Coronavirus updates: NFL prepared to alter schedule if necessary

Buddhist monks pray for coronavirus victims in Seoul
Buddhists monks in Seoul pray on Thursday during a service for victims of COVID-19.
(Ahn Young-joon / 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 May 6 are here

Should migrant workers be allowed to sleep in bunk beds?

Farmworkers enter an apple orchard in Washington’s Yakima Valley, where growers say that coronavirus regulations could hurt their businesses, leading to price hikes and shortages.
(Richard Read / Los Angeles Times)

YAKIMA, Wash. — The price and availability of apples in grocery stores this fall could come down to a critical question on the farm: whether migrant workers should sleep in bunk beds.

Each spring, as many as 30,000 farm laborers — most of them from Mexico — begin arriving in Washington state on guest worker visas and live in close quarters in housing that employers are required to provide. A typical room has two bunk beds.

The coronavirus pandemic has thrown the system into disarray, with public health officials and the union representing the workers warning that the sleeping arrangement could spread infections.

But farmers say banning employees from sleeping in top bunks — as the state has proposed — would force them to cut their work forces in half and drive many into bankruptcy, devastating the region’s economy and the nation’s fruit supply.

Washington produces 65% of the country’s $2.4-billion fresh apple crop, as well as cherries, peaches, berries and other fruit.

Representatives from the United Farm Workers and the powerful farm lobby spent seven hours Wednesday in an online meeting organized by Gov. Jay Inslee’s office to discuss the draft regulations with health, labor and industry officials.

In the meantime, workers are already arriving under contracts signed months ago.

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NFL is ready to call an audible or two if coronavirus forces schedule changes

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says the league is prepared to make schedule adjustments if the COVID-19 pandemic forces it to take action.
(John Minchillo / Associated Press)

As is the case every year, assembling the NFL schedule was a mad scramble for Howard Katz and his team, who pored poured over thousands of possible versions — generated by computers located all over the world — before releasing the final product.

This year, amid all the COVID-19 uncertainty, the puzzle was substantially more complex.

But the league also had a road map. In 2011, when the NFL was mired in a labor dispute, the schedule makers had to come up with a full slate of games that had seamless escape hatches and subtle contingency plans in case games had to be postponed or scrubbed.

That turned out to be a blueprint for this year’s schedule, which was released with a flourish Thursday night in prime time.

For instance, every game in Week 2 pits teams who have the same bye week. Same in 2011. That way, if that week of games had to be postponed, all of those games could be made up during the respective bye weeks of those teams.

There are no byes and no divisional rivalries in Weeks 3 and 4, and every team has a home and away game during that stretch. That would maintain fairness in the event those games had to be canceled.

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Hand sanitizers and temperature checks: LAFC tries to adapt to the new normal

After nearly two months of seeing his team only on Zoom or Facetime, Bob Bradley was back at LAFC’s training facility Thursday, where he got to see many of his players work out in the flesh.

It was an important first step back from the coronavirus-induced shutdown that suspended the MLS season March 12. But, Bradley added, it didn’t feel like normal.

“No, not really,” he said. “It’s great to see guys. Every player is excited just to get back on the field, put on their football shoes, get some touches, get some fitness.

“It’s a start. But that’s still a long way from the game.”
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First youths test positive for coronavirus in L.A. County juvenile halls

Two youths in L.A. County juvenile detention tested positive for the novel coronavirus this week after officials began testing newly booked detainees, authorities said Thursday.

The juveniles, both of whom are asymptomatic, have not been in contact with other youths, said Adam Wolfson, communications director for the L.A. County Probation Department. One was admitted to Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall in Sylmar, the other to Central Juvenie Hall in Los Angeles, Wolfson said. Their ages were not released.

Nineteen probation employees have tested positive for the coronavirus, including seven assigned to Nidorf Hall, but Thursday marked the first time juveniles had been known to have the virus. All of the employees who contracted the virus have since recovered and returned to work, Wolfson said.

County officials began testing newly sentenced youths Monday, he said, adding that 30 juveniles have been tested in total.
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Souplantation’s buffet-style restaurants closing for good due to the coronvirus

Souplantation, the popular buffet-style dining brand founded in San Diego 42 years ago, is closing all of its restaurants permanently, a casualty of the coronavirus pandemic that is likely to be the death knell for all self-serve eateries.

The permanent shuttering of the 97 restaurants, including 44 in California, was announced Thursday following weeks of efforts to salvage San Diego-based Garden Fresh Restaurants, the parent company of Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes. The closing will mean lost jobs for 4,400 employees.

“The FDA had previously put out recommendations that included discontinuing self-serve stations, like self-serve beverages in fast food, but they specifically talked about salad bars and buffets,” said John Haywood, CEO of Garden Fresh. “The regulations are understandable, but unfortunately, it makes it very difficult to reopen. And I’m not sure the health departments are ever going to allow it.
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First Californian to get coronavirus in community spread was infected at a nail salon, Newsom says

SACRAMENTO — The first person in California to contract the coronavirus through community spread caught the virus in a nail salon, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday.

Newsom cited the case when asked why personal services, such as nail salons, must remain closed even as the state starts to slowly open businesses.

“This whole thing started in the state of California, the first community spread, in a nail salon. I just want to remind everybody of that and that I’m very worried about that,” Newsom said during his daily COVID-19 briefing in Sacramento.

Newsom said the transmission of the virus occurred despite the fact that most nail salons already had safeguards in place before the coronavirus hit, including the used of face masks and gloves.
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Masks will be required on L.A. Metro buses and trains starting Monday

After pushback from bus drivers and elected officials, Los Angeles County’s transit network — the busiest on the West Coast — will require all passengers to wear masks on board starting Monday.

For the first seven weeks of the coronavirus crisis, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority had balked at requiring masks, saying enforcing the rule on the vast system would not be practical.

The policy change follows criticism from Metro bus drivers, who said the lack of masks on board made them scared for their health and for the well-being of essential workers on board.

“We want our bus operators to know that we are listening to them,” Metro said in a statement on its website. Officials said they are “acutely aware that some employees have been on social media and telling the news media that this is a change they want.”
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Gov. Newsom doesn’t see packed stadiums for sporting events any time soon

The NFL is releasing its 2020 schedule Thursday night. The Rams put suites on sale for their new stadium Thursday morning. Major League Baseball would like teams to play in their home ballparks at some point this summer.

This return to normality was forcefully challenged by California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday. Hours after the president of the New York Yankees talked about how fans would return to his stadium, Newsom said he did not envision fans packing any of the stadiums in his state in the months ahead.

“It’s difficult for me to imagine a stadium that’s filled until we have immunity, until we have a vaccine,” Newsom said at his daily news conference.

By that standard, the All-Star game at Dodger Stadium would not be played this season, at least not on its scheduled July 14 date, and the Dodgers, Angels, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics likely would not play before large home crowds this season, if they played at home. A league spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.
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San Francisco will allow certain businesses to reopen beginning May 18

San Francisco officials announced Thursday that certain retailers such as bookstores, florists and music stores will be the first stores allowed with operate storefront pickup beginning May 18.

The move marks a moderate step in easing stay-at-home restrictions. San Francisco has been more conservative than other California counties, which plan to reopen some businesses Friday based on new rules from Gov. Gavin Newsom.

“We have been hard at work to find ways to reopen more businesses and activities safely and responsibly,” said Mayor London Breed in a statement. “Giving businesses the option to reopen and provide storefront pickup will provide some relief for everyone in our city — allowing some people to get back to work, while still protecting public health. The last thing we want is to see a spike in the number of cases or hospitalizations, so we’re going to be keeping close track of our key COVID-19 indicators and will be ready to make any adjustment needed to keep our community healthy.”
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California was ready for a recession, but nothing could have prepared it for coronavirus

California officials offered a grim preview Thursday of what the COVID-19 pandemic could do to vital state programs and services, forecasting that legislators will face a $54-billion budget gap for the current fiscal year and the next one, which starts July 1. That’s about 10 times the size of the surplus the finance department was predicting when Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled his budget proposal for fiscal 2020-21.

The chilling report recalls the enormous budget gaps of the Schwarzenegger era, which shredded the state’s safety net and led to painful cuts to education, transportation and other programs vital to all Californians. The forces wrecking the current budget, though, have little in common with those at work more than a decade ago, when a Wall Street meltdown combined with shortsighted and gridlocked politics to push the state into a hole its leaders couldn’t fill.

The good news is that officials and voters spent much of the last decade putting California’s fiscal house in order, shoring it up for the inevitable recession. The state still has its challenges, particularly its unfunded liability for retiree benefits. But no longer must state budgets be approved by a two-thirds vote in the Legislature, ending the minority party’s ability to block or demand ransom for approving responsible fiscal policies. Meanwhile, led by former Gov. Jerry Brown and then by Newsom, the state has gradually eliminated the “wall of debt” — accumulated through years of borrowing from funds reserved for schools and other programs — and it has set aside billions of dollars in reserve.
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‘A wild ride’: Expanding coronavirus testing takes center stage with reopening

A day after the University of Tennessee announced that it would welcome students back to its campuses in August, UT-Knoxville’s chancellor put in a call to Capitol Hill.

The university had declared that social distancing and enhanced safety procedures would be part of the “new normal.” But what exactly would that mean? The school had about three months to figure out the answer and reached out Thursday to Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, who was about to chair a hearing focusing on testing for the novel coronavirus.

Alexander put the question to National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins: What could he tell the thousands of schools across the country, which want to resume classroom learning, about the potential for widespread testing in August?
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Here are the Orange County communities with coronavirus cases

Orange County reported one additional coronavirus-linked fatality Thursday, bringing the region’s total death toll to 66.

Health officials also announced 96 new coronavirus infections, boosting the county’s cumulative total to 3,092. Of those who have tested positive for the virus, 271 people were residents in skilled nursing homes and 216 were inmates in the county’s jail system, county data shows.

As of the latest update, 186 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized countywide, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency, and 69 of them were in intensive care.

To date, 43,351 COVID-19 tests have been administered in the county.
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At least 138 employees at Central California meat plant test positive for coronavirus

HANFORD, Calif. — At least 138 employees at a meat packing plant in Central California have tested positive for the coronavirus, officials say.

Kings County Supervisor Doug Verboon told the Fresno Bee that the outbreak at Central Valley Meat Co. in Hanford accounts for nearly two-thirds of the coronavirus cases in the rural county, which has a total of 211 reported cases.

The company employs about 900 workers at two plants in Hanford and Vernon and continues to operate.

The company first reported several of its employees tested positive for the virus more than a week ago, the Fresno Bee reported.

Ninety-seven of those infected live in Kings County, 30 are Tulare County residents and the remaining 11 live in Fresno County, KFSN-TV reported.
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Oversight panel to subpoena Sheriff Alex Villanueva for testimony on coronavirus in jails

The Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission voted Thursday to subpoena L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva to appear or send a representative to its next meeting to discuss his handling of the coronavirus outbreak in the jails, marking the first use of a powerful new oversight tool.

“I think it’s outrageous that the sheriff isn’t here to answer questions about what’s going on in the jails,” said Commissioner Priscilla Ocen, who suggested that inmates are being housed in conditions that increase their vulnerability to contracting the virus.

The unanimous vote came after the Sheriff’s Department declined the panel’s request that Villanueva or a senior official attend Thursday’s meeting to discuss his proposal to close two patrol stations and cut other services to reduce the department’s budget deficit. Neither he nor a representative showed up.
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California to reopen 25 DMV field offices on Friday

SACRAMENTO — Six weeks after closing field offices to the public because of the coronavirus, the California Department of Motor Vehicles will reopen 25 locations to people with appointments on Friday, including offices in Los Angeles, Inglewood, Glendale and Santa Ana.

The agency, which closed all 170 field offices to the public on March 27, will open others in the coming weeks in phases and will require customers to wear face coverings and remain six feet apart in line, officials announced Thursday.

The DMV will also limit the number of people allowed inside the buildings at any given time and will send text messages to people waiting outside to let them know when they can enter and be served. As a result, the DMV is warning of extended wait times.



U.N. nearly triples its coronavirus fundraising goal to $6.7 billion

The United Nations on Thursday made an urgent appeal for nearly $7 billion to battle the coronavirus in vulnerable countries where COVID-19 is only starting to spread.

The appeal, nearly triple the amount it requested just two months ago, comes as President Trump plans to freeze aid to the U.N.’s principal health agency, the World Health Organization, and recently declined to participate in a major conference of world powers to pledge money for vaccine development.

Mark Lowcock, the U.N. undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs, says if the appeal is successful, “millions or tens of millions” of lives could be saved. But he warned the greater threat in numerous countries is famine, forced migration, violence and waves of nationalism that have turned governments inward.

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Hand sanitizer company is ordered to stop distribution over questionable claims

The Department of Justice earlier this week ordered an Orange County-based company to stop distributing its hand-sanitizer products until it received U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval or removed certain claims from its labeling that its products could protect against norovirus, rhinovirus, rotavirus, flu and Ebola.

As of Thursday morning, the product’s website was processing orders.

U.S. District Judge David O. Carter of the Central District of California instructed Innovative BioDefense Inc. of Lake Forest, Calif., on Monday to stop distributing its Zylast products until stipulations were met.

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Even if you want to buy a home, it’s harder now to get a loan — or to tap home equity

While the number of home sales entering escrow has plunged amid the coronavirus pandemic, some people are still touring homes virtually and willing — at a time of enormous uncertainty — to make the biggest financial investment of their lives.

What they are finding, however, is lenders aren’t always willing to go along.

Mortgage credit is tightening. Some lenders are increasing FICO score and down-payment requirements. One type of low-documentation loan has all but dried up. So-called jumbo mortgages, which in Los Angeles and Orange counties are those for greater than $765,600, have also grown rarer.

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Drive-through celebrations and car parades nixed in Santa Clara County

Santa Clara County residents who thought they could shift their in-person celebrations to the car had a rude awakening this week when officials explicitly prohibited any vehicle gatherings. That includes the likes of car parades, caravans and drive-through graduations.

County health officials extended the area’s shelter-in-place orders through May 31 alongside a handful of other Bay Area communities. Though some restrictions have been lifted on businesses, officials added explicit prohibitions and clarifications around activities that have previously taken place as the coronavirus has pushed people indoors.

Officials addressed the new rules in a Frequently Asked Questions page on the county’s website.


House Democrats move to pass the next bill without GOP support

WASHINGTON —As they work on the next bill to respond to the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, House Democrats are eschewing negotiations with Republicans or the White House, and hope to vote on their own measure as soon as next week.

It marks a change of course for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), who with Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin successfully negotiated two of the last three major bills to respond to the pandemic.

Democrats are putting together a bill focused on new spending for localities, individuals and testing — knowing that they will eventually have to negotiate with Republicans to get legislation through the Senate.


Coronavirus torpedoes 50th L.A. Pride parade; online celebration planned

The 50th-anniversary L.A. Pride celebration, one of the state’s largest gay and lesbian rights festivals, has been postponed amid the COVID-19 pandemic.emic.

The event, held annually in West Hollywood, is shifting this year to an online celebration, according to nonprofit organizer Christopher Street West. Information about the digital events will be announced later.

“Our community has always adapted, changed and become more resilient in the face of uncertain times,” Estevan Montemayor, president of the CSW’s board of directors, said in a statement. “Although we cannot celebrate Pride with a festival or parade, CSW will make sure that the spirit of Pride is not forgotten. We are in this together, and we are here for you as we continue to navigate through this situation.”


Death risk nearly twice as high for black Britons than whites, data shows

LONDON —Almost all ethnic minorities in Britain are at greater risk of dying with the coronavirus, and blacks are nearly twice as likely to die than whites, according to an analysis by the national statistics agency.

The Office of National Statistics looked at the virus-related deaths in England and Wales from March 2 to April 10. Since ethnicity and race are not recorded on death certificates, researchers linked the mortality information to 2011 census data.

The analysis found that along with black Britons, people of Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Indian and mixed ethnicity have a significantly heightened risk of COVID-19-related death compared with those who identified themselves as white.

After adjusting for factors such as age, socioeconomic background, health and disability, the study showed that black people were 1.9 times more likely to die with the coronavirus than whites in Britain, while Bangladeshi and Pakistani men were 1.8 times more likely to die than white males.


Coronavirus detected in semen; jury’s out on whether virus can be sexually transmitted

The virus that causes COVID-19 can be found in semen, according to a small study from researchers in China.

The study, published Thursday in the journal JAMA Network Open, doesn’t address whether this means the coronavirus can be sexually transmitted.

Doctors detected the virus in semen from six of 38 men who had been hospitalized with laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19. Four were at the height of their infections when the samples were collected, and two had already “achieved clinical recovery,” according to the report by a team from Shangqiu Municipal Hospital in China.

The samples were collected in January and February. The researchers didn’t follow up with the men, so it’s not known how long the virus remained in their semen, or whether they could have spread it to their partners during sex.


Newsom unveils rules governing how quickly California communities can reopen businesses

SACRAMENTO —Gov. Gavin Newsom announced new coronavirus safeguards and protocols for retail stores and workplaces eligible to reopen Friday and in the weeks ahead, marking the beginning of California’s gradual easing of the stay-at-home order and attempt to rekindle a state economy ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under the plan, in-restaurant dining, car washes and some office buildings could also be allowed to reopen in the weeks ahead if public health officials in a county are able to demonstrate that the spread of coronavirus has stabilized there. County officials must prove to the state that they have adequate testing and hospital capacity and the ability to isolate people with the virus, and trace who they have contacted.

Newsom said earlier this week that bookstores, music stores, toy stores, florists, sporting goods retailers, clothing stores and others can reopen for curbside pickup as early as Friday, unless barred by tougher local restrictions. Manufacturers and suppliers that provide goods for those businesses also will be allowed to resume operating.


Madrid health chief quits day after vote to accelerate the end of lockdown

MADRID — The health chief for the Madrid region of Spain has quit a day after the region’s Cabinet voted unanimously to try to accelerate the end of its coronavirus lockdown.

Yolanda Fuentes, a doctor, tendered her resignation Thursday, private Spanish news agency Europa Press and other national media reported.

The Madrid region has Spain’s highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases, with 63,870 out of more than 221,000 nationally.

Spain is slowly rolling back its restrictions on movement, but Madrid’s move to ask the central government to be included in the next phase of the rollback surprised many.

The spread of the coronavirus in the Madrid area has slowed considerably, with an increase of just 86 cases from Wednesday.

The central government has said a decision will be made in coming days.


Trump-touted treatment fails in study

A malaria drug that was touted by President Trump and widely used as a potential treatment for patients with COVID-19 failed to help those with infections stay off ventilators or live longer, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Researchers at New York-Presbyterian Hospital and Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City evaluated 1,376 consecutive patients who showed up at the emergency room with symptoms of coronavirus, comparing the fate of those who received the medication, hydroxychloroquine, to those who didn’t. Nearly 60% of the patients were given the drug, typically within 48 hours, and they were more sick on average.

There were no significant differences between the groups in the number of patients who needed to be put on a ventilator or who died, even after taking into account the differences between them, the researchers said. Additional study, including more scientifically rigorous trials that randomly assign patients to treatment groups, is needed to confirm the findings, they said.

The results shouldn’t be used to rule out either a potential benefit or harm from the drug, though they don’t support use of the medication outside of clinical trials, the researchers said. The medical center updated its clinical guidance to remove the suggestion that patients with COVID-19 should receive it.


Amtrak passengers will be required to wear masks

Amtrak passengers will need to wear face coverings at stations and in coaches starting Monday as part of the railroad’s program to combat the outbreak and protect its employees. The coverings can be removed when passengers eat in designated areas, in private rooms, or while seated alone or with a travel companion in their own pair of seats, Amtrak said. Small children who are unable to maintain a facial covering are exempt.


British await ‘very limited’ easing of restrictions

LONDON — Britain’s foreign secretary is stressing that any changes to social distancing and lockdown measures will be “modest and incremental” to avoid a second peak, as the country’s total death toll reaches 30,615.

Asked about changes to lockdown rules expected to be announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday, Dominic Raab said, “It’s a very dangerous moment. We need to proceed with caution.”


Trump administration buries detailed CDC advice on reopening

The Trump administration shelved a document created by the nation’s top disease investigators with step-by-step advice to local authorities on how and when to reopen restaurants and other public places during the still-raging coronavirus outbreak.

The 17-page report by a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention team, titled “Guidance for Implementing the Opening Up America Again Framework,” was researched and written to help faith leaders, business owners, educators and state and local officials as they began to reopen.

It was supposed to be published last Friday, but agency scientists were told the guidance “would never see the light of day,” according to a CDC official. The official was not authorized to talk to reporters and spoke to the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.

The AP obtained a copy from a second federal official who was not authorized to release it. The guidance was described in AP stories last week, prior to the White House decision to shelve it.

The Trump administration has been closely controlling the release of guidance and information during the pandemic spurred by a new coronavirus that scientists are still trying to understand, with the president himself leading freewheeling daily briefings until last week.


California nears 2,500 deaths on eve of state reopening

As California readies to reopen some businesses Friday, the state’s coronavirus-linked death toll continues to creep higher and likely will surpass 2,500 before the day is done.

The dichotomy is at the heart of the delicate dance that Gov. Gavin Newsom and other elected and health officials must perform as they seek to restart certain sectors of the state’s battered economy while avoiding a potential second wave in the number of coronavirus infections.

Newsom announced earlier this week that the state would ease some of its strict stay-at-home rules, allowing bookstores, music stores, toy stores, florists, sporting goods retailers, clothing stores and others to reopen for curbside pickup Friday.

Factories that supply those businesses are also allowed to resume operating.



California reopening begins Friday: Here is what it will look like

California will begin the first steps in easing stay-at-home orders Friday.

The latest changes in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s four-stage plan to gradually reopen the state expand decision-making at the local level, allowing some communities to move further ahead into the second phase of the reopening process at their own pace and open more businesses beyond those outlined in the statewide policy.

The changes will affect a small set of businesses at first and are unlikely to jump-start the coronavirus-battered economy in a significant way.

But officials say it’s a start.



White House employee tests positive; Trump and Pence test negative

President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were tested for COVID-19 and found to be negative after a member of the U.S. military who worked on the White House campus contracted the virus.

The president and vice president “remain in great health,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said in a statement on Thursday.

The White House declined to identify the service member. CNN reported that the person was a member of the U.S. Navy who served as a valet in the White House residence, suggesting possible close contact with the president or his family. Service members detailed to the White House provide a range of household functions, including food service, hospitality and medical support.

This is the second person working on the White House grounds who the administration has said tested positive for the coronavirus. A member of Pence’s staff contracted the disease in March and fully recovered.



Society must prepare for the mental health impacts of coronavirus on kids

Four-year-olds have playdates through closed windows, sliding their toy cars in unison on either side of the glass. A high school student worries about his mother going to work in a food-packing warehouse, at risk for contracting COVID-19. Another teen says “there is nothing to look forward to,” as he tries to avoid sliding into depression. Worried parents are calling school district hotlines seeking help for their troubled children.

Experts say when kids return to campuses, the demand for mental-health care will be greater than the available services, as the impact of the coronavirus disruption has cut across societal strata, affecting children throughout California. Yet schools, the safe havens that provide the only access many children have to mental-health care, are ill-prepared to support the magnitude of expected need.

“We’re only going through the first wave of the disaster,” said Dr. Curley Bonds, chief medical officer for the L.A. County Department of Mental Health. “This is the equivalent of people waiting on rooftops to be saved after Hurricane Katrina.”



Coronavirus triggers California’s worst budget deficit in state history

SACRAMENTO — California’s government faces a $54.3-billion budget deficit through next summer according to an analysis released Thursday by advisors to Gov. Gavin Newsom, the deepest projected fiscal hole in state history.

The estimate accounts for both an alarming erosion of tax revenues and a growing need for health and human services programs. While it measures the gap between revenues and expenditures based on projections made by Newsom in January rather than existing funds, the assessment nonetheless reflects a record-shattering collapse of the state’s economy, one created in just a matter of weeks by the fast-moving COVID-19 pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused enormous hardship for families, businesses and governments across the world, the United States and California,” states the analysis released by the California Department of Finance. “It has endangered health, stressed the healthcare system, and caused devastating losses in family and business income.”



Aloha, you’re under arrest: Hawaii goes after rogue tourists

A couple sits on an empty section of Waikiki Beach in Honolulu in March.
(Caleb Jones / Associated Press)

HONOLULU — Hawaii authorities are cracking down on rogue tourists who are visiting beaches, riding personal watercraft, shopping and generally flouting strict requirements that they self-isolate for 14 days after arriving.

A newlywed California couple left their Waikiki hotel room repeatedly, despite being warned by hotel staff, and were arrested. Others have been arrested at a hotel pool, loading groceries into a vehicle outside a Costco and bringing takeout food back to a hotel room.

The rules, the strictest of any U.S. state, have helped keep infections relatively low. As of Wednesday, Hawaii has reported 626 coronavirus cases and 17 deaths.



Neiman Marcus files for bankruptcy, flattened by debt and idled by coronavirus

Neiman Marcus Group Inc. filed for bankruptcy protection Thursday after efforts to manage its crushing debt load unraveled amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The Chapter 11 filing in Texas gives the Dallas-based luxury retailer a break on its debts by letting it stay in business while management works out a recovery plan. Any turnaround will be complicated by the fact that its stores are shut and its workers furloughed to help stop the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Neiman Marcus sent most of its workers home in April.

The retailer manages more than 40 namesake stores across the U.S., two dozen Last Call locations, two Bergdorf Goodman stores in Manhattan and a Mytheresa in Germany. The latter is a brick-and-mortar version of its fast-growing Mytheresa online merchant.



Two McDonald’s workers shot in Oklahoma over closure of dining area, police say

OKLAHOMA CITY — Two McDonald’s employees in Oklahoma City were shot and wounded by a customer who was angry that the restaurant’s dining area was closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, police said.

A female suspect was in custody after the Wednesday night shooting, but police have not yet released her name or what charges she may face.

The woman entered the lobby of a McDonald’s in Oklahoma City and was told the dining room was closed for safety reasons, police said.

The woman “became agitated and fired two to three rounds at employees,” Oklahoma City police Capt. Ronnie Beck said.



Frantic, California commits to $3.7 billion in no-bid contracts for goods, services

In a frantic effort to secure face masks and respond to the coronavirus crisis, California has committed to spend more than $3.7 billion on no-bid contracts, scores of them with businesses that have no track record with the state.

A Times data analysis found that nearly a third of those funds — about $1.2 billion — has been earmarked for suppliers of goods and services that do not appear in the state’s database of contracts prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Since Gov. Gavin Newsom’s emergency order on March 4, at least 80 were to first-time vendors, including a medical staffing firm that signed a $500-million deal and a company headed by the former attorney general of Alabama, who secured orders for more than $326 million for face masks and shields.



Just in time for Mother’s Day, L.A. flower shops reopen

Jaime Miranda creates an arrangement at Lupita's Flowers in downtown L.A.
Jaime Miranda creates an arrangement at Lupita’s Flowers in downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday.
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Hugging your mom on Mother’s Day may be out of the question, but praising her with flowers this weekend just got a bit easier.

Flower shops across Los Angeles County will reopen Friday for curbside pickup, giving florists a chance to sell on one of their biggest days of the year.

County officials announced Wednesday they would allow several retailers to open their doors, including clothing stores, bookstores, sporting good stores and car dealerships.

For flower shops, Mother’s Day weekend is a pivotal event that provides some shops with half their annual earnings. It’s also the start of a busy season that then pivots to spring weddings and summer events, said Kate Penn, chief executive of the Society of American Florists.



2 counties defied Newsom and reopened. Now California warns restaurants could lose licenses if opened too early

Earlier this week, Yuba and Sutter counties in Northern California defied Gov. Gavin Newsom and issued local orders to allow some businesses to reopen with strict regulations aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

But now, California officials are warning that reopened businesses risk losing their license to operate if they continue to violate the state’s stay-at-home order.

The California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control visited multiple locations in Yuba and Sutter counties this week and warned restaurants that they could lose their state license to serve alcohol if they don’t close down their dining rooms.

The counties have a combined population of 171,000, with nearly half of them living in the twin cities of Marysville and Yuba City, which sit on either side of the Feather River and are about 40 miles north of Sacramento, the state capital.



The coronavirus hit to L.A. tourism: 22 million visitors and $13 billion in spending

Once one of the world’s most popular tourism destinations, Los Angeles is expected to draw about 22 million fewer visitors this year and lose more than $13 billion in tourist spending because of the coronavirus outbreak.

A forecast commissioned by the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board estimates that Los Angeles County will draw about 29 million tourists this year, down from a pre-outbreak forecast of about 51 million.

Instead of $25 billion in spending on hotels, meals, tour buses and souvenirs, tourists will spend less than $12 billion, the report said.

Tourism board Chairman Ernest Wooden Jr. called the numbers “pretty devastating” and predicted that a full recovery for the county could take as long as three and a half years.


3.2 million more people filed jobless claims in the U.S. last week

WASHINGTON — Nearly 3.2 million laid-off workers applied for unemployment benefits last week as the business shutdowns caused by the viral outbreak deepened the worst U.S. economic catastrophe in decades.

Roughly 33.5 million people have now filed for jobless aid in the seven weeks since the coronavirus began forcing millions of companies to close their doors and slash their workforces. That is the equivalent of one in five Americans who had been employed back in February, when the unemployment rate had reached a 50-year low of just 3.5%.

On Friday, the government will issue the April jobs report, and it’s likely to be the worst since modern record-keeping began after World War II. The unemployment rate is forecast to reach at least 16%, the highest rate since the Great Depression, and economists estimate that 21 million jobs were lost last month. If so, it would mean that nearly all the job growth in the 11 years since the Great Recession ended has vanished in a single month.

Even those stunning figures won’t fully capture the magnitude of the damage the coronavirus has inflicted on the job market. Many people who are still employed have had their hours reduced. Others have suffered pay cuts. Some who lost jobs in April and didn’t look for a new one in light of their bleak prospects won’t even be counted as unemployed. A broader measure — the proportion of adults with jobs — could hit a record low.

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Pompeo rebuffs plea from Germany to keep funding World Health Organization

BERLIN — U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has rebuffed a plea from Germany to reconsider halting funding for the World Health Organization over its handling of the coronavirus outbreak.

The German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported Thursday that Pompeo responded to a letter from his German counterpart, Heiko Maas, by insisting that the U.S. was “deeply committed to working with the international community to fight the coronavirus pandemic” despite the funding freeze.

Pompeo noted that the U.S. had been the largest single contributor to WHO over the years despite what he described as “a string of mismanaged pandemic responses” by the Geneva-based agency, which he accused of “public kowtowing to the Chinese Communist Party regime.”

Pompeo added that the U.S. had a “particular interest” in WHO’s “performance, transparency, and accountability,” stating that “we need functional, reliable global institutions, not dysfunctional, inept bureaucracies.”

Germany’s Foreign Ministry confirmed an exchange of letters between Maas and Pompeo but declined to elaborate. The U.S. Embassy in Berlin said it would not comment on diplomatic communications.


Column: Pain, fear and isolation. COVID-19 made his hospital stay even more surreal and sad

The pain, like a knife, had been stabbing his insides for three days when my son-in-law finally called the nurse hotline for advice. By then he could barely move from the bed and couldn’t even keep water down.

The nurse directed him to head to the emergency room right away. And that unleashed a tag team of worries in his mind: Something very wrong was going on inside his body. But might something worse contaminate him in a medical setting swamped by COVID-19?

“I didn’t want to get caught up in the mayhem of a hospital,” recalls TJ, my son-in-law. “I knew everything was different; I didn’t know what to expect.”

For weeks, health officials had been warning the public that, unless absolutely necessary, emergency rooms should be avoided; they might be overrun with contagious coronavirus cases.

But staying home had undoubtedly escalated the seriousness of TJ’s condition, complicating its prognosis. His stomachache signaled an abscess near his appendix; the delay in treatment allowed the infection to spread.

My son-in-law is now a part of what some doctors consider an under-the-radar epidemic of patients who delay seeking care for what turn out to be dangerous medical issues.



‘Don’t go visit your mom’ on Mother’s Day, San Francisco health director advises

Sorry, Mom.

The director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health told residents Wednesday not to visit their mothers on Mother’s Day, even if wearing masks and keeping six feet apart.

Unless residents live in the same households with their mothers, “the greatest gift we can give to our mothers this Mother’s Day is to stay away,” said Dr. Grant Colfax, who formerly worked in the Obama White House on HIV prevention. “Don’t go visit your mom in person this year.”

Colfax’s advice, shared by other public health experts, further muddles the picture of what Mother’s Day will look like Sunday in the Bay Area and beyond. Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday that he might allow certain businesses, including flower shops, to reopen as early as Friday.

In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti on Tuesday said he would allow wholesale florists to open as a horticultural exemption for Mother’s Day.



Federal investigations curtailed amid coronavirus

WASHINGTON — Federal prosecutors and agents have delayed executing some search warrants, interviewing witnesses and serving subpoenas in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing restrictions.

The result, Justice Department officials said, has been a massive drop in the number of people charged with federal crimes, like wire fraud and tax evasion. Indictments dropped about 75% last month. In March, they were down about 25%.

“We have had to be very careful about cases we are going to proceed on,” said Justin Herdman, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, who is part of Atty. Gen. William Barr’s leadership team focusing on responding to the coronavirus.

Justice Department officials declined to provide the number of indictments, saying the statistics were preliminary. But based on previous years, the decrease would represent at least several thousand fewer defendants being charged with crimes, a sign the pandemic has altered the way the government performs one of its most essential functions.



L.A. County, Bay Area take conservative approach as California eases stay-at-home rules

With parts of the California economy poised to reopen Friday, it’s becoming increasingly clear that major metropolitan areas are going to be taking it slow over concerns that the coronavirus remains a significant public health threat.

L.A. County officials Wednesday laid out modest first steps toward easing stay-at-home orders, which have been credited with slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus. The county remains the primary hotbed of the outbreak in California, with more than 1,300 deaths and 28,000 confirmed cases, including about 800 new ones reported Wednesday alone.

Under the county plan, florists, car dealers and other types of bricks-and-mortar stores — including those that sell toys, music, books, clothing and sporting goods — will be allowed to open for curbside pickup only starting Friday. In-store shopping will not be permitted.

“This list is less about what products are sold and more about the ability to maintain social distancing,” county Supervisor Kathryn Barger said.



Britain criticizes a shipment of protective gear from Turkey as substandard

LONDON — The British government says a shipment of personal protective equipment from Turkey intended to help ease supply problems is sitting in a warehouse because it does not meet U.K. standards.

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said the 400,000 medical gowns were not “of the quality that we feel is good enough for our front-line staff” treating coronavirus patients.

The shipment has become an embarrassment for the British government since a minister announced on April 18 that it would arrive the next day. It was four days before a Royal Air Force plane was able to fly the cargo to the U.K.

Like many other countries, Britain has struggled to maintain a supply of protective equipment amid unprecedented global demand.


Tame elephants in Thailand at risk as owners can’t afford to feed them

A herd of 11 elephants makes a 93-mile journey from Mae Wang to Ban Huay in Thailand.
A herd of 11 elephants makes a 93-mile journey from Mae Wang to Ban Huay in northern Thailand. World Animal Protection says as many as 2,000 tame elephants are at risk of starvation because their owners are unable to feed them.
(Save Elephant Foundation)

The millions thrown out of work in Thailand by the coronavirus include elephants dependent on tourists to feed their voracious appetites. With scant numbers of foreign visitors, commercial elephant camps and sanctuaries lack funds for the animals’ upkeep and have sent more than 100 of them trudging as many as 100 miles back to their homes.

The Save Elephant Foundation in the northern Thai province of Chiang Mai has been promoting the beasts’ return to the greener pastures of home. The foundation supports fundraising appeals to feed animals still housed at tourist parks but also believes it is good for the elephants to return to their natural habitat, where they can be more self-sufficient.

The situation is critical. London-based World Animal Protection says that as many as 2,000 tame elephants are at risk of starvation because their owners are unable to feed them.

Since last month, more than 100 of the animals have marched from all over Chiang Mai to their homeland of Mae Chaem, which is dotted with villages where members of the Karen ethnic minority live and traditionally keep elephants.



Russia reports new daily record of more than 11,000 coronavirus cases

MOSCOW — Russian health officials reported more than 11,000 new coronavirus cases on Thursday — a new daily record for cases that brought the country’s total to more than 177,000 confirmed cases.

Russia’s official caseload has now surpassed those of Germany and France, becoming the fifth-largest in the world. The actual number of cases is likely much higher as not everybody is being tested, and many people infected with the virus don’t show symptoms.

Last week, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin suggested on his blog that as many as 2% of Moscow’s 12.7 million population — more than 200,000 people — could be infected with the coronavirus. Moscow has currently registered about 93,000 confirmed cases.

The pandemic spurred President Vladimir Putin to postpone his country’s annual celebration marking Friday’s anniversary of the Allied victory in Europe in World War II, one of Russia’s most important civic celebrations.


‘Give us voice’: Women protest Italy’s male-dominated coronavirus response

ROME — Every evening, when health experts updated anxious Italians in televised briefings about their nation’s devastating coronavirus outbreak, the lineup of authoritative figures included only one woman: the sign-language interpreter.

And not a single woman was among the 20-member commission appointed to advise the government on how and when Italy could safely reopen its factories, stores, schools and parks.

The omissions are all the more glaring because more than half the country’s doctors and three-quarters of its nurses are women, many on the front lines of the pandemic. Not to mention that the three researchers who isolated the coronavirus in the first days of Italy’s outbreak were women.

Indignation over the gender inequality has now exploded into the open, with some 70 female researchers and scientists signing a petition demanding that the government include women in virus decision-making bodies as a matter of “democracy and civilization.”



Africa reports 50,000 virus cases and 2,000 deaths

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Africa has surpassed 50,000, and deaths have surpassed 2,000. That’s according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Africa now has 51,698 cases, but the widespread shortage of testing materials means the actual number is unknown.

South Africa has the most virus cases, with more than 7,800, but has been testing assertively; over 10,000 tests are being carried out per day.

All but one of Africa’s 54 countries, tiny Lesotho, have confirmed cases.


Skelton: Newsom must hear from the people, not just experts

Lots of people have specific roles in life. In our American democracy, no single sector can rule absolutely — not even public health officials in a pandemic.

Public health professionals have one compelling goal right now: Vanquish the coronavirus. And do whatever it takes to achieve that end.

We’re fortunate they’re here and so dedicated. They should be the most influential advisors listened to by all elected chief executives — the president, governors and mayors. And by all indications they are, except it seems for President Trump.

But regardless of their wisdom about virus contagion, health experts cannot be given a free hand in dictating public policy. They have only one professional agenda. People collectively have many.



U.N. increases amount of appeal to fight coronavirus to $6.7 billion

The United Nations is increasing its appeal to fight the COVID-19 pandemic in fragile and vulnerable countries from $2 billion to $6.7 billion.

U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock reiterated that the peak of the pandemic was not expected to hit the world’s poorest countries for three to six months. But he said there was already evidence of incomes plummeting and jobs disappearing, food supplies falling and prices soaring, and children missing vaccinations and meals.

Since the original appeal on March 25, the U.N. said $1 billion had been raised to support efforts across 37 fragile countries to tackle COVID-19.

The updated appeal launched Thursday included nine additional vulnerable countries: Benin, Djibouti, Liberia, Mozambique, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sierra Leone, Togo and Zimbabwe.

Lowcock said, “In the poorest countries, we can already see economies contracting as export earnings, remittances and tourism disappear.

“Unless we take action now, we should be prepared for a significant rise in conflict, hunger and poverty,” he warned. “The specter of multiple famines looms.”


Trump administration shelves CDC guide to reopening the country

A set of detailed documents created by the nation’s top disease investigators meant to give step-by-step advice to local leaders deciding when and how to reopen public places such as mass transit, day-care centers and restaurants during the still-raging pandemic has been shelved by the Trump administration.

The 17-page report by a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention team, titled “Guidance for Implementing the Opening Up America Again Framework,” was researched and written to help faith leaders, business owners, educators and state and local officials as they began to reopen.

It was supposed to be published last Friday, but agency scientists were told the guidance “would never see the light of day,” according to a CDC official. The official was not authorized to talk to reporters and spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

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Gov. Gavin Newsom reverses course, releases controversial coronavirus mask contract

Two days after refusing to divulge details of a secretive deal to purchase protective masks from a Chinese electric-car maker, Gov. Gavin Newsom‘s administration abruptly reversed course on Wednesday — disclosing a 42-page document that only hours earlier was changed, requiring the company to reimburse the state $247.5 million by the end of the week.

The repayment by BYD, through its U.S. subsidiary headquartered in Los Angeles, was attributed to a one-month delay in certification of the company’s N95 masks. Those masks may not be approved for effectiveness by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health until the end of May.

Newsom downplayed the setback during a coronavirus briefing earlier Wednesday, calling it a “little bit” of a delay and suggesting it was because the masks were a “new” product for the company to manufacture.

“All these things work out themselves,” he said.



New law allows tenants to sue landlords over violating L.A. restrictions on evictions

Tenants will soon have the right to sue landlords who violate restrictions that Los Angeles has placed on evicting renters during the coronavirus crisis, under a law passed Wednesday by the City Council.

Renters could potentially win penalties of up to $10,000 per violation — or $15,000 per violation if the tenant is disabled or a senior. The effort was about “giving the tenants a big stick,” Councilman Bob Blumenfield said.

After the vote, Council President Nury Martinez said in a statement that although good landlords were working to help tenants stay in their units, “I want the bad operators to know, today, the city of Los Angeles is putting you on notice.”

Landlords are currently barred from evicting tenants who have been affected by the coronavirus, although the council has held off on imposing a blanket ban on evictions sought by tenant activists.



He fought to protect sex workers from COVID-19 and much more. Then the virus came for him

Members of the Street Brigade, a group that advocates for sex workers, dance Tuesday in front of a memorial for co-founder Jaime Montejo, inset, who died of COVID-19.
(Kate Linthicum / Los Angeles Times)

On a cloudy afternoon this week, a few dozen sex workers gathered outside a subway station in downtown Mexico City to remember their longtime leader.

Wearing surgical masks to protect against the coronavirus, the women prayed and sang and lighted candles around a photo of Jaime Montejo, who had devoted his life to giving these women a measure of dignity.

“He fought for us,” said Carla Enriquez Perez, who cried as she handed a white rose to each new arrival. “He fought for us until the very end.”

Just a few weeks ago, Montejo was here helping workers who had seen the sex trade dry up almost overnight because of the pandemic.



In memo to teams, NFL commissioner outlines protocols for safe reopening of facilities

In a memo to all 32 NFL clubs, commissioner Roger Goodell on Wednesday outlined the protocols for the safe reopening of team facilities.

“The past few months have been among the most uncertain times that any of us has experienced,” Goodell wrote in the memo, obtained by the Los Angeles Times. “It is impossible to project what the next few months will bring. Uninformed commentary that speculates on how individual clubs or the league will address a range of hypothetical contingencies serves no constructive purpose … and instead distracts from the careful planning that is needed right now.”

Goodell added, “An important step in the process of planning for the 2020 season involves the reopening of club facilities,” which were closed last month in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.



San Diego detainee is first in ICE custody to die of COVID-19

Hospitalized and on a ventilator for a little over a week, a detainee from Otay Mesa Detention Center on Wednesday became the first in immigration custody nationwide to die of COVID-19.

Carlos Ernesto Escobar Mejia died around 2:15 a.m., according to his sister, Maribel Escobar. Her brother would have been 58 this month, Escobar said.

She remembered her brother as kind and helpful, in particular doing everything he could to support their sister Rosa, with whom he lived in the Los Angeles area.

“My brother was a one-of-a-kind person,” Maribel Escobar said.



Bay Area, citing rising coronavirus cases, will maintain stay-at-home order even as Newsom eases rules

The Bay Area’s stay-at-home orders will continue to be enforced even as Gov. Gavin Newsom prepares to announce potentially more relaxed statewide guidelines, San Francisco city officials said Wednesday.

During a news conference, Mayor London Breed said the city had been working to learn the exact details of Newsom’s new guidelines, but she stressed that that Bay Area health officers could continue to order tighter restrictions.

The reason has “everything to do” with the numbers of cases and deaths in the Bay Area, she said.

“The numbers are still going up,” she said. “The number of deaths are still going up, and we have not lowered the curve, and we have to be mindful of that.”



‘We’re vulnerable.’ On the Navajo Nation, a rush to curb the coronavirus

A Navajo woman walks with her sheep near Two Grey Hills, N.M., in 2018.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Road closures, mask mandates and weekend curfews have not stopped a troubling upward trajectory of coronavirus-related deaths on the Navajo Nation, a high-desert landscape with underfunded hospitals and overburdened doctors stretching across three states.

As more states begin to ease stay-at-home orders, a desperate attempt to halt coronavirus cases is underway on the country’s largest reservation, which spans Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. But such efforts have proved difficult because of the remoteness of the reservation and the lack of electricity and running water in some homes.

“We’re getting the message out through radio … from word of mouth, door-to-door. There shouldn’t be anyone who says they don’t know what’s going on with COVID-19,” Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said during a virtual town hall this week. “It’s up us to translate to our grandma and grandpa; it’s our obligation to keep our citizens safe.”