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Nearly 2,000 new cases in India, another daily high
India has registered another daily high in coronavirus cases, with nearly 2,000 recorded in the past 24 hours.
India’s Health Ministry said Friday the 1,993 new cases and 73 more deaths bring the country’s totals to 35,043 with 1,147 deaths.
The government is due to decide the future of its 40-day lockdown on Sunday. It allowed migrant workers and other stranded people to resume their journeys on Wednesday, as well as some shops to reopen and manufacturing and farming to resume.
Beijing parks and museums reopen to public
Beijing’s parks and museums, including the ancient Forbidden City, reopened to the public Friday after being closed for months due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Forbidden City, past home to China’s emperors, is permitting just 5,000 visitors daily, down from 80,000. And parks are allowing people to visit at 30% of the usual capacity.
Large-scale group activities remain on hold and visitors must book tickets in advance online, according to Gao Dawei, deputy director of the Beijing Gardening and Greening Bureau.
Beijing on Thursday downgraded its level of emergency response to the virus from first to second tier, but temperature checks and social distancing remain in force.
The change comes at the start of the five-day May 1 holiday and in advance of China’s rescheduled gathering of the National People’s Congress on May 22.
China reported 12 new virus cases Friday, six brought from overseas, and no new deaths for the 16th consecutive day.
Huntington Beach mounts legal fight against Newsom closure of O.C. beaches
The Huntington Beach City Council voted Thursday night during an emergency session to seek an injunction against Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order to close Orange County beaches.
The governor ordered Orange County beaches closed on Thursday despite opposition from local leaders who argue they should decide whether it’s safe to hit the sand.
Over the weekend, thousands flocked to Orange County beaches, which remain open even though Los Angeles County beaches are closed.
“Specific issues on some of those beaches have raised alarm bells,” Newsom said. “People that are congregating there, that weren’t practicing physical distancing, that may go back to their community outside of Orange County and may not even know that they contracted the disease and now they put other people at risk, put our hospital system at risk.”
Newsom said Orange County beaches would be reopened soon if the situation improved.
The council voted 5-2 to approve filing for an emergency injunction to block Newsom’s closure order.
NYPD cracks down on another big funeral, stoking tensions
NEW YORK — Tensions between police and members of New York City’s Hasidic Jewish community flared again Thursday as officers interrupted a crowded funeral procession to crack down on social distancing violators.
Video posted on social media showed officers in protective masks chasing a minivan through Brooklyn’s Borough Park neighborhood as it carried the body of a rabbi. The officers can be heard shouting at dozens of people marching behind the van to get out of the street and onto the sidewalk.
A 17-year-old boy was taken into custody and issued a summons for disorderly conduct after he was accused of pushing a police official, according to a police spokeswoman, Sgt. Mary Frances O’Donnell.
Thursday’s confrontation came two days after Mayor Bill de Blasio stirred controversial with a series of tweets after he went to Brooklyn to oversee the dispersal of thousands of people who crowded the streets of Williamsburg for the funeral of another rabbi.
De Blasio called the large gathering “absolutely unacceptable” in one tweet and wrote in another: “my message to the Jewish community, and all communities, is this simple: the time for warnings has passed.”
U.S. pushes Mexico to reopen border factories -- even as more workers die from COVID-19
TIJUANA — Even as COVID-19 deaths mount at factories in Mexico, the United States is sending a clear message: It’s time for those that have stopped production to get back to work.
The U.S. government has mounted a campaign to convince Mexico to reopen many factories that were closed because of the country’s social distancing guidelines, warning that the supply chain of the North American free-trade zone could be permanently crippled if factories don’t resume production soon.
“The destruction of the economy is also a health threat,” U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Christopher Landau, tweeted last week. “There are risks everywhere, but we don’t all stay at home for fear we are going to get in a car accident.”
Pressure has also come from American CEOs, more than 300 of whom sent a letter to Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador saying they were “deeply concerned” about the shuttering of factories, and from the U.S. Department of Defense, which has asked Mexico to reopen plants that produce parts sold to defense contractors.
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California lists dozens of outdoor activities permitted under stay-at-home rules
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday urged residents to avoid the beach — and even ordered the shores of Orange County closed.
But state officials emphasized there are many outdoor activities that Californians can do while adhering to the stay-at-home order, which has helped slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Like what? Well, tree climbing, crabbing, meditation, trampolining, outdoor photography and washing the car to name a few.
There has been a growing push in some communities to ease the restrictions. Newsom announced a plan to reopen the economy over the coming months, but has also urged caution, saying lifting the rules too early could lead to more outbreaks and hurt the economy more in the long run.
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Wait, you can cook? The secrets we’re discovering about each other (and ourselves) in quarantine
All this time at home has a side effect: a chance to learn more about ourselves and the people quarantining with us.
The coronavirus shutdown has upended most of our daily routines. Most of the things that were keeping us occupied suddenly ceased to exist. Commutes are canceled. So are our social lives. Suddenly, those of us who aren’t essential workers are spending almost all of our time at home. This has created opportunities for self-discovery: being able to look inward and learn new things about yourself.
For some, the stay-at-home orders became an opportunity to get to know both themselves and their partners in a new way. For others, it was a chance to be truly together for the first time.
Orange County officials push back after Newsom closes beaches
Orange County leaders are pushing back against Gov. Gavin Newsom’s decision Thursday to temporarily close all beaches in the county in response to the crowds that gathered along the shore last weekend.
Photos of crowded Orange County beaches went viral over the weekend, prompting Newsom to note that beachgoers who ignored the state’s restrictions could prolong the spread of the coronavirus in California and put the well-being of others at risk.
During his daily COVID-19 briefing in Sacramento on Thursday, Newsom commended other counties, including Los Angeles and San Diego counties, for their leadership in keeping people off their beaches during last weekend’s heat wave. However, he said the images circulating of Orange County beaches were “disturbing.”
Little League World Series canceled for the first time
Little League baseball canceled its 2020 World Series tournaments and regional qualifying events Thursday because of health concerns related to the coronavirus outbreak. However, Little League Chief Executive Stephen Keener said local leagues can begin play after May 11 and hold district all-star tournaments as long as they adhere to local and state guidelines.
“This is a heartbreaking decision for everyone at Little League International, but more so for those millions of Little Leaguers who have dreamed of one day playing in one of our seven World Series events,” Keener said. “After exhausting all possible options, we came to the conclusion that because of the significant public health uncertainty that will still exist several months from now ... it will not be possible to proceed with our tournaments as we’ve hosted them for nearly 75 years.”
The Little League Baseball World Series was scheduled to take place Aug. 20-30 in South Williamsport, Pa. Keener said the decision to cancel all seven baseball and softball World Series for various age groups was made after direction from officials in Pennsylvania and the locations of the organization’s other World Series tournaments.
All state and local beaches in Orange County must temporarily close, Gov. Gavin Newsom says
SACRAMENTO — Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday directed the temporary “hard close” of state and local beaches in Orange County after thousands of Californians flocked to the shoreline there over the weekend in defiance of a statewide stay-at-home order enacted to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
The news comes after a memo sent Wednesday evening to California police chiefs said the governor would go further, closing all state and local beaches and parks, a plan Newsom appeared to abandon.
The action marks Newsom’s most symbolic response to the pandemic so far, and provides the latest example of the rising tensions over when and how to reopen the state and allow Californians to return to their everyday lives.
Photos of crowded Orange County beaches went viral over the weekend, prompting Newsom to note that beachgoers who ignored the state’s restrictions could prolong the spread of the coronavirus in California and put the well-being of others at risk.
Backlash over closing California beaches grows in some coastal communities
Newsom criticized beachgoers who hit the sand last weekend in Orange County, which has left its shores open while Los Angeles County has kept its beaches off-limits.
Newsom urged Californians on Wednesday to stay home and practice physical distancing to avoid spoiling the progress the state has made to prevent the spread of the coronavirus as he prepares to allow some businesses to gradually reopen.
“Why put ourselves in that position when we are just a week or two away from significant modifications of our stay-at-home [order], where we can begin ... to reopen sectors of our economy that are low risk?” Newsom said.
Boris Johnson promises a lockdown exit plan, says U.K. is past peak
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged a “comprehensive plan” to lift the economy-crippling lockdown as he declared the U.K. had passed the peak of the coronavirus outbreak.
In his first news conference since recovering from COVID-19, Johnson promised to set out details next week on how businesses could get back to work, suggesting that people will be encouraged to wear face masks as the restrictions are lifted.
“For the first time we are past the peak of this disease,” Johnson said. “We are past the peak, and we are on the downward slope.”
The prime minister’s words show the government is preparing the pathway for sectors of the economy that have been shuttered to begin operating again, amid concern that millions of people are facing the loss of their jobs and companies are collapsing. Ministers are due to review the restrictions — unprecedented in peacetime — on May 7.
Roger Stone, on a 30-day reprieve from prison because of virus, appeals his conviction
President Trump’s longtime ally Roger Stone appealed his conviction for lying to Congress and tampering with a witness during the probe of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
A notice of appeal was filed Thursday in federal court in Washington, where a jury found Stone guilty in November following a politically charged trial. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson sentenced Stone in February to three years and four months in prison.
Stone, 67, was due to voluntarily surrender to the Bureau of Prisons on Friday, but that was delayed by at least 30 days as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, his lawyer Seth Ginsberg said in an email. Some prisons and jails have proved to be breeding grounds for the highly contagious virus.
The judge on April 17 denied Stone’s request for a new trial, rejecting his claim that the jury foreperson was dishonest and politically biased. At the time, Jackson gave Stone two weeks to report to prison or file an appeal.
The trial included evidence that Trump knew about WikiLeaks’ plans to release hacked emails damaging to his rival, Hillary Clinton. Stone, accused of lying to protect Trump, was the last person charged during Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s 22-month Russia investigation.
Ginsberg declined to comment on the appeal.
Russian prime minister tests positive
MOSCOW — Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin says he has tested positive for the new coronavirus and has told President Vladimir Putin he will self-isolate.
First Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov will temporarily perform Mishustin’s duties.
Mishustin, 54, was named prime minister in January.
Meanwhile, the mayor of Moscow says he doesn’t think the Russian capital is close to overcoming the spread of coronavirus.
Moscow accounts for half of Russia’s reported 106,000 infections and on Thursday recorded nearly 3,100 new cases.
“We’re not even at the midpoint, in my opinion; at best we have passed a quarter of this way,” Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said. Moscow quickly built one hospital to handle coronavirus cases, and Sobyanin said the need for more could be filled by establishing treatment facilities at shopping malls, sports venues or the sprawling Stalin-era VDNKh exhibition complex.
‘A tracing army’: As they reopen, states look to contact tracers
With governors nationwide lifting stay-at-home orders implemented to slow the spread of coronavirus, many are now seeking new combatants: contact tracers.
These hired public health officials work with patients to help them recall everyone they had close contact with during the time when they were most infectious. It’s no easy task.
On Thursday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that about three dozen contact tracers would be needed for every 100,000 people in affected areas. He estimated New York would need between 6,400 and 70,000 contract tracers, depending on the outcome of projected cases.
“It’s not rocket science to do it on an individual basis. The problem is the scale that we have to do this at,” Cuomo said during a news conference in Albany.
Tyson temporarily closes Nebraska beef plant for cleaning
DAKOTA CITY, Neb. — Tyson Foods said Thursday that it was temporarily suspending operations at a Nebraska beef processing plant that serves as the largest employer for neighboring Sioux City, Iowa, after a surge of coronavirus cases in the area.
Tyson announced in a news release that it would close the Dakota City plant Friday through Monday to perform a deep cleaning of the facility.
Dodgers offer refunds or credit to ticket holders for home games in March, April
The Dodgers on Thursday announced they were offering account credits or — with an additional step — refunds to people who bought tickets through the organization to March and April home games canceled because of Major League Baseball’s shutdown.
The rollout of the message, however, caused some confusion. An outline of the policy on the team’s website, which also was posted on the Dodgers’ Twitter account, did not include the word “refund.” The only mention of a refund was at the bottom of emails sent to ticket holders.
In the email, people were directed to contact their ticket representative for a refund. They can also call (866) 363-4377 and choose Option 6. If no action is taken, the franchise will give the ticket holder an account credit with a 10% bonus that can be used for events in 2020 or 2021.
The policy covers 19 games scheduled to be played at Dodger Stadium, including two exhibition games in the Freeway Series against the Angels.
Trump pursues payroll tax cut as GOP, Democrats look elsewhere
A big cut in the payroll tax is high on President Trump’s wish list for the next coronavirus response bill, but the idea is getting the brushoff from newly cost-conscious Republicans and Democrats who would rather send aid to people who aren’t getting a paycheck.
Trump has backed a payroll tax cut since long before the pandemic brought the economy to a halt and threw millions of people out of work. He suggested the idea in August 2019 as a way to boost the economy and tried to include it in the $2.2-trillion stimulus bill passed in late March. Congress instead opted to send $1,200 individual payments to middle- and low-income adults instead.
“I like the idea of payroll tax cuts. I’ve liked that from the beginning,” Trump said Tuesday. “A lot of economists would agree with me. A lot of people agree with me.”
Wide divisions in early talks on the next aid legislation suggest that any deal may require time and perhaps even more intense negotiations than the first four bills. Those bipartisan bills to boost the economy totaled $2.9 trillion, massively increasing the federal deficit in a time of grave national emergency.
Payroll taxes — the 6.2% levy on wage income up to $137,700 that finances Social Security — are paid by the vast majority of American workers. Employers pay an additional 6.2% tax for their employees. Gig economy workers, such as drivers for Uber and Lyft and other contractors, are supposed to pay the employee and employer portions of the tax.
Job-hunting is never easy. But finding work is ‘a whole new world’
Job seeking in an uncertain economy is hard enough. Throw coronavirus fears, home quarantines and hiring freezes at many companies, and the hunt for work becomes even more difficult.
Millions of people are suddenly competing for a shrinking pool of jobs, with more than 3.8 million laid-off workers applying for unemployment benefits last week alone, bringing the total to 30.3 million in the last six weeks.
So much has changed. Firm handshakes and in-person interviews are relics of pre-pandemic times. Networking over drinks or coffee is out.
The Times talked to four people about their hunt for work in these times. The interviews have been edited for length and clarity.
California death toll nears 2,000; more than half are in L.A. County
A recent surge in the number of cases and deaths linked to the coronavirus has pushed California to the brink of two grim milestones, as the state is poised to surpass 50,000 infections and 2,000 deaths by the end of Thursday.
The recent increases have been fueled largely by Los Angeles County, which continues to be an epicenter of the coronavirus crisis even as other parts of the state have seen signs the illness is retreating.
County Public Health Department Director Barbara Ferrer announced 1,541 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday — the largest increase reported in a single day since the pandemic began.
The county now has more than 22,500 confirmed infections and accounts for nearly half of all California’s coronavirus cases.
LeBron James, Bad Bunny, Jonas Brothers to throw class of 2020 a virtual graduation
LeBron James isn’t going to let the coronavirus crisis ruin high school graduations this year.
On Wednesday, the LeBron James Family Foundation announced that it will celebrate seniors in a special event called “Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020" at 5 p.m. Pacific on May 16 with help from superstar guests.
The Los Angeles Lakers star has drafted Bad Bunny, Pharrell Williams, the Jonas Brothers, Chika, YBN Cordae, H.E.R., Ben Platt, Megan Rapinoe, Yara Shahidi, Lena Waithe and Malala Yousafzai for the hourlong special. It will air simultaneously on ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and the streaming platforms Complex Networks, Facebook app, Instagram, People TV, Snapchat, TikTok and YouTube.
As Broadway star Nick Cordero fights COVID-19, his wife believes ‘he will wake up’
Amanda Kloots, dancer and wife of Broadway star Nick Cordero, offered another update Thursday on her husband’s health while he remained hospitalized with COVID-19.
In an interview with “CBS This Morning,” Kloots said the “Rock of Ages” actor had a “really, really low” blood count earlier today while fighting the respiratory illness.
“Today was supposed to be putting in a [breathing tube] and a feeding tube,” Kloots told “CBS This Morning” anchor Gayle King via video chat. “Unfortunately, this morning, his blood count was really, really low. Low blood count can mean that he’s internally bleeding from somewhere, so now we have to wait.”
The Tony nominee — who has been in a medically induced coma for weeks at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles — has suffered multiple setbacks in his recovery recently, including septic shock and a leg amputation.
Robert Durst seeks mistrial in murder case
Robert Durst’s defense team has asked for a mistrial in the real estate scion’s Los Angeles murder case, arguing that delays in court proceedings caused by the coronavirus will make it impossible for him to receive a fair trial.
Durst was standing trial in the 2000 murder of his longtime confidante Susan Berman when the pandemic paralyzed most of the nation. Prosecutors contend that Durst killed Berman to prevent her from spilling incriminating information about the 1982 disappearance of his first wife, Kathleen, whose body was never found.
Durst, 77, who was charged with Berman’s murder in 2015, around the same time an HBO documentary reignited national interest in the case, has pleaded not guilty.
The last hearing in the case took place on March 12, before it was suspended due to the virus.
States and cities seek $1 trillion in next stimulus, Pelosi says
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday states and cities alone were seeking as much as $1 trillion in aid in the next coronavirus relief package, a figure that may be tough to reach as Congress juggles demands to bolster the economy.
Pelosi said state governments were still finalizing their requests but had so far sought $500 billion, while local governments have a similar figure. In addition, there are other provisions, such as another round of cash payments to taxpayers, expanded unemployment insurance, assistance to renters and broadband accesss, that lawmakers are considering.
“State and local, I talked about almost $1 trillion right there,” Pelosi said at her weekly news conference. “We are not going to be able to cover all of it, but to the extent we can keep the states and localities sustainable, that is our goal.”
With the economy stalled, the next coronavirus spending bill may end up being more costly than the $2-trillion package enacted last month. Democrats are also talking about another round of cash payments to individuals — something the White House says it is open to — and extending expanded unemployment benefits into the autumn.
Democrats are discussing funneling local aid directly to municipalities through the Community Development Block Grant program and to make it available to cities with fewer than 10,000 people. Pelosi said that states would be limited in their ability to access funds.
New York City to stop subways early every morning for cleaning
New York will stop subways for four early-morning hours every day to disinfect the trains, under an agreement between the state and city aimed at protecting the essential workers who rely on mass transit.
The plan will begin May 6, affecting about 10,000 riders who use the trains between 1 and 5 a.m., when ridership has been at its lowest because of the pandemic. It will require a lot of work from multiple agencies, but much of the burden will fall on the city, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday at a news briefing in Albany that Mayor Bill de Blasio joined by video.
The 24-hour subways are the lifeblood of New York and have only rarely stopped their clattering circulation beneath the streets. The system was shut down for hurricanes Irene and Sandy in 2011 and 2012 and a blizzard in 2015.
The agreement to pause them for the pandemic is a rare moment of comity for Cuomo and De Blasio, who often are at odds and have sparred recently over train stoppages and sanitation. The two last appeared together at the start of the virus spread, in early March.
“The mayor is really stepping up to the plate here,” Cuomo said. The mayor returned the praise.
New York is the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, with more than 300,000 cases as of April 29. Subway ridership is down 92% under Cuomo’s stay-at-home order. Earlier this week, Cuomo said the subways were “disgusting” and that the apparent increase in homeless people occupying cars was disrespectful to essential workers.
He was symptom free. But the virus stayed in his body for 40 days
SINGAPORE — By his second day in the hospital with COVID-19, Charles Pignal’s mild cough and 102-degree fever had disappeared. Bored and “bouncing off the walls” of his room in the isolation ward at Singapore’s National Center for Infectious Diseases, he felt like he could go out and play a set of tennis.
The 42-year-old footwear executive told his mother on the phone, “I’ll be out of here in a couple of days.”
But Pignal would test positive for the coronavirus for five more weeks, despite developing no further symptoms. He wasn’t released until the 40th day after he first fell ill, when he finally tested negative two days in a row.
Cases like his are coming under increasing scrutiny as medical researchers worldwide puzzle over why the coronavirus — which typically lasts about two weeks in the body — appears to endure longer in some patients, even relatively young, healthy ones.
CIF discussing financial hardship waivers for transfer students
With more than 30 million filings for unemployment nationwide and lots of financial uncertainty, the organization that governs high school sports in California is having discussions about possible relief from transfer rules for students forced to switch schools.
Since the fall of 2012, when the current sit-out rule went into effect (student athletes are not allowed to participate in their sport for about a month when they switch high schools without changing their home address), there has been no waiver for financial hardship.
Now the California Interscholastic Federation has committees looking into possible scenarios depending on how the landscape looks when school resumes this fall. No decisions have been made on how to proceed.
“We’re continually having conversations about what kind of waivers we’ll need moving forward,” said Ron Nocetti, executive director of the CIF.
California recommends testing all essential workers, with or without symptoms
California public health officials announced late Wednesday another major expansion of coronavirus testing, recommending that all people in high-risk settings, including grocery store employees, bus drivers and law enforcement officers, join the ranks of a broadening group of candidates to receive routine screenings for the virus.
Such workers, considered “essential” even amid the shutdown, continue to come into regular contact with the public and, therefore, should be given priority access to testing, even if they don’t show symptoms, according to the new guidance by the state Department of Public Health.
The latest change to the state’s testing guidelines signals growing confidence among officials that testing capacity at laboratories is increasing enough to handle a bigger share of the state’s population.
Beaches become battleground as Newsom is poised to close them
California has been a model in the effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus as residents have largely followed orders to stay home except for essential trips.
The state has seen far fewer COVID-19 cases and deaths than hot spots such as New York and New Jersey. And polls have shown wide support for the restrictions.
Then last weekend, a heat wave hit Southern California, and thousands flocked to beaches in Orange County, which — unlike beaches in Los Angeles County — were open to the public. Although there is debate about how many people hit the sand, photos of the scene made national headlines and sparked outrage from Gov. Gavin Newsom.
“This virus doesn’t take the weekends off,” Newsom said Monday. “The only thing that will set us back is people [not practicing] physical distancing. ... That’s the only thing that’s going to slow down our ability to reopen this economy.”
Federal Reserve widens Main Street Loan Program to reach more businesses
The Federal Reserve is expanding the scope of its Main Street Lending Program to help more borrowers become eligible as it seeks to keep credit flowing to the U.S. economy during the coronavirus pandemic.
The central bank said Thursday that businesses with up to 15,000 employees or up to $5 billion in annual revenue were now eligible, in effect doubling the revenue limit from previous guidelines and raising the employee limit by 5,000.
The move follows calls from lawmakers and the business community — including heavy lobbying from key industries that have been hammered by the economic lockdown — for the program to be widened after the Fed initially announced terms of who would qualify.
Amid a puzzling pandemic, they started posting riddles outside. Here’s what came next
Back before everyone wore masks in stores, back before elbows were needed to press crosswalk buttons, back before it was clear the school year was history and bad hair days were the new norm, the Larson family started pondering ways to spread some cheer in their neighborhood.
The epiphany came in mid-March when one of their two kids, 6-year-old Reid, suddenly offered up a riddle.
“Dad, do you want to know a difficult question?” Jay Larson recalls Reid as saying. “What letter holds the most water?”
Thus the riddles were born.
Meat plants could reopen in days, USDA secretary says
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says he expects meat plants to reopen in “days not weeks” under President Trump’s executive order to keep them operating. Perdue anticipates the production shortfall, which he said is about 20% to 30%, to narrow to “10% to 15% within a week to 10 days.”
In a telephone interview, Perdue said he expected testing of slaughterhouse workers would begin immediately and they soon would be receiving protective gear.
This California county might defy the state and lift stay-at-home order Friday
SAN FRANCISCO — For weeks, some small California communities that have seen little impact from the coronavirus have been lobbying Gov. Gavin Newsom to allow them to ease stay-at-home restrictions.
Newsom so far has refused, saying conditions are still too risky.
On Friday, one remote county might ease restrictions anyway.
Modoc County, in the northeastern corner of California, is one of the least-populated counties in the state, with fewer than 9,000 residents. It plans to allow all businesses, schools and churches to reopen starting Friday, as long as people stay six feet apart, according to a statement signed by county officials.
Consumer spending plunges a record 7.5%
WASHINGTON — U.S. consumer spending plunged 7.5% in March, reflecting the growing impact of the coronavirus pandemic as Americans complied with stay-at-home orders.
The Commerce Department said that the spending decline was the sharpest monthly drop on records that go back to 1959, exceeding the previous record, a decline of 2.1% in January 1987.
Personal incomes also fell sharply last month, declining by 2% with wages and salaries, the largest part of incomes, falling by 3.1% as millions of Americans started getting layoff notices.
The report said that the country experienced big declines as “consumers canceled, restricted or redirected their spending.”
A third of U.K. COVID-19 hospital patients die, study suggests
About a third of patients in U.K. hospitals with COVID-19 die from the disease, according to the findings of a study of more than 16,000 people with the virus. The research, which hasn’t been peer-reviewed and has yet to appear in a scientific journal, is an early insight into the deadliness of the virus in the U.K., which has one of the highest tolls from the pandemic in Europe.
Led by researchers from Edinburgh University, Liverpool University and Imperial College London, the study pulled information from 166 hospitals in England, Wales and Scotland about COVID-19 patients.
Children may be just as infectious as adults, study shows
Children with the new coronavirus might be as infectious as adults, according to a study from Germany that recommends caution against an unlimited reopening of schools and kindergartens.
Although children have a lower risk of developing severe illness from COVID-19, they may be no less capable of spreading it. Levels of virus in the respiratory tract — the main route through which the pathogen is transmitted — don’t appear significantly different across age groups, Christian Drosten, director of the Institute of Virology at Berlin’s Charite hospital, and colleagues found.
The World Health Organization says more research is needed on the topic. For now, household transmission studies indicate that children are less likely to transmit COVID-19 to adults than the reverse, WHO epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove told reporters in Geneva on Wednesday.
FDA is moving at ‘lightning speed’ on Gilead drug, head of agency says
The Food and Drug Administration is moving at “lightning speed” to review data on Gilead Sciences Inc.’s experimental COVID-19 treatment remdesivir, Commissioner Stephen Hahn said, after encouraging results emerged from a key U.S. trial.
“We’re working with the company to emphasize the necessity of speed while at the same time to understand the data,” Hahn said in an interview. “There will be a lot of factors that go into all the regulatory decisions. We want to look at the totality of data to make sure that remdesivir is targeted to the right patients.”
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, shared early trial results Wednesday that showed remdesivir had a significant effect in treating the virus. Patients who received the drug recovered from the illness in 11 days, on average while those who got a placebo recovered in 15 days, Fauci said.
Fauci told NBC’s “Today Show” on Thursday that a decision on emergency authorization for remdesivir was going to happen “really quickly.” Fauci said he spoke with Hahn on Wednesday night and that the FDA hadn’t made a final determination, though he expected one soon.
Hahn declined to offer a timeline for allowing remdesivir to reach the market and said the agency had “several different pathways” through which it could allow access. In addition to emergency authorization, the FDA can speedily approve a medication while requiring additional study once it’s on the market.
Newsom poised to close beaches throughout the state
Gov. Gavin Newsom is poised to order the closure of all California beaches in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus, a source said Wednesday.
A memo sent to California police chiefs said the governor intended to make the announcement Thursday. A law enforcement source confirmed to the Los Angeles Times that authorities were briefed on the plans and that they might include closure of some parks.
The governor’s office declined to comment Wednesday night. But earlier in the day, Newsom said he was mulling more action on beaches.
“I’m working with state parks and others,” he said. “And a lot of our other partners — Coastal Commission, State Lands [Commission] and others — to really figure out what our next steps are. And I can assure you that, that, that clarity will come in a very short period of time.”
You can skip mortgage payments for 6 months. But many fear what comes after that
In March, like millions of others, Thomas Taylor saw his income plummet.
The global pandemic left the 42-year-old furloughed from his two bartending jobs and staring down a $2,600 monthly mortgage payment on his Laguna Niguel condo.
Taylor reached out to his mortgage company for help but hit a wall. He wouldn’t have to pay for six months, he recalled being told over the phone, but would then have to pay back all missed payments — the equivalent of $15,600 — in one lump sum.
“I couldn’t come up with that in six months,” he said. “No way, not with no income right now.”
3.8 million sought U.S. jobless aid last week
WASHINGTON — More than 3.8 million laid-off workers applied for unemployment benefits last week as the U.S. economy slid further into what could be the most devastating financial crisis since the 1930s.
Roughly 30.3 million people have filed for jobless aid in the six weeks since the coronavirus outbreak began forcing millions of employers to close their doors and slash their workforces. That is more people than live in the New York and Chicago metropolitan areas combined, and it’s by far the worst string of layoffs on record. It adds up to more than 1 in 6 American workers.
With more employers cutting payrolls to save money, economists have forecast that the unemployment rate for April could reach as high as 20%. That would be the highest rate since it reached 25% during the Great Depression.
Reopening California will be an arduous task requiring vast changes — and it won’t be quick
SACRAMENTO — Despite the enthusiasm of people desperate to get back to work, California officials still have a lot to do before they can meet the technological benchmarks that Gov. Gavin Newsom set to reopen the economy and lift restrictions on daily life.
Much of the four-stage plan Newsom released this week relies on vast changes in the state’s ability to both test and track new cases of coronavirus infection.
To this point, California, a global center of high-tech innovation and capital, has lagged behind other states in building up those most basic elements of isolating the virus.
State officials said they were testing more than 20,000 people a day — a third of the minimal daily tests needed to reopen.
Film production is shut down, but documentaries are still being made. Here’s how
Dawn Porter has been sequestered at her home on Martha’s Vineyard since mid-March. But even though she can’t leave the small Massachusetts island, production on her next documentary has yet to cease.
Porter was about three-fourths of the way through filming her nonfiction film about Pete Souza, the former chief official White House photographer, when COVID-19 started to proliferate across the U.S. But the project remains set for theatrical release by Focus Features this fall, so the director decided to take an unconventional step to get her final interview with Souza: Have him shoot it himself.
After meeting with her cinematographer, Porter decided to put together a gear package for Souza. She sent him a Blackmagic camera with lenses “that look similar enough to the ones we’ve been using, so it’s not jarring, like an iPhone video.” He already has a professional microphone and a tripod, and the director intends to have him set it all up so that he can self-film while she asks him questions over Zoom.
A record one-day spike in cases shows challenges facing L.A. County
Los Angeles County is seeing a surge of new coronavirus cases as testing expands, with institutional settings such as nursing homes and prisons being particularly hard hit.
Health officials on Wednesday announced the largest increase in new coronavirus cases reported in a single day since the pandemic began, pushing the county’s total number of infections past 22,400.
Los Angeles County continues to be at the heart of the coronavirus crisis in California, with cases and deaths jumping significantly even as other parts of the state see cases declining.
What will a post-pandemic Hollywood look like? We asked Hollywood
Images coming out of the devastating COVID-19 pandemic seem like the stuff of a Hollywood post-apocalyptic horror movie that has become, frighteningly, all too real.
After all, just a decade ago Steven Soderbergh was preparing to shoot “Contagion,” about a fictional pandemic that wreaks havoc across the globe. Now he’s leading a Directors Guild task force devising workplace guidelines to address a real one.
When Hollywood hit pause along with many of the nation’s industries, the shutdown rippled across the film ecosphere, touching everyone from those in studio boardrooms to the crews that keep movie sets running to the audience now staying home. As the industry tries to figure out how to move forward, professionals from across the production pipeline are wondering not just when they might get back to work, but also what a post-pandemic movie set will even look like.
The Times invited a spectrum of film professionals to share their feelings, moods and predictions about the future and the prospect of returning to work — safely — in a post-pandemic world, whenever that may be. Here’s what they said.
How will movie theaters make customers feel safe?
The nation’s beleaguered movie theaters, shuttered in March by the novel coronavirus, are understandably eager to reopen once the pandemic subsides. After weeks of almost no revenue, there’s rising hope that bricks-and-mortar cinemas, a cornerstone of the film business, will begin returning by mid-June.
But the reality is much more complicated. No one knows when public health guidelines will allow multiplexes to reopen. And when they do, it’s unclear when people will feel safe going into a darkened auditorium with a crowd of strangers.
Rich Millard, a 37-year-old father of two in Rancho Palos Verdes, fondly remembers taking his 7-year-old son to see “Sonic the Hedgehog” earlier this year. The video engineer, whose work also was shut down due to the coronavirus, hopes theaters can return soon but doesn’t see himself rushing back to the cinema.
European economy suffers record drop amid pandemic
The European economy shrank by a record 3.8% in the first quarter as business activity — from hotels and restaurants to construction and manufacturing — was frozen by shutdowns aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus.
The drop in the 19-country Eurozone was the biggest since statistics began being collected in 1995 and sharper than the plunge in the midst of the global financial crisis in the first quarter of 2009, after the bankruptcy of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers.
The drop compares with a 4.8% contraction in the U.S. during the first quarter as the shock from the outbreak hits economies around the world.
Unemployment rose only slightly, however, even amid the massive shutdowns that idled everything from florists to factories. The jobless figure rose to 7.4% in March from 7.3% in February, statistics agency Eurostat said Thursday. Millions of workers are being supported by temporary short-hours programs under which governments pay most of their salaries in return for companies agreeing not to lay people off.
Britain looks likely to miss testing target
LONDON — The British government has acknowledged that it may miss its well-publicized goal of conducting 100,000 tests a day for the coronavirus by the end of Thursday. But officials insist that the country is rapidly expanding its testing capacity as it prepares to gradually ease a nationwide lockdown.
The government has been criticized for failing to catch most cases of COVID-19 and now says wide-scale testing will be key to controlling the virus and lifting restrictions on business and daily life.
Earlier this month, the government vowed to perform 100,000 tests a day by April 30. But although the number has been climbing steadily, barely half that goal has been achieved, with the highest daily total of 52,000 reached Wednesday.
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said, “We’re well on our way to ramping this up ... even if the target isn’t met today.” He told the BBC that “100,000 is an important milestone, but frankly we need more.”
Britain’s Conservative government is facing growing criticism as it becomes clear the country will have one of the world’s highest coronavirus death tolls.
On Wednesday, the U.K.’s official death toll from the virus leaped to more than 26,000 after several thousand deaths in nursing homes were added to the hospital total. Only the United States and Italy have higher tolls.
British army veteran whose backyard fundraiser captured nation’s hearts turns 100
LONDON — A British army veteran who started walking laps in his garden as part of a humble fundraiser for the National Health Service is celebrating his 100th birthday after warming the hearts of a nation that has donated millions of pounds to back his appeal.
Capt. Tom Moore planned to walk 100 laps of his garden ahead of Thursday’s milestone. His original target was 1,000 pounds ($1,250). He has now raised 30 million pounds (almost $38 million).
He wrote on Twitter: “Thank you everyone, you are all magnificent.”
Earlier, he told supporters in a handwritten note that the past few weeks had put a spring in his step.
To honor his determination, the Royal Air Force staged a birthday flyby, the public sent birthday cards, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson offered a birthday message.
Lithuania converts international airport into a pop-up drive-in movie theater
VILNIUS, Lithuania — For the time being, Vilnius International Airport is busy — not with people heading for an exotic destination but with moviegoers who pack the tarmac in their cars to watch a film while the grounded planes are parked in the background.
A drive-in cinema has been set up at Lithuania’s main airport as part of the Aerocinema project that will run until the end of May. A silver screen has been stretched out near Gates 1-4, and some 150 cars with a maximum of two people per vehicle — except families — can watch a movie. Wednesday’s screening was the Oscar-winning South Korean film “Parasite.”
Each car pays 15 euros ($16), with proceeds going to the Vilnius International Film Festival, which is behind the project.
“Going out onto an airport apron, which is usually only possible to access after check-in, is an exciting experience. I hope this would create a lifetime impression on our audience,” said Algirdas Ramaska, head of the film festival.
The Baltic country’s airspace has been closed to commercial aviation, and Lithuania’s three airports — including the Vilnius airport, which served 5 million passengers last year — have been shut because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Russia reports spike in daily tally of virus cases
Russia’s coronavirus caseload surpassed 100,000 on Thursday, with the number of deaths exceeding 1,000.
Russian health officials reported a record daily spike of 7,099 new confirmed cases on Thursday morning, which brought the country’s total to 106,498. The number of infections is likely to be much higher, as not everyone is being tested and many carry the disease without exhibiting any symptoms.
The vast majority of Russian regions have been on lockdown since late March, with people ordered to stay at home and only essential businesses, such as grocery shops, pharmacies and banks, operating.
On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin extended the lockdown until May 11 and tasked the government with putting together a plan for gradually reopening the country. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov pointed out that the timeline for the reopening would be contingent on how the outbreak continued to unfold.
NYPD is called in after overwhelmed funeral home stores bodies on ice in rented trucks
Police were called to a Brooklyn neighborhood Wednesday after a funeral home overwhelmed by the coronavirus resorted to storing dozens of bodies on ice in rented trucks and a passerby complained about the smell, officials said.
Investigators who responded to a 911 call found that the home had rented four trucks to hold about 50 corpses, according to a law enforcement official. No criminal charges were brought, said the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the investigation.
The Andrew T. Cleckley Funeral Home was cited for failing to control the odors. The home was able to obtain a larger refrigerated truck later in the day, the official said.
New York City funeral homes have struggled as at least 18,000 people have died in the city since late March.
The NYPD notified the state Department of Health, which oversees funeral homes, about the situation at the Andrew T. Cleckley Funeral Home. It did not respond to an email seeking comment.
San Diego fruit swap captures spirit of neighbors helping neighbors
All the loquats that grow on Marcela Talavera’s fruit trees don’t make it to the kitchen table.
The natural abundance of Talavera’s trees encouraged the resident of National City, in southwest San Diego County, to donate fruit from her yard to a fruit swap — where people can drop off produce and those in need can pick it up for free — in San Diego’s City Heights neighborhood.
Business owners, community organizations and residents joined forces in early April to run a weekly fruit swap at the public open space Fair@44 to help those in need during the coronavirus crisis.
Face masks thrown on freeway cause traffic jam in Northern California
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, a Bay Area freeway suffered a mini traffic jam Wednesday when someone tossed hundreds of face masks onto the road and some motorists stopped to grab them, the California Highway Patrol reported.
About 1:30 p.m., CHP officers received a report that a white truck had stopped on Interstate 880 in Union City and someone tossed out boxes of medical masks, the CHP reported.
Hundreds of the prized masks spread across southbound lanes, authorities said.
All L.A. County residents, even those without symptoms, can now get tested for COVID-19
Mayor Eric Garcetti has long said that expanding COVID-19 testing to all Angelenos, including those without symptoms, is a critical milestone that must be met before leaders can consider lifting some restrictions.
And now, he says, that milestone is a reality.
During a news conference Wednesday evening, Garcetti announced that all city residents were now eligible for free COVID-19 testing — a first-of-its-kind step for any major city in the U.S. He urged all residents to consider getting swabbed, noting that some people who feel fine can still be asymptomatic carriers.