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L.A. city attorney sues maker of radish paste advertised as protection against COVID-19
The Los Angeles city attorney’s office filed suit Wednesday against an herbal remedy specialist, accusing the store of trying to pass off an untested radish paste as a safeguard against the coronavirus, officials said.
The civil lawsuit accuses Insan Healing in Koreatown of touting the item as a “must-have product for the protection and prevention” of coronavirus contagion, even though it has not been tested by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, court filings said.
The radish paste costs $99.95 per bottle and is made from a combination of “white radish harvested during frost,” garlic and ginger that can enhance a person’s immune system, according to the Insan Healing website.
References to the coronavirus and COVID-19 had been taken down by Thursday afternoon after the lawsuit was filed, but the city attorney’s office provided screenshots showing the claims that the paste could help with coronavirus prevention.
Controversial Travis McCready concert canceled by Arkansas officials
The first high-profile concert of the quarantine age will not go on as planned Friday, according to the Arkansas venue where it was scheduled to take place.
Mike Brown of Temple Live, a 1,100-seat theater located in a former Masonic temple in Fort Smith, said at a news conference Thursday that the state government had ordered the venue to call off a highly publicized performance by Travis McCready, frontman of a roots-rock band called Bishop Gunn. Brown said state officials had also suspended the venue’s liquor license, Arkansas’ KARK reported, even as the venue was working on ways to keep fans socially distant during the show.
“We’ve been punished for thinking about doing something, or considering while we were evaluating,” Brown said. “It’s very ‘Minority Report’ and ‘Westworld,’ which I thought were pieces of fiction but are now reality in this country and state.”
Coachella and Cathedral City vote to mandate face coverings
Coachella and Cathedral City officials voted Wednesday to require residents to wear face coverings in certain public settings, joining such other Riverside County cities as Desert Hot Springs, Palm Springs and La Quinta.
The regulation comes less than a week after the Riverside County Board of Supervisors voted to rescind several public health orders implemented by the county’s public health director Cameron Kaiser. Following the vote, face coverings were no longer a requirement but were “strongly recommended whenever practical and within reason.”
Though the county rescinded this order, individual cities can impose stricter regulations, just not more relaxed ones, according to Coachella spokesperson Chris Parman.
“Unfortunately, Coachella and the rest of the eastern valley remains a hot spot for coronavirus cases,” Mayor Steven Hernandez said. “Until we can get this virus under control, our city will continue to require these reasonable measures to protect the health and safety of people living and working in Coachella.”
Elliott: Bauer’s line shift from hockey equipment to medical face shields is inspiring
By now, nearly two months after the coronavirus outbreak shut down professional sports and leading hockey equipment manufacturer Bauer was inspired to pivot from making skates, sticks and helmets to producing medical-grade face shields for healthcare workers, the company had hoped to look at phasing out production of its new line and get back to its normal operations.
The compassion of Bauer’s workers, many of whom saw the struggles of doctors, nurses and first responders among their family members, and the inventiveness of its designers had allowed the company to respond swiftly to the sudden need for protective equipment. It was accustomed to making visors for NHL players, but producing single-use shields for medical use posed different problems.
Led by Dan Bourgeois, Bauer’s vice president of product innovation, and Wim Fream, senior director of product design and development for sister company Cascade, the project leaped from discussions about ways to help to devising a concept, creating a design, making a certified prototype and then getting it into production in about four days, all the while mindful of Canadian and American regulations governing employees’ safety.
“They’re the real heroes on our team,” said Mary-Kay Messier, vice president of global marketing for Bauer. “They’ve really taken this and led their teams through an extraordinary mission.”
California faces ‘jaw dropping’ unemployment, requiring more federal loans, Newsom says
SACRAMENTO — Gov. Gavin Newsom says that unemployment in California amid the COVID-19 pandemic has far exceeded what it was during the peak of the Great Recession, with 4.6 million people filing for jobless benefits, requiring the state to borrow billions of dollars more from the federal government to cover claims.
At a news conference Thursday to present a revised state budget for the fiscal year starting July 1, Newsom said the state will need $43.8 billion to cover unemployment claims in the new year, a 650% increase over what was originally proposed.
The state will have to borrow much of that money from a federal trust fund that helps states cover jobless benefits in times of recession.
“These unemployment numbers are jaw dropping,” Newsom said. “We are at a time that is simply unprecedented.”
Some 4.6 million Californians have filed claims for unemployment benefits since March 12, compared to 2.2 million in the third quarter of 2010 at the height of the Great Recession.
The state’s unemployment rate is expected to peak at more than 24.5% this year but the rate for the year as a whole will be 18%, which is still higher than the 12.3% peak rate during the third quarter of 2010, Newsom added.
“These are not normal numbers,” Newsom said. “These are simply without precedent in modern times.”
Postponing Tokyo Games will cost IOC as much as $800 million
IOC President Thomas Bach offered the detailed estimate of added expenses after a remote meeting of his executive board on Thursday.
“The Olympic movement is facing an unprecedented challenge,” Bach said in a statement. “We shall all need to make sacrifices and compromises.”
The IOC’s announced total does not include costs incurred by organizers in Tokyo, who could see their budget swell by an estimated $2 billion to $6 billion.
The $800 million does take into account $150 million earmarked for national Olympic committees and the international federations that govern each sport, many of which have suffered losses because of canceled or postponed events.
Those organizations also depend on significant payments received from the IOC at the time of each Olympics.
L.A. traffic deaths surge back to pre-pandemic levels
Despite a precipitous drop in traffic during the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of people killed in car collisions this year in Los Angeles is now about the same as it was in 2019, officials said Thursday.
After a steep drop in deaths during the last two weeks of March, when the city’s stay-at-home order took effect, the Los Angeles Police Department is seeing an “alarming increase” in traffic fatalities on city streets, Deputy Chief Blake Chow said.
The increase in deaths is connected to a surge in speeding on streets that are emptier than usual, and a higher number of people walking and biking in their neighborhoods, police said.
Hundreds protest stay-at-home order outside Michigan Capitol
Hundreds of people angry or frustrated over Michigan’s stay-at-home order protested again outside the state Capitol on Thursday, braving heavy rain to call for a loosening of restrictions and for businesses to reopen in defiance of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
The demonstration was smaller than previous rallies. It was led by Michigan United for Liberty, a conservative activist group that has sued the Democratic governor and organized or participated in several protests since early April.
People in the crowd of roughly 200 held signs declaring “Every worker is essential,” “Make Michigan work again” and “Stop the tyranny.”
“We can get some businesses back open,” said David Saxton, a 40-year-old IT specialist from Alma, in central Michigan. He said he lost his job and was receiving unemployment benefits. Saxton noted that a COVID-19 vaccine might not be ready for a year and a half. “Staying shut down that long is not practical. You will kill the state. You just will.”
Though state police and Michigan’s attorney general had warned of enforcing prohibitions on brandishing guns or ignoring potential directives to stay six feet apart, there were no arrests. Some protesters still stood close together.
Some carried guns even though lawmakers from both parties criticized certain demonstrators for intimidating and threatening tactics two weeks ago. At that protest, they openly carried assault rifles into the Capitol, including the Senate gallery, sparking calls by Democrats to ban guns from the building.
Sen. Richard Burr steps aside as Intelligence Committee chief as FBI probes stock sales
WASHINGTON — The GOP chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said Thursday he would temporarily step down from his committee post after the FBI seized his cellphone Wednesday evening in its investigation into whether he sold a significant portion of his stock portfolio because of information he learned in the course of his Senate position.
Sen. Richard M. Burr (R-N.C.) said the investigation was a “distraction to the hard work of the committee and the members, and I think that the security of the country is too important to have a distraction.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he and Burr agreed that his decision to step aside “would be in the best interests of the committee” and would take effect Friday evening.
Trump to name former pharma exec to lead vaccine effort
WASHINGTON — President Trump is set to name a former pharmaceutical executive to lead his administration’s all-out effort to produce and distribute a coronavirus vaccine by the end of the year.
Moncef Slaoui, a former GlaxoSmithKline executive, will lead Operation Warp Speed, Trump’s push to accelerate the development of a vaccine for COVID-19, according to an administration official. Slaoui is to serve in a volunteer capacity and will be assisted by Army Gen. Gustave Perna, the head of U.S. Army Materiel Command.
The move comes as the president and White House aides hope to produce vaccines for the coronavirus more quickly than what many scientists believe is realistic. The administration is aiming to have 300 million doses to distribute to Americans by the end of the year, believing a reliable vaccine is the only way to promote an economic rebound.
Operation Warp Speed is operating largely independently of the existing White House coronavirus task force, which is also shifting its focus toward vaccine development.
Chaos, and praise from Trump, follows Wisconsin court ruling scrapping lockdown
MADISON, Wis. — A court ruling tossing Wisconsin’s stay-at-home order threw communities into chaos Thursday as some bars opened immediately and were packed with customers while other local leaders moved quickly to keep strict restrictions in place amid the coronavirus crisis.
The conservative majority of the Wisconsin Supreme Court late Wednesday afternoon ruled that the “safer at home” order from Democratic Gov. Tony Evers was invalid and threw it out, effective immediately. The order forces Evers to work with the GOP-controlled Legislature on a new plan, a process that could take weeks.
Evers and Republican leaders scheduled a Thursday morning meeting to discuss next steps.
The court ruling drew praise Thursday from President Trump, who referenced a victory earlier in the week in the state by a Republican congressional candidate in a special election.
As Las Vegas starts to reopen, bet on lower room rates and smaller crowds
After a forced hibernation that has lasted about two months, the sleeping giant that is Las Vegas is beginning to stir.
About 35 properties, including the Sahara and Treasure Island, will begin accepting reservations May 22, hoping to snare guests eager to get away for Memorial Day weekend. Wynn-Encore is hoping to open May 26, the day after the federal holiday, but that date is subject to change, based on when Gov. Steve Sisolak allows hotel-casinos to reopen.
A very different experience will await in a city that saw 42.5 million visitors last year.
“I would say that it’s going to be quite a diminished experience for the first few weeks, if not several weeks going into July,” said Anthony Curtis, publisher of the Las Vegas Advisor, a newsletter for frequent visitors. Others echo his sentiments.
“I think it will take some getting used to,” said David Schwartz, a gambling historian at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. “It’s just going to be a different kind of experience, I think, where you’re not standing shoulder to shoulder at the craps table.”
Reading dark materials in COVID-19 quarantine
Back in March, during the earliest days of the shutdown, I could not bring myself to read. Everything seemed inchoate, irrelevant or out of date. What I wanted was a guide for living. What I wanted were tips on how to make it through. What I wanted were assurances, a sense that everything was going to be OK. This, however, is not the purpose of narrative, which insists on a more rigorous perspective. We don’t read or write to be reassured — at least I don’t. We read and write to reckon with all the things we cannot know.
“There is a kind of uniform monotony in the fate of man,” Natalia Ginzburg observes in her essay “Winter in the Abruzzi.” She is referring not to our time but to hers. In 1941, Ginzburg’s husband was sent into internal exile in Italy because he was an anti-fascist; she and their children accompanied him. I had never encountered “Winter in Abruzzi” until I read about it in “The New Calm,” a recent New Yorker piece by Maggie Nelson about her experience of the pandemic. What Ginzburg is evoking is the futility of empty hope, which seems especially appropriate now.
I experienced the Nelson and Ginzburg pieces during a binge some weeks ago that broke the logjam in my reading. All of a sudden, I was ready — not to be distracted but to engage. Unsurprisingly, I turned first to essays, that interrogatory genre in which we confront a consciousness in conversation with itself.
I don’t mean to be glib when I suggest this represents its own form of contagion: The writer’s voice and situation infiltrating ours.
What you can do around L.A. this weekend
Yes, there’s a pandemic on, and we have rules to follow. But as authorities loosen the reins, every day seems to bring new chances to change things up. Among this weekend’s options: roses and poppies at Descanso Gardens, lift rides on Mt. Baldy, a drive-through meal at the Grove or an old-fashioned hike in Griffith Park.
Watch live: Ousted director testifies that Trump administration was unprepared for pandemic
Ousted vaccine director Rick Bright testifies before Congress.
The Trump administration was unprepared for the coronavirus crisis and could face “unprecedented illness and fatalities” next winter unless it imposes additional protections, a government whistle-blower who alleges he was ousted from his job is telling Congress this morning.
Rick Bright is testifying before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s health subcommittee after he filed a whistle-blower complaint last week alleging he was removed from his post in retaliation after warning repeatedly in January and February about the need for masks and other protective equipment to prepare for a coronavirus outbreak.
Homeowners who can’t make mortgage payments get a new deferral option
Many struggling homeowners who are delaying their mortgage payments through so-called forbearance programs will get a new repayment option, allowing them to make missed payments when the home is sold or the loan term is over, the Federal Housing Finance Agency said Wednesday.
The deferral option applies to homeowners who have a mortgage backed by the two government-controlled mortgage companies that the FHFA oversees: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Under the CARES Act stimulus law, borrowers with government-backed loans — through the Federal Housing Administration, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac — have the right to delay their mortgage payments for up to a year if they have a financial hardship tied to the coronavirus pandemic.
Most homeowners have a government-backed loan and millions have signed up for forbearance. But there has been mass confusion about how borrowers will make up for the payments they miss.
Nearly 3 million more sought jobless aid last week, 36 million since the virus struck
WASHINGTON — Nearly 3 million laid-off workers applied for U.S. unemployment benefits last week as the viral outbreak led more companies to slash jobs even as most states began to let some businesses reopen under certain restrictions.
Roughly 36 million people have now filed for jobless aid in the two months since the coronavirus forced millions of businesses to close their doors and shrink their workforces, the Labor Department said Thursday.
Still, the number of first-time applications has now declined for six straight weeks, suggesting that a dwindling number of companies are reducing their payrolls.
By historical standards, though, the latest tally shows that the number of weekly jobless claims remains enormous, reflecting an economy that is sinking into a severe downturn. Last week’s pace of new applications for aid was still four times the record high that prevailed before the coronavirus struck hard in March.
Column: Don’t be taken in by stem cell firms offering unsubstantiated therapies for COVID-19
“If you think this can help you,” Austin Wolff said earnestly into the camera, “it’s worth a shot....It can only help.”
Wolff was speaking on a YouTube video produced for the Novus Center, a Studio City business run by his mother, Stephanie, selling stem-cell-related products said to treat chronic pain, sexual performance issues and the effects of aging.
In recent weeks, Novus has begun directing its pitch at potential customers fearful about the effects of the novel coronavirus, implying that its “stem cell exosome vapor” — the supplies for which can be shipped overnight to customers’ homes — can improve lung strength, the immune system and “ward off viruses and disease.” (Exosomes are a form of cellular secretion.)
Novus’ videos bristle with formal disclaimers. “It’s not going to cure anything,” Austin Wolff says on one video. “You should only do this if you want to try it.”
With the U.S. looking to reopen, Canada seeks to prolong border closure
While parts of the United States rush to open restaurants, stores and public places, Canada — fearful of the high coronavirus contamination rates to the south — is rushing to keep the 5,525-mile border closed for nearly six more weeks.
Under a likely agreement between the two countries, Canada and the U.S. will continue to permit a portion of the trade that ordinarily accounts for more than $1 million a minute and supports nearly 1.2 million jobs in California. But since border restrictions were put in place, the traffic that in normal times accounts for 200,000 border crossings a day has ground to a virtual halt; 24 of the top 25 border gateways to Canada, for example, had no wait times for automobiles Wednesday.
Canada, which for more than a dozen years has been California’s second-largest outside market, accounted for more than $16.6 billion in exports in 2019. At the same time, according to the California Chamber of Commerce, the state imported $26.8 billion from Canada last year.
The U.S. and Canada began their border restrictions nearly eight weeks ago and then extended them until next week. But concerns about American rates of COVID-19 cases prompted Ottawa’s desire to keep the frontier closed until June 21.
Japan lifts state of emergency for most of the country
TOKYO — Japan’s prime minister has announced the end of the state of emergency for most regions of the country, but restrictions are being kept in place in Tokyo and seven other high-risk areas, including Osaka, Kyoto and Hokkaido.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday lifted the measure ahead of schedule in 39 of the country’s 47 prefectures, effective immediately.
Abe declared a month-long state of emergency on April 7 in Tokyo and six other urban prefectures, later expanding it to the whole country through May 31.
With signs of the infections slowing, Abe is seeking to relax restrictions while balancing disease prevention and the state of the economy.
“Today is the new beginning for our daily lives, a new normal,” Abe said. But he warned of a likely resurgence of infections and urged people to keep their guard up.
He said experts would meet again next week to decide if the emergency decree in the remaining areas could be lifted.
Japan now has more than 16,000 confirmed cases, with about 680 deaths. The number of new cases has significantly decreased nationwide.
Strong typhoon slams into pandemic-hit Philippines
MANILA — A strong typhoon slammed into the eastern Philippines on Thursday after authorities evacuated tens of thousands of people while trying to avoid the virus risks of overcrowding emergency shelters.
The first typhoon to hit the country this year rapidly gained force as it blew from the Pacific, then barged ashore in the town of San Policarpo in eastern Samar province around noon, weather agency administrator Vicente Malano said.
The typhoon came as the Philippines was trying to fight COVID-19 outbreaks largely by requiring Filipinos to remain in their homes and prohibiting gatherings that could set off infections. More than 11,600 infections, including 772 deaths, have been reported in the country.
Typhoon Vongfong, which was packing maximum sustained winds of 93 mph and gusts of up to 115 mph, was forecast to blow northwestward and barrel across densely populated eastern provinces and cities before exiting in the north Sunday.
Overcrowding in emergency shelters is a common scene in the archipelago, which is hit by about 20 typhoons and storms annually and regularly experiences volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.
Chula Vista church sues Newsom, San Diego County over stay-at-home orders
Another church has filed a lawsuit in San Diego federal court alleging the stay-at-home orders of Gov. Gavin Newsom illegally deprive them of their religious freedom under the U.S. Constitution because the orders prohibit communal services.
The suit filed by the South Bay United Pentecostal Church of Chula Vista last week contends that the orders issued by Newsom and essentially duplicated by San Diego County officials discriminate against religious institutions. It seeks an injunction stopping enforcement of the ban on religious gatherings and a ruling saying the orders violate constitutional rights of speech, assembly and religious expression, among others.
The claims are similar to those filed by another San Diego County church, Abiding Place Ministries, in April, as well as suits filed by other congregations around the state. A hearing is set for Friday in front of U.S. District Judge Cynthia Bashant.
Rise in hate incidents toward Asian Americans during crisis, head of L.A. County commission says
Hate crimes and incidents directed at Asian Americans have surged during the coronavirus outbreak, according to the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations, whose director said Wednesday that civic groups and police departments had fielded more than 100 reports of hate incidents tied to the pandemic from February through April.
Many of these incidents were “acts of hate-motivated hostility” that did not amount to hate crimes but were no less jarring, the commission’s director, Robin Toma, said in a virtual town hall.
He described several reported incidents: A man spewed racial and misogynistic epithets at an Asian American woman walking her dog. A resident of an apartment complex, assuming an Asian tenant had contracted the coronavirus, tried to get that tenant evicted. A bomb threat targeted “a major Asian American institution,” which Toma didn’t identify by name.
Riverside County adopts alternative plan to reopen the local economy
The Riverside County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously this week to approve a “Readiness and Reopening Framework” that outlines alternative benchmarks toward reopening the local economy amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The document addresses the criteria that Gov. Gavin Newsom laid out last week in his reopening plan but proposes alternatives to the metrics, which local officials call unrealistic for an urban county as large as Riverside County. The county has about 2.5 million residents.
Rather than waiting until the county has fewer than one new COVID-19 case per 10,000 residents and zero deaths for 14 days, the locally approved framework offers a less rigid plan.
Fourth District Supervisor V. Manuel Perez said the new plan was an effort to establish balance between the county and the state, rather than reopening against Newsom’s wishes like Yuba County. He said he hoped Newsom would negotiate with Riverside County.
California community colleges sue U.S. for denying COVID-19 funds to undocumented students, others
The nation’s largest community college system is suing the federal government for denying coronavirus relief funds to more than half a million California students, including DACA recipients and many of those from low-income families.
California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley and the system’s Board of Governors filed suit this week in U.S. District Court in San Francisco against the Department of Education and Secretary Betsy DeVos over eligibility restrictions placed on the use of federal aid money for students, arguing that the restrictions are unconstitutional.
“The Department of Education ignored the intent of the CARES Act to give local colleges discretion to aid students most affected by the pandemic, and instead has arbitrarily excluded as many as 800,000 community college students,” Ortiz Oakley said in a statement.
The CARES Act, approved by Congress March 27, set aside $14 billion for higher-education relief. At least half of the money must go directly to students in the form of emergency grants.