Coronavirus hospitalizations have doubled in California over last three days
The latest updates from our reporters in California and around the world
The Los Angeles Times will provide around-the-clock updates on COVID-19 from across Southern California and around the world.
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Crammed in filthy cells, political prisoners fear infection
Reza Khandan got the word from friends locked away in Iran’s most feared prison, Evin. A prisoner and a guard in their cell block had been removed because they were suspected of having coronavirus, and two guards in the women’s ward had shown symptoms.
It was frightening news. Khandan’s wife, Nasrin Sotoudeh, one of Iran’s most prominent human rights lawyers, is imprisoned in that ward in close quarters with 20 other women. Only days earlier, the 56-year-old Sotoudeh — known for defending activists, opposition politicians and women prosecuted for removing their headscarves — had held a five-day hunger strike demanding prisoners be released to protect them from the virus.
“The virus has entered the jail, but we don’t know the extent of it,” Khandan, who had until recently been imprisoned in Evin as well, told the Associated Press by phone from Tehran.
“It will be impossible to control,” Khandan warned.
Tens of thousands of political prisoners are jailed in Iran, Syria and other countries around the Middle East, punished for anything from advocating for democracy and promoting women’s or workers’ rights to holding Islamist views, protesting or simply criticizing autocratic leaders on Facebook or YouTube.
Stranded cruise ship hit by virus begs Florida to dock
As a cruise ship stranded at sea with dozens sick and four dead makes for Florida, passengers who have been confined to their rooms for more than a week are anxious for relief, hoping Gov. Ron DeSantis will change his mind and allow them to disembark despite confirmed coronavirus cases aboard.
Orlando technical writer Laura Gabaroni and her husband, Juan Huergo, have wanted to explore the southernmost tip of South America for years — to see the penguins on the Falkland Islands and the glacial landscapes of the Strait of Magellan. But their vacation turned harrowing as countries shunned them and people fell ill.
“It’s been a trying time, especially because of the many ups and downs we’ve seen along the way,” Gabaroni said. “We are unable to leave our rooms, haven’t had fresh air in days.”
Hundreds of passengers and crew members from the Zaandam have not stepped on dry land for 15 days as the novel coronavirus prompted authorities around the world to seal borders, implement checkpoints and force people into quarantines. Passengers were asked to keep their rooms dark and leave their drapes closed when they passed through the Panama Canal on Sunday night after days of wrangling with local authorities.
Ford, GE plan to start making ventilators in three weeks
Ford Motor Co. is speeding up plans to produce ventilators in cooperation with General Electric Co. by selecting a simpler design of the medical devices and will aim to churn out 50,000 units in the next 100 days.
The automaker will convert an auto-parts plant in Michigan to make breathing machines designed by Airon Corp. and licensed by GE Healthcare starting the week of April 20, according to a statement. The new configuration chosen by the companies will allow them to start production before another type of ventilator they has announced last week, which won’t be ready until June.
Spectrum extends free internet for 60 days to teachers in response to school closures
As teachers throughout the Burbank and Glendale unified school districts begin a transition to online learning this week, Charter Communications is extending its 60-day free internet offer to kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers and college instructors.
The offer is available to teachers throughout the United States who currently do not have Spectrum service. A self-installation kit is also available for free.
California regulators direct health insurance companies to increase telehealth access
Regulators on Monday directed health insurance companies to provide increased telehealth access for consumers during the state of emergency issued by California’s governor in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
In a news release, the California Department of Insurance pointed out that health insurance companies must continue to “provide access to medically necessary care, and California policyholders should be able to access medically necessary health care without physically visiting their provider in person, when clinically appropriate.”
The action affected 2 million Californians covered by Department of Insurance-regulated health policies.
“Being able to interact with your healthcare provider electronically will protect vulnerable people from unnecessary in-person visits with their health providers and get them help faster,” Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara said in a statement. “Increasing access to telehealth helps consumers comply with social distancing guidelines, protects the health of vital healthcare providers and guarantees access to care for our most vulnerable during these extraordinary times.”
Previously, Lara had directed health insurance companies to submit emergency plans detailing how they will ensure continued access to medically necessary healthcare services for the duration of the state of emergency.
Monday’s notice also provides that insurance companies should:
- Allow all network providers to use all available and appropriate modes of telehealth delivery, including, but not limited to, synchronous video and telephone-based service delivery
- Immediately implement reimbursement rates for telehealth services that mirror payment rates for an equivalent office visit
- Eliminate barriers to providing medically and clinically appropriate care using appropriate telehealth delivery models
- Use telehealth service delivery methods to enable consumers to have access to mental-health and substance-use disorder services, family therapy and behavioral health services, including services to treat autism, among others.
Earlier this month, the California Department of Managed Health Care — which oversees all HMOs in California and finances healthcare services for about 13 million Medi-Cal beneficiaries — sent out a similar advisory to health plan representatives.
In the letter, the agency’s acting general counsel, Sarah Ream, noted, “Health plans shall reimburse providers at the same rate, regardless of whether a service is provided in-person or through telehealth, if the service is the same regardless of the modality of delivery.
“For example, if a health plan reimburses a mental health provider $100 for a 50-minute therapy session conducted in-person, the health plan shall reimburse the provider $100 for a 50-minute therapy session done via telehealth,” Ream wrote.
Additionally, for services provided via telehealth, a health plan cannot subject enrollees to cost-sharing greater than the same cost-sharing if the service were provided in person.
Arizona becomes the latest state to issue shelter in place guidelines
Arizona is the latest state to issue shelter in place guidelines in response to the coronavirus crisis.
“Keeping Arizonans safe and healthy as we slow the spread of COVID-19 remains our top priority,” Gov. Doug Ducey said in a news release.
“Arizona citizens and businesses are already responsibly responding to this crisis. This order builds on the state’s efforts to protect public health by reminding Arizonans to maintain healthy habits and find alternative ways to stay connected with friends and loved ones while spending time at home. Slowing the spread of COVID-19 will ensure we build capacity in our healthcare system, and help protect the lives of those we love most. It’s important to emphasize that there are no plans to shut down grocery stores. People should continue to buy what you need for a week’s worth of groceries. I’m grateful to everyone making adjustments to fight this virus and protect others. Arizona will get through this, and we’ll do it together.”
Venice restaurant Gjusta closes temporarily after employee tests positive for COVID-19
Gjusta will be closed through April 5 after one of its employees tested positive for COVID-19, according to a sign posted on the restaurant’s door on Monday.
The sign said that while the source of the coronavirus infection was unknown, the employee had not been involved in the care of a COVID-19-positive individual or recently traveled to any affected areas, leading the Venice deli and bakery to assume the virus was contracted through community spread.
A post to Gjusta’s Instagram account clarified that the employee had “presented with fatigue and a sore throat, with no reported fever or coughing” and that “the individual tested out of an abundance of caution due to an immunocompromised family member.”
How do L.A. wine shops keep business flowing during a pandemic?
“Call 213-995-6090 for a good time,” reads the strip of paper affixed to a glass wall with blue painter’s tape. It’s the smallest in a series of directive signs posted outside Tilda, a wine bar and shop in Echo Park, where employees strive to evoke an element of human connection in the contactless buying experience they’re offering.
The unexpected luck of Tilda’s design — the clear wall separates an enclosed atrium from the shop and its inventory — allows for some welcome face-to-face interaction during the coronavirus outbreak. People call into the shop one at a time to talk through their order, peering through glass at a lineup of three dozen or so natural wines. There’s an aromatic, auburn-colored blend called Meditazione from Long Island, for example, or a deep-strawberry rosé made by Say When Winery’s Rachel Silkowski, who lives nearby.
A lone employee tends the store. Phone in hand, he or she answers any questions, smiling and making frequent eye contact from the other side of the transparent barrier.
Cuomo’s popularity hits seven-year high; 87% of voters approve his handling of crisis
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s handling of the coronavirus crisis is approved by 87% of the state’s registered voters, according to a poll released Monday by Siena College. That’s more than double the 41% of New Yorkers who approve of President Trump’s management of the global pandemic that has killed more than 2,000 Americans.
Cuomo, who is dealing with the epicenter of the crisis in the United States, has gained widespread recognition for his efforts to protect New Yorkers. During his daily briefings that are aired on national TV, Cuomo bluntly details the growing infection rate and death toll, defends New Yorkers as other states try to crack down on their movements, and at times consoles his state’s 20 million residents about the uncertainty the virus has created in their lives.
President Trump, citing the approval numbers, said Cuomo’s popularity was buoyed by the medical aid that the federal government has provided for New York. He also said that Cuomo would be a better Democratic presidential nominee than Joe Biden.
LAPD officers getting their temperatures checked before each shift
The Los Angeles Police Department is taking the temperatures of its officers as they arrive for their shifts to try to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus inside the department, which has seen 26 employees test positive.
Anyone with a temperature will be sent home immediately and directed to get medical treatment. “We are taking every step to ensure officers’ health,” Assistant Chief Horace Frank said.
Department roll calls are now conducted with officers spaced far apart to ensure social distancing as part of efforts to get as many officers as possible working. Those with even slight signs of illness have been ordered to stay home, Frank said.
Dew Tour skateboarding event in Long Beach rescheduled for September
The annual summer Dew Tour skateboard competition and festival in Long Beach has been postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Originally scheduled for May 7-10, the event is now slated to take place Sept. 10-13.
“Our primary focus is still to ensure the safety and health of our athletes, fans, partners and staff,” Dew Tour vice president and general manager Courtney Gresik said in a statement. “Of course, we will continue to monitor the developments around COVID-19. As we know, the landscape is changing daily and safety is paramount to everything we do.”
Skateboarding will be making its Olympic debut in Tokyo. The Long Beach event was intended to be the final global qualifying event in the U.S. for men’s and women’s park and street competitions. But with the Summer Games postponed from 2020 to 2021, World Skate is working to update the status of the Olympic qualification system.
Several counties in San Francisco Bay Area to extend shelter-in-place order until May 1
Health officers in six counties of the the San Francisco Bay Area are set to extend a shelter-in-place order until at least May 1.
The counties that plan to extend the order are San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Marin, Alameda, and Contra Costa.
At a news conference Monday, San Francisco Mayor London Breed said more people in the city seemed to be adhering to the shelter-in-place order over the weekend.
There are 374 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in San Francisco, and six people have died.
They were supposed to build stages for Coachella. Now they’re building triage tents
Right now, Ryan Choura should be celebrating another busy South by Southwest and another BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament and preparing for the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in two weeks.
Choura, the 41-year-old founder of the Torrance-based production firm Choura Events, builds tents, staging and facilities for tens of thousands of revelers at music, sports and dining events in Southern California and nationwide. But in the span of a month, what had been a growing market for live events collapsed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Live Nation and AEG closed down their entire festival and concert schedule, along with all major sports leagues playing now. His 200 employees were suddenly without any work, and it was difficult to see when anybody would be gathering in public in the near future.
John Krasinski and Steve Carell stage mini ‘Office’ reunion on uplifting new YouTube show
Everybody stay calm. Everybody stay calm!
Steve Carell and John Krasinski had a mini “Office” reunion over the weekend as part of a new YouTube series launched by the latter in search of “Some Good News” amid the coronavirus crisis. In an effort to lift spirits, Krasinski touched on several heartwarming stories that had emerged during an otherwise bleak news cycle and welcomed his first guest, Carell, via webcam.
“I miss you a ton, man. It’s so good to see you, and thank you so much for doing this,” Krasinksi said on Sunday. “We are trying to start a news network just for good news, and boy, are you good news.”
In celebration of the workplace comedy’s 15th anniversary, the “Office” alumni reminisced about their time together on the hit NBC program, recalling the many fun and hilarious moments they shared as an ensemble.
Column: Economists agree with doctors that prematurely lifting lockdown would be disastrous
Until now, the voices warning against prematurely lifting stringent social regulations to combat the novel coronavirus have been those of doctors and epidemiologists.
But a blue-ribbon group of economists has just weighed in, and they agree — virtually unanimously.
The panel of 44 economists assembled by the Booth School of Business of the University of Chicago was asked to opine on coronavirus policy in three respects.
Case numbers and deaths mount in Ventura County
Three more people died over the weekend in Ventura County after testing positive for COVID-19, bringing the death toll from the novel coronavirus to four one week after the county reported its first fatality.
Those who have died were all in their 70s or 80s and had preexisting health conditions, county spokeswoman Ashley Bautista said Monday. The county’s health department has not identified where the four lived.
Following a steady increase last week in the number of confirmed cases, the county added 48 new patients over the weekend, bringing the total to 109. That’s nearly an 80% increase from Friday’s count, which was 61. The county’s latest numbers show Simi Valley leads the region with 20 confirmed cases, followed by Camarillo with 19.
Residents ages 45 to 64 continue to make up the largest number of cases, at 46. Thirty-one cases include people over the age of 65, while 23 are ages 25 to 44. There are eight cases among those 18 to 24, and one case of someone under the age of 17.
New York deaths hit 1,200; rise in confirmed cases slows
New York State reported a 26% increase in COVID-19-related deaths in the last day, pushing the total above 1,200.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the 253 new coronavirus fatalities on Monday even as he offered some positive news: The rise in confirmed cases is slowing, and the hospital-discharge rate is rising.
Even so, there was still no clear pattern in the data. While the doubling of infections has slowed from every two days to every six, the number of people who had to be moved into intensive care with intubation surged in one day.
New York added almost 7,000 confirmed infections overnight, for a total of more than 66,000, Cuomo said. Of those, roughly 9,500 are hospitalized, an increase of more than 1,000, and about 2,350 were in intensive care, up 315.
Cuomo, at a news conference in Manhattan, continued to press Washington for more help, seizing on President Trump’s description of the outbreak as a war.
“This is a war. Let’s act that way,” he said. “And let’s act that way now, and let’s show a commonality and a mutuality and a unity that this country hasn’t seen in decades, because the Lord knows we need it today more than ever before.”
Bay Area hospital receives medical equipment ahead of expected surge
Medical cots and equipment are being delivered to the San Mateo County Event Center in the Bay Area to prepare for a surge in COVID-19 patients.
Deliveries began Sunday, and the National Guard is expected be at the center through Tuesday to set up the equipment, which will make available a federal treatment site that can house 250 patients who are not critically ill.
“The latest projections estimate that a medical surge could push the hospitals in our county to capacity and we’ll need another location to house patients requiring particular levels of care,” County Manager Mike Callagy said in a statement. “We can’t just wait to see if this will happen.”
Amid closures, 15,000 high school students are absent online, 40,000 fail to check in daily
About one-third of some 120,000 Los Angeles high school students have not logged onto online classes every day, and 15,000 are absent from all online learning as efforts to continue distance learning fall short, according to the L.A. Unified School District.
The disappointing figures were released Monday by L.A. schools Supt. Austin Beutner during a morning video update.
“It’s simply not acceptable that we lose touch with 15,000 young adults or that many students aren’t getting the education they should be,” Beutner said. “This will take some time and a good bit of trial and error to get it right. And it will take the continued patience and commitment of all involved — students, families and teachers.”
Surviving the shutdown: Among the L.A. taqueros
It was the glow that first caught my eye.
The truck is sandwiched between a freeway exit and a smog check station. You can hear the Gold Line train whiz by and, somewhere nearby, a pit bull defending its territory, but not much else. If there ever was a cursed corner for a taco truck, Tacos El Flaco found it — Pluto in the taco truck galaxy.
When I spotted the truck, I rushed to set up my tripod, hoping I could capture the particular light — lonely but hopeful in a dimmed city — it threw on the street. Instead, I caught a different kind of illumination: the story of a father and son who depended on the food truck to earn their living.
Pac-12 extends its suspension of athletic activities
The Pac-12 has extended its suspension of organized team activities an additional two months amid the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring that a complete shutdown of collegiate sports in the conference will last through May.
The conference announced its decision Monday to suspend activities through May 31, while assuring it would reevaluate its position periodically in the coming weeks.
The updated policy will continue to bar any type of in-person workouts or team activities, while also clarifying limits for virtual team activities.
Online supervised workouts or skill instruction remain prohibited. Coaches, however, are able to recommend workout plans or pass along taped demonstration videos for workout plans, “in order to demonstrate proper form and technique,” the Pac-12 statement read.
John Prine still hospitalized but is now stable, his wife says
John Prine, the esteemed Americana singer-songwriter who has been hospitalized in critical condition since Thursday with COVID-19, is now stable, his wife said Monday on social media.
“I have recovered from Covid-19,” Fiona Whelan Prine tweeted. “We are humbled by the outpouring of love for me and John and our precious family. He is stabile. Please continue to send your amazing Love and prayers. Sing his songs. Stay home and wash hands. John loves you. I love you.”
U.S. State Department continuing with repatriation
WASHINGTON — The State Department says it has successfully arranged the repatriation of some 25,000 American citizens stranded abroad in more than 50 countries due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Department officials say they are continuing to ramp up evacuation efforts and that more than 100 flights for U.S. citizens have been scheduled for the coming weeks. About 9,000 Americans have registered for those upcoming flights and there is still space available on many.
Many of those stranded are in Latin American countries, notably Peru, where some Americans have been quarantined by authorities.
Meanwhile, department health officials said there are 75 confirmed coronavirus cases among employees at the 220 U.S. embassies. Inside the United States, the officials said there are 30 confirmed cases of the virus at State Department offices in nine cities.
Israeli schoolchildren likely to not return before September
Hungary approves extra government powers, with no end date
BUDAPEST, Hungary — Hungary’s parliament on Monday approved a bill giving Prime Minister Viktor Orban‘s government extraordinary powers during the coronavirus pandemic, and setting no end date for them.
The bill was approved by Orban’s Fidesz party and other government supporters by 137 votes in favor to 53 against. It needed 133 votes to pass.
President Janos Ader signed the bill into law shortly after its approval in parliament, and it will take effect beginning Tuesday.
The legislation has been criticized by opposition parties, international institutions and civic groups for failing to include an expiration date for the government’s ability to rule by decree.
Little Free Libraries become free food pantries
Several of Glendale’s Little Free Libraries have been converted into free food pantries to help those in need during the coronavirus emergency that has left scores of residents jobless and struggling financially.
Helmed by the Glendale library department’s staff and several community groups, people are encouraged to take and leave nonperishable items in the libraries-turned-pantries scattered across the city.
Like many other public facilities across Los Angeles County, Glendale’s library branches are closed to limit the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.
Hollywood Burbank Airport reduces parking as pandemic keeps travelers away
Hollywood Burbank Airport on Monday consolidated its parking to three sites to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, officials said.
Lots A and C as well as the airport’s valet service are closed amid a drastic decrease in travelers caused by shelter-in-place orders put in place because of the spreading virus. The employee parking lot is also closed.
California housing crisis podcast: What’s being done about homelessness during pandemic?
To stem the growth of the novel coronavirus, Gov. Gavin Newsom has ordered Californians to stay in their homes. But that order is hard to follow if you’re homeless or worried about whether you’ll be able to pay your rent.
On this episode of “Gimme Shelter: The California Housing Crisis Podcast,” we discuss how state and local officials are trying to handle the state’s already crushing rates of homelessness and housing insecurity during the pandemic.
U.S. set to report millions more unemployment claims
The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits is forecast to set a record for the second straight week following 3.28 million in last week’s data, with the darkest prediction expecting the figure to almost double.
The release, due Thursday for the week ended March 28, is now being looked to as a more timely barometer than the payrolls report because it shows how the coronavirus and the sudden economic stop implemented to contain it are reshaping the labor market. The median projection from economists surveyed by Bloomberg puts the figure at 3.3 million, slightly above the prior reading, which was already more than quadruple the previous record.
The claims report “will likely reflect both newly laid-off workers as well as states catching up on previously filed claims that had not yet been captured in the system due to overwhelming demand,” Wells Fargo economist Sam Bullard wrote in a note. He doesn’t have a projection for Thursday’s figure.
While Friday’s payroll figures are forecast to show a more modest decline in jobs in March, they reflect data from earlier in the month before most virus-related shutdowns. So, the bigger job losses — and an unemployment rate potentially rising by several percentage points — are more likely to show up in the April data due in May.
The most dire prediction puts the figure at 6.5 million — the forecast of Thomas Costerg at Banque Pictet & Cie. — while Goldman Sachs estimates 5.25 million and Citigroup is at 4 million.
Hard-hit countries ‘potentially stabilizing,’ WHO says, but it’s not time to let up
GENEVA — The World Health Organization’s emergencies chief says coronavirus case counts in hard-hit countries like Italy and Spain are “potentially stabilizing,” but it’s no time to let up on tough measures to limit and track the spread of the virus.
“It is our fervent hope that that is the case,” Dr. Michael Ryan told reporters. “But we have to now push the virus down, and that will not happen by itself.”
Ryan, speaking at a regular WHO news conference, said “we should start to see stabilization” in the wake of lockdowns and “stringent measures” in Italy, Spain and elsewhere over the last two weeks.
He said case-counting in an epidemic reflected the reality of transmission for at least the previous two weeks.
“The cases you see today are almost ... historical, in the same way when we’re told that we’re looking at galaxies through a telescope that we’re seeing light from a billion years ago,” he said. “We’re seeing a reality that existed before.”
Italy sees slowdown in rate of new cases
ROME — Italy is seeing a continued slowdown in the rate of its new confirmed coronavirus cases while registering a record number of people cured as it enters its third week into a nationwide lockdown.
Another 812 people died in the last day, bringing Italy’s toll to 11,591 and maintaining its position as the country with the most fatalities from the disease caused by the virus.
Overall, Italy added 4,050 new infections Monday, bringing its official total to 101,739 and keeping its place as the European epicenter of the pandemic and second only to the U.S.
Epidemiologists say the real number of Italy’s caseload, however, is as much as five to 10 times more than the official number, but those cases aren’t being counted because Italy is only testing people with severe symptoms.
Of those infected, 14,620 have been declared cured, including a record 1,590 in the past day.
Column: Trump blocks bailout oversight even before it can start
Even faster than Congress came together to pass its $2-trillion coronavirus bailout bill, President Trump signaled his intention to interfere with one of its most important provisions — public oversight of how the money gets doled out to big business.
In signing the bill late Friday, Trump stated that he considered several oversight provisions of the bill to exceed congressional authority — in fact, to represent “impermissible...congressional aggrandizement.”
They include provisions requiring that the chief bailout overseer, the special inspector general for pandemic recovery, or SIGPR, inform Congress “without delay” if executive branch departments “unreasonably” refuse the overseer’s request for information.
Instacart workers plan to strike Monday
Instacart grocery shopping and delivery workers are striking Monday to call for better pay and sick leave benefits based on their increased exposure to the coronavirus.
Instacart shoppers and an activist organization called the Gig Workers Collective that is helping organize the workers have called for the company to provide workers with protective supplies, such as hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes, additional hazard pay and an expansion of pay for those affected by the coronavirus.
In a statement posted Friday on Medium, the Gig Workers Collective said that Instacart portrayed itself as a “hero” to families who were quarantined or sheltering in place but that it did not provide “essential protections” to workers who grocery shop for customers and were more exposed to the public.
Medical waste industry braces for flood of virus-contaminated trash
For about two weeks now, red bags of medical waste laden with the coronavirus have been flowing from Southern California hospitals to a squat white building in the city of Paramount, where they are tossed into an autoclave and scorched with pressurized steam.
The novel coronavirus, or SARS-CoV-2, is essentially a string of genetic material encased in a fragile, fatty membrane, and it’s no match for an extended bath in 300-degree steam and 50 pounds per square inch of pressure.
“It kills all the bugs in the garbage,” said Bob Shaw, president of Medical Waste Services. “Then it’s sent to the landfill.”
Shaw’s is among 19 facilities that use enormous steam autoclaves to treat California’s medical debris. So far, they have had little problem handling waste generated in the battle against the coronavirus.
Macy’s to furlough majority of its 130,000 workers
NEW YORK — Macy’s will furlough a majority of its 130,000 workers with its stores dark.
The company on Monday said it was transitioning to an ‘’absolute minimum workforce” needed to maintain basic operations.
Online operations won’t be hit as hard. Employees who are enrolled in health benefits will continue to receive coverage with the company covering 100% of the premium.
“We expect to bring colleagues back on a staggered basis as business resumes,"the company said.
French fashion brands ramp up mask production
The French fashion sector’s push to supply protective masks is on track to produce 480,000 units per day with 45 companies participating, Deputy Economy Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher said. Those masks, often reusable, will be intended as an additional protection measure for people working outside the medical sector.
France’s makers of surgical masks are also ramping up production, targeting 40 million masks in April, Pannier-Runacher said Monday in a briefing to press.
Lacoste, Yves Saint-Laurent and Chanel are among the French fashion makers that have said they’ll participate in the effort.
It’s taking up to eight days to get tests results. This is why
Two weeks ago, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that help was on the way for people wanting to be tested for the coronavirus.
A commercial laboratory called Quest Diagnostics, he said, would process 1,200 tests a day at its facility in San Juan Capistrano and quickly ramp up production to 5,500 per day.
“We’re increasing our capacity on an hourly basis,” Newsom said.
Yet it wasn’t just Newsom and Californians counting on Quest’s Capistrano lab.
Hospitals, doctors and governments across the country were being encouraged by the company and federal officials to send COVID-19 tests to that single Southern California lab for processing.
Alan Merrill, ‘I Love Rock and Roll’ songwriter, dies at 69
NEW YORK — Alan Merrill, who co-wrote the song “I Love Rock and Roll,” which became a signature hit for fellow rocker Joan Jett, died Sunday in New York of complications from the coronavirus, his daughter said. He was 69.
Laura Merrill said on her Facebook account that he died in the morning.
“I was given 2 minutes to say my goodbyes before I was rushed out. He seemed peaceful and as I left there was still a glimmer of hope that he wouldn’t be a ticker on the right hand side of the CNN/Fox news screen,” she wrote. “I walked 50 blocks home still with hope in my heart. The city that I knew was empty. I felt I was the only person here and perhaps in many ways I was. By the time I got in the doors to my apartment I received the news that he was gone.”
Lionel Messi says Barcelona players will take pay cut
MADRID — In a letter critical of Barcelona club officials, Lionel Messi said Monday that he and his teammates were taking a 70% cut in salaries because of the shutdown caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
Messi wrote in a social media post that the players would also make donations so other club employees were not affected by the upheaval.
“A lot has been said about Barcelona’s first team and the players’ salaries during the country’s state of alarm,” Messi wrote in the letter. “Before anything, we would like to make it clear that we have always wanted to reduce our salaries as we perfectly understand that this is an exceptional situation and we ALWAYS were the first ones to help the club when it asked. Actually, we have done that on our own in moments when we felt it was necessary or important.
In Zimbabwe, starving people are willing to risk the virus to get food, water on the table
HARARE, Zimbabwe —“We are already ruined. What more harm can coronavirus do?” Irene Kampira asked as she sorted secondhand clothes at a bustling market in a poor suburb of Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare.
People in one of the world’s most economically devastated nations are choosing daily survival over measures to protect themselves from a virus that “might not even kill us,” Kampira said.
Even as the country entered a “total lockdown” over the virus on Monday, social distancing is being pushed aside in the struggle to obtain food, cash, cheap public transport, even clean water. The World Health Organization’s recommended virus precautions seem far-fetched for many of Zimbabwe’s 15 million people.
TV host Andy Cohen is ‘back and healthy’ while recovering
Ten days after revealing his diagnosis, “Watch What Happens Live” host Andy Cohen is recovering from the coronavirus and will be back on Sirius XM radio and TV starting Monday.
“WWHL@Home” will be broadcast from Cohen’s apartment in New York City’s West Village, as had been announced on March 20, the same day Cohen announced he had tested positive for the coronavirus. Guests Nene Leakes, Lisa Rinna and Jerry O’Connell will appear via video chat.
“Happy to report I’m feeling better and am returning to @radioandysxm this morning, and will try to end your day with a smile when we begin WWHL@Home tonight featuring @neneleakes @lisarinna @mrjerryo!,” Cohen wrote Monday morning on Instagram. “THANK YOU TO EVERYONE ON THE FRONT LINES OF COVID-19!”
Stocks rise, led by healthcare firms; oil falls below $20 a barrel
U.S. stocks rose Monday morning, though markets were tentative around the world amid uncertainty about whether global authorities can do enough to nurse the economy through the coronavirus pandemic.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 index was up 2.3% shortly before 8:30 a.m. Pacific, renewing gains after falling close to the flatline. European markets were mixed after paring earlier losses. Asian markets were down, but by more modest degrees than the huge swings that have rocked investors over the last month.
A more than 2% gain by the benchmark U.S. index would have been a big deal earlier this year. But it would count as one of the U.S. market’s milder days since the coronavirus outbreak sliced roughly a quarter off the S&P 500 over the last six weeks. Investors are weighing an economic downturn that could exceed even the Great Recession on one hand, as the pandemic forces businesses around the world to shut down to slow the spread of the virus. On the other, investors are hopeful that the weakness could be relatively short-lived and that the massive amounts of economic aid offered by central banks and governments can fill the gap in the meantime.
Pasadena schools suspend ‘grab-and-go’ meals after potential infection
The Pasadena Unified School District has temporarily stopped serving grab-and-go meals for students after a kitchen employee was tested for the coronavirus.
Though a COVID-19 diagnosis hasn’t been confirmed, district officials said they would suspend the meal service starting Monday “out of an abundance of caution,” with hopes of resuming later in the week.
The to-go meals had been available at seven schools.
“We know that this may cause hardship to our families and are working with neighboring school districts to provide meals to PUSD students,” Supt. Brian McDonald wrote in a message to district families Sunday.
No more liquor, only hand sanitizer at this distillery
Ken Shimura, popular Japanese comic, dies at 70 from the virus
TOKYO — Popular Japanese comedian Ken Shimura has died from the coronavirus infection, becoming Japan’s first known celebrity to die of the disease. He was 70.
Shimura, who attracted fans of all generations with his slapstick comedy and funny faces, had been treated at a Tokyo hospital and died Sunday, according to his agency, Izawa Office.
He was diagnosed with pneumonia after contracting the coronavirus. He was hospitalized March 20 after developing a fever and breathing troubles and was put on a ventilator.
The news of his death comes as new cases have spiked in Tokyo, with the city’s governor warning of an explosive spread of the virus in the region. The story topped Japanese television news and talk shows Monday, and some fans and media gathered outside the hospital where he had been treated.
As she lay dying, her family said goodbye through a window
Hector Juarez said goodbye to his mother through the window as he stood outside a hospital in Delano, Calif., on Thursday.
Susana Garcia, 52, was hooked up to a ventilator and heavily sedated as COVID-19 ravaged her body. Fears over the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus meant that she was in isolation and the hospital was not allowing visitors.
But staffers opened the blinds so Juarez and his sister could peer inside Garcia’s ground-floor ICU room.
“We got to see her one last time,” said Juarez, 27.
San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies, firefighters test positive
Two San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department deputies and two firefighters have tested positive for COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus, county officials said.
All four began self-isolating after they started to experience flu-like symptoms. They later tested positive for the virus and appeared to be doing well, authorities said Sunday.
Sheriff’s officials said in a statement that they were investigating how their deputies, who were assigned to the department’s Detentions and Corrections Bureau, became infected.
“Although we do not know when and where the deputies were exposed to the virus, we continue to encourage all members to heed the warnings of health officials while on and off duty,” officials wrote in a statement.
Sri Lankan police to take properties of those defying self-quarantine order
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lankan police have announced they will acquire the properties of those who defy the government’s order to undergo a 14-day self-quarantine after returning from abroad after March 10.
The announcement came after it was revealed that several people who tested positive for COVID-19 had not registered with the government’s self-quarantine program and hadn’t followed proper quarantine guidelines.
Health authorities have already sealed off two villages after it surfaced that several patients from those villages had failed to follow self-quarantine procedures.
Sri Lanka’s second death due to the coronavirus was reported Sunday. The number of confirmed cases has risen to 122.
Most of the positive cases involve those returning from abroad, especially from Italy, Britain and South Korea.
Still riding the Metro? You may be the only one: 10 scenes from L.A.'s transit system
Ridership on California’s largest transit system has fallen by more than half during the coronavirus outbreak as life in Los Angeles County has all but ground to a halt, officials say.
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority does not plan to shut down the system. The Metro is a “lifeline” for people who still need to commute to essential jobs, take care of relatives, go to medical appointments and run errands, Chief Executive Phil Washington says.
Los Angeles Times photographer Brian van der Brug gives us a look inside the L.A. Metro system during the coronavirus pandemic.
A 25-year-old pharmacy tech died. It’s an urgent warning for young people
The death of a 25-year-old California man from the coronavirus infection underscores what medical experts say is a key point: Even young adults can be vulnerable to the virus.
Although the older population and frail people are at great risk, officials say the young need to know they can become sick and even die.
Deaths jump to 132 as California faces a critical few weeks
Experts say California will likely continue to see a rise in new cases and deaths for the next few weeks but hope that the social distancing measures imposed may slow the spread.
The biggest immediate concern is for hospitals, which risk being overwhelmed by a growing number of sick patients.
The number of COVID-19 patients in California’s intensive-care beds doubled overnight, from 200 on Friday to 410 on Saturday, Gov. Gavin Newsom said. And the number of hospitalized patients testing positive for COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, rose by 38.6% — from 746 on Friday to 1,034 on Saturday, he said.
Prepare for virus to quickly spread, Putin tells Russians
MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin says the country has managed to slow down the spread of coronavirus but should be prepared for the contagion to grow quickly.
Russia has been hit relatively lightly by the outbreak, with 1,836 cases and nine deaths. But the number of new cases has mushroomed, spurring authorities to brace up for the worst.
Putin hailed a lockdown declared Monday in Moscow and warned that other regions should prepare to take similar steps.
Speaking to his envoys in Russian provinces in a video call, a stern-looking Putin said they would bear personal responsibility for the availability of hospital beds, lung ventilators and other essential equipment. He said authorities needed to call professors of medical universities and students to help deal with the outbreak.
The Russian leader also talked about the need to counter “provocations, stupid gossip and malicious lies” about the outbreak.
Dutch museum says Van Gogh painting stolen in overnight raid
THE HAGUE — A Dutch museum, currently closed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, said Monday a painting by Vincent van Gogh on loan for an exhibition was stolen in a raid overnight.
The Singer Laren museum east of Amsterdam said “Spring Garden” by the Dutch master was taken in the early hours of Monday.
Museum director Evert van Os said the institution that housed the collection of American couple William and Anna Singer was “angry, shocked, sad” at the theft of the painting.
The value of the work, which was on loan from the Groninger Museum in the northern Dutch city of Groningen, was not immediately known. Police are investigating the theft.
Britain’s Prince Charles ends isolation period
LONDON — Prince Charles has ended his period of isolation after testing positive for the coronavirus.
The prince’s Clarence House office says Charles is in good health after completing the seven-day quarantine recommended by U.K. health authorities for people with COVID-19 symptoms.
Royal officials said last week the 71-year-old heir to the British throne was showing mild symptoms of COVID-19 and self-isolating at the royal family’s Balmoral estate in Scotland. His wife, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, tested negative but will be in self-isolation until the end of the week.
Charles’ mother, Queen Elizabeth II, 93, is at her Windsor Castle home west of London with her 98-year-old husband, Prince Philip.
Will the outbreak lead to new L.A. crime fiction? The jury is out
Steph Cha doesn’t expect much in the way of good crime fiction to spring from the coronavirus outbreak. She has lots of reasons, not least of which is that the pandemic has put a damper on crime from Los Angeles to New York City.
No crime? No crime stories.
But wait until the outbreak is over, says the author of the 2019 crime thriller “Your House Will Pay” and a trilogy of L.A.-based detective novels featuring Korean American sleuth Juniper Song.
“If we come out of this, and this is an unmitigated economic crisis, and we have an unprecedented closure of small businesses, more homelessness, 25% to 30% unemployment, the post-coronavirus era could be like the Depression era,” Cha said. “That’s where noir came from.”
Amid shades of the Great Recession, day laborers struggle to find work
Gabriel Reyes was $600 short of his $1,800 monthly rent and April was around the corner. The day laborer was so desperate for a job he created a cardboard sign that listed his welding skills and cellphone number.
“I figure this way they know what I do since there’s so many of us out here,” he said.
For a month, the husband and father of three had been soliciting work in the parking lot of a Home Depot in Paramount. In his pockets, he carried little pieces of paper with his name and number to give to potential employers. He couldn’t even calculate how many he had passed out.
“I’ve only managed to earn $40,” Reyes said. “I don’t know if the landlord will give us a break.”
Smaller U.S. cities ripe for acceleration, Fauci says
WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci says smaller U.S. cities that don’t yet have large numbers of COVID-19 cases are ripe for the type of acceleration that occurred in New York City.
The U.S. government’s top infectious disease expert spoke to ABC’s “Good Morning America” about the “dynamics of the outbreak” in New Orleans and Detroit showing signs that “they’re going to take off.” But he said he was also concerned about smaller cities across the country.
“There are a number of smaller cities that are sort of percolating along, couple hundred cases; the slope doesn’t look like it’s going up,” Fauci said. “What we’ve learned from painful experience with this outbreak is that it goes along almost on a straight line, then a little acceleration, acceleration, then it goes way up.”
Fauci says that “very consistent pattern” is the same as what’s occurred in New York, Italy, France, Germany and Spain.
“We’re going to have all of these little mini outbreaks throughout various cities in our country,” he said.
Asked about how long the Trump administration’s recommended social distancing guidelines might be in effect, Fauci says, “I think April might do it ... but we kept an open mind when we presented it to the president.”
Tokyo Olympics rescheduled to start July 23, 2021
The Tokyo Olympics will open next year in the same time slot scheduled for this year’s Games.
Tokyo organizers said Monday the opening ceremony would take place on July 23, 2021 — almost exactly one year after the Games were due to start this year.
“The schedule for the Games is key to preparing for the Games,” Tokyo organizing committee President Yoshiro Mori said. “This will only accelerate our progress.”
L.A. County inmates say lack of soap and toilet paper heightens fear: ‘Like slow torture’
The thin bar of soap Joseph Clarino said he and other inmates get at Los Angeles County Men’s Central Jail is supposed to last three days. Clarino said he’s lucky if it’s enough for one shower — maybe two if cut in half — and that the shortage extends to other supplies. Some inmates, he said, recently used torn bedsheets when toilet paper ran out.
Across the street at Twin Towers Correctional Facility, Richmond Davis said fellow inmates were cleaning with the same mop they’d used days earlier when a toilet overflowed with sewage.
As concerns over the novel coronavirus grow, conditions inside the nation’s largest jail system have raised alarms among civil rights advocates and inmates, who say social distancing is impossible when more than 100 people are crowded into a dorm and some bunks are 3 feet apart. Inmates, they said, might go days without the cleaning supplies needed to keep themselves safe.
California pot dispensaries are open during crisis. Some want them closed
SACRAMENTO — In designating California’s marijuana industry as essential under the state’s COVID-19 stay-at-home order, the administration of Gov. Gavin Newsom has argued that the health benefits of keeping pot shops open outweigh the risks — even as opponents of the policy call it reckless.
Critics say it doesn’t make sense to allow people to congregate at cannabis stores, increasing the chance of infection, so they can buy products that are smoked at a time when the virus is attacking respiratory systems.
Other states have restricted sales to those for medical needs or to deliveries, seeking to limit cannabis store crowds at a time when residents are being told to stay in their homes and practice social distancing.
Deep underwater, submariners are likely unaware of the pandemic roiling the world above
LE PECQ, France —Of a world in coronavirus turmoil, they may know little or nothing.
Submariners stealthily cruising the ocean deeps, purposely shielded from worldly worries to encourage undivided focus on their top-secret missions of nuclear deterrence, may be among the last pockets of people anywhere who are still blissfully unaware of how the pandemic is turning life upside down.
Crew members of ballistic submarines are habitually spared bad news while underwater to avoid undermining their morale, say current and former officers who served aboard France’s nuclear-armed subs. So any crews that left port before the virus spread around the globe are likely being kept in the dark about the extent of the rapidly unfurling crisis by their commanders until their return, they say.
Wuhan, city at center of China’s virus outbreak, gradually revives
Shopkeepers in Wuhan, the city at the center of the coronavirus outbreak in China, were reopening Monday but customers were scarce after authorities lifted more of the anti-virus controls that kept tens of millions of people at home for two months.
“I’m so excited I want to cry,” said a woman on the Chuhe Hanjie pedestrian mall who would give only the English name Kat. She said she was a teacher in the eastern city of Nanjing visiting her family in Wuhan when the government locked down the city in late January to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
Some 70% to 80% of shops on the mall were open, but many imposed limits on how many people could enter. Shopkeepers set up dispensers for hand sanitizer and checked customers for signs of fever.
Wuhan’s bus and subway service has resumed, easing curbs that cut most access to the city of 11 million people on Jan. 23 as China fought the coronavirus. The train station reopened Saturday, bringing thousands of people to what is the manufacturing and transportation hub of central China.
Spain tops China in number of virus infections
Spain has become the third country to surpass China in coronavirus infections after the United States and Italy. With a population of 47 million, the country’s tally of infections reached 85,195 on Monday, a rise of 8% from a previous day.
Monday also saw 812 fatalities to 7,300 since the outbreak started in earnest in early March, Spain’s Health Ministry said in a statement.
In Madrid, where nearly half of the total deaths have been recorded, flags were hoisted at half-mast as authorities declared the official mourning, with a minute of silence expected at noon time.
Authorities also step up the country’s half-a-month lockdown on Monday, beginning with a new two-week period of “hibernation,” as described by a Spanish Cabinet member in order to alleviate the pressure of the illness in the country’s health system.
Only workers in hospitals, pharmacies, the food supply chain and other essential industries are required to work until the end of Easter, in mid-April, while the rest have been asked to scale back operations to weekend-level.
At least six of Spain’s 17 regions are at their limit of ICU beds and three more were close to it, authorities said, while frantic construction of field hospitals continues.
EasyJet grounds entire fleet
EasyJet says it is grounding its entire fleet of aircraft amid a collapse in demand due to the COVID-19 crisis.
The Luton-based carrier has parked all 344 of its planes, removing a significant cost as it copes with the impact of the virus.
EasyJet also says it has a strong balance sheet and is in “ongoing discussions with liquidity providers.’’ The budget carrier also announced it has reached an agreement with the Unite union on furlough arrangements for its cabin crew.
The announcement comes as Scottish regional airline Loganair said it expects to ask for a government bailout.
Britain’s government has so far demurred from creating a rescue package for aviation but has said it is ready for negotiations with individual firms once they had “exhausted other options.”