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Coronavirus updates: Newsom urges maintaining distance this warm weekend, citing new death record

A man walks past a poster encouraging people to wear face masks correctly in Hanoi, Vietnam. The country began lifting its nationwide lockdown April 23.
(Hau Dinh / 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 22 are here

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Sweden threatens businesses who aren’t following social-distancing recommendations

Sweden threatened to close bars and restaurants that do not follow social distancing recommendations by the public health authorities.

“We see worrying reports about full outdoor dining and crowding. Let me be extremely clear. I don’t want to see any crowded outdoor restaurants in Stockholm” or elsewhere, Swedish Interior Minister Mikael Damberg told a news conference.

The Swedish government on Friday asked the country’s 290 municipalities to report on how restaurants and cafes follow the Public Health Authority’s advice.

“These guidelines must be followed, otherwise operations will be closed,” Damberg said.

Earlier this week, Swedish prime minister Stefan Lofven said that “it is not the number of hours of sunshine or temperature that decides whether to listen to the advice of the authorities or not.”

“Don’t think for one moment that we have gone through this crisis yet,” he told a news conference.

Sweden has opted for relatively liberal policies to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

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China’s diplomats mount aggressive fightback over coronavirus response

From Asia to Africa, London to Berlin, Chinese envoys have set off diplomatic firestorms with a combative defense whenever their country is accused of not acting quickly enough to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

They belong to a new generation of “Wolf Warrior” diplomats, named after patriotic blockbuster films starring a muscle-bound Chinese commando killing American bad guys in Africa and Southeast Asia with his bare hands.

The tougher approach has been building for several years under President Xi Jinping, who has, in effect, jettisoned former leader Deng Xiaoping’s approach of hiding China’s ambitions and biding its time. Xi’s government has urged its diplomats to pursue “major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics” — a call for China to reassert its historic status as a global power.

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Pakistan’s Sindh province bans prayers during monthlong Ramadan

Pakistan’s southern Sindh province has banned prayers during the Islamic month of Ramadan after the Pakistan Medical Association pleaded with Prime Minister Imran Khan and the country’s religious leaders to rethink their refusal to close mosques countrywide.

Even as Pakistan’s confirmed cases of COVID-19 have begun to increase by 600 and 700 a day, compared to earlier daily increases of about 300, Khan has refused to order mosques closed. Instead he has left it to clerics — some of whom have called for adherents to pack mosques trusting their faith to protect them — to police government-ordered social distancing.

Pakistan recorded 642 new cases in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of known infections to 11,155 with 237 deaths. Khan has criticized Sindh’s Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah of being too zealous in his restrictions to contain the spread. Shah’s Pakistan People’s Party is politically opposed to Khan’s Justice Party.

Sindh province of which Karachi is the capital and the country’s financial hub has the second largest number of virus cases in Pakistan, recording 3,671 positive cases. Karachi is also one fo the world’s largest city with a population of about 15 million, located on the Arabian Sea.

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20 people have died in Yucaipa from coronavirus. All but two were residents of one skilled-nursing facility

Eighteen residents of a Yucaipa skilled nursing facility are dead after a coronavirus outbreak at the facility, and more than 100 residents and staff members have tested positive for COVID-19.

The deaths at Cedar Mountain Post Acute Rehabilitation account for nearly a quarter of San Bernardino County’s 77 coronavirus-related deaths, according to the county’s latest numbers. Although Yucaipa has a population of about 53,600, it is reporting the third-most COVID-19 cases behind two larger cities, Fontana and San Bernardino, and leads with the highest number of reported deaths at 20.

Cedar Mountain has one of the highest publicly identified death tolls at a single nursing facility in the state. In Tulare County, 16 residents have died at one Visalia facility, where more than 160 residents and staff members have tested positive. The state is not releasing information on coronavirus-related deaths at facilities identified with outbreaks, a representative from the California Department of Public Health wrote in an email.

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Government scientist felt pressured to approve contract for work on drug Trump touted

The federal scientist recently ousted from a senior position overseeing research on coronavirus vaccines felt pressured by Trump administration officials to award a $21-million contract to a Florida laboratory to study an anti-malaria drug touted by the president as a COVID-19 treatment, according to a person familiar with the incident.

Rick Bright, who was abruptly removed this week from his senior post at the Department of Health and Human Services, was told by officials to approve the contract for a clinical trial of hydroxychloroquine to Alchem Laboratories, a small drug-development firm, the person said.

“He was very concerned and was ordered to do it,” said the person.

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Coronavirus prompts Gov. Gavin Newsom to suspend California’s plastic bag ban

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Gavin Newsom has suspended California’s ban on grocery stores providing single-use plastic bags amid concerns that clerks may be at risk for exposure to the coronavirus if shoppers are required to supply their own reusable bags to carry their purchases home.

Newsom announced Thursday that he signed an executive order to suspend the 2016 plastic bag ban for 60 days after hearing concerns from the California Grocers Assn. about shoppers bringing reusable bags from home that are handled by store clerks filling them with groceries.

“We are being cautious to make sure there is no transmission of the virus,” said Dave Heylen, a vice president for the grocers’ group. He said the grocers will go back to abiding by the plastic bag ban when the order expires.

The executive order signed Wednesday does not affect the more than 100 cities and counties that adopted their own ordinances banning or regulating single-use plastic bags.
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Megan Rapinoe, Gov. Newsom tackle tough subjects during Instagram chat

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, facing discontent in some parts of the state over his COVID-19 policies, received a warm embrace from World Cup soccer champion Megan Rapinoe during a 30-minute Instagram chat Thursday in which he urged people to hold on just a bit longer.

Rapinoe, the reigning world player of the year, grew up in conservative Shasta County, where just 27 people have tested positive for the virus. And her conversation with the governor touched on such hot-button issues as Newsom’s shelter-in-place order, aid to undocumented immigrants, coronavirus testing and the gender-discrimination lawsuit Rapinoe and her teammates have filed against U.S. Soccer, the questions were largely softballs at which Newsom took a healthy hack.

Addressing the stay-at-home order, now ending its fifth week, Rapinoe admitted the edict was “making people a little bit stir crazy,” especially in rural towns such as Redding, where her family lives. But, she added, by acting quickly — California was the first state to require residents to stay home — Newsom “look[ed] like a genius” by slowing the spread of the virus and flattening the curve.
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How do you release an action movie during a pandemic? The makers of Netflix’s ‘Extraction’ find out

In an alternate universe, Chris Hemsworth would be in the middle of a far-flung publicity tour right now in support of the release of his new Netflix action film “Extraction,” which is available for streaming Friday. Instead, on a recent afternoon, he found himself doing an interview over Zoom from his home in Australia, where he is in lockdown with his wife and three children, trying to find the silver lining in the situation.

“A week before we were about to leave, it was like, ‘Maybe, maybe, maybe’ — then all of the sudden it was like, ‘No, we’re not going anywhere,’ ” said the 36-year-old Hemsworth, who is no stranger to globe-trotting PR tours, having starred as the hammer-wielding superhero Thor in a series of Marvel Studios blockbusters. “But I wonder if we’ll continue doing things this way in the future, because everyone gets to just do it from the comfort of their own home. You don’t have to deal with jet lag.”

With the coronavirus pandemic turning life around the globe upside down and causing no end of misery and fear, this is an undeniably strange time to to be promoting a big Hollywood action film. Movie theaters are closed. Studios have scrambled their release schedules. Film productions have been indefinitely paused, including Hemsworth’s own “Thor: Love and Thunder,” which was set to begin shooting this summer.
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Ducks convert part of their ice complex in Irvine to food bank

Although the NHL season is on pause and players have been advised to stay at home through April 30, the Ducks found a good use for the largest of the four rinks at their Great Park Ice practice complex in Irvine.

On Thursday, the Ducks opened the doors to Rink 2 — an Olympic-sized surface that’s 15 feet wider than regulation NHL rinks — and turned it into a storage facility for Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County. Art Trottier, vice president of The Rinks, said about 120 pallets of premade food boxes were delivered and stored on Rink 2 starting at 8 a.m.

The food will be distributed by Second Harvest Food Bank, which for the last five Saturday mornings has helped those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic by conducting drive-through food distribution at Honda Center, the Ducks’ home rink.
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How do cigarettes, pot and vaping affect infections and outcomes?

In times of stress, like living through a global pandemic, it’s natural to fall back on soothing habits — gardening, playing video games or, for some, lighting up a cigarette or taking a pull on a marijuana vape pen.

But what are the risks, given that the novel coronavirus at the center of the current crisis attacks the lungs?

The science is in its early stages, but studies are finding that cigarette smokers are more likely to have severe infections — a fact many lung doctors say doesn’t surprise them.
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COVID-19 survivor Daniel Dae Kim donates his plasma to ‘help others in their fight’

The world does not deserve Daniel Dae Kim.

After battling and defeating a nasty case of the novel coronavirus, the “Hawaii Five-0" alum took to Instagram to announce he has donated his plasma “in the hopes that the antibodies I’ve built up will help others in their fight against [COVID-19].”

“Me and my plasma,” the actor wrote, sharing a photo of himself in a hospital bed, holding a bag of his own blood contents and flashing a hang-loose sign.

“Glad to be able to donate ... If you were sick, but have tested negative and 14 days have passed since you last exhibited symptoms, or you tested positive but have been symptom-free for 28 days, I hope you’ll please consider making a [plasma donation] as well.”
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It’s becoming easier to get a coronavirus test in California

Slowly, it’s getting easier to obtain a coronavirus test in California.

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday announced an expansion of coronavirus testing capability throughout the state.

He said that President Trump confirmed in a phone call Wednesday that the federal government would provide the state with critically needed specimen swabs, which have been in short supply. Newsom said 100,000 swabs are expected to arrive in California this week and 250,000 next week.

The governor said six new testing sites will become operational soon, prioritizing “black and brown communities and focusing on rural communities.”
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The entire cast of ‘Parks and Recreation’ is coming back to support coronavirus relief

You may be stuck at home because of the COVID-19 pandemic — but that doesn’t mean you can’t visit your pals from Pawnee.

See the small-towners of the beloved sitcom “Parks and Recreation” again with NBC and Universal Television’s “A Parks and Recreation Special.” The scripted, 30-minute special, set to air April 30, will benefit hunger-relief nonprofit Feeding America, the network announced Thursday.

All of the original characters from series, created by Greg Daniels and Michael Schur, will return in the special, played by original cast members Amy Poehler, Rashida Jones, Aziz Ansari, Nick Offerman, Aubrey Plaza, Chris Pratt, Adam Scott, Rob Lowe, Jim O’Heir, and Retta. (NBC’s announcement also teased “several guest stars from the Pawnee universe.”)
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What job protection does Europe offer, and how, as coronavirus rages?

Across Europe, just as in the United States, economies are being battered by the coronavirus crisis. Yet the jobless picture on the two sides of the Atlantic appears substantially different — and for now at least, much more daunting for Americans.

According to figures released Thursday, U.S. unemployment claims since mid-March — when most virus-related shutdowns took hold — soared to 26.4 million, with 4.4 million of those claims made last week alone. Combined with pre-pandemic unemployment, that sends the American jobless rate to more than 20%, a level not seen since the 1930s.

In Europe, most publicly available tracking of unemployment takes place over longer intervals, so the full extent of outbreak-caused job carnage isn’t yet clear. But economic analysts say there are crucial variances in how pandemic-generated unemployment is being approached by the Trump administration and by governments in Western Europe.
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These are the latest coronavirus case numbers by community in L.A. County

COVID-19 — the illness caused by the coronavirus — has become the leading cause of death in Los Angeles County, public health officials announced Thursday.

Barbara Ferrer, the county’s public health director, on Thursday confirmed 68 new coronavirus-linked deaths and 1,081 new COVID-19 cases. The county has now recorded nearly 800 deaths and more than 17,500 confirmed cases.

Of those who most recently died, 51 people were over age 65, 11 people were 41 to 65 and three people were 18 to 40. Ages were not available for the other cases. Of all those who have died from coronavirus infection in the county, 89% had some kind of underlying health condition, Ferrer said.

Here is a rundown of cases by community:
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Newsom urges maintaining distance at beaches and parks this warm weekend, citing new coronavirus death record

SACRAMENTO — With weather forecasts showing a summer-like weekend on the horizon, Gov. Gavin Newsom urged Californians on Thursday to heed physical distancing orders — citing what he said was the deadliest day so far in the state’s efforts to combat the novel coronavirus.

“Look, we’re walking into a very warm weekend,” Newsom said in a midday news briefing. “That means people are prone to want to go to the beaches, parks, playgrounds and go on a hike. “

The governor said those who do choose to be outdoors should visit only open locations and ensure they remain physically separated from others as has been done over the past five weeks since he imposed a statewide stay-at-home order. If Californians don’t do that, Newsom said, he fears he’ll soon be reporting a sizable increase in the number of confirmed cases and possibly hospitalizations.

“I don’t think anybody wants to hear that. I don’t want to share that information. But that’s really less up to me, it’s more up to all of you,” he said.
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San Clemente beaches will reopen this weekend, but only for residents

As a heat wave bears down on Southern California, San Clemente plans to reopen city-owned beaches this weekend.

The beaches, along with coastal waters and trails, had been closed since April 8 in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Orange County public health officials had reported 43 COVID-19 patients in San Clemente as of Thursday.

San Clemente’s City Council voted Tuesday night to begin the process of reopening the city’s beaches, which will be available for active use only, such as walking, running, swimming and surfing, officials said. Sunbathers are not welcome.

“You can’t bring your beach chair or your umbrella, set up for the day and spend the afternoon there,” said Erik Sund, assistant city manager.
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As some coronavirus closures lift, studies suggest infections occurred earlier

As some states and cities lift stay-at-home orders and many seek to ramp up coronavirus testing, new evidence is emerging that infections spread farther, faster and earlier than initially thought.

In New York, the U.S. epicenter for the virus and deaths from the disease it causes, COVID-19, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Thursday that one of the largest efforts in the country to test for antibodies found that just over one out of five New York City residents — 21.2% — may have had the virus and recovered. The vast majority had shown no symptoms, a feature that has contributed to the virus’ spread.

Another study released by researchers at Northeastern University in Boston concluded that as early as March 1, the day New York City confirmed its first case, 28,000 people had been infected in five major cities — New York, Boston, Seattle, Chicago and San Francisco. That estimate is 1,000 times the official tallies at the time, which showed only 28 infections in the United States.
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Struggling to pay your student loan debt amid coronavirus? You can now delay 3 payments.

More than 1.1 million Californians with student loan debt will now be eligible for three months’ relief, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Thursday.

Twenty-one out of the 24 largest student loan servicers in the state of California have agreed to a 90-day forbearance, meaning student borrowers may stop repaying their loans without facing penalties such as late fees or fines, debt collection lawsuits, or negative impacts to their credit ratings, Newsom said.

Borrowers will also receive support in working out new payment plans.

“I want to just applaud those ... servicers for their willingness to step up and help support those that are struggling to pay their student loan debts,” Newsom said at his daily news conference.
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Coronavirus deaths at 36 in Orange County as infection count tops 1,800

Orange County’s coronavirus death toll now stands at 36 after health officials announced two more fatalities Thursday.

County officials didn’t disclose specifics about the latest victims, but overall, 21 of those who’ve died have been at least 65 years old. Eleven victims were 45 to 64, and the others were ages 25 to 44.

The Orange County Health Care Agency also announced 78 additional coronavirus infections Thursday — the highest single-day total since April 15 — bringing the region’s case total to 1,827.
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How soon can businesses reopen during pandemic? A Texas suburb takes the plunge

COLLEYVILLE, Texas — As several governors prepared to lift pandemic restrictions this week, a conservative Fort Worth suburb went a step further.

Colleyville Mayor Richard Newton became the first in Texas to issue a proclamation allowing churches, retail stores, gyms, salons, massage parlors and restaurants to reopen Friday — with social distancing — ahead of an order by the Texas governor expected next week.

Confusion, frustration and worry followed, encapsulating the debate, uncertainty and hand-wringing playing out across the country.

“Our businesses are panicking. They don’t know what’s going on,” said Karen Hill, mayor of neighboring Southlake.
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Take a fashion cue from Dr. Birx. Step up your WFH attire with scarves

Dr. Deborah Birx appears to be a steadying voice of reason in the White House, crisply addressing issues about the coronavirus pandemic in her role as the Trump administration’s coronavirus response coordinator. And while she’s talking about critical matters from the podium during those regular press briefings, can we be forgiven for pausing to take a look at her scarves?

Birx’s accessories — an elegant swirl of silk coiled around her neck, a large square draped beneath her collar or a rectangular swath of fabric suspended neatly down one shoulder — have their own devoted fan base.

An Instagram fan account, @deborahbirxscarves, was set up by Fort Worth, Texas, music marketing executive Victoria Strout as a series of screen grabs chronicling each scarf and shawl worn by Birx.
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Organizer of California stay-at-home protest could face criminal charges

With protesters taking to the streets urging the loosening of California’s stay-at-home orders, law enforcement agencies have made at least two arrests and may press charges in one case.

In San Diego, a woman who police say organized a weekend protest could face a misdemeanor charge for allegedly encouraging others to violate stay-at-home orders meant to slow the spread of COVID-19.

A police spokesman said the department forwarded the case to the San Diego City Attorney’s Office for review on Tuesday. The move comes after some, including civil rights activists, questioned why police did not cite protesters last weekend for ignoring the orders.
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$8,000 rentals. Private jets. How the super rich escape the coronavirus pandemic

SEDONA, Ariz. — Lisa Dahl scanned the horizon from the patio of one of her five restaurants, watching thick clouds cast shadows on red rock spires that formed outlines like desert skyscrapers.

The restaurateur stood in the afternoon silence, a rarity at Mariposa, billed as the best fine dining in a town about two hours from the south rim of the Grand Canyon. She thought about what life was like here, on this patio, before the coronavirus.

Reservation only. New Yorkers. Angelenos. Investment bankers. Tech entrepreneurs. They sipped stiff cocktails and snapped photos in front of a backdrop so picturesque it looked Photoshopped. As they savored bites of $48 veal chop, they talked about how next time they were in town, they’d have to try the flourless chocolate chile orange torte with vanilla bourbon gelato.

Such scenes have been relegated to nostalgia as a deadly pandemic has upset an enclave that was once kept sequestered only by money. But the virus has also exposed the stark divide between the rich and everyone else in a nation whose disparities are marked by upward spiraling joblessness and luxury cars racing through the desert air.
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Reversing the shutdown is scary, but we have to start revising it

The word “reopen” as applied to almost anything — doors, windows, bookstores — has acquired a touch of radioactivity in recent weeks. To talk of ending stay-at-home orders that have landed some 97% of Americans under house arrest is to risk getting lumped in with the red-hat nutters holding cuddle-party protests in a miasma of deadly microbes.

And yet it’s not humanly possible to repress all longing for the old life: graduation parties, baseball games. Sleep undisturbed by COVID-19 nightmares. Oh and there used to be paychecks? And toilet paper on Amazon?

California Gov. Gavin Newsom asked on Wednesday: “When can we go back to some semblance of normalcy?”

Hear, hear. But for fear of coming off like quacky Dr. Phil, a lot of us are keeping our cravings for ordinary life to ourselves.
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Abortion providers drop request for court to block Texas’ ban after state says it’s over

Texas abortion providers are withdrawing their request for a preliminary injunction to block the state from enforcing executive orders requiring elective medical procedures to be postponed during the coronavirus pandemic.

The motion comes a day after the state attorneys said in a legal filing that the state’s latest executive order includes exemptions providers can comply with to continue providing abortions, ending the near-total abortion ban that has been litigated in courts for a month now.

The March 22 gubernatorial executive order that spurred the heated legal battle over whether abortions can be banned during the COVID-19 pandemic expired Tuesday, so clinics throughout Texas began offering abortions again on Wednesday.

But it is unclear if abortion providers will drop the lawsuit altogether. The motion for withdrawal says the plaintiffs intend to reach out to the state’s attorneys to “discuss the status of the case and will submit a proposed way forward” to U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel.

When asked about the status of the lawsuit, Amy Hagstrom Miller, CEO and president of Whole Woman’s Health clinics, said earlier Thursday that she was “pleased to see this legal whiplash come to an end.”

“For the past month our patients were pawns in a cruel game played by the governor and attorney general and it was unconscionable,” she said in a statement. “Our staff had to cancel hundreds of appointments and we heard the anguish and despair that our patients went through. Texans must never forget the events of this past month. Abortion is essential health care.”

Abbott’s new order on elective procedures was issued last week and is in effect until May 8. It includes new exceptions allowing elective procedures to be conducted if they won’t deplete or limit hospital capacity or supplies of personal protective equipment such as masks.

The exceptions were added to ease restrictions for patients “who without timely performance of the surgery or procedure would be at risk for serious adverse medical consequences.” Abbott said at a news conference last week that whether the restrictions for abortions were eased would be a “decision for courts to make.”

But in a Wednesday legal filing, state attorneys ceded that the suing providers met the new exemptions.

“There is no case or controversy remaining, as Plaintiffs have already certified they are in compliance with an exception,” they wrote.

A spokeswoman for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office on Thursday said the governor’s latest order does not include specific exemptions for abortion providers, but confirmed that providers such as Planned Parenthood met the new exceptions.

“Our office does not interpret rules or regulations, we defend the State in lawsuits. We will continue to defend Governor Abbott’s executive orders,” Kayleigh Date said in an email. “Planned Parenthood submitted the certifications required by GA-15, and therefore are not at risk of enforcement.”

But those who don’t comply with the order and don’t meet the exemptions could still face a fine of $1,000 or up to 180 days in jail, she said.

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San Francisco broadens requirements for getting a coronavirus test

Dr. Susan Philip, Director of Disease Prevention and Control in San Francisco, announced Thursday that the city is liberalizing requirements for getting a coronavirus test.

The city and its health care partners now have the capacity to test 4,300 a samples a day, compared to the 500 daily tests it has been doing, she said in a webinar.

She said a lack of supplies for the tests had inhibited the city’s testing ability, but as of now, the city has the supplies it needs to expand. The city has 26 testing sites.

The liberalized testing requirements will allow anyone with an array of symptoms to be tested and anyone who has had had contact with a person found positive for the virus. People will not be required to get an order from a physician, and the tests will be free.

The expanded list of symptom include diarrhea, fatigue and chills, she said.

Between March 2 and April 22, 12,598 residents were tested, and 12% were found to be positive for the virus, she said.

She said the city was striving to expand testing for people in group settings, essential workers and those in neighborhoods that have been disparately affected by the virus, including the heavily-Latino Mission District.

But she also warned that the tests can produce false negatives, particularly if the infection is very new. She said the city is developing protocols to determine when health care and other front line workers who tested negative should be retested.

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UN Mideast envoy warns about Israeli moves to annex parts of the West Bank

The United Nations’ Mideast envoy is warning that Israeli moves to annex parts of the West Bank and accelerate settlement expansion, combined with the coronavirus pandemic’s devastating impact, can “ignite” the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and “destroy any hope of peace.”

Nickolay Mladenov told the U.N. Security Council on Thursday that annexation would also “constitute a serious violation of international law, deal a devastating blow to the two-state solution, close the door to a renewal of negotiations, and threaten efforts to advance regional peace.”

He urged Israelis and Palestinians to support U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ call for a global cease-fire to all conflicts to tackle the pandemic.

Earlier this week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main rival Benny Gantz signed a coalition agreement that includes a clause to advance plans to annex parts of the West Bank, including Israeli settlements, starting on July 1.

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian U.N. ambassador, told the council that “whatever technical coordination has been achieved between the two sides in recent weeks to combat COVID-19 has been undercut by incessant violations,” most flagrantly Israei’s annexation push which he claimed is being done in full coordination with the United States.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says annexation is “an Israeli decision.”

Mansour also warned that the U.S. plan for Mideast peace and Israel’s decision to proceed with annexation “will destroy the two-state solution and entrench Israel’s military control over the Palestinian people and land.”

He said the Palestinians are urging the international community to enforce concrete measures “to hold Israel accountable for its perverse impunity” and salvage prospects for peace.

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Southern California home sales are set to plunge. Prices haven’t followed, yet

The Southern California housing market has seized up.

The coronavirus outbreak has shuttered business and kept people hunkered down in their homes. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s also resulted in a market that experts describe as essentially frozen in place.

Data released Thursday from real estate company Zillow show the number of deals entering escrow has fallen off a cliff since mid-March. But so too have the number of owners who are listing their house or condo for sale.

Because the market isn’t being flooded yet with listings, lower demand is being met with lower supply, and prices are holding relatively steady.
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With hockey on hold, Honda Center parking lot becomes pop-up site for weddings and more

The happy couple wore matching black Ducks caps, and matching white surgical masks. They stepped right up to the ticket booth, took turns saying “I do” to the stranger behind the glass, then celebrated with their first kiss as husband and wife.

With masks on.

Love might not be defeated by a killer virus, but it does make accommodations. In the end, love wins, as it did when two diehard Orange County hockey fans got to marry outside the arena where their favorite team plays.

“It was just awesome,” Lynsey Koopman said.

To Koopman and Jayson Furusawa, both 41, this was the fairy tale wedding they neither planned nor expected. The couple has been together 13 years, and Koopman said getting married largely was about qualifying for an insurance policy.
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Africa’s 43% jump in cases in a week has experts worried it may become a hotbed

CAPE TOWN, South Africa —Africa registered a 43% jump in reported coronavirus cases in the last week, highlighting a warning from the World Health Organization that the continent of 1.3 billion could become the next hotbed of the global outbreak.

Africa also has a “very, very limited” and “very, very strained” testing capacity, John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in his weekly briefing Thursday.

The surge in infections on the continent is almost certainly underreported and even higher in reality, say medical experts.

WHO’s recent report painted a grim picture for Africa, one of the last continents to be hit by the pandemic. WHO warned the virus could kill more than 300,000 people and push 30 million into desperate poverty.
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How will we know whether the coronavirus will come back stronger in the winter?

Even as policymakers discuss potentially reopening state and local economies, state and federal officials are warning of the need to be prepared for a potential “second wave” of the coronavirus outbreak once the initial one dies down.

But is a second wave inevitable? The answer depends on the nature of the virus itself, our own behavior and the degree to which we prepare for another surge, experts said.

While scientists are still trying to understand the ins and outs of the virus that has infected more than 2.6 million people around the world and caused more than 186,000 COVID-19 deaths, they can make some educated guesses about how long it will remain a menace by studying the behavior of other coronaviruses.

There are actually several types that can infect humans, including four that are responsible for about a quarter of our common colds. Though the new SARS-CoV-2 variety is more dangerous, the fact that it’s a coronavirus suggests it may have characteristics in common with its older cousins.
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Beyoncé's BeyGOOD initiative offers $6 million for relief

In true Beyoncé fashion, the superstar is lending a hefty hand in the battle against the pandemic.

The “Love on Top” singer’s BeyGOOD initiative announced Thursday $6 million in relief funds for essential workers and people affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

“Communities of color are suffering by epic proportions due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Many families live in underserved areas with homes that make it harder to practice social distancing,” the foundation said in a statement.

“Communities that were already lacking funds for education, health and housing are now faced with alarming infection rates and fatalities. And these communities lack access to testing and equitable health care,” the statement continued.
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Alby Kass, resort owner and Yiddish folk singer, dies from COVID-19

Alby Kass was known for his powerful voice.

Kass, who owned a resort along the Russian River north of San Francisco, was also the lead singer of a Yiddish folk group, the Jubilee Klezmer Ensemble, a passionate theater performer and a compassionate leader whose joyfulness touched all those he knew.

So when the 89-year-old was left alone and voiceless as he battled COVID-19 in a San Leandro hospital, his loved ones knew there was only one way to comfort him. They sang.

As he drew his final breaths, Kass was surrounded by the sounds of his friends, children and grandchildren playing the piano and singing the Yiddish folk songs he had taught them. Each had recorded their own pieces, uploaded them to an old cellphone and delivered it to his nurses, who hooked up the phone to a speaker. He died March 31.
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How Arthur Miller speaks to our pandemic economy in ‘Death of a Salesman’

Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” had been on my mind even before the death of Brian Dennehy, who won a Tony for his portrayal of Willy Loman in the 1999 Broadway revival. How could it not be? As the pandemic lays waste to the economy, the play reminds us of the unchanging truth of an American dream dangled for the many but obtainable only by a ruthless few.

Dennehy, a prodigious actor drawn to prodigious roles, delivered a battering ram of a performance. His Willy, a salesman aggressively trapped in a delusive way of thinking, would rather die a martyr than admit to being sold a bill of goods about success.

The bravado of the salesman, in Dennehy’s barreling rendition, couldn’t conceal the shame of a husband and father who fell agonizingly short of his own grandiose expectations. The power of the performance, as with much of the actor’s impressive body of work, didn’t derive from great variety. Dennehy pounded the same note with different degrees of intensity. But the limited range helped drive home the limited options of his character, whose eagerness to win prevents him from seeing that he’s been playing the wrong game.
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Bay Area police boot hundreds from beach over restrictions

A wave of out-of-town visitors kept police in the San Mateo County city of Pacifica busy last weekend and led the community’s mayor to consider closing local beaches.

It’s a concern facing coastal areas across the state as stay-at-home orders issued to stem the spread of the coronavirus clash with the need for warm-weather pilgrimages to the shore. Amid the global pandemic, health officials want residents to resist the urge to hit the road to beat the heat.

Pacifica, like all of San Mateo County, is under coronavirus restrictions. Residents there are not allowed to travel more than five miles from their homes for outdoor recreation.

But that didn’t stop crowds from flocking to Linda Mar Beach. From Friday through Sunday, the Pacifica Police Department said officers ordered 275 people off the beach after learning they had strayed outside the permitted buffer.
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Expanded testing in nursing homes could uncover a higher toll

As coronavirus continues its destructive spread through nursing homes, Brier Oak on Sunset, a low-slung brick building next to a pizza parlor in Hollywood has earned a sad distinction -- it has reported nearly twice as many cases as the next biggest outbreak in Los Angeles County.

But that’s at least in part because Brier Oak tested almost every resident and employee weeks ago, an aggressive step public health officials were not recommending and few other homes were willing to take.

That is about to change, and the number of reported COVID-19 cases at nursing homes is expected to rise sharply in the days and weeks ahead.
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Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s oldest brother dies from COVID-19

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Few Americans trust Trump’s info on pandemic, poll finds

WASHINGTON — President Trump has made himself the daily spokesman for the nation’s coronavirus response. Yet few Americans regularly look to or trust Trump as a source of information on the pandemic, according to a new survey from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Just 28% of Americans say they’re regularly getting information from Trump about the coronavirus and only 23% say they have high levels of trust in what the president is telling the public. Another 21% say they trust him a moderate amount.

Confidence in Trump is higher among his supporters, though only about half of Republicans say they have a lot of trust in Trump’s information on the pandemic — and 22% say they have little or no trust in what he says about the COVID-19 outbreak.

But even as many Republicans question Trump’s credibility during the pandemic, the overwhelming majority — 82% — say they still approve of how he’s doing. That’s helped keep the president’s overall approval rating steady at 42%, about where it’s been for the past few months.

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Reopening the economy vs. keeping it shut longer. What’s more costly?

WASHINGTON — When the governor of Georgia and other leaders press for ending government restrictions aimed at containing the coronavirus, they are proposing a huge gamble, not just for people in their own states but for millions of others nationwide.

And with the coronavirus still spreading, the risks are not just medical. They include the likelihood of expanding and lengthening the already catastrophic economic damage.

That is the widespread view of the nation’s leading experts on epidemics, as well as most mainstream economists.

What makes the risks so great, these experts say, is the way the coronavirus spreads, especially in today’s interconnected economy.
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Congress expected to pass expanded small-business loan funding

WASHINGTON — With unemployment claims topping 26 million in the past five weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic, the House is expected to vote Thursday to approve another half-trillion dollars in federal relief to replenish a depleted small-business loan program and provide money for hospitals and testing.

The bill includes $310 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program, which offers forgivable loans to small businesses that keep workers on the payroll during the economic shutdown caused by the pandemic.

The program exhausted its original $349 billion last week, but efforts to immediately boost funding stalled as Democrats and Republicans bickered over what else to include. An agreement was reached early Tuesday and the Senate passed it by voice vote that day. After approval by the House, the measure heads to the president, who has vowed to sign it.
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Private equity is getting squeezed out of another stimulus program

Private equity’s decade-long debt binge is coming back to haunt it when it comes to obtaining the U.S. government’s coronavirus aid.

Already largely shut out of the popular small-business rescue loan program, the industry is now realizing that it’s likely to be excluded from the Federal Reserve’s $600-billion lending initiative because it bars companies that have loaded up on borrowed money. The prohibition strikes at the heart of the buyout-shop business model, where firms saddle the companies they purchase with debt in order to mint bigger profits on their investments.

Though the Fed’s “Main Street” lending facility for mid-size businesses doesn’t specifically preclude private equity-owned companies, executives say they’ve concluded that the tough terms will prevent many of their firms from qualifying. Some politicians and investors say that may not be a bad thing, especially because taxpayer dollars are on the line.
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Orange County keeps beaches open, but tells outsiders to stay away during heat wave

Some Orange County beaches are open as the region’s first big heat wave of the year hits Southern California.

While people visiting O.C. beaches will be able to get on the sand and in the water, with proper social distancing, the parking lots will remain closed. And officials are urging outsiders to stay away.

That might be hard: Most Los Angeles County beaches (as well as trails and recreation areas) remain closed. So Orange County’s shores might end up being a big draw.

Here’s a look at the details:
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If NBA returns, how long until players are physically fit to play?

By early March, the Clippers were finally healthy and playing in unison. With the postseason only weeks away, the roster was rounding into shape.

Nearly six weeks later, as the NBA’s coronavirus hiatus continues, they have been left to wonder how long it might take to regain that form.

Though the NBA has experienced stoppages before during labor-related lockouts, its players could access gyms and courts as well as play pick-up games. Quarantine guidelines have added a new wrinkle to the current hiatus, with some players cut off from even the basics of their work.

The league’s reigning most valuable player, Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, doesn’t have access to a hoop at his Wisconsin house. For the first month of the suspension, Boston star Jayson Tatum did not even touch a basketball.
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Coronavirus drives Peru’s zoos to breaking point as animal feed runs out

LIMA, Peru — The dozens of howler monkeys, macaws and sloths in a zoo called the Amazon Shelter in the jungles of Peru have enough animal feed to last for about two more weeks.

After that, their future during the coronavirus pandemic is uncertain.

The situation is the same for more than 140 breeding centers and zoos throughout Peru that have been left without income from paying visitors as quarantines designed to curb the spread of the coronavirus keep the public away.

Some operators of zoos and breeding centers are pleading for government help.
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EU leaders weigh massive economic recovery measures

BRUSSELS — The coronavirus is devastating lives, healthcare systems and economies, and European Union leaders must work together, using every lever at their disposal, to rebuild and restore public faith in the EU project, the head of the bloc’s parliament warned Thursday.

Speaking to reporters after giving a speech to the bloc’s 27 leaders at the start of their videoconference summit, European Parliament President David Sassoli said, “We are extremely concerned because we can see a downward spiral, and we are going to need every instrument available.”

Referring to the massive U.S. aid package in 1948 that helped Europe rebuild after World War II, Sassoli said that “we’ve all called for this new Marshall Plan for Europe, but with a major difference of course. The funds will not be coming from abroad this time, but rather from European countries and economies.”
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Watch Fountains of Wayne honor fallen bandmate Adam Schlesinger, who died of COVID-19

Three weeks after their bandmate Adam Schlesinger died from complications related to COVID-19, the members of Fountains of Wayne reunited for the first time in seven years to salute their fallen friend and their home state of New Jersey.

As part of Wednesday’s “Jersey 4 Jersey” benefit for coronavirus relief, surviving members Chris Collingwood, Jody Porter and Brian Young performed together from their homes, with the help of L.A.-based singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten on bass and backup vocals.

“Right now we’ve got something special for you: a great New Jersey band,” said “The Late Show” host Stephen Colbert, introducing the touching tribute. “I was lucky enough to work with one of their founding members, longtime Montclair resident Adam Schlesinger, who tragically passed away from the coronavirus.”
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Chris Cuomo’s teen son now has COVID-19: ‘The virus worked through the family’

A week after revealing that his wife tested positive for the coronavirus, Chris Cuomo says his 14-year-old son has contracted the virus.

On Wednesday’s episode of “Cuomo Prime Time,” the CNN anchor mentioned his son Mario’s diagnosis in conversation with his brother, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“The virus worked through the family,” he said, according to People magazine. “It was me and [my wife] Cristina, and now Mario has the same symptoms she had, and he’s got the coronavirus.”

Last week, Cuomo confirmed that his spouse, Purist Chief Executive Cristina Cuomo, had come down with the disease after he was diagnosed the month prior, saying, “it just breaks my heart.”
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California sees another record day of deaths

California reached another grim milestone amid the coronavirus pandemic Wednesday, reporting the highest number of deaths in a single day — 118 new fatalities — bringing the statewide toll to more than 1,400.

Sixty-six of those deaths were in Los Angeles County, which has seen a surge in fatalities in recent weeks, bringing the countywide total to 732 since the outbreak began. Barbara Ferrer, the county’s public health director, also confirmed nearly 1,300 new COVID-19 cases — pushing the cumulative total to 16,449.

Public health officials say while hospitals are not being overwhelmed, they continue to see a steady flow of patients. As of Wednesday, there were 1,791 COVID-19 patients hospitalized countywide — with 30% of them in intensive care and 19% on ventilators, according to Ferrer.
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Suppliers cash in as California taxpayers hit with wildly inflated prices for masks

SACRAMENTO — State agencies — and ultimately California taxpayers — are paying steep prices for coveted masks that protect against the spread of the novel coronavirus as suppliers and middlemen cash in on the global shortage of medical equipment, according to a Times review of hundreds of state contracting records.

State officials are paying more than 300% above list prices as they navigate a marketplace rife with fraud and price gouging in search of millions of masks for healthcare workers, inmates and government employees deemed essential.

Last week, state transportation officials bought more than 1,400 masks at $12.74 each in what was described as an emergency purchase to ensure that road and maintenance workers were protected against the virus. The masks are N95 respirators made by the giant U.S. manufacturer 3M, according to the seller and purchase orders reviewed by The Times.

3M said it has not changed its prices, and the company’s highest suggested list price for common N95 models tops out at $3.40.
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In the U.K., 616 more people die

LONDON — The British government says another 616 people with the coronavirus have died in U.K. hospitals, taking the total to nearly 19,000.

The daily increase reported was lower than the 759 in the previous 24-hour period.

The U.K.’s death toll is the fourth highest in Europe, behind Italy, Spain and France, all of whom have reported more than 20,000 deaths.

There has been increasing scrutiny of the U.K. figures in recent days for understating the actual number of people having died of COVID-19. They don’t include those who have died in care homes or elsewhere in the community.

The government also said the number of daily tests increased slightly to more than 23,000. The number remains well shy of the government’s target of 100,000 a day by the end of the month, an ambition that has met widespread skepticism.

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Hard-hit region in Italy shows virus growth

MILAN — The number of people testing positive for the coronavirus in Italy grew by 2,646 in the last 24 hours, including 40% of those in the hard-hit Lombardy region where the first domestically transmitted case was confirmed just over two months ago.

That brings to 189,973 the total number of positives as of Thursday. Testing has been expanded, but it still doesn’t reach every suspected case, including many at home who believe they may be infected but aren’t able to get tested. The number of positives in Italy grew by a rate of 1.4%, indicating a national slowing of infection, as the country prepares to ease a nationwide lockdown. Premier Giuseppe Conte is expected to announce details in the coming days.

Deaths of people with the coronavirus reached 25,549, with 464 dying. Pressure on healthcare facilities continued to ease with 934 fewer people hospitalized and 117 fewer people in intensive care units.

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Newsom sued over aid plan for California immigrants who lack legal status

SACRAMENTO — A conservative group has sued California Gov. Gavin Newsom to block his allocation of $75 million to provide financial help during the COVID-19 pandemic to immigrants in the country illegally who don’t qualify for unemployment insurance.

The nonprofit Center for American Liberty filed an emergency petition with the California Supreme Court requesting a stay on the governor’s action, arguing state and federal law bar unemployment benefits to those without legal status and that providing the money to nonprofit groups represents an improper gift of taxpayer funds.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Whittier City Councilwoman Jessica Martinez and Ricardo Benitez, an immigrant from El Salvador who is now a U.S. citizen. Both plaintiffs are Republican candidates for the state Assembly. Benitez is running to represent the 39th Assembly District in the San Fernando Valley and Martinez is vying to represent the 57th Assembly District in the southern San Gabriel Valley.
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U.S. lags behind in global race for supplies from China

WASHINGTON —The U.S. has been consistently outpaced by global competitors in the race to get masks and other medical supplies from China, as other countries moved more forcefully than the Trump administration to secure vital material to respond to the coronavirus outbreak, interviews with business leaders in the U.S. and China show.

That has worsened supply shortages across the U.S. healthcare system, exposing American doctors and nurses to greater risk and leaving U.S. hospitals and clinics in markedly worse shape than those in much of Western Europe, East Asia, Canada or Australia.

“The fact is almost everyone else is having a much easier time,” said Isaac Larian, founder of toy-making giant MGA Entertainment, Inc., who has been doing business in China for decades and last month began working with Chinese manufacturers to get medical supplies for desperate American hospitals.
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Kentucky Derby to raise relief funds with virtual Triple Crown race

There will be a Kentucky Derby race May 2 after all, Churchill Downs announced Thursday. It will be a virtual race among the 13 Triple Crown winners as part of an effort to raise up to $2 million for coronavirus relief efforts.

The 146th Kentucky Derby was postponed until Sept. 5 because of the pandemic, but the race track will be celebrating on the first Saturday in May with a “Kentucky Derby at Home” online celebration.

“For many fans around the country, the first Saturday in May has become a part of their family’s yearly traditions,” said Kevin Flanery, Churchill Downs Racetrack president. “We will celebrate the annual excitement of our traditional date with our fans and community by offering ways for us to join together for a great cause. Our fans will be captivated by the realistic view of the virtual race and we can debate, as we do each year, our favorite to win.”
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New York hospitalization rate is flat

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the number of new COVID-19 patients needing hospitalization has been “remarkably flat” at about 1,300 a day.

It’s better than an increase, he said at his daily briefing in Albany on Thursday, but still “not great news.”

New York reported 438 new deaths, down from more than 700 a day a few weeks ago.

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Florida cases rise nearly 2%, reopening eyed

Florida reported 28,832 COVID-19 cases on Thursday, up 1.8% from a day earlier. Deaths among Florida residents reached 960, an increase of 7.5%.

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Re-Open Florida Task Force was meeting Thursday for the fourth day, weighing when and how to restart the economy.

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Column: Disposable gloves are trashing us. Don’t make us all pick up after you

Gloves.

We need to talk about those blue, black and white disposable gloves now littering our streets, our sidewalks, our green spaces and our supermarket parking lots.

Used gloves. Soiled gloves. Potentially infected gloves.

Gloves in critically short supply that people desperate to stave off the coronavirus took the trouble to hunt down and purchase and awkwardly wriggle their fingers into — but then tossed out, not caring who might have to come behind and pick them up and potentially put themselves at risk by doing so.
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From Bad Bunny’s baubles to hand-sanitizer bottles, this jewelry designer is in demand

Georgina Treviño got the call in early March. It was less than three days before Bad Bunny would don full drag for his “Yo Perreo Sola” music video — a move that would set the internet ablaze — and less than a week before COVID-19 was declared a pandemic.

Treviño, 31, was up for the challenge when the Puerto Rican sensation needed custom jewelry freaky and irreverent enough to make his vision a reality. Tight deadlines and impending doom be damned.

“I was like, I’m making something,” she said, “even if I don’t sleep.”
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Surviving the Shutdown: Brodard Restaurant keeps feeding Little Saigon

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing shutdown have left many restaurants uncertain about their future. As they grapple with new realities, we asked some of them to share their stories.

During the before times, Orange County Vietnamese restaurant Brodard could sell 5,000 of its famous nem nuong spring rolls in a day.

No surprise, that impressive number is cut in half these days. Like many restaurants, bakeries and delis around Little Saigon, Brodard has seen a sharp decline in business during the coronavirus pandemic.
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‘It’s too hard to live this year’: China’s workers struggle with unemployment

BEIJING — Zhang Junliang couldn’t believe he was at the train station again.

He watched as Old Liu handed out tickets to five men squatting on the ground next to rolled-up blankets and dusty bags of belongings. Another $10.60 spent on top of the same amount they’d paid for the previous day’s trip from their village in Junxian county, northern Henan province, to Beijing.

“We’ll be home by five in the afternoon,” Old Liu said, squinting up at the schedule, red numbers blinking against a black LED screen.

Zhang and Liu had come to Beijing with the others, hoping to get back to work after nearly three months of coronavirus lockdown.
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U.S. new-home sales fall sharply 15.4% in March

U.S. sales of new homes plunged 15.4% in March as coronavirus-triggered shutdowns that began in the middle of the month started to rattle the housing market.

The Commerce Department reported Thursday that sales of new single-family homes dropped to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 627,000 last month after a decline of 4.6% in February.

The drop was expected, though economists say it will grow much bigger as the country struggles with a shutdown that has thrown millions of people out of work and disrupted wide swaths of the economy.

The median price for a new home sold in March was $321,400, down 2.6% from $330,100 in February.
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Some cities want to reopen restaurants, churches as first step in easing stay-at-home orders

More California communities are asking Gov. Gavin Newsom to ease stay-at-home restrictions even as state officials say there still is no firm timetable to safely do so.

A group of cities in Stanislaus County sent Newsom a letter proposing some steps to loosen restrictions, saying “a reopening process that may fit, and make sense, for Los Angeles and our neighboring Bay Area regions does not work for our county. Stanislaus County is nothing like the regions of San Francisco or Los Angeles.”

The cities suggested a first phase of reopening parks, churches and other houses of worship, restaurants, car washes and some other businesses, all following strict social distancing rules.

Restaurants would have seating limitations and operate on a reservation only basis; and automatic car washers would be reopened with similar precautions currently in place for drive through restaurant service and drive through COVID-19 testing facilities,” they said in the letter.
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Russia’s reported caseload tops 60,000

MOSCOW — Russia’s reported coronavirus caseload has surpassed 60,000.

The government registered 4,774 confirmed cases on Thursday, which brought the country’s total to 62,773. The official death toll rose to 555, with 42 people dying since the Wednesday.

Russia has been in lockdown since the first week of April, with the vast majority of regions ordering residents to stay home and not go out unless to buy groceries and medicine or to take out the trash.

As the outbreak picked up speed, President Vladimir Putin indefinitely postponed a nationwide vote on the constitutional reform that would allow him to stay in power until 2036, as well as the traditional military parade on Red Square marking the 75th anniversary of World War II victory. The events had been scheduled for late April and early May and had dominated the Kremlin’s political agenda for months.

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Can you get a refund for a flight? A credit? A guide to what airlines are doing

Just as each airline has a different personality, each has a different way of conducting business. In the time of coronavirus and flight disruptions and mayhem, many airlines are more liberal than usual if you decide to change your flight, sometimes waiving change fees.

If the airline cancels the flight, under most circumstances it will try to reaccommodate you, but if it can’t within a time it specifies, it may give you a voucher or a refund. Don’t be surprised if the airline mentions the voucher first or doesn’t mention the refund at all (unless it’s Southwest). If its website or agent doesn’t mention a refund for a flight it canceled, ask and ask again. Not all are forthcoming about refunds.

Your best and most persuasive tool in pressing a refund case often is the airlines’ own terms and conditions, sometimes called a contract for (or of) carriage or conditions of carriage. We’ve included that information so you will have it if you need to clarify its policies.
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Lionel Shriver is grateful for quarantine (no she isn’t)

The Times asked authors to track what they do in isolation. Lionel Shriver, the very outspoken author of “We Need to Talk About Kevin” and the forthcoming novel “The Motion of the Body Through Space,” reads Pushkin in Russian, learns Greek and imagines a world with no book sales. Or does she actually watch British reality TV and raunchy videos, drink and yell at the news?

Tuesday, 14 April

Jeff and I arise at dawn, so we can sit out back and watch the sunrise. London is so much more peaceful when no one is doing anything unnecessarily productive in it. The clear sky is undisturbed by planes full of folks who didn’t need to go places after all. Now that our neighbors believe that COVID-19 lives on fur, they keep their cats inside. So our garden is full of birds, and I can skip my daily ritual of retrieving all the corpses.

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Israel’s Netanyahu hangs onto power over a nation weary of politics and leery of coronavirus

JERUSALEM —A few weeks before Benjamin Netanyahu sealed a deal keeping himself in power for another year and a half, a humorous meme made the rounds on Israeli social media touting a new book supposedly written by the country’s longest-serving prime minister.

The meme showed the cover of the imaginary tome, “‘Saved by a Bat’ — A novel by Benjamin Netanyahu,” with the wings of an artistically rendered bat spread across a sky-blue background.

The title alluded to the suspected source of the novel coronavirus, which has upended nations and societies around the globe. That includes Israel, where it has helped propel Netanyahu, who was at a political nadir, back into the winner’s circle.
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Stocks rise despite dismal unemployment data

Another Thursday with a shocking number of workers losing their jobs, another gain for the stock market.

U.S. stocks pushed higher, even after the government said 4.4 million people filed for unemployment benefits last week as layoffs sweep the economy.

The weekly report on jobless claims has become one of the best ways to measure in real time how severely the coronavirus outbreak is crunching the economy. Over the last five weeks, it’s shown roughly 26 million people filed for jobless aid, or about 1 in 6 U.S. workers. But if this morning’s market gains hold, this will be the fifth straight Thursday when the S&P 500 climbed following a dismal jobless report.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index was up 1.1% around 7:25 a.m. Pacific. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 1.1%, to 23,732 points, and the Nasdaq was up 1.2%.
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Greece extends lockdown measure by a week

ATHENS — Greece’s government is extending the country’s lockdown measures by one week to May 4. They had been due to expire Monday.

The measures have shut down most economic activity in the country. Government spokesman Stelios Petsas said Thursday they will gradually be relaxed over the course of May and June. He said the plan for how businesses would be reopened will be announced by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis early next week.

Greece imposed lockdown measures early in its outbreak, a move that has been credited with keeping coronavirus-related deaths at low levels. The number of critically ill who require mechanical support to breathe also has been falling.

The country on Wednesday announced zero daily deaths for the first time since March. Greece’s death toll currently stands at 121 people while another 55 people are intubated in intensive care units. Confirmed infections stand at 2,408.

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Without a single COVID-19 death, Vietnam starts easing its lockdown

SINGAPORE — Offering a rare and surprising bright spot in the COVID-19 pandemic, Vietnam began easing its nationwide lockdown Thursday, following an aggressive containment campaign that has meant few infections and no deaths in a poor Asian nation initially believed to be at great risk from the coronavirus.

The communist-ruled country has sealed its borders, quarantined masses of people, used soldiers and police to track down potential infections and fined social media users for spreading misinformation. After deploying the full arsenal of a single-party state, the sprawling nation of 95 million people has now gone a full week without recording a new infection.

But despite their effectiveness, Vietnam’s measures are not easily replicable. Its intolerance of dissent and ability to mobilize an entire security and political apparatus — steps more common in China — meant its campaign met little of the pushback seen in Western liberal democracies.
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Their beautifully curated vintage-book pop-ups were thriving. Along came coronavirus.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic became an existential threat to many “nonessential” businesses, running a brick-and-mortar bookstore in L.A. was a precarious occupation. Last year, in a booming economy, bookstore sales across the country declined by 5.7%. In Los Angeles, rising rents were cutting into razor-thin profit margins as much as competition from Amazon. There was, however, at least one bookselling operation that managed to offer a tactile, interpersonal buying experience without paying a dime for retail space. And at the start of 2020, it was on the verge of an expansion that could have helped redefine the book market in Southern California.

Two years ago, A Good Used Book developed a contemporary workaround to the decades-old hurdle of paying for a storefront: recurring pop-ups. Founded by Chris Capizzi and Jenny Yang, a gregarious married couple in their late 30s, the pop-up sells mostly vintage pocket paperbacks at flea markets and other venues. Shopping there feels a little like browsing the book stalls along the Seine in Paris or digging around in a used-record store.
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Museums are his oxygen, but what happens when COVID-19 shutters culture?

Last July, on a brilliantly sunny morning, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s outdoor plaza was teeming with visitors. The buildings on LACMA’s campus were about to open, and 80-year-old Ben Barcelona was at the ready. It was a Thursday and Barcelona is always one of the first visitors to step inside on Thursdays.

In a striped Oxford, jeans and running sneakers, a floral tote slung over his shoulder, Barcelona cut through the crowd playfully snapping selfies at the museum’s “Urban Light” installation. He rushed past a bustling coffee cart, stopping at the Broad Contemporary Art Museum building, where he hovered by its locked doors.

Barcelona checked the time on his cellphone, the back of which revealed a virtual portal into his life: layers of colorful museum membership stickers — the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Hammer Museum, LACMA, he belongs to them all.

“It’s 10:58. The doors are gonna open in a minute!” Los Angeles’ most devoted museum-goer announced, his sense of urgency transparent.
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Eight big cats at the Bronx Zoo test positive

NEW YORK — Another seven big cats at the Bronx Zoo have tested positive for coronavirus, just weeks after a Malayan tiger named Nadia was found to have the disease that is ravaging New York.

Zoo officials announced the test results Wednesday, saying five tigers and three lions have coronavirus.

“All eight cats continue to do well. They are behaving normally, eating well, and their coughing is greatly reduced,” the Wildlife Conservation Society said in a statement.

Nadia, a 4-year-old female Malayan tiger, was tested “out of an abundance of caution” after she came into contact with an infected staffer who was asymptomatic, according to zoo officials. She was the first animal in the U.S. to test positive for the disease.

That test came back positive on April 5. Her sister, Azul, two Amur tigers, and three African lions, were also showing symptoms, including coughing.

Nadia’s test samples were collected from her nose, throat, and respiratory tract while she was under anesthesia, zoo officials said. The other cats were tested using fecal samples. Another tiger that showed no symptoms also tested positive, zoo officials said.

“The testing of these cats was done in veterinary laboratories and resources used did not take from those being used for human testing,” the Wildlife Conservation Society said.

Earlier Wednesday, officials announced that a pair of house cats in New York state tested positive for COVID-19.

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U.K. plans mass survey

The U.K. will survey 20,000 households in a bid to track the spread of the coronavirus, five weeks after it abandoned a strategy of community testing -- a decision that left officials in the dark over the spread of the disease.

The data will help scientists understand the rate of infection and how many people may have developed antibodies, the government said in an e-mailed statement Thursday. Participants will form a representative sample of the British population and initial findings will be available in early May.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government has been criticized for not doing enough to trace the virus in the population, after the director-general of the World Health Organization stressed that testing should be the “backbone” of the global response. Though medics rigorously tracked the virus at the beginning of the outbreak and quarantined people as necessary, the government dropped the strategy on March 12 due to a lack of capacity and a belief the disease had already spread too widely for it to be useful.

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Italy’s manufacturing sectors first to restart

Companies in Italy’s manufacturing, automotive and construction industries will be the first to restart activities, as the government on May 4 begins gradually lifting a nationwide lockdown, Deputy Health Minister Pierpaolo Sileri said.

“From May 4, the manufacturing, auto, fashion and design sectors -- along with many others including construction -- will reopen, but only if they guarantee social distancing and protection measures,” said Sileri, who tested positive for the virus last month and has since recovered.

Italy’s government expects its budget deficit to spiral to 10.4% of gross domestic product this year as the economy, paralyzed by a nationwide lockdown, is seen shrinking by 8%. The government is set to request parliamentary approval for broadening the budget deficit by $59.4 billion to fund a new stimulus package.

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Newsom says California shutdown to continue, but Ventura County eases stay-at-home order

Ventura County on Saturday modified its stay-at-home order to permit some businesses to reopen and some gatherings to take place for the first time since the restrictions were issued to fight the spread of the coronavirus.

The county had reported 422 cases of COVID-19 and 13 related deaths as of Sunday. Thirty people were hospitalized, including nine in intensive care units.

“We are positioned to focus on the road to reopening because our residents and businesses have sacrificed so much to comply with the public health orders and slow the spread of the virus in our community,” Mike Powers, the county’s executive officer, said in a statement. “Our current situation is further strengthened by the work of our local hospitals to expand their capacity.”
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Column: Despite rising costs, Republicans are already talking about cutting off aid

As any follower of our nonsensical fiscal policy-making would have guessed, federal spending in the coronavirus crisis wasn’t completely done before Republicans in Washington started calling for austerity.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) got the ball rolling Tuesday, following Senate passage of a $484-billion phase three stimulus bill, when he told reporters that he was skeptical that more money would solve the nation’s coronavirus “problem.”

State and local governments are projecting mind-blow