city will pay for the meals, but those costs will later be partly reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the state government, Newsom said last week.


Texas says movie theaters can reopen Friday. Not so fast, say Texas theaters

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday said that movie theaters would be able to open as soon as this weekend, as the state looks to gradually ease restrictions meant to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

But one of the state’s major theater companies, Alamo Drafthouse, had a clear message to patrons: “We will not be opening this weekend.”

The Austin-based chain, which operates about 40 locations in multiple states, said the company needs more time to create new procedures and retrain employees to keep them and guests safe. That means the company won’t be opening anytime soon, despite the governor’s permission for certain businesses to resume as long as they maintain 25% capacity.

“Opening safely is a very complex project that involves countless new procedures and equipment, all of which require extensive training,” the company said in a statement provided by a spokesman. “This is something we cannot and will not do casually or quickly.”

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Barr orders prosecutors to look for unconstitutional coronavirus rules

WASHINGTON — Atty. Gen. William Barr on Monday ordered federal prosecutors across the U.S. to identify coronavirus-related restrictions from state and local governments “that could be violating the constitutional rights and civil liberties of individual citizens.”

The memo to U.S. attorneys directs the head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division and the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan to coordinate the department’s efforts to monitor state and local policies and take action if needed.

“If a state or local ordinance crosses the line from an appropriate exercise of authority to stop the spread of COVID-19 into an overbearing infringement of constitutional and statutory protections, the Department of Justice may have an obligation to address that overreach in federal court,” Barr wrote.

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Is Brazil the next big coronavirus hot spot as other nations ease up?

RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil is emerging as potentially the next big hot spot for the coronavirus amid President Jair Bolsonaro’s insistence that it is just a “little flu” and that there is no need for the sharp restrictions that have slowed the infection’s spread in Europe and the U.S.

As some U.S. states and European countries moved gradually Monday to ease their limits on movement and commerce, the intensifying outbreak in Brazil — Latin America’s biggest country, with 211 million people — pushed some hospitals to the breaking point, with signs that a growing number of victims are now dying at home.

“We have all the conditions here for the pandemic to become much more serious,” said Paulo Brandao, a virologist at the University of Sao Paulo.

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Do I have the coronavirus? CDC updates list of COVID-19 symptoms

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made six additions to its official list of COVID-19 symptoms this week to help doctors and patients better understand who might be sickened by the novel coronavirus.

The newly added symptoms include chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat and new loss of taste or smell.

They join the list of COVID-19 symptoms identified by the U.S. public health agency early in the outbreak: fever, cough, and shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.

If you have any of these symptoms — and especially if you have a few of them — it’s a good idea to call your healthcare provider, health experts said.

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People are buying more avocados and less bacon as coronavirus shifts eating patterns

The coronavirus pandemic has transformed the way the world eats.

There is no trend, exactly, other than this: People want comfort. They also want to eat their way to stronger immune systems. They’re stress baking, but they’re also eating healthier foods than they would have at restaurants. Avocados are in. Pork belly out. Frozen pizzas and instant noodles are flying off the shelves.

And these seemingly conflicting and converging buying patterns are upending agricultural markets, sending prices for avocados surging more than 60% from early March, while butter is tumbling because of the loss of restaurant demand.

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Teletherapy, meds, meditation: How musicians with mental health issues are coping with corona anxiety

After 16 years as the leader of the influential emo-rock band Paramore, Hayley Williams is about to release her anticipated debut solo album, “Petals for Armor.” Like so many artists, she was scheduled to be touring the country this spring and summer, kicking off a new phase of her career, performing in front of thousands of fans, doing what she loves most. Instead, she’s at home in Nashville, in quarantine, coping with not just the effects of COVID-19 on the launch of her album, but on her well-being as well.

Williams, 31, suffers from depression, PTSD and anxiety. She has been whiling away the days the best she can, baking, cooking and listening to music. But it’s been challenging.

“If I wake up and I don’t put music on, which I didn’t do today, I can feel the emptiness,” says Williams. “I can feel my thoughts racing, and I’m trying to understand the balance between running from my own thoughts when there’s good stuff to mine from them.”

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Newsom sued by California residents demanding end to stay-at-home rules

SACRAMENTO — Two Sacramento County residents on Monday filed a federal lawsuit challenging Gov. Gavin Newsom’s sweeping stay-at-home order that is credited with helping slow the spread of coronavirus.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Ron Givens of the Sacramento Gun Club and Christine “Chris” Bish, a real estate agent and a Republican candidate for Congress running against Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento), alleges that the California Highway Patrol unconstitutionally denied their requests for permits to hold a protest outside the state Capitol.

Givens wants to protest the state’s failure to process background checks for people buying firearms, and Bish hopes to protest the stay-at-home order, according to the lawsuit.

“At a time when Californians are rightfully questioning the duration and extent of the stay-at-home orders, which are unevenly enforced and which have resulted in other constitutional challenges, Gov. Newsom has reacted to citizen protests not by addressing widespread concern, but simply by shutting down protest at the Capitol altogether, making no reasonable accommodations for this fundamental function in a free society,” said Harmeet K. Dhillon, one of the attorneys handling the case.

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Two Inland Empire men accused in $4-million scam to sell N95 masks

Two Inland Empire men were arrested after allegedly seeking more than $4 million for N95 respirators they did not have, federal authorities said.

Donald Lee Allen, 62, of Riverside and Manuel Revolorio, 37, of Rancho Cucamonga were charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, the U.S. attorney’s office said. They were scheduled to appear Monday in federal court in Los Angeles.

“The defendants sought to take advantage of the urgent national need for lifesaving personal protective equipment through a fraudulent scheme designed to line their own pockets,” Richard Donoghue, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a statement.

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Orange County coronavirus cases surpass 2,100 after weekend surge

After a surge in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases over the weekend, Orange County’s total case count hit 2,126 Monday — up more than 500 from a week ago.

Orange County saw its biggest two-day increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases so far over the weekend, reporting 123 — a daily record for the county — on Saturday and 105 on Sunday, county data show. Public health officials reported 54 new cases of the virus on Monday.

Despite the steady increase — 282 new coronavirus infection cases have been reported in the last three days alone — the county did not report any new fatalities on Monday, leaving the death toll at 54.

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L.A. looks to help restaurants by capping food delivery service fees at 15%

Los Angeles restaurant owners, who have been vocal about high service fees charged by food delivery apps, could soon pay significantly less if a new city ordinance is approved.

Restaurants currently pay as much as 30% in fees to third-party delivery apps such as Postmates, Grubhub and UberEats.

Under the proposed ordinance, introduced in a motion request from Los Angeles City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, the apps could charge no more than 15% of the purchase price per order in fees during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We want to do all we can to help improve their [restaurants’] chances of survival, and the worst thing we could do is not lean in when we see these cases that look a lot like price gouging,” O’Farrell said in an interview Monday. “We hear from our restaurants in the district a lot, and when we hear about this price gouging, it’s just unconscionable.”

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Video: Anti-Asian hate crimes rise amid coronavirus outbreak

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, hate crimes against Americans of Chinese and other Asian descents are rising. It seems as COVID-19 spreads, so does racism.

A recent coronavirus-related hate crime in Midland, Texas, left a 2-year-old boy and his Burmese refugee family covered with stab wounds to the face and torso. They are all recovering.

A pattern of such attacks against people of Asian descent has caught the attention of the FBI and has prompted some elected officials to walk back incendiary, anti-Asia language.

Asian American communities, institutions and scholars say this phenomenon is too familiar.

“This is nothing new to the history of racism, pandemics, power and politics,” says Erika Lee, an immigration and Asian American studies historian and author of “America for Americans.”

Russell Jeung, who is involved in an initiative to track and catalog hate crime data to help shape policy around coronavirus-related crimes, reveals data showing an alarming rate of hate crimes perpetrated against Asian Americans, with 60% of the reported attacks being against Asians not of Chinese descent.

Year of the Ox are hip-hop artists who respond to the added tensions of anti-Asian xenophobia with their recent release “Viral.”


Quirk in coronavirus relief law gives full $600 a week even to workers facing reduced hours

WASHINGTON — California workers who see their hours cut by as little as 10% due to the coronavirus outbreak are eligible to receive the entire $600-a-week federal subsidy offered in the $2-trillion federal rescue package, state officials and employment experts say.

That means, in some cases, workers in California — and across the country — could end up temporarily receiving far more from the government for those lost hours than they would have earned by working them.

In practice, however, few companies and workers so far are taking advantage of the benefits, partly because of the unprecedented backlog of unemployment claims in California and other state unemployment offices, and partly because many business owners don’t yet fully understand the incentives created by the CARES Act to encourage businesses to reduce employees’ hours rather than lay them off.



The latest list of Orange County communities with coronavirus cases

Orange County health officials on Monday announced 54 new confirmed coronavirus cases, bringing the countywide total to 2,126.

Officials did not report any additional COVID-19-related fatalities, leaving the county’s death toll at 39. The Orange County Health Care Agency also reported 157 hospitalizations, with 62 of those patients in intensive care.

Countywide, 26,347 tests have been administered to date, according to the agency.



Bill Gardner spun classic R&B on the L.A. airwaves for four decades. Then came the coronavirus

Bill Gardner has been broadcasting in Los Angeles for 36 years. But these days, when his KPFK-FM (90.7) show “Rhapsody in Black” comes on at 2 p.m. on Saturdays, Gardner is listening to it on the radio like anybody else. “It’s… a little surreal,” he says with a chuckle. “I don’t know what they’re going to play, and so I just sit back and listen.”

With the COVID-19 pandemic leaving him and his wife, Paulette, under house arrest, and no makeshift studio in his Norwalk home from which he can broadcast, “Rhapsody in Black,” like the rest of his life, is on pause. While Gardner sits quarantined, an engineer at the station pulls out a “Best of Bill” CD and slaps it on the air. Since his weekly show explores the charts for a given year of rhythm and blues history, there’s a timelessness built in. 1955 is still 1955. But Gardner’s fans wonder, given the need to keep the city locked down tight, and given the precautions an 81-year-old needs to take, when or if Gardner will once more come into their homes live and direct.

“He’s a great guy, I love him a lot,” says Billy Vera, a musician, bandleader and onetime radio institution in town himself. “Bill doesn’t have one of those ‘professional’ voices or presentations, and that works in his favor. What’s great about him is he’s authentic — he lived the music. He really grew up at that time the records were being made.



Amoeba Music won’t reopen original Sunset Boulevard store: ‘We have no choice’

Amoeba Music on Sunset Boulevard.
Amoeba Music on Sunset Boulevard.
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

Though you didn’t know it at the time, your last shopping spree at Amoeba Music in Hollywood was your final one.

After a month of speculation, the famed record store has announced that it won’t be reopening at its original location at the corner of Sunset and Cahuenga. The spot, where Amoeba had operated since its 2001 opening, has been shuttered since the statewide stay-at-home orders were announced in March.

Instead, it will devote its energy to opening in its new location, hopefully in the fall, at 6200 Hollywood Blvd.

In a statement, Jim Henderson, co-owner of Amoeba, said: “We are devastated for our run at this beautiful destination to end like this, but we simply have no choice.”



Wedding license office reopens in ‘marriage capital’ Vegas

Katy Garrett and husband Stuart strike a pose near a Vegas welcome sign in 2012.
Katy Garrett and husband Stuart strike a pose near a Vegas welcome sign in 2012. Las Vegas’ Marriage License Bureau has reopened.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

LAS VEGAS — Las Vegas returned to the wedding business Monday, nearly six weeks after the Marriage License Bureau was closed to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Clark County Clerk Lynn Goya said staff members at the license office at the downtown Regional Justice Center had masks, gloves and no-touch thermometers. Couples need to complete license applications online before arriving, she said.

The development came as state health officials reported nearly 4,700 Nevada residents had tested positive for the COVID-19 respiratory illness, and at least 206 have died.



South Africa’s lasting disparities are exposed by the coronavirus, leader says

Residents from the Alexandra township in Johannesburg gather in a stadium to be tested for COVID-19 on Monday.
(Associated Press)

The coronavirus is highlighting South Africa’s stark inequalities, 26 years after the end of the country’s apartheid system of racial oppression, the president told the nation on Monday.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Freedom Day, the public holiday marking the country’s first democratic elections in 1994, that the fight against COVID-19 is underscoring the lasting disparities between South Africa’s rich and poor.

“Some people have been able to endure the coronavirus lockdown in a comfortable home with a fully stocked fridge, with private medical care and online learning for their children,” said Ramaphosa in the televised address.



Texas Gov. Greg Abbott says state will start reopening economy Friday

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott became the latest governor to start reopening his state’s economy.

During a briefing Monday in the capital flanked by fellow Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, Abbott announced that restaurants, retail stores, movie theaters, malls and museums will be allowed to reopen at 25% capacity Friday and could expand to half capacity by mid-May.

Doctors and dentists can also go back to work, he said. Churches will also be allowed to expand capacity and small-group sports such as golf and tennis will be allowed, he said. Abbott said his stay-home order will expire as scheduled Thursday because it “has done its job.”

“Just as we came together to fight COVID-19, we must also come together to start rebuilding the lives and livelihoods of our fellow Texans,” Abbott said.

He noted that the state’s coronavirus infection rate had declined for the last 17 days, the state’s hospitalization rate has been steady and hospital bed capacity remained “abundant.”

Texas counties with five or fewer COVID-19 cases can reopen businesses at half capacity, Abbott said, a nod to rural areas of the state with low infection rates, although he cautioned that if infections spike, that could be limited again.

Abbott said that with the reopening, “if there is no flare up of COVID-19,” Texas will increase capacity at reopened businesses to 50% and open more mid-May, such as gyms and hair salons.

“We wanted to make sure we were able to open as quickly as possible and as safely as possible,” Abbott said.

The governor said he consulted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the White House coronavirus task force in crafting the new rules, detailed in a manual he held up during the briefing titled, “Open Texas.”

A fraction of Texans have been tested for the virus. This week, 3,000 Texas National Guard troops were operating more than two dozen mobile testing units, Abbott said, promising increased coronavirus testing and contact tracing as the state reopens.

“We’re not just going to open up and hope for the best,” he said.

A dozen states have already started reopening for business. One Texas town outside Fort Worth reopened Friday, ahead of the governor’s briefing, stirring controversy. The mayor of the east Texas city of Beaumont had to apologize after she was caught on video last week getting a manicure in defiance of her own stay-at-home order.

Abbott has said his order will override those by local officials, but it wasn’t clear how that would play out across the state of 29 million, whose population is concentrated in a handful of cities led by Democrats.

Most major cities in Texas kept businesses closed this week, extended local stay-at-home orders and required residents to wear masks in public. Houston’s Harris County — third-largest in the country — faced a backlash to the new mask order Monday, and it and Dallas County have seen some businesses reopen despite local orders.

“We will not be able to rebuild our economy while Texans are still afraid to leave their homes,” Texas Democratic Party Executive Director Manny Garcia said in a statement ahead of Abbott’s briefing. “Republicans’ rush to end social distancing is dangerous and experts warn it threatens the economy in the long run. Today’s announcement is just the latest in the Republican coronavirus catastrophe.”


L.A. County sheriff says new decontamination center will allow N95 masks to be reused 20 times

N95 masks
L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said a decontamination center will open to clean tens of thousands of N95 masks a day.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva announced an initiative Monday to decontaminate N95 masks that would allow first responders and healthcare workers countywide to safely reuse them up to 20 times as they battle the coronavirus.

The new decontamination center comes as hospitals grapple with a nationwide shortage of protective gear and a rise of counterfeit masks on the market.

The cleaning chamber, at the Sybil Brand Institute in Monterey Park, is scheduled to begin operating this week. It will be able to clean up to 30,000 masks each day and save the Sheriff’s Department and other agencies tens of millions of dollars, Villanueva said.



Newsom criticizes beachgoers, warns that defying restrictions could delay reopening California

People at Huntington Beach
Huntington Beach on Sunday.
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday criticized Californians who defied the statewide stay-at-home order and flocked to beaches over the weekend. Ignoring restrictions, he said, could prolong the spread of the coronavirus in the state.

Newsom’s comments came after thousands of beachgoers descended on the coast in Orange and Ventura counties despite the governor’s pleas last week to avoid doing so during the warm weekend.

“This virus doesn’t take the weekends off,” Newsom said during his daily COVID-19 briefing in Sacramento. “The only thing that will set us back is people stopping ... appropriate social distancing. That’s the only thing that’s going to slow down our ability to reopen this economy.”

Newsom vowed to increase statewide enforcement of the stay-at-home order if necessary and, in a thinly veiled criticism of the cities and counties that saw crowded beaches, said, “We’ll have a little work to do to improve upon Saturday.”



Having trouble with the IRS site? Try all caps — yes, really

Getting a “payment status not available” error when you’re trying to learn the status of your IRS coronavirus stimulus check? Try this one weird trick that really works: Enter your street address in all caps.

Yes, really. The IRS website had a big update this week, so it’s possible the site only just ported over your information and will let you log in now without having to shout at it. You’re welcome to try typing out your street address the normal way. But if that doesn’t work, don’t despair: Many people, including this reporter, found that entering the street address in all capital letters was the key to being able to get in and enter bank account information in order to have their stimulus funds deposited electronically instead of waiting for a check in the mail.



NBA to allow limited player workouts starting May 8

The NBA has told teams they can set a target date of May 8 to reopen their practice facilities if they play in a location where public health guidelines allow it.

“The purpose of these changes is to allow for safe and controlled environments for players to train in states that allow them to do so, and to create a process for identifying safe training options for players located in other states,” the NBA said in a statement, which noted that the May 8 date was fluid.

The NBA has mandated that no more than four players can be inside a facility at any time, with no head or assistant coaches present. Group activities are prohibited.

Players will be not allowed to use public gyms.



6 Bay Area counties extend stay-at-home orders through May

SAN FRANCISCO — Six San Francisco Bay Area counties plan to keep stay-at-home orders in place through the end of May but will ease some restrictions, officials announced Monday.

“Thanks to the collective effort and sacrifice of the 7 million residents across our jurisdictions, we have made substantial progress in slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus, ensuring our local hospitals are not overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases, and saving lives,” a statement by Bay Area health officers said.

“At this stage of the pandemic, however, it is critical that our collective efforts continue so that we do not lose the progress we have achieved together. Hospitalizations have leveled, but more work is needed to safely reopen our communities. Prematurely lifting restrictions could easily lead to a large surge in cases.”

The statement was sent on behalf of health officers for Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties as well as the city of Berkeley, which has its own health department separate from Alameda County.

The statement did not elaborate on what kinds of restrictions would be eased.



Ohio to begin gradual reopening

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has announced a gradual reopening of businesses starting Friday, while maintaining restrictions such as social distancing and wearing masks under the slogan, “No mask, no work, no service, no exception.”

Starting Friday, healthcare procedures that don’t require an overnight stay in a hospital can move forward, and dentists and veterinarians can resume all activity, DeWine said at a news conference in Columbus.

On May 4, manufacturing, distribution, construction, and general offices can reopen, with people still encouraged to work from home if possible, DeWine said. Consumer, retail and services firms can reopen May 12 with proper precautions, he said.

Ohio’s restriction on gatherings of no more than 10 people will remain, and restaurants, hair salons and day-care centers will stay closed for now, he said.

The governor, a Republican, said testing and tracing of cases was expected to increase enough during May to allow the phased-in reopening but that the state would be watching for signs of a spike in infections.

DeWine was among the first U.S. governors to close schools and nonessential businesses, and the state issued a stay-at-home order that took effect March 23 and initially was set to expire April 6 but was extended to May 1. Ohio reported 16,325 total cases on Monday, up from 15,963 on Sunday, and 753 deaths, an increase from 728 the previous day. There were 3,232 hospitalizations in the state on Monday. The five-day trend of cases, deaths and hospitalizations is declining, DeWine said.


U.S. is ‘well-positioned’ to handle the pandemic, WHO says

LONDON — The World Health Organization’s emergencies chief says the U.S. is “well-positioned” to handle the continuing COVID-19 pandemic and says states may have different strategies because they are at different points in their respective outbreaks.

In a news briefing on Monday, Dr. Michael Ryan said that although the U.N. health agency issues epidemic control recommendations to all its member countries, it’s up to countries to decide whether to follow such guidance.

“I believe the federal government and the system of governors are working together to move America and its people through this very difficult situation with public health and other scientific leaders,” Ryan said in Geneva, adding that the American plan for exiting lockdowns appears to be based on several parameters, including a downward trajectory in cases and sufficient healthcare capacity.

He added that the U.S. had a “superb” public health infrastructure able to manage the transition once restrictive measures were loosened.

WHO’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said all countries should have heeded the agency’s warning when it declared COVID-19 to be a global emergency on Jan. 30, when there were only 82 cases of the disease beyond China.


CDC to release new priorities for testing

WASHINGTON — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will release new priorities for coronavirus testing Monday, including testing asymptomatic individuals in high-risk settings.

And the White House is set to unveil what it describes as a comprehensive overview of its efforts to make testing for COVID-19 more widely available.

The White House is aiming for states to have enough tests and needed supplies to test at least 2.6% of their populations per month — a figure needed to catch asymptomatic spread.

The administration is also releasing a “testing blueprint” for states, outlining how they should prioritize testing as they devise their reopening plans.

It includes a focus on surveillance testing, as well as “rapid response” programs to isolate those who test positive and identify those with whom they came into contact.

The administration aims to have the market “flooded” with tests for the fall, when COVID-19 is expected to recur alongside the seasonal flu.


Free testing site opens in Carson

Another coronavirus testing center opened Monday in Los Angeles County, as the city of Carson began free screenings for all of its residents.

The new drive-through site will offer free testing for all city employees, residents “and anyone else who schedules an appointment,” a city memo states.

Testing isn’t limited to those with symptoms of coronavirus infection — such as fever, cough or difficulty breathing. Residents who may have been exposed to COVID-19 are also eligible, the city says.

“It’s available to anyone in Southern California, whether you’re sick or asymptomatic, whether you’re insured or uninsured and whether you’re rich or poor. Everybody can apply,” Mayor Albert Robles told KTLA-TV Channel 5. “But because the focus is on Carson ... our priority is for Carson residents.”



Urging social distancing, several states ease restrictions

Despite a steady climb in the national death toll from coronavirus-related infections, several states Monday began to ease stay-at-home orders for residents.

Streams of patrons, eager to escape restrictions that have lasted weeks, entered businesses in small towns and bustling big cities in states from the Rocky Mountains to the South.

In Colorado, retail businesses with curbside delivery were able to reopen. Hospitals also eased restrictions on elective surgeries.

Farther north, in Montana, in towns to which some residents of large metropolises have fled during the global pandemic, retail businesses fully reopened but were required to adhere to strict social-distancing guidelines.



Coronavirus continues to devastate L.A. County while nearby regions ease restrictions

As thousands of sun-chasers crowded open beaches in Ventura and Orange counties over the weekend, Los Angeles County wrapped up the week in which the number of deaths linked to the coronavirus doubled.

In the county of 10 million — California’s most populous — the number of deaths has climbed past 900 while confirmed cases of COVID-19 have nearly reached 20,000. Amid a backlog in reporting the number of cases and increased testing capacity, officials have said the number of those infected is likely far higher.

Medical troops with California’s National Guard have been deployed to assist staff at a handful of L.A. County nursing homes, which have accounted for 40% of the deaths linked to the virus. Officials continue to caution residents to remain socially distant, even as warm weather lures people outside.



Texas new deaths drop

Texas reported 15 new deaths from COVID-19 on Monday, the lowest daily increase since early April, bringing total fatalities in the state to 663. Positive cases rose 2.7% from Sunday to 25,297. Another 14,496 virus tests were performed, down from the record 20,269 reported Saturday. Gov. Greg Abbott is expected to lay out his plans for easing lockdown restrictions across Texas.

He allowed retailers to begin operating to-go operations on Friday. He has said his plan will allow businesses and some services to reopen “in strategic ways” starting in early May.


San Francisco says vitally needed masks, gloves, face shields are being diverted

SAN FRANCISCO — The mayor of San Francisco says the city is still struggling to get adequate medical equipment to battle coronavirus, including masks, gloves, face shields and gowns.

The buying isn’t the issue — Mayor London Breed said the city had been able to purchase 15 million pieces of the medical gear, known as personal protective equipment, and private firms have donated more.

But getting the equipment has been challenging, she said at a news conference Friday.

“We had isolation gowns on the way to San Francisco and then diverted to France,” she said. Another order of equipment went through customs and then was “confiscated” by FEMA for other places.



Reopening of Florida may differ by region

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said his strategy for reopening the economy might differ by region as three of the state’s 67 counties —
Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach, all in the southeast part of the state — account for 60% of Florida’s 32,138 confirmed COVID-19 cases.

“Pretty much the rest of the state has really handled this very well,” DeSantis told reporters Monday in Tampa. “I think that is something that you take into consideration.”

DeSantis’ stay-at-home order is set to expire Thursday, and he hasn’t provided details of how he intends to proceed. The first phase of the reopening would be “a baby step,” he said, and his approach would be “very slow, methodical and data-driven.”


Consumers could see less meat selection, higher prices

DES MOINES, Iowa — Meat isn’t going to disappear from supermarkets because of outbreaks of the coronavirus among workers at U.S. slaughterhouses. But as meat plants struggle to remain open, consumers could face less selection and slightly higher prices.

Industry leaders acknowledge that the U.S. food chain has rarely been so stressed and that no one is sure about the future, even as they try to dispel concerns about shortages. On Sunday, the meat processing giant Tyson Foods ran a full-page advertisement in the New York Times and other newspapers outlining the difficulty of producing meat while keeping more than 100,000 workers safe and shutting some plants.

COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, has infected hundreds of workers at meat-processing plants and forced some of the largest to close and others to slow production. While the output at beef and poultry plants has diminished, pork plants in the Midwest have been hit especially hard. The viral outbreaks have persisted despite efforts by the meat companies to keep workers at home with pay if they become sick.

The 15 largest pork-packing plants account for 60% of all pork processed, so when even one of those plants closes for days or weeks, the consequences ripple across the industry. That has become abundantly clear with two of the nation’s biggest plants now closed: Tyson suspended operations at its plant in Waterloo, Iowa. And Smithfield Foods halted production at its plant in Sioux Falls, S.D. Each plant can butcher nearly 20,000 hogs a day. Some plants have reopened days after cleaning.


Lakers pay back $4.6 million received from rescue loan program

The Lakers received a loan of about $4.6 million under the stimulus package Congress passed in March, but the team says it returned the money to the federal government.

“The Lakers qualified for and received a loan under the Payroll Protection Program,” the team said in a statement first provided to ESPN. “However, once we found out the funds from the program had been depleted, we repaid the loan so that financial support would be directed to those most in need.

“The Lakers remain completely committed to supporting both our employees and our community.”



Coronavirus, stay-home restrictions and pets

Hiba Junaidi, with one of her stray cats
Hiba Junaidi, with one of her stray cats on April 7, has turned the backyard of her home near the West Bank city of Hebron into a shelter for the animals.
(Hazem Bader / AFP via Getty Images)

Around the world, animal shelters are emptying out because of the coronavirus outbreak. People who are confined to their homes are adopting or fostering animals en masse. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is seeing an increase in people interested in taking an animal home. The nonprofit says the benefit of having a companion animal is tangible.

When you can’t leave your home to socialize, and touch has become taboo, many have felt a need for animal companionship. Having a pet around the house may also help with strategies likely to help you through this period, like daily exercise and a structured routine. Even if you live with other people, a companion animal can be a welcome distraction.



Hawaii’s stay-at-home order extended through May

Hawaii doubled down on its stay-at home order Saturday. With Georgia and a few states starting to reopen businesses, Hawaii’s Gov. David Ige went in the opposite direction. He extended the state’s stay-at-home order until May 31, keeping beaches closed to sunbathers and swimmers and other businesses shut.

Ige’s order extended mandatory quarantine rules too. Anyone flying to the islands will have to quarantine at home or at their hotel for 14 days. As of Sunday, Hawaii reported 606 cases and 68 deaths, according to its Health Department website.



San Bernardino County lifts some restrictions, reopens parks and recreation areas

San Bernardino County residents returned to the great outdoors over the weekend after officials lifted some closures initiated to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

County parks, lakes, rivers and recreation areas — as well as parking lots — reopened Saturday after having been closed for over a month.

Private and city-owned parks, trails, lakes and golf courses also opened on a limited basis. Big Morongo Canyon Preserve and Mojave River Forks Regional Park are still closed.

Visitors still must cover their faces and keep their distance from others to help keep the coronavirus in check, county officials said.



New York state nixes Democratic presidential primary

In an unprecedented move, New York has canceled its Democratic presidential primary, originally scheduled for June 23.

The Democratic members of the state’s Board of Elections voted Monday to nix the primary. New York will still hold its congressional and state-level primaries on June 23.

New York Democratic Party Chair Jay Jacobs has said that the cancellation of the state’s presidential primary amid the coronavirus outbreak would mean a lower expected turnout and a reduced need for polling places.

“It just makes so much sense given the extraordinary nature of the challenge,” Jacobs said last week.

Local election officials and voting groups have called on the state to use federal funds to purchase cleaning supplies and protective gear, and to boost staff ahead of 2020 elections.

Both the state’s Democratic Party and Gov. Andrew Cuomo have said they didn’t ask election commissioners to make the change, which is allowed thanks to a little-known provision in the recently passed state budget that allows the New York Board of Elections to remove names of any candidates who have suspended or terminated their campaign from the ballot.

The decision to cancel a Democratic primary is left up to Democratic state election commissioners.

Former Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders announced earlier this month he had suspended his campaign. In a Sunday letter, a lawyer for the Sanders campaign asked the commissioners not to cancel the primary.

“Senator Sanders has collaborated with state parties, the national party and the Biden campaign to strengthen the Democrats by aligning the party’s progressive and moderate wings. His removal from the ballot would hamper those efforts, to the detriment of the party in the general election,” the lawyer, Malcolm Seymour, wrote in a letter obtained by the Wall Street Journal.


Saudi Arabia takes 5% stake in Live Nation as virus hits concert industry

Saudi Arabia has taken a 5.7% stake in Beverly Hills-based Live Nation, the world’s largest concert promoter, according to a document filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday.

The investment, valued at about $500 million, comes as businesses like Live Nation that depend heavily on live events have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Concerns about the disease have shut down or postponed music festivals and concerts, including some hosted by Live Nation.

The company said 8,000 shows were affected by the suspension of events from mid-March through March 31. Live Nation sold 15 million tickets for those shows, many of which were postponed. About 10% of the tickets sold were for shows that were canceled, Live Nation said.



‘All Americans’ campaign aims to combat racial hatred

As the coronavirus pandemic has sparked racial harassment and hate crimes against Asian Americans, a coalition of politicians, celebrities, fashion designers, athletes and activists on Monday launched an effort to fight racial animus while raising money for those affected by COVID-19.

Former 2020 presidential candidate Andrew Yang is among the leaders of the effort, which includes a public service announcement featuring Dave Chapelle, Alyssa Milano, Daniel Dae Kim, Hasan Minhaj, Lisa Ling, Megan Rapinoe, Joseph Gordon Levitt, John Leguizamo, Joel McHale, Fat Joe and Sophia Bush.

“There are millions of Asian Americans experiencing an unprecedented level of racial hostility, and we need to do everything we can to bring everyone together,” Yang said in an interview. “Look, this virus doesn’t know race, and Asian Americans are victims of this virus like any other Americans.”

The public service announcement spotlights how the virus disproportionately affects underserved populations such as the African American community.

“We are all Americans,” several of the participants say in unison before Chapelle concludes, “So let’s act like it. Let’s be good friends. Let’s be good neighbors. And let’s get through this safely. Much love.”

The PSA is part of “The All Americans Movement,” an online campaign and fundraiser that aims to raise money for relief efforts, medical supplies and economic stimulus for small businesses affected by the pandemic.


California faces mounting pressure to ease stay-at-home rules, at least in some areas

California Gov. Gavin Newsom and other top state and local health officials have made it clear it’s still too early and risky to ease stay-at-home orders, which have been credited with slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

Still, Newsom is expected to face more pressure this week to offer a clearer timeline, especially in parts of California where the virus appears to be a lessening threat.

There has been a growing movement from politicians in some rural or less urbanized parts of the state to request an easing of the rules, arguing that the situation there is not as severe as hot spots like Los Angeles County and Silicon Valley.



Turkey detains 402 people over ‘false and provocative’ social media posts

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey has detained 402 people in the past 42 days for allegedly sharing “false and provocative” social media postings concerning the coronavirus outbreak.

An Interior Ministry statement says officials have inspected over 6,000 social media accounts and that the 402 suspects were among a total of 855 account-holders sought by authorities for sharing posts deemed to be “provocative.”

A ministry official said the social media users were detained for attempting to “cause panic” over the coronavirus pandemic with posts that, among other things, accused the government of not taking sufficient measures to curb the outbreak or of lying about the death or infection tolls.

Turkey has reported 2,805 deaths and 110,130 confirmed infections. It ranks seventh in the world for the number of confirmed infections.


Newport Beach may close beaches on weekends after heat wave draws thousands

Sandy stretches in Newport Beach could be off-limits over the next few weekends after Southern California’s first spring heat wave drew thousands to the city’s shoreline despite statewide stay-at-home orders amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Newport Beach City Council on Tuesday will consider closing the beaches for three weekends in May or blocking roads leading to popular beach spots on the Balboa Peninsula and Corona del Mar.

City officials say they have made an effort to keep most public beaches, parks and open spaces accessible to the public for the mental and physical well-being of residents. But the crowds that swarmed the sand over the weekend — looking to beat the heat and weary of isolating at home —“generated significant neighborhood impacts,” according to a news release from the city.



Riots rocked this Paris suburb in 2005. The coronavirus is raising tensions again

CLICHY-SOUS-BOIS, France — Joining more than 1,000 others, Djemba Diatite stood for hours in line to feed her growing family, grateful for handouts of fruits, vegetables and soap. It was her first time accepting charity, but she had no choice. The coronavirus crisis has turned her world upside down.

With open-air markets closed around Paris, supermarket prices skyrocketing, an out-of-work husband, two children to feed and another on the way, Diatite said even tomatoes were now too expensive.

“This is my only solution,” she said, relieved that a local group in her Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois had stepped in with help.

Clichy-sous-Bois — where fiery nationwide riots started in 2005 — is just 14 miles northeast of the French capital, but with its rows of housing projects, restless youth and residents teetering on the poverty line, it feels light-years away.



Deaths doubled in L.A. County over last week

The number of coronavirus deaths in Los Angeles County doubled in the last week amid new evidence that the poor were being hardest hit, according to the county Department of Health.

As of Sunday, the county had recorded 916 deaths and nearly 20,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Officials said the rising numbers underscored the need to stay indoors as much as possible and also raised questions about when Los Angeles County would be able to ease its strict social distancing rules.

“Because we are still seeing a significant increase in new cases and deaths, we ask that you continue to stay home as much as possible,” Barbara Ferrer, the county’s public health director, said over the weekend.



Photos from inside: Scripps Mercy Hospital battles COVID-19

Saul Reynoso, left, Charlotte Thomas and Sandra Sandoval at Scripps Mercy.
Medical personnel Saul Reynoso, left, Charlotte Thomas and Sandra Sandoval work to stabilize a COVID-19 at Scripps Mercy Hospital last week.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Hospitals closest to the U.S.-Mexico border are reporting increased numbers of COVID-19 patients as the pandemic continues to strain medical resources throughout Baja California.

The increased patient volume at Scripps Mercy Hospital Chula Vista reached an inflection point on Thursday, when the facility was forced to begin transferring COVID-19 patients to its sister facility in San Diego for the first time since the pandemic started.

Dr. Juan Tovar, an emergency medicine specialist and operations executive at Scripps Chula Vista, said the overall success of San Diego County’s widespread social distancing campaign — one that has shut down beaches, kept all K-12 students home from school and shuttered all businesses deemed nonessential — has slowed the surge of patients enough that hospitals, backed up by those that are less heavily hit farther north, have so far been able to keep pace with demand.



County lines separate packed beaches from empty ones

People play beanbag toss on the sand in Newport Beach on Saturday.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

As temperatures soared into the upper 80s in some parts of the region Saturday, crossing county lines was like entering different worlds.

Despite the threat of the novel coronavirus, many flocked to beaches in Orange and Ventura counties to beat the heat.

In contrast, L.A. beaches remained closed and largely empty.

Here are a few scenes showing how county lines separated a crowded day at the beach from empty sand.



Back at work, Boris Johnson urges patience over Britain’s lockdown

LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged his lockdown-weary nation to be patient, saying Monday that easing social and economic restrictions too soon could create a second deadly spike of coronavirus infections.

On his first day back at work in three weeks after a bout of COVID-19 that left him dangerously ill, Johnson said Britain had reached the moment of “maximum risk” in its outbreak.

Speaking outside his 10 Downing St. office, Johnson said the country was reaching “the end of the first phase of this conflict” but warned that a quick end to a lockdown due to last at least until May 7 was not in sight.

“I refuse to throw away all the effort and the sacrifice of the British people and to risk a second major outbreak and huge loss of life and the overwhelming of the [healthcare system],” said Johnson.



Iran new cases drop below 1,000

Iran has reported 991 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infection, the first time that number has dropped below 1,000 since late March.

The total number of confirmed infections climbed to 91,472 on Monday with more than 70,000 recoveries, while fatalities rose to 5,806, with 96 more deaths.


WHO addresses its defunding by Trump

It is “really difficult to understand” why a country would want to cut funding to the World Health Organization, its COVID-19 envoy David Nabarro said in an apparent swipe at the U.S. after Trump moved to cut funding for the international body.

“I particularly wish that one member state had not said we think you’re so unsatisfactory we want to cut your money,” Nabarro said in response to a question on the U.S. attitude to the WHO.

Although he acknowledged the WHO’s management of the coronavirus should be analyzed, it should not happen while it is “super-stretched” dealing with the pandemic, he said.


Assange extradition trial delayed

Julian Assange’s extradition trial, set to begin next month, has been delayed because of the pandemic. The three-week trial was due to begin May 18 at a London magistrates court but was postponed to an unscheduled date because of the U.K.’s extension of its lockdown. The WikiLeaks founder and all lawyers must be present, Judge Vanessa Baraitser said.

Although “delay undermines the administration of justice,” remote attendance by the parties in this case “will not be appropriate,” she said. Assange is facing extradition on American charges that he conspired to obtain and disclose classified documents passed to him by former U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning.


The coronavirus lingers in the air of crowded spaces, new study finds

The new coronavirus appears to linger in the air in crowded spaces or rooms that lack ventilation, researchers have found in a study that buttresses the notion that COVID-19 can spread through tiny airborne particles known as aerosols.

At two hospitals in Wuhan, China, researchers found bits of the virus’ genetic material floating in the air of hospital bathrooms, an indoor space housing large crowds, and rooms where medical staff took off protective gear.

The study, published Monday in the journal Nature Research, didn’t seek to establish whether the airborne particles could cause infections.


Italy is the first country to apply for financial aid from EU fund

BRUSSELS — Italy has become the first European Union country to apply for financial aid from an 800-million euros ($866.5 million) fund set up by the 27-country bloc to tackle the crisis triggered by the new coronavirus pandemics.

Italy has been the hardest-hit EU country by the deadly virus so far with some 26,000 fatalities.

The fund initially was designed to help countries hit by natural disasters. Now it can be used in health emergencies like the COVID-19 crisis after the European Council and the EU Parliament approved a proposal from the bloc’s executive arm.

The European Commission said Monday that member states could request aid until June 24. Applications will then be assessed by the commission, which will submit a proposal for financial aid to the council and EU Parliament.

The commission will deal with all applications in a single package, not on a first-come, first-served basis.


Those flocking to the beach see little risk of getting virus. Experts aren’t so sure

The sunshine and a yearning for freedom beckoned Christopher Sumners to the ocean. So the 31-year-old and several of his friends hit the road Sunday morning, driving from hot and dry Corona to much cooler Huntington Beach.

Beneath cloudy skies, the group of six sprawled on their beach towels and chatted with one another, unconcerned by the threat of the coronavirus. Sumners believes he’ll be fine as long as he continues to wash his hands, he said.

“I think you have better chances of winning the lottery or getting hit by a car than getting coronavirus,” Sumners said.

As the year’s first heat wave hit California this weekend, thousands converged on Southland beaches to seek relief from record-breaking temperatures and weeks of isolation.



California’s jobless face jammed phone lines, computer glitches and bureaucratic blunders

SACRAMENTO — For Californians desperate to get unemployment assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic, the last month has been a perfect storm of failures for a state government with a long history of technology problems.

Many seeking jobless benefits in recent weeks found phone lines jammed at the state Employment Development Department and had their calls disconnected before they could talk to a live service representative at the agency, which processes unemployment insurance claims.



In Riverside County’s jails, the coronavirus silently stalked inmates and deputies

For two weeks in early March, Riverside County Sheriff’s Deputy Terrell Young routinely drove inmates, one at a time, from the Cois M. Byrd Detention Facility in Murrieta to a hospital for medical appointments.

During those trips he was exposed to several people, including inmates and a nurse, who would later test positive for coronavirus infection.

When Young reported to work on March 22, he felt ill and realized he had a fever. Early in his shift, he notified a supervisor and went home. But by then, he and others probably had been spreading the virus — without knowing — for days.

Less than two weeks later, Young died at age 52.



How the crisis has helped Spotify’s podcast business

For months, Los Angeles musician and actor Finneas O’Connell and his girlfriend talked about making a podcast about their lives but could never find the time. Then came the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As soon as we realized that most of the rest of our lives was going to be put on hold, we were like, ‘You know what? It would be great to have a podcast right now,’” said 22-year-old O’Connell, who created the “We Bought a House” podcast with his 24-year-old girlfriend, YouTube vlogger Claudia Sulewski.

The hourlong show about life under the quarantine is part of a surge of podcast activity on Spotify. The Swedish streaming service said it had nearly 150,000 podcast uploads last month, 69% higher than February and the largest monthly increase in Spotify’s podcast catalog.



Battling lockdown fatigue, California messages both hope and fear. Will it work?

When the Spanish flu erupted in Los Angeles in the fall of 1918, health officers had few means of warning the city’s half-million residents.

With a wartime ban on civilian radios in place, officials relied on newspapers, posters and crowded public meetings to urge Angelenos to keep their kids out of school, skip church and stay home.

Now, as the world battles an entirely new pandemic, city and county officials have many more ways to communicate with a population of roughly 10 million. Television, radio, electronic billboards, email, social media and cellphone alerts are all being used to deliver the official line on social distancing, business closures and home sheltering.



Repair work at Notre Dame in Paris set to resume after coronavirus halt

PARIS — Work began Monday to refit the construction site at fire-damaged Notre Dame Cathedral to protect workers from the coronavirus and allow cleanup efforts to resume.

More than a year after a fire destroyed parts of the historic church, workers still haven’t finished stabilizing the medieval cathedral, much less rebuilding it. The coronavirus outbreak caused a new setback: Work on the cathedral halted in mid-March, when France imposed strict confinement measures.

On Monday, workers began to rearrange the construction site to make it virus-safe, according to an official with the state agency overseeing the project. The site is hidden from the public by high barriers.

Notre Dame rector Msgr. Patrick Chauvet told reporters that the measures included rearranging showers and cloakrooms to allow more distance between workers and installing a place to eat. All restaurants in France are currently closed. He said the workers would stay in nearby vacant hotels so they would not have to take public transport.

The cleanup work itself is scheduled to start gradually resuming next week.


Last coronavirus patients released from hospital in Wuhan

BANGKOK — Wuhan, the city at the center of China’s coronavirus outbreak, has no more hospitalized COVID-19 patients after the last 12 were discharged Sunday, the Hubei province health commission said.

Hubei’s remaining patients were all in Wuhan, the provincial capital, where the outbreak took the heaviest toll in China. The 3,869 people who died in the city account for more than 80% of the country’s reported deaths.

“It is a historic day,” said a report in a newspaper owned by the Wuhan government and posted on the city’s website.

Hubei has no more suspected cases in its hospitals, though 1,728 people who had close contact with an infected person remain under medical observation, the province’s health commission reported Monday.

Patients remain hospitalized elsewhere in China, including 67 in Shanghai and three in Beijing. Many cities have seen an influx of cases from overseas, prompting the government to curtail international flights and entry sharply.



Britain’s minorities are disproportionately hit by the coronavirus

BIRMINGHAM, England — The holy month of Ramadan is underway, and the Central Jamia Mosque Ghamkol Sharif in Birmingham should be full of worshipers. But this year, the main arrivals are the dead.

While the mosque in the central England city has been closed in response to the coronavirus crisis, its parking lot has been transformed into a temporary morgue with room for 150 bodies.

The volunteer-run mortuary, with its white tents, industrial refrigerators and neat stacks of coffins, is evidence of the toll the virus is taking on Britain’s Muslim and ethnic-minority communities. The two most diverse and most populous regions of the U.K. — London and the Midlands area centered on Birmingham — have seen the largest number of deaths in the outbreak.

Mohammed Zahid, a mosque trustee who helped set up the mortuary with a firm of Muslim funeral directors, says the mosque in Birmingham’s predominantly South Asian Small Heath district normally holds one or two funerals a week.

In the last few weeks, “we were doing five to six a day,” he said.



Russia surpasses China in total number of coronavirus cases

MOSCOW — Russia surpassed China in total number of confirmed coronavirus cases on Monday.

The Russian government reported a cumulative total of 87,147 cases on Monday, which is almost 4,000 more than China’s official toll of 83,912. Almost 6,200 new infections were registered in Russia in the past 24 hours.

The actual number of infections in both countries is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected without feeling sick. Many also believe that governments in both Russia and China could be manipulating the statistics for political purposes.

Russia had been reporting comparatively low numbers of coronavirus cases until April, and the Kremlin insisted the situation was under control. In mid-April, Russians were supposed to vote for a constitutional reform that would allow President Vladimir Putin to stay in power until 2036.

But Kremlin critics argued that the government was downplaying the crisis ahead of the vote. In late March, Putin postponed the vote indefinitely. The number of confirmed coronavirus cases has been growing exponentially since then.


Japan adds more countries to its entry ban

TOKYO — Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Monday that his country was adding 14 more countries, including Russia, Peru and Saudi Arabia, to its entry-ban list as coronavirus infections continued to spread in the country.

Japan has already barred entry for travelers from more than 70 other countries and for foreigners with a record of visiting those countries in the last two weeks, while invalidating visas for the rest of the world. The additional step on the 14 countries will take effect Wednesday, Abe said.

The entry ban and the visa restrictions, initially set to end on April 30, are extended until the end of May.

Japan is now under a monthlong state of emergency through May 6. Officials and experts are now gauging its effect and whether to extend the measure.

Japan has 13,385 confirmed cases, as well as 712 others from a cruise ship quarantined near Tokyo earlier this year, with 364 deaths, according to the health ministry.


Column: In the coronavirus crisis, California isn’t under one-party rule, it’s under one-man rule

California no longer has one-party rule in Sacramento. It now has one-man rule.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has told everyone who doesn’t have an “essential” job to stay home and protect themselves and others from the coronavirus. If they must venture out, he lectured, stay six feet from anyone.

Legislating officially is an essential job, but it’s hard to perform without cozying up to colleagues. And when meeting in their majestic chambers, lawmakers must sit close to seatmates.

So the Legislature did the healthy thing. It submitted to Newsom’s decree and is essentially staying home for seven weeks. Legislators are mostly staying out of the state Capitol anyway.

“It’s been kind of an eerie ghost town in there,” says Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood).

But power abhors a vacuum. With the legislative and judicial branches basically shut down because of the virus, the executive has seized almost complete control over state government. And many legislators are smarting.



Over 1 million Australians download virus app

Australian officials are pleased that more than 1 million people have downloaded an app designed to accelerate contact tracing for coronavirus despite some privacy concerns.

Within 12 hours of the Australian-developed COVIDsafe app becoming available late Sunday, 1.13 million of Australia’s 26 million population had downloaded it to their smartphones.

Chief Health Officer Damian Murphy said Monday he was “really excited” by the app’s early popularity.

Government officials intend to rush legislation through Parliament to outlaw use of collected data for purposes other than tracing people who might have COVID-19. Officials have also promised to release the app’s source code within two weeks so independent analysts can better understand how it works and its privacy implications.

The government says at least 40% of the Australian population needs to take up the technology based on Singapore’s TraceTogether app for it to be effective.

If users of COVIDsafe are diagnosed with the virus, they can upload the app’s encrypted data logs, which identify other users who have been in close proximity for 15 minutes or more in the previous three week.

The government hopes the app will help Australia to safely reopen the economy by enabling health officials to quickly identify and contain new outbreaks. Australia will resume non-urgent surgeries this week for the first time since March 27 as confidence grows that hospitals won’t be overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases.

Australia had recorded 6,720 cases of the virus, 83 patients had died and 27 remained critically ill in hospitals on ventilators as of Monday.


Pastor, protester clashed over coronavirus restrictions. One was arrested

Rev. Tony Spell leaves his home in Baton Rouge, La., after his house arrest.
The Rev. Tony Spell leaves his home in suburban Baton Rouge, La., where he’d been under house arrest.
(Judah Spell)

They are the pastor and the protester — both native sons of Louisiana, both products of religious households, both self-proclaimed fighters for their constitutional rights.

And for weeks, they have faced off at a Pentecostal church that has defied coronavirus restrictions even as members became infected and one died.

One of the men was arrested and jailed. The other walked away. Both claimed victory.

The dispute about constitutional rights and restrictions to protect public health is likely to play out across the country as more states ease lockdowns this month. With the pastor and the protester, the conflict progressed publicly in this suburb just outside the state capital, winning both men passionate defenders and detractors.



L.A. County reports 18 new coronavirus deaths, says poor people are three times more likely to die

Los Angeles County public health officials on Sunday reported 18 additional COVID-19 deaths and 440 new cases of the coronavirus. Long Beach, which has its own health department, reported two new deaths and 10 additional cases, bringing the county’s total to 915 deaths and 19,538 cases.

“The most difficult part of the COVID-19 pandemic is losing people to the virus,” Barbara Ferrer, director of the county Department of Public Health, said in a statement. “To all of you who have lost loved ones, we are deeply sorry.”

Of those who most recently died, 13 were older than 65, four were 41 to 65, and one was 18 to 40, officials said. Fifteen had underlying health conditions.



Spain’s kids celebrate freedom from 44-day lockdown

BARCELONA, Spain — After six weeks cooped up with her 3-year-old twins, Susana Sabaté was finally able to release her energy-filled boys onto Spain’s sunny streets.

On Sunday, Spain’s government lifted a home-confinement rule for children under 14 years old after 44 days, ending one of the most restrictive measures of its national lockdown. The coronavirus outbreak has claimed more than 22,000 lives in the European country. Even Italy, with more deaths than Spain, has not kept its youngsters completely secluded.

“This is wonderful! I can’t believe it has been six weeks,” the 44-year-old Sabaté said in Barcelona. “My boys are very active. Today when they saw the front door and we gave them their scooters, they were thrilled.”



Census delay could put off new voting districts, primaries

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The U.S. Census Bureau needs more time to wrap up the once-a-decade count because of the coronavirus, opening the possibility of delays in drawing new legislative districts that could help determine what political party is in power, what laws pass or fail and whether communities of color get a voice in their states.

The number of people counted and their demographics guide how voting districts for the U.S. House and state legislatures are redrawn every 10 years. The monthslong delay in census data could make a divisive process more complicated, potentially forcing lawmakers into costly special sessions to complete the work or postponing some primary elections.



Governors say they’ll ease virus restrictions, with an abundance of caution

A pair of U.S. governors on Sunday outlined plans to ease stay-at-home orders in the days and weeks ahead but cautioned constituents that the coronavirus remained a threat in their communities.

“What matters a lot more than the date that the stay-at-home ends is what we do going forward, and how we have an ongoing, sustainable way — psychologically, economically and from the health perspective — to have the social distancing we need,” said Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, on CNN’s “State of the Union.”