Coronavirus updates: California becomes first state to recommend tests for some without symptoms
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Garcetti pushes law protecting displaced workers from being replaced by cheaper labor
L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said Tuesday evening that he intends to sign a worker retention ordinance that could protect people who have been laid off or furloughed by requiring companies to rehire them based on seniority.
“Those folks with decades of experience and seniority, who support families and communities, can’t be the victims when we get back to work,” Garcetti said. “For so many thousands of displaced workers in these industries, this could mean at least a little bit of certainty at this moment of so much insecurity and a whole lot of fairness as we navigate this crisis.”
He said the City Council is taking up the ordinance Wednesday.
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Op-Ed: We all need to shake off the pandemic, literally
Eight years ago, when my boyfriend and I started dancing in our living room after dinner, little did we think our somewhat eccentric pastime would sweep the nation. But if social media are any gauge , dancing at home is the coronavirus pandemic’s bathtub gin.
Confined to the all-too-familiar patch of steel and plaster we call home, Americans are sashaying and kick-ball changing our sadness and fear away. Families are erupting into tiny pageants of jazz hands. A dance challenge started by the video-sharing app TikTok, meant to promote social distancing, has drawn more than 4.6 billion views. Videos from LeBron James, Mark Wahlberg and Judd Apatow suggest that now may be the best time ever to see heterosexual men tangle with precision choreography.
But beneath the roar of approval and delight elicited by all this shimmying and twirling, you can hear a whine of disapproval. When Courtney Cox, the “Friends” star, put up a sultry video of herself dancing to “Slidegang!” by Lil Jackie, the backlash was immediate: “You know thousands of people just lost their jobs right?” Or, as one viewer of a wildly popular video featuring a father in Louisville, Ky., dancing with his two adult sons sniffed, “Really?????”
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Oil tankers are parked off the California coast with nowhere to unload
Oil tankers carrying enough crude to satisfy 20% of the world’s consumption are gathered off California’s coast with nowhere to go as fuel demand collapses.
Almost three dozen ships — scattered in waters from Long Beach to the San Francisco Bay — are mostly acting as floating storage for oil that’s going unused as the coronavirus pandemic shutters businesses and takes drivers off the road. Marathon Petroleum Corp.’s refinery in Martinez, Calif., has been idled and others, including Chevron Corp.’s El Segundo refinery, have curtailed crude processing as the state orders residents to stay at home.
The more than 20 million barrels of crude is the highest volume of crude to ever float off the West Coast at one time, according to Paris-based Kpler SAS, which tracks tanker traffic. About three-quarters of those tankers are holding oil in storage, meaning they have been floating steadily for seven days, also a record.
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Hockey star Hayley Wickenheiser earns her biggest assist during COVID-19 pandemic
The hands that once gripped a hockey stick so skillfully have a new and heroic purpose. Every time Hayley Wickenheiser collects cartons of masks, surgical gowns, face shields or hand sanitizer and brings them to front-line medical personnel battling the COVID-19 pandemic, she earns an assist more momentous than any point she scored during a brilliant career that took her from rural Saskatchewan to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Wickenheiser, widely considered the best female player in hockey history, won four Olympic gold medals and one silver medal during a dominant run that spanned 23 years and included a rare Winter-Summer Olympic double after she made Canada’s softball roster for the 2000 Sydney Games. She retired in 2017 to pursue her dream of becoming an emergency room doctor and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2019, her first year of eligibility.
When the pandemic hit, Wickenheiser was working in the emergency rooms of several hospitals in Toronto as part of her final year of medical school. The doctors training her were reassigned to treat COVID-19 patients; she wasn’t allowed to directly treat those patients but felt she couldn’t sit idle while colleagues in the trenches were running low on personal protective equipment.
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California sets guidelines on which patients are prioritized if hospitals overwhelmed
SACRAMENTO — California has made progress in protecting the healthcare system from a dramatic spike of sick patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.
But state public health officials are still planning for a “worst-case scenario,” quietly publishing a sobering set of detailed guidelines to answer the troubling ethical question of who lives and who dies should California face a new surge in the coronavirus outbreak, resulting in a shortage of ventilators and medical supplies.
A 38-page document by the California Department of Public Health, published last weekend, prescribes a method to prioritize patients in the event that an outbreak overwhelms hospitals, preserving intensive care beds and ventilators for people with the greatest likelihood of surviving with treatment over those with serious chronic conditions that limit their life expectancy. If necessary, younger people and workers who are “vital to the acute care response” would receive care before others.
Newsom suggests he won’t allow communities to lift stay-at-home orders for now
SACRAMENTO — Gov. Gavin Newsom suggested on Tuesday that he would not allow local officials to take any action that would loosen the statewide restrictions that he put in place more than a month ago.
“I imagine there’ll be some examples of people just getting ahead of that collaborative spirit,” he said. “And we may have to dial a little bit of that back.”
The governor said his advisors were seeking to better organize the various conversations with county and city leaders over relaxing the restrictions. He said he’d provide an update Wednesday on how current conditions in California compared to the requirements in his six-point blueprint.
In particular, Newsom promised an in-depth look at the challenges related to testing for the coronavirus and tracing potential cases of COVID-19 in communities across the state. He said the state was now averaging about 14,500 tests a day, fewer than his target of 25,000 a day by the end of April.
Column: Trump tariffs raise cost of masks, other medical supplies
Matt Rowan had a harsh warning for Trump administration trade officials.
Rowan, the CEO of the Health Industry Distributors Assn., which represents middlemen in the global trade of medical masks, gowns, ventilators and other supplies and equipment, warned that Trump’s trade war with China would erode America’s ability to acquire those crucial products.
“With infection protection as a key initiative throughout healthcare, usage of these products should be encouraged, not inhibited by tariff-associated cost increases or disruptions,” Rowan said. He forecast “product shortage” and limits on “the ability of all levels of government...to adequately support response efforts during emergency events.
That was on Aug. 20, 2018, just before the administration was preparing to launch a trade war with tariffs of up to 25% on products from China, including healthcare supplies.
Rowan’s example of a public health emergency was not today’s coronavirus, which was unknown at the time, but the Ebola virus, which was then experiencing a resurgence in Africa.
The China tariffs were imposed anyway. The Trump White House didn’t lift them on desperately needed healthcare supplies until last month. But it has left in place previously imposed tariffs on many of these products, regardless of their nation of origin.
To this day, the highest-quality and most sought-after N95 masks still carry a 7% tariff. The levies on other medical headwear are as much as 8.3% and on medical gowns and other protective clothing 4.5%.
Mayors resist Southern governors’ push to reopen
As several Southern governors began to reopen their states, shuttered by the coronavirus outbreak, some mayors pushed back Tuesday, saying they have yet to see the decline in COVID-19 cases needed to ease stay-at-home orders.
“I am beyond disturbed,” Van R. Johnson, mayor of Savannah, Ga., said on CNN after Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp announced that gyms, salons, tattoo parlors and bowling alleys in the state could reopen Friday as long as customers obeyed social distancing guidelines.
Johnson called the governor’s order “reckless, premature and dangerous,” and asked businesses in his city to show “common sense” by staying closed.
He said Savannah still lacked the wide-scale testing that public health experts say is necessary before shops and businesses can safely reopen.
Not all tests are the same. These are the two main types
Testing is critical to controlling the coronavirus and eventually easing the restrictions that have halted daily life for most Americans. But there’s been confusion about what kinds of tests are available and what they actually measure.
There are two main types in the United States. One is a diagnostic test to see if you have an active infection with the coronavirus, whether you have symptoms of COVID-19 or not. The other checks to see if you were previously exposed at some point and fought off an infection.
Currently, almost all testing in hospitals, clinics and drive-through sites uses the first testing method, to help doctors detect and treat people with active infections.
Cases keeping rising in California, but counties differ on stay-at-home orders
Since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, California officials have differed with one another in their approach to combating the spread of the illness. As Week 5 of California’s stay-at-home orders continue, some counties have begun to shift their policies as Gov. Gavin Newsom prepares to outline more specific plans for easing restrictions when the time is right.
COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to be reported in 53 of the state’s 58 counties, with the largest numbers tallied in Los Angeles County.
L.A. County officials on Monday reported the death toll had surpassed 600 and emphasized the need for residents to maintain social distancing practices after results from a study suggested that tens of thousands of the county’s residents have been infected by the virus. Without such efforts, that number would be far higher than the nearly 14,000 cases that have been confirmed in the county of roughly 10 million people.
Angels to pay employees through May
Rather than take extreme cost-cutting measures as they wait to find out the fate of the Major League Baseball season, the Angels on Tuesday informed baseball operations employees they would continue to be paid through the end of May.
That group includes general manager Billy Eppler and his assistants, manager Joe Maddon and his MLB coaching staff and those in coaching positions in the minor leagues. Other year-round employees will be compensated with full wages, said a person with knowledge of the situation.
They all form part of the same group that Commissioner Rob Manfred told teams one day earlier they could lay off.
The coronavirus-related shutdown forced the league and team owners to seek financial relief.
San Diego to reopen neighborhood parks
SAN DIEGO — After weeks of canceled events, closed businesses, roped-off recreation areas and orders to stay inside, San Diego residents heard some encouraging news: Neighborhood parks in the city would reopen with restrictions on Tuesday.
“There is a light at the end of the tunnel,” San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said Monday afternoon in announcing that neighborhood parks would reopen in the city the following day.
“We’ve come a long way in five weeks,” he said, thanking residents for following orders and recommendations that have turned life upside down for many people but are credited with heading off a surge of patients in hospitals as COVID-19 has spread throughout the county.
Italy recoveries almost surpass new cases
Italy reported an almost equal number of people who had recovered from coronavirus infections and new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday as
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte was drawing up a plan to cautiously extricate the country from a nationwide lockdown.
There were 2,729 new cases of the disease, compared with 2,256 a day earlier, the first increase in five days, according to Italy’s civil protection agency.
The number of newly recovered patients was 2,723 over the last 24 hours, a daily record. Confirmed cases now total 183,957.
Texas cases rise 38%
Texas reported its first bump in new cases in five days, with a 38% increase to 738, according to the state’s health department. The jump came a day after testing almost doubled to more than 15,000. Total cases now stand at just under 22,000.
Deaths in the Lone Star State edged higher to 22 on Tuesday, bringing the total to 517. The Houston and Dallas metropolitan areas have accounted for more than half the fatalities so far, although that is based on incomplete figures because not every death is geographically tagged in the state’s database.
There are about 1,400 patients in Texas hospitals and more than 6,200 ventilators still available, according to the state.
Sheriff in Washington state says he won’t enforce governor’s stay-at-home order
PASCO, Wash. — The sheriff of a county in eastern Washington state is telling residents that he will not enforce Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home order or any guidelines that he believes infringe on constitutional rights.
Franklin County Sheriff J.D. Raymond sent a letter to constituents on Monday in which he said believed the coronavirus pandemic was real and needed to be “dealt with appropriately.” But Raymond, who has been sheriff for six years in the county of about 95,000 people, also said he believed adults were capable of policing themselves.
Sheriffs in Michigan and Wisconsin also have said they won’t enforce social-distancing mandates. There have been mounting calls for Inslee to ease the state’s stay-at-home order after a weekend protest drew about 2,500 to the state Capitol. Inslee’s directive runs through May 4.
Cal State Fullerton cancels in-person fall classes, will go online. Will others follow?
Cal State Fullerton is planning to begin its fall semester with online classes, one of the first universities in the nation to make that move as campuses throughout the country grapple with how long to stay closed to most students amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“Based on what we know, we are planning to go to a virtual course delivery in the fall semester,” the university said in a statement Tuesday. “But we will monitor the notices from the various health agencies so we can pivot to other modalities.”
Fullerton is the only one of 23 California State University campuses to make a decision on the fall term so far, according to systemwide spokesman Michael Uhlenkamp. The University of California’s 10 campuses are currently considering different scenarios for the fall but have not made firm decisions.
Postponing Tokyo Games could cost $6 billion. Officials wrangle over who will foot the bill
With the postponement of the Tokyo Summer Games triggering potentially massive expenses, a war of words has broken out between Olympic leaders and local organizers.
Media reports in Japan estimate that shifting the international competition to the summer of 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic could cost between $2 billion and $6 billion. There has been some uncertainty about who will pay for what.
On the International Olympic Committee’s website, on a Q&A page, a now-revised post suggested that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had agreed his country would “continue to cover the costs it would have done under the terms of the existing agreement for 2020, and the IOC will continue to be responsible for its share of the costs.”
Amoeba Music puts out desperate call for help
The founders of Amoeba Music, the beloved California record store with three locations, have launched a GoFundMe campaign to stay afloat amid the coronavirus crisis.
The donation site had amassed $63,000 as of late Tuesday morning to support the business, which was forced to shutter its locations in Hollywood, Berkeley and San Francisco due to the pandemic. The company is hoping customers and fans worldwide can chip in to the tune of $400,000.
“We have weathered many storms — 911, recessions, the Internet, downloading and streaming,” read the call for help from Amoeba co-founders Dave Prinz and Marc Weinstein. “But we don’t know that we can weather the COVID-19 storm.”
More deaths, no benefit from malaria drug, study shows
A malaria drug widely touted by President Donald Trump for treating the new coronavirus showed no benefit in a large analysis of its use in U.S. veterans hospitals. There were more deaths among those given hydroxychloroquine versus standard care, researchers reported.
The nationwide study was not a rigorous experiment. But with 368 patients, it’s the largest look so far of hydroxychloroquine with or without the antibiotic azithromycin for COVID-19, which has killed more than 171,000 people as of Tuesday.
The study was posted on an online site for researchers and has been submitted to the New England Journal of Medicine, but has not been reviewed by other scientists. Grants from the National Institutes of Health and the University of Virginia paid for the work.
Researchers analyzed medical records of 368 male veterans hospitalized with confirmed coronavirus infection at Veterans Health Administration medical centers who died or were discharged by April 11.
About 28% who were given hydroxychloroquine plus usual care died, versus 11% of those getting routine care alone. About 22% of those getting the drug plus azithromycin died too, but the difference between that group and usual care was not considered large enough to rule out other factors that could have affected survival.
Hydroxychloroquine made no difference in the need for a breathing machine, either.
Researchers did not track side effects, but noted hints that hydroxychloroquine might have damaged other organs. The drug has long been known to have potentially serious side effects, including altering the heartbeat in a way that could lead to sudden death.
COVID-19 could become leading cause of death in L.A. County
A new report says that perhaps 4% of Los Angeles County residents have been infected with the coronavirus at some point. The research offers both hopeful and sobering news for the county, which has been hit hard by the coronavirus.
It suggests social distancing has slowed the outbreak and that COVID-19 might be less fatal in L.A. County than originally believed. But it is still a killer. More than 600 have lost their lives to the coronavirus, accounting for about half the coronavirus deaths in California — even though L.A. County has only about a quarter of the state’s population.
The results come from the first large-scale study tracking the spread of the virus in the county, which is California’s most populous and has the state’s highest numbers of cases and deaths. Researchers identified a pool of 863 adults reflecting the county’s demographics for the study.
Senate reaches deal on more funding for small business loans, Schumer says
WASHINGTON — Congressional leaders and the White House reached a deal Tuesday to increase funding for a popular small business loan program that quickly ran out of money last week as businesses scrambled for a lifeline during the coronavirus pandemic, the Senate’s top Democrat said.
“We have a deal and I believe we’ll pass it today,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on CNN on Tuesday morning.
President Trump on Tuesday tweeted his support and urged both the Senate and House to pass the measure.
The Senate is in session Tuesday afternoon, and the bill could pass by voice vote as long as no senator objects. The House isn’t expected to take up the measure until Thursday, because it is not expected to pass by a voice vote there and House members need time to return to Washington.
The outbreak squeezes finances of Democratic grassroots donors
WASHINGTON —Well-to-do donors gathered in August at the sprawling Charlotte, N.C., home of Erskine Bowles, a former chief of staff to President Clinton, where they nibbled finger food, sipped wine and listened to Joe Biden.
Last week they again joined Bowles and his wife, Crandall. But this time it was for a far less intimate affair: a fundraiser held by video conference that Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, joined from the makeshift studio in the basement of his Delaware home.
The coronavirus shutdown has forced Democratic donors to forgo the opulent fundraisers that allow them to rub shoulders with powerful elected leaders and candidates.
California acknowledges more than 850 cases in assisted-living facilities
More than 850 residents and staff in assisted-living facilities in California have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to data released late Monday by the state social services agency.
Among the most severe outbreaks were at Chateau III in Contra Costa County, which has 52 residents and staff with confirmed cases, and Silverado Beverly Place in the Fairfax district of Los Angeles, with 50 residents and staff testing positive for the virus.
This marks the first time that state officials have released data on outbreaks in assisted-living facilities — a broad category of congregate living homes for mostly elderly residents. With aging and frail residents in close quarters, assisted-living homes are particularly vulnerable to the spread of the coronavirus.
Dr. Fauci explains why quarantined MLB games are likely to be part of ‘new normal’
Sports fans will have to embrace a “new normal,” which probably means not being able to attend live events at crowded stadiums, for the rest of this year, Dr. Anthony Fauci says.
Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert and a regular at President Trump’s daily coronavirus briefings, told the YES Network on Monday that sports could resume this year despite the COVID-19 pandemic but games would have to take place in venues without fans or with fans practicing social distancing.
“I cannot see a return this year to what we consider normal,” Fauci said. “There would have to be some degree of [social distancing]. It could be as stringent as only television or it could in the stadium with significant difference of space between people and even then, wearing a facial cover.”
As humanity hides, wildlife reclaims lost territory
Naturalist Gerry Hans stood in the middle of a lonely road in Griffith Park on Saturday, inhaled deeply though his face mask and admired the natural sights and sounds of an oddly serene landscape that typically draws thousands of visitors each weekend.
“It’s sheer heaven not hearing the deafening clatter of tourist helicopters hovering over the Hollywood sign,” he said, with an appreciative sweep of his eyes.
As California’s coronavirus lockdown enters its second month, some residents on the edges of Griffith Park and other urban ecosystems swear that Mother Nature is reclaiming territories that once echoed with humanity’s tumult.
On message boards, shut-ins trade emotional “coyote talk,” recounting the movements of stealthy canids as they search for prey along quiet streets. Others share snapshots of hawks and owls nesting in the trees of city parks and center dividers, and of raccoons and rats raiding trash cans, suggesting that — by bits and pieces — wildlife is restaking old claims.
U.K. Parliament agrees to virtual sittings
Britain’s House of Commons agreed to new rules allowing members to take part in proceedings remotely during the virus lockdown. The chamber, often packed because it’s too small for its 650 members, will now be restricted so only 50 people can be present at a time.
Benches have been blocked off to keep those present at least 6 feet apart, and other members will be able to ask questions using Zoom. Speaker Lindsay Hoyle will continue to chair proceedings from the chamber. Plans for virtual voting are still being worked up.
These California communities say it’s safe to start reopening
Some California communities have asked for permission to begin easing stay-at-home restrictions, saying they have made enough progress against the coronavirus to justify reopening their areas.
The requests reflect how some smaller counties are beginning to see coronavirus cases decline more dramatically than some larger counties, raising hopes that they might be able to relax restrictions before others.
In Los Angeles County, where more than 100 coronavirus deaths were recorded over the weekend, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said allowing stay-at-home rules to end too soon could worsen the situation.
“I know many of you are feeling frustrated or wondering when we’ll be able to lift the Safer at Home order. But lifting the restrictions too soon could risk lives. My promise to the people of L.A. is that evidence and medicine will continue to guide us through this crisis,” the mayor said on Twitter.
Monaco palace to cut spending by 40%, prince says
PARIS — The palace of Monaco says its ruler, Prince Albert, has decided to cut the palace spending by about 40% amid the coronavirus crisis.
Albert, who announced last month he had contracted the virus, has decided to extend confinement measures in the Mediterranean principality until May 3.
In a statement Tuesday, the palace said Monaco’s budget would be “very deeply impacted” by the consequences of the pandemic, leading to an estimated deficit of 500 million euros ($543 million) this year due to emergency measures to support the economy and a planned decrease of the state revenues.
The operational budget for the palace will drop from 13.2 million euros to 8 million euros ($14.3 million to $8.7 million).
For National Park Week, here are the best webcams to watch
Every April the National Park Service reminds us about the beauty and value of America’s national parks. With most parks in the West and elsewhere closed to visitors, what’s there to celebrate during this year’s National Park Week?
Will Shafroth, president of the National Park Foundation, is taking time “to revisit places I have been in the past and explore new places to go.”
Trump tweet saying he’ll suspend immigration generates confusion
WASHINGTON — The morning after President Trump tweeted a potentially drastic change to the nation’s immigration standards, White House officials could not explain what he meant when he wrote that he planned to sign an order to “temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!”
The lack of clarity reflects the often-chaotic nature of policy making in Trump’s White House. It also suggests the tweet could amount to fairly little in terms of policy changes. The State Department a month ago announced it was canceling visa appointments at consulates and embassies worldwide, effectively shutting down most new entries to the U.S.
Trump has been openly frustrated with polls showing the majority of Americans feel he has done a bad job handling the coronavirus, and he has frequently turned to immigration — a main campaign staple for him — when he feels a need to demonstrate executive action.
Congressional leaders near deal on second rescue package that will aid small businesses
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday his party’s congressional leaders and the Trump administration had reached a tentative deal on an emergency economic rescue package that would replenish a tapped-out small business aid program and provide money for coronavirus testing and overwhelmed hospitals.
An administration official said Tuesday the two sides were “very close” to a deal. A Senate Republican aide said no agreement had been reached yet.
Spain to allow young children leave their homes
MADRID — Spain will begin allowing children age 14 and younger out of their homes starting next week, though they must be accompanied by an adult they live with and their movements will be limited.
Government spokeswoman María Jesús Montero says that beginning Monday, younger children can go along on family errands to the supermarket, pharmacy or bank. Those between the ages of 15 and 17 already were allowed. There will be no time limit, and the children won’t be required to wear masks.
Montero said Tuesday after the government’s weekly Cabinet meeting that the children have been inside for the past five weeks and are unlikely to be infected with the new coronavirus. Restrictions on movement are part of the country’s state of emergency rules.
Spain’s official coronavirus death toll stands at more than 21,200, behind only the United States and Italy, and the country has imposed one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns.
National Spelling Bee is canceled for the first time since 1945
WASHINGTON — This year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee has been canceled after U.S. organizers concluded there is “no clear path to safely set a new date in 2020” because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The decision announced Tuesday by Scripps means kids who are in eighth grade this year will miss their final opportunity to compete in the national finals. Scripps won’t change eligibility requirements for next year’s bee, which is scheduled for June 1-3, 2021, at a convention center outside Washington.
Televised by ESPN since 1994, the bee had only previously been canceled in 1943-45 because of World War II. The first Scripps bee was held in 1925.
Scripps had announced on March 20 that this year’s bee would be postponed but did not commit to a new date.
TV pros are getting creative, using tech to keep your shows afloat
Hollywood is an industry built on the work-around. Can’t actually shoot a woman tied to the railroad tracks, a guy climbing Mt. Rushmore, a kid playing Quidditch? Then build a set, paint a backdrop, use greenscreen technology. The actor is too old, too young, too bald — or pregnant? Meet the make-up, hair and costume departments.
So it’s not surprising that even before COVID-19 formally shut down film and television productions (on Friday, March 13, not that anyone in Hollywood is superstitious), the industry was scrambling to figure out how to keep working, together but separately, to ensure that production can resume the moment safety concerns allow.
How to make a no-sew mask with a T-shirt
As the “normal” in “new normal” changes daily because of the coronavirus pandemic, one thing feels certain: It looks like we will be wearing face masks for a long time.
Ever since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended cloth face coverings as a way to help curb the spread of COVID-19, people have been scrambling to find masks.
But now that Los Angeles County has required us to wear non-medical masks when conducting essential services, the demand has grown exponentially.
Amtrak relaxes its refund rules
Here’s good news if you have or make Amtrak reservations before May 31: If you decide to cancel your ticket and want a refund, you can get one. The only catch: You must call.
The number is (800) 872-7245 (USA-RAIL). The refund cannot be completed on Amtrak.com or the Amtrak app.
Amtrak is also waiving change fees for reservations before the end of May. Reservations may be modified by phone, at Amtrak.com or on the app.
After denying crisis, Indonesia has most deaths in Asia except for China
JAKARTA, Indonesia — While its neighbors scrambled early this year to try to contain the spread of the coronavirus, the government of Indonesia — the world’s fourth most populous nation — insisted that everything was fine.
The health minister, Terawan Agus Putranto, told his compatriots they shouldn’t fear the virus, even as tens of thousands around the world were being infected. Instead of creating social-distancing guidelines or increasing testing, Putranto credited the country’s lack of infections to Indonesian “immunity” and the strength of prayer. He dismissed as “insulting” a report by Harvard researchers that said Indonesia must have chosen not to report its cases.
Federal judge is risking his life to save homeless people
“Anybody want to test my accountability by walking with me in a few moments down to skid row?”
U.S. District Judge David O. Carter leveled the question at a room full of attorneys on a recent Tuesday afternoon.
“Do you all believe me, or do you want to see it?” he pressed. “Do you want to see it?”
At 76 years old, Carter knows he should be at home and away from people, not in a cavernous ballroom in the basement of the Alexandria Hotel surrounded by attorneys and journalists, or outside leading a tour of the largest concentration of homeless people in the country. Public officials have warned that his age puts him at high risk for contracting the coronavirus and dying of COVID-19.
‘Empire’ changed the industry. Virus interrupted its grand finale
When “Empire” premiered in January 2015, the Taraji P. Henson- and Terrence Howard-led drama made waves. With its “King Lear”-inspired story line set in the world of hip-hop, the Fox series had massive social media buzz and high ratings to match, scoring at least nine straight weeks of ratings growth: the type of debut networks and creators dream of.
Five years later, as “Empire’s” sixth and final season comes to a close Tuesday, the enduring impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has compromised its bow — an unceremonious end for a show that helped change the landscape of television.
“We were in the middle of shooting and then all of the sudden it was just like, ‘Nope, uh-uh,’” showrunner Brett Mahoney said recently in a phone interview. “I mean, we didn’t even finish the day. It was just like, ‘No, go home because we’ve got to be concerned about health and safety,’ which is real.”
Broad museum lays off 130 in visitor services and retail
The Broad will lay off one full-time and 129 part-time employees, including retail workers and public-facing visitor services staff, starting Friday as part of the museum’s extended coronavirus-related closure.
When the Broad might reopen remains unclear. “We are hopeful for a July reopening,” said a spokesperson via email, “though public health officials will ultimately determine the date.”
But even when the museum does reopen, “daily operations will change dramatically,” read a statement issued by the museum on the layoffs. Social distancing and sanitation measures will likely mean changes to operations and, as a result, it will affect “future staffing needs dramatically and unavoidably for a considerable period of time.”
An email sent to the affected staff on Monday evening by museum director Joanne Heyler and deputy director Stacy Lieberman said “the realities of COVID-19 are becoming clearer.”
Column: Here’s why a COVID-19 vaccine could end up costing you a small fortune
Things have gone from bad to worse for Brian Helstien. For a decade, he’s been grappling with multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer. Now he needs surgery for a leaky heart valve.
But because his medical network, Kaiser Permanente, like all healthcare providers, is dealing with a tsunami of COVID-19 patients, the Laguna Woods resident has been informed his non-life-threatening ticker trouble is an “elective” procedure.
“They said maybe they’ll be able to get to me in three to six months,” Helstien, 71, told me. “As if we were talking about a nose job instead of heart surgery.”
In the meantime, he’ll have plenty of time to ponder the high cost of being sick in America.
The sweatshops are still open. Now they make masks
Rosario Ruiz got a call from her boss in early April: The small factory on the southern edge of downtown L.A. where she sews T-shirts had work for her. It was getting into the mask business.
The next morning, she left the home she shares with her 70-year-old father and walked the mile to work, fearful that she could catch the virus on the bus and pass it on to him.
When she arrived, she learned her pay had changed. Instead of making 5 cents for every label that she sewed onto a shirt, she would be paid 20 cents for each pair of elastic straps she sewed onto a fabric mask.
Before, she had made anywhere from $250 to $400 per week, depending on how many hours she worked and how simple the pieces were to sew. Now, she could get through about 300 masks per day, and expected to get $350 at the end of a 50-hour workweek.
Bats get blamed. But bats face their own virus risk — from humans
LAVA BEDS NATIONAL MONUMENT — As forensic virologists search to uncover the origins of COVID-19, bats have been fingered as a likely source. Genetic analyses show the virus is very similar to one harbored by Chinese horseshoe bats, and researchers think it’s possible it jumped from those winged mammals to people.
But some bat lovers and chiropterologists — scientists who study the flying mammals — are adamant there is no proof. Instead, they’re wringing their hands about the reverse: that people with COVID-19 could spread the disease to their furry, nocturnal housemates.
They are particularly worried about already vulnerable North American bat populations, which are being wiped out by white-nose syndrome, a disease caused by a deadly fungus.
There is no evidence indicating that bats can get the coronavirus from people, said Alice Chung-MacCoubrey, a bat biologist for the National Park Service and an affiliate faculty at South Oregon University. “But it’s something we’re concerned about.”
A nurse watched her father die in her hospital. She couldn’t help him
Chanell Jackson rubbed sanitizing gel on her hands and pulled a protective gown over her clothes as she had done so many times before.
As a nurse, she did this ritual to help deliver wailing babies and to wheel worried women into surgery.
But this was different. This was her father.
It was Sunday, March 29. It had been 22 days since he had returned home from a ski trip in Idaho, 14 days since he had checked into Chanell’s West Los Angeles hospital with shortness of breath, and eight days since his coronavirus test had come back positive.
Bay Area health officers got ahead of the crisis. Here’s how they did it
Sunday was supposed to be a rare day off for Dr. Tomás Aragón after weeks of working around the clock.
Instead, the San Francisco public health officer was jolted awake by an urgent 7:39 a.m. text message from his boss.
“Can you set up a call with San Mateo and Santa Clara health officers this a.m., so we can discuss us all getting on the same page this week with aggressive actions, thanks,” said the message from Dr. Grant Colfax, director of San Francisco’s Department of Public Health.
“Will do, getting up now,” Aragón responded.
Students, families are in ‘desperate need’ of computers
As the school year slips away, state officials are far behind in a race to provide students the computers and broadband they need to continue learning that was interrupted by campus shutdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Although Monday brought some good news from Gov. Gavin Newsom — that 70,000 computers and 100,000 hot spots have been pledged to date — those figures fall well short of the state’s tally estimating that over 400,000 more computers and hot spots are needed.
About 200,000 households with students are without computers or hot spots. That figure is based on information assembled by the California Department of Education.
It’s the ‘wild West’ for virus antibody tests, a potential setback for reopening the economy
As debate intensifies about how and when the country can resume regular life, immunity testing widely seen as essential for that reopening is mired in the same competition and chaos that marred earlier diagnostic tests.
“It’s already a case of the continuing wild, wild West,” said David Relman, a professor of microbiology and immunology at Stanford who is on a White House advisory panel on testing. “The sequel is certainly live and in action.”
Dozens of companies have rushed tests onto the market that promise to tell users whether they have been exposed to the virus, and therefore may have some kind of immunity.
These serology tests, which look for antibodies in blood that have the ability to fight off the virus, are rolling out at a rapid pace both for private individuals looking for hope and clarity, and public health officials increasingly pressured for timelines for reducing social restrictions.
Austria plans to to open all shops and restaurants by mid-May
VIENNA — Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz says his country intends to go ahead with plans to open all shops at the beginning of May and restaurants in mid-May.
Austria allowed small shops to open a week ago. Kurz said Tuesday that coronavirus infections had continued to drop, so the government can move ahead with the reopening plan it’s already sketched out. He said the government would review the situation at two-week intervals “so as always to have the opportunity to pull the emergency brake if that is necessary.”
The plan calls for remaining shops, along with services such as hairdressers and manicurists, to open at the beginning of May. Schools are scheduled to start opening in May, with religious services resuming May 15.
The government also plans to allow the catering industry to restart on May 15, with all staff required to wear masks. There will be restrictions on how many customers can be present.
Europe says its vaunted tourism industry is facing ‘staggering’ losses
HALLE, Belgium — The European Union says its vaunted tourism industry is facing “staggering” figures of decline because of the coronavirus crisis, and the bloc’s internal market commissioner wants the sector to be first in line when it comes to recovery funds.
Across Europe, desolation illustrates the tourism crisis. Squares including Brussels’ Grand Place are empty, and Rome’s Colosseum and other monuments are deserted while gondolas idle in Venice. Arrival areas in airports stand empty, and sunshine-drenched beaches are vacant.
Europe is hardly alone in facing such hardship — what with the deserted waterfront at Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa, and the closed-off pyramids outside Cairo. But EU market commissioner Thierry Breton said the European market accounts for half of world tourism.
“Tourism was the first sector to be hit by the coronavirus, and I am sure that it will be the slowest to recover and come out of this phase,” Breton told a European Parliament committee via videolink on Tuesday.
Death toll in Britain tops 18,500
LONDON — Official statistics show that at least 1,500 more people have died in Britain than the 16,500 whose coronavirus-related deaths have been tallied by the government.
The Office for National Statistics says that 1,043 deaths in nursing homes in England and Wales up to April 10 involved COVID-19, with 826 of those deaths recorded in the final week of that period. More than 500 other people died in hospices and private homes.
Those are not included in the British government’s daily total, which only includes deaths in hospitals.
The figures show that the total number of deaths in the week to April 10 — 18,516 — was the highest weekly total in 20 years. About a third of all the deaths involved the coronavirus.
The British government is under pressure to include nursing-home deaths in its daily coronavirus figures amid concerns the number is being underreported.
Spain cancels the running of the bulls in Pamplona
MADRID — Spain’s famous running of the bulls in Pamplona is the latest major European event to be called off due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Pamplona city hall announced Tuesday that the nine-day San Fermin festival held in July won’t take place this year.
It said in a statement that, although the decision was expected, “it still brings sadness.”
Pamplona Mayor Enrique Maya is infected with the virus.
The San Fermin fiesta was made famous internationally by Ernest Hemingway in his 1926 novel “The Sun Also Rises.”
Hit by upsurge in infections, Singapore extends lockdown by four weeks
SINGAPORE — Singapore has announced it will extend its lockdown by four weeks after a sharp upsurge in coronavirus infection cases in recent days.
The city-state reported 1,111 new cases earlier Tuesday to take its total to 9,125, the highest in Southeast Asia. Foreign workers staying in crowded dormitories account for nearly 80% of infections.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said most of the new cases were due to aggressive testing of workers in the dorms, including those who are asymptomatic. Lee said in a televised speech that the clusters of coronavirus infections in the dorms had remained largely contained, but the shutdown of nonessential businesses and schools will be prolonged from May 4 till June 1.
Lee said the government would shut more workplaces so that only the most essential services would remain open. Lee said the “short-term pain” was crucial to stamp out the virus and pledged to provide further help for businesses and workers.
WHO warns that the rush to ease virus rules could cause a resurgence
The World Health Organization said Tuesday that rushing to ease coronavirus restrictions would likely lead to a resurgence of the illness, a warning that comes as governments start rolling out plans to get their economies up and running again.
“This is not the time to be lax. Instead, we need to ready ourselves for a new way of living for the foreseeable future,” said Dr. Takeshi Kasai, the WHO regional director for the Western Pacific.
He said governments must remain vigilant to stop the spread of the virus and that the lifting of lockdowns and other social distancing measures must be done gradually and strike the right balance between keeping people healthy and allowing economies to function.
Despite concerns from health officials, some U.S. states on Monday announced aggressive reopening p