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Coronavirus updates: California allows more Orange County beaches to reopen

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 4 are here

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Philippine TV network’s shutdown amid coronavirus outbreak sparks uproar

Philippine church and business leaders expressed alarm Wednesday over a government agency’s shutdown of the country’s largest TV and radio network, which has been a major provider of news on the coronavirus outbreak.

International watchdogs condemned the closure of ABS-CBN Corp., which President Rodrigo Duterte has targeted in the past for its critical coverage, as a major blow to press freedom in an Asian bastion of democracy.

The National Telecommunications Commission ordered the media giant to stop operating after its 25-year congressional franchise ended Monday. It reversed a statement to Congress that it would issue a temporary permit while legislators assess a franchise renewal. Only the House of Representatives can grant or revoke such a franchise and its hearings have been delayed, in part by a coronavirus lockdown.

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After hours of debate, Riverside County postpones vote to reopen amid coronavirus pandemic

After more than eight hours of debate Tuesday, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors voted to table its decision on whether to rescind the county’s public health orders and instead opted to wait until Gov. Gavin Newsom provides more guidelines later this week.

The supervisors voted to meet again Friday.

Officials met to discuss whether the county should lift local orders that closed schools, restricted golf courses, and required people to stay six feet apart and wear facial coverings while grocery shopping and during other essential activities.

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Court upholds California ban on church services in coronavirus pandemic

California Gov. Gavin Newsom had the right to ban church assemblies in the interest of public health during the coronavirus outbreak, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.

Newsom’s stay-at-home order did not violate the constitutional rights to free assembly and religion when the Cross Culture Christian Center in Lodi was ordered to cease holding services, Judge John Mendez ruled in Sacramento.

Pastor Jonathan Duncan had continued to assemble his congregation after the governor banned public gatherings in March despite warnings it was in violation of state and local orders. The church of fewer than 50 members said it was obeying federal guidelines to prevent spread of the virus.

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USC students sue for tuition and dining refunds amid coronavirus disruption

USC students are suing the school for not refunding tuition and fees after the university canceled in-person instruction because of the coronavirus public health threat, a law firm said Tuesday.

The class-action lawsuit, Watson vs. the University of Southern California, alleges that USC is unlawfully refusing to refund all or part of students’ spring 2020 tuition, fees and meal plans, “despite the dramatically lower quality and less valuable education and services now being provided,” according to the complaint, which was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in the Central District of California.

“Essentially, students have paid Defendants for access to buildings they can no longer enter, technology the University is not providing, activities that are not available, and meals that will never be served,” the complaint says. “USC is thus profiting from COVID-19 while further burdening students and their families.”
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UC San Diego to mass test students for the novel coronavirus

SAN DIEGO — UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep Khosla said Tuesday that the university is going to begin mass testing students for the novel coronavirus as a major step toward resuming on-campus courses in the fall.

The school’s experimental “Return to Learn” program will begin May 11, when UC San Diego starts giving self-administered tests to 5,000 students who are living in campus housing.

If the program works, campus officials plan to test about 65,000 students, faculty and staff on a monthly basis.

UC San Diego will become the first campus in the University of California system and one of the first in the U.S. to broadly test students for the coronavirus — an undertaking it is well-suited to do. It operates UC San Diego Health, which includes two major hospitals and many clinics, all which are tied to one of the largest medical research programs in the U.S.
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Lifting stay-at-home order too soon would cause more deaths, Northern California officials say

SAN FRANCISCO — Santa Clara County’s executive officer cautioned Tuesday against moving quickly to lift the shelter-in-place order.

The death toll in California is still going up at significant numbers, Dr. Jeffrey Smith told the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors Tuesday. A Times analysis showed that 495 coronavirus deaths were reported statewide in the seven-day period that ended on Sunday. While the weekly death toll represented a 9% decrease compared to the previous week, it also represented nearly one-quarter of the state’s death toll up to that point.

“You can still see that it’s still gone up pretty significantly in recent times,” Smith said. “There’s a lot of talk in California about relaxing shelter-in-place [orders]. I just want to point out that we’re still, in California, going up dramatically. So there’s no clinical evidence that shelter-in-place [orders] should be relaxed at this point.”
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White House may close its coronavirus task force this month

WASHINGTON — Although the coronavirus pandemic is far from over, the White House plans to wind down the task force that is guiding the federal government’s response and hand off responsibility to individual agencies, a move aimed at distancing President Trump from potentially unpopular public health decisions as he shifts his focus to the economy and his reelection.

Vice President Mike Pence said Tuesday that the high-profile task force, which has issued social distancing guidelines and directly advised the president since January, could wrap up in the coming weeks and shift its work to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other agencies.

“I think we’re starting to look at the Memorial Day window, early June window as a time when we could begin to transition back to having our agencies begin to manage — begin to manage our national response in a more traditional manner,” Pence told reporters.
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Orange County reports four new coronavirus deaths amid rise in hospitalized patients

Orange County health officials Tuesday reported four additional coronavirus-linked fatalities, as the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 countywide surpassed 200 for the second time in less than a week.

The four new deaths brought the region’s toll to 61. Of those who have died, 11 were residents in skilled nursing facilities, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.

The county also confirmed an additional 69 coronavirus infections Tuesday, bringing its total to 2,873 since the pandemic began. Of those who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, 251 live in a skilled nursing facility, and 143 are inmates in the Orange County jail system, according to the agency.
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Ventura County moves toward a phased reopening of some businesses by week’s end

Ventura County is gearing up to allow some of its businesses to open by the end of the week after Gov. Gavin Newsom announced his latest plans for easing stay-at-home restrictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Businesses such as bookstores, clothing stores, florists and sporting goods stores will be eligible to open for curbside pickup, according to County Executive Officer Michael Powers. Associated manufacturers and supply chains for these retail stores will also be allowed to open.

The county is expected to receive more guidance from the governor’s office before Friday on how such openings should be handled.

“Social distancing will stay with us for a while,” said Rigoberto Vargas, the county’s public health director, during Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting.
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Trump pick to oversee virus spending pledges impartiality

Brian Miller
Brian Miller, nominated to be Department of the Treasury special inspector general for pandemic recovery, testifies before a Senate committee Tuesday.
(Alex Wong / Associated Press)

President Donald Trump’s choice to oversee a significant chunk of the $2-trillion economic rescue law pledged Tuesday to conduct audits and investigations “with fairness and impartiality.’'

Brian Miller, a lawyer in the White House counsel’s office, told the Senate Banking Committee during his confirmation hearing that “independence is vital” for the special inspector general for pandemic recovery. The post would place him in charge of overseeing a roughly $500-billion Treasury fund for industry created as part of the economic rescue law approved in late March.

In written testimony, Miller pledged to be vigilant in protecting the integrity and independence of his office and vowed “to seek the truth in all matters that come before me and to use my authority and resources to uncover fraud, waste and abuse.”

In a testy exchange with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Miller said his goal is to make all information about the $500-billion fund public. Warren, who helped create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau after the 2008 recession, was unimpressed, saying Miller’s time in the White House counsel’s office should have disqualified him from the inspector general’s role.

Trump has repeatedly demonstrated his contempt for oversight and will be a formidable obstacle for Miller or any other watchdog, Warren said. “He has already said he will muzzle you,” she told Miller. “You will, however, have the chance to defend your independence and your integrity by your actions.”

Miller replied that it is “fundamental for an inspector general to be independent.” He pledged to work with Warren and other Democrats, even if she doesn’t vote for him “as you indicated yesterday” during a private meeting.

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Trump skips face mask at Honeywell mask factory

Trump
President Donald Trump tours a Honeywell International plant that manufactures personal protective equipment on Tuesday in Phoenix.
(Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

When President Donald Trump finally left his White House quarantine Tuesday to tour a plant in Arizona that makes protective equipment, he declined to wear a mask, something he has been reluctant to do since the COVID-19 outbreak began.

During a tour of a Honeywell plant making N95 respirators for healthcare workers, the president donned safety goggles but no face covering, making good on his remarks that he didn’t need to wear one and probably wouldn’t.

Since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended on April 3 that Americans wear face masks in public, Trump has repeatedly suggested they were impractical, pointless and beneath the dignity of the leader of the free world.

Trump said he couldn’t see himself meeting with “presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens” while wearing a mask, even though diplomatic trips have been curtailed. He teased a small-business executive who wore a mask at a White House event, telling her to put it back on before she spoke.

After facing criticism for not wearing a mask during a visit last week to a Mayo Clinic facility, Vice President Mike Pence wore one at a General Motors plant. In a Fox News town hall Sunday, he expressed regret.

“I didn’t think it was necessary, but I should have worn a mask at the Mayo Clinic,” he said.

Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden has criticized Trump for not wearing a mask, saying he should listen to science. Biden pledged to wear one himself in public.

Craig Spencer, an emergency room doctor at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, said surgical masks reduce the chances of contracting coronavirus somewhat but are much more effective at preventing the wearer from infecting others, especially if the wearer isn’t showing symptoms. Masks are most effective when both parties are wearing them.

But while Trump was reluctant, his wife and his daughter have not been.

Shortly after the CDC guidelines were updated, first lady Melania Trump posted videos and photos of herself wearing a mask on social media, while Trump’s daughter Ivanka posted a snapshot with her daughter Arabella wearing masks they had made for each other.

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Why shut down his coronavirus task force? Trump wants someone to blame if things get worse

Vice President Mike Pence confirmed to reporters on Tuesday afternoon that the White House might look to close down the special coronavirus task force he’s been leading, possibly in early June.

Why, you might ask?

Well, there are a couple of explanations.

“It really is all a reflection of the tremendous progress we’ve made as a country,” Pence said. “The president stood up the White House coronavirus task force … to marshal a national response.”
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Tennis governing bodies and Grand Slam tournaments create player relief program

The men’s and women’s professional tennis tours, the International Tennis Federation and the four Grand Slam tournaments have created a Player Relief program to support players who have been adversely affected by the sport’s coronavirus-related shutdown.

The governing bodies and the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open have raised more than $6 million “in a show of support to players who are facing unprecedented challenges because of the global impact of COVID-19,” they said in a joint statement issued Tuesday.

Professional tennis has been suspended through July 13. Last week, eight male players staged exhibition matches at a club in Hoehr-Grenzhausen, Germany, without spectators, ball boys or line judges and with many health-related restrictions in effect.
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Newsom calls reopening Yuba and Sutter counties a ‘big mistake’ amid coronavirus crisis

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday criticized two rural Northern California counties that are allowing businesses and restaurants to reopen, saying their decision to defy his statewide stay-at-home order has put their communities at increased risk for a new coronavirus outbreak.

Sutter and Yuba counties, both north of Sacramento, allowed businesses to reopen on Monday after a similar decision was made in Modoc County in California’s northeastern corner. Officials in the three counties argued that they were less affected by the COVID-19 pandemic than hot spots such as Los Angeles and the Bay Area and said the shutdown was hurting their local economies.

“They’re making a big mistake. They’re putting their public at risk. They’re putting our progress at risk,” Newsom said during a COVID-19 briefing in Sacramento on Tuesday. “These are real exceptions. The overwhelming majority of Californians are playing by the rules doing the right thing.”

But Newsom did not say if the state would take any action to enforce the stay-at-home order and other statewide restrictions in those counties.
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‘A pure hypocrite’: New York City mayor goes after Trump on coronavirus aid

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio woke Tuesday morning to a cover of the New York Post featuring President Trump and a headline declaring there would be “no bailout for New York.”

Taking up the fighter ethos of his city, beaten down by more than 18,000 deaths at the hands of COVID-19, De Blasio began his daily briefing by holding the newspaper up to the camera and delivering a personal attack at the man staring back at him from the page.

“The president of the United States, a former New Yorker who seems to enjoy stabbing his hometown in the back,” De Blasio said, just getting started. “What kind of human being sees the suffering here and decides that the people of New York City don’t deserve help?

“Well, I’ll tell you something. Every day President Trump resembles more and more Herbert Hoover, the president who ignored the Great Depression, who didn’t care to put America back on its feet. President Trump wasn’t there for us when we needed testing to stop this horrible disease, and now he’s talking about not helping us in our hour of need. He says he’s not inclined to do bailouts, but he gave a $58-billion bailout to the airline industry and gave a $1.5-trillion bailout to big corporations and the wealthy.
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Coronavirus could worsen death toll of summer heat waves, health officials warn

WASHINGTON — As summer descends on the U.S., public health experts are warning that the coronavirus could make intense heat waves deadlier, adding to the devastating death toll the country has suffered.

High temperatures have rolled through the Southwest unusually early this year, scorching Phoenix and Las Vegas and sending droves of quarantine-weary Southern Californians to the beaches.

Even before the outbreak, the hottest parts of the country were struggling to protect their residents from summer weather that, fueled by global warming, has become increasingly dangerous. Now the coronavirus epidemic has presented them with an added crisis — the possibility of millions of people self-isolating in homes and apartments they can’t keep cool.

This is an especially worrying possibility for the elderly and people in poor neighborhoods, where residents are more likely to live in older, less energy-efficient homes and less likely to have air conditioners.
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What’s open and closed this week: Beaches, parks and trails in Southern California

As long as Southern Californians remain close to home and wear masks outdoors, they can still exercise outdoors at many parks and beaches without violating Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order. But as the fight against the pandemic evolves and summer nears, the rules are rapidly changing, especially at beaches.

On Tuesday, Laguna Beach beaches opened after weeks of closure, but they will be open only from 6 to 10 a.m. weekdays, for active use only, under a deal reached between local and state officials. They will remain closed on weekends.

In San Clemente too beaches reopened after an agreement between state and local leaders. In that case, the city’s beaches will be open daily for active use only (no fishing or sunbathing). The city’s pier reopened Tuesday with social-distancing requirements. Beach restrooms and parking remain closed.
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Disney parks take a $1-billion hit amid coronavirus closures

Walt Disney Co., the world’s largest entertainment company, reported quarterly earnings for the first time since the coronavirus outbreak shut down domestic theme parks and brought Hollywood to a standstill. As expected, it wasn’t pretty.

The Burbank giant’s profits dropped dramatically during the three months that ended in March, the month that fears of the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered Disneyland and Walt Disney World, halted film and TV productions and canceled live sports indefinitely.

Earnings for the second fiscal quarter fell 63% from the same period a year ago to 60 cents a share, the company said Tuesday. Analysts polled by FactSet on average expected 89 cents a share. Net income fell a staggering 91% to $475 million.

Profits were severely affected at the company’s key parks, experiences and products segment. Disney estimated that the segment missed out on $1 billion in operating income due to the closures during the quarter.
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Chris and Cristina Cuomo’s teen son has ‘healed’ after contracting COVID-19

The Cuomos have officially kicked the coronavirus.

About a week after Chris Cuomo announced he finally tested negative for COVID-19, his 14-year-old son, Mario, has also recovered from the respiratory illness, according to an Instagram update from the CNN anchor’s wife, Cristina Cuomo.

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Top NBCUniversal executives take 20% paycut

NBCUniversal is the latest media company to trim the salaries of top executives amid the deepening financial toll of the coronavirus.

NBCUniversal Chief Executive Jeff Shell and about 15 of his lieutenants will take a 20% salary cut while rank-and-file NBCUniversal executives will receive a 3% salary cut, Shell said in a memo to employees on Tuesday. The cuts will take effect in early June.

For the majority of NBCUniversal’s workers, the cuts eliminate a 3% merit increase that went into effect in early March, just before the pandemic began roiling the U.S. economy.

Theme park employees, who have already seen their pay trimmed or have been furloughed, are not affected by the New York media company’s latest round of cost-cutting. Neither are workers who make less than $100,000 a year.
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California DMV offices could reopen this month, but with changes

SACRAMENTO — The head of the California Department of Motor Vehicles said Tuesday he hopes to begin reopening field offices this month as the agency improves safeguards in response to the coronavirus, but he said some activities, including on-the-road driving tests, will take longer to resume.

DMV Director Steve Gordon said he is planning to reopen the agency’s 170 field offices to in-person visits by appointment in phases, with 25 likely to open this month and all offices opening within about 30 days afterward.

“We have to go through all of the learning that we are going to do of how to [operate] in a COVID-19 world,” Gordon said during a conference call with reporters.
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For $39, Frontier Airlines will let passengers keep their distance

Frontier Airlines said it’s going to charge extra for passengers who want to guarantee a spot next to an unoccupied middle seat in the age of social distancing.

The carrier aims to generate revenue on the empty seats, charging from $39 to $89 depending on the route. It will have 18 “More Room” assignments available on each flight from Friday through Aug. 31, spokeswoman Jennifer De La Cruz said Monday.
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California allows more Orange County beaches to reopen

Less than a week after Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered all of Orange County beaches to close to stem the spread of the coronavirus, state officials announced Tuesday that three beach cities will be permitted to reopen their stretches of coastline this week with certain limitations.

Dana Point, Huntington Beach and Seal Beach submitted plans to Sacramento that would allow the public to immediately access the coastline. The plans, approved Tuesday, include a range of measures to avoid overcrowding and allow safe physical distancing, according to the California Natural Resources Agency.

The move comes a day after similar plans for Laguna Beach and San Clemente were approved by the state.
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White House task force could wind down by early June, Pence says

Vice President Mike Pence says the White House coronavirus task force could wind down its work by early June.

Pence tells reporters at a White House briefing that the U.S. could be “in a very different place” by late May and early June. Pence says the administration is beginning to eye the Memorial Day to early June window as the appropriate time to have federal agencies manage the pandemic response in a more traditional way.

Pence’s comments came as an Associated Press analysis found infection rates rising even as states start to lift their lockdowns.

The vice president characterized the discussions as preliminary.

Dr. Deborah Birx, the task force coordinator, says the federal government will still keep a close eye on the data if the task force disbands.

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How herd immunity will help us fight COVID-19

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6 COVID-19 deaths at Terminal Island prison; congresswoman says Fauci ‘a little alarmed’

A sixth inmate at the Terminal Island federal prison in San Pedro has died after testing positive for the coronavirus infection. And with more than 60% of inmates there testing positive, a local congresswoman said infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci “seemed a little alarmed” when she spoke to him about the situation.

Eduardo Robles-Holguin, 58, died Monday in a hospital nine days after he reported COVID-19 symptoms to the medical staff at the Terminal Island prison, where some 623 inmates have tested positive for the coronavirus. On April 25, after being assessed at the prison medical facility, Robles-Holguin was taken to a hospital and, that same day, was placed on a ventilator and tested positive for the virus, according to the federal Bureau of Prisons. On Monday, he was pronounced dead.

He is one of 40 federal prison inmates to die from a coronavirus-related illness nationwide during the pandemic.

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Antibody tests aren’t always reliable or available. But businesses are racing to use them

A full-service hotel is a complex business even without a pandemic upending society. Guests eat, sleep and recreate in close contact with hundreds or more people, including workers who feed them, clean their rooms and run what amounts to a small city.

So when stay-at-home-orders are lifted and the Hilton Universal City Hotel fully reopens, guests and newly called-back workers will encounter safety measures to keep the coronavirus at bay, including masks, social distancing and, for workers, temperature checks at the door.

The hotel, adjacent to now-closed Universal Studios Hollywood, is currently operating with a skeleton staff that already has instituted a heightened safety regime. But as occupancy grows, there will be one thing neither workers nor guests should expect to provide: clinical proof that they are not a threat to those around them, shown with test results indicating they’ve already been exposed to the virus and now have antibodies that could protect them from reinfection.

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Trump officials ignored warnings, ousted scientist says in complaint

WASHINGTON — Top Trump administration health officials repeatedly ignored warnings in January and February about the need for masks and other protective equipment to prepare for a coronavirus outbreak, according to a detailed whistleblower complaint from a senior scientist ousted from his post last month.

Rick Bright was abruptly removed in April as head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, a research agency within the Health and Human Services Department that, among other duties, was overseeing research on coronavirus vaccines.

Bright claims that ouster was in retaliation for his clashes with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Robert Kadlec, an Azar deputy with responsibility for overseeing public health preparedness. His claims are detailed in a complaint filed Tuesday with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, which oversees protections of whistleblowers.

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Ventura County Fair becomes the latest summer event canceled

The coronavirus outbreak has scrapped another California summertime staple, as officials decided Monday to cancel the Ventura County Fair.

The event — which was to run from Aug. 5 to 16 — dates back to 1875 and has been an annual fixture in the county, save for when the U.S. military commandeered the fairgrounds during World War II, officials said.

“We are already looking forward to welcoming everybody back in 2021 when we will resume the 145th Ventura County Fair,” Chief Executive Barbara Quaid said in a statement Monday. “We encourage our Ventura County neighbors and friends to continue adhering to all public health guidelines so that we can all come together again in 2021.”

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Newport Beach city councilman personally sues Gov. Gavin Newsom over beach closure

Newport Beach City Councilman Kevin Muldoon personally sued Gov. Gavin Newsom in federal court Monday over Newsom’s beach closures targeting Orange County.

Muldoon, a vocal proponent of lifting the weeks-long lockdown imposed to stem the coronavirus pandemic, filed the suit on his own behalf and was footing his own legal costs, he said. He called Newsom’s directive, handed down Thursday and put into effect the next day, unconstitutional.

Newsom’s order applies only to Orange County. A reopening date is unclear.

“Defendants have shown by their actions a willingness to ignore and to violate the fundamental civil rights of California residents,” the lawsuit reads. “Their actions ... are persistent and capable of repetition unless they are enjoined by this court.”

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Expect faster reopening in rural and suburban California than in L.A. or San Francisco

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s latest plans for easing stay-at-home restrictions will potentially allow some parts of California to reopen at a faster rate than others if they can show the coronavirus has eased as a public health threat.

Newsom announced Monday that some retail stores across the state would be allowed to reopen with modifications as early as Friday amid growing pressure to ease the stay-at-home order that has cratered the California economy.

But the virus is a bigger problem in some parts of California than others. Los Angeles County continues to be a hotbed of the crisis, with more than 1,250 deaths linked to COVID-19. The county accounts for nearly half of all hospitalizations in the state.

Conversely, the number of infections in some rural and suburban counties is dramatically lower, four counties have seen no cases at all and more than a dozen counties have reported no deaths from the illness.

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Your next road trip may look like this

Few things having to do with travel will be unchanged in the post-coronavirus world, but of all the ways we travel, the all-American road trip may be least affected — at least, from a regulatory standpoint. No one will tell you to wear a mask or take your temperature or demand blood work before you hit the road this summer.

But questions abound about this American institution, including whether it’s safe — at least, safer than airline travel.

Here’s what your road trip of the future may look like.

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Carnival to restart cruises from Florida and Texas in August

Carnival Cruises plans to restart cruises from Galveston, Texas, and Miami and Orlando in Florida, on Aug. 1, an announcement released Monday said. All other sailings in North America will be suspended through Aug. 31.

The company said it was taking a “measured approach” to resume sailing by starting with ports where most passengers arrive by car rather than by air. The cruise line also promised new health safety protocols to avoid the spread of the coronavirus.

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After coronavirus and 100,000 furloughs, where does Disney go from here?

Walt Disney Co. has long treated its parks workforce like an extended family, calling them “cast members” to emphasize their importance to the team.

That’s one reason why the company’s decision to furlough more than 100,000 employees amid the coronavirus crisis has become one of the most visible signs of the economic devastation from COVID-19.

The pandemic has effectively grounded much of the Burbank entertainment colossus, which until recently was riding high on its dominant box office performance, packed themed parks and a fast-growing new streaming service.

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Hunt for a vaccine heats up, but there’s no guarantee of success

Hundreds of volunteers around the world are rolling up their sleeves to be injected with experimental COVID-19 vaccines in the hope that at least one of them will work and bring the coronavirus outbreak under control.

About 100 research groups are pursuing vaccines, with nearly a dozen in early-stage human trials or poised to start. None of them are guaranteed to work, but scientists say the crowded field only increases the odds that a few might overcome the many obstacles that remain.

“We’re not really in a competition against each other,” said Dr. Andrew Pollard, who is leading a vaccine study at Oxford University. “We’re in a race against a pandemic virus, and we really need as many players in that race as possible.”

There’s no way to predict which vaccine — if any — will work safely, or even to name a front-runner.

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Europe’s first case may have been in December, weeks earlier than previously thought

LONDON — French scientists say they may have identified a possible case of the new coronavirus dating back to December — about a month before the first cases were officially confirmed in Europe.

In a study published in the International Journal of Microbial Agents, doctors at a hospital north of Paris reviewed retrospective samples of 14 patients treated for atypical pneumonia between early December and mid-January. Among those were the records of Amirouche Hammar, a fishmonger in his 40s from Algeria who has lived in France for years and had no recent travel history.

Hammar told French broadcaster BFM-TV on Tuesday that he drove himself to a hospital emergency unit at 5 o’clock one morning in late December because he felt very sick, with chest pains and breathing difficulties.

“They said, ‘Perhaps you have an infection, a pulmonary infection, although it’s not certain. But what you have is very serious, very serious, because you are coughing blood. It’s not normal flu,’” he said.

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Norwegian churches can resume services next week

Churches in Norway can again gather for services as of May 10.

There is, however, a maximum of 50 people allowed in churches, and there must be at least 1 meter (3.3 feet) between churchgoers.

Bishop Atle Sommerfeldt, the head of the Church of Norway, told the Associated Press that he was pleased more people would attend baptisms, weddings, funerals and regular services.

Like elsewhere, priests in Norway, a predominantly Lutheran country, have carried out online services during the lockdown. Norwegian churches shut down March 12, the Norwegian news agency NTB wrote.

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Italian experts warn of 2nd wave after reopening

ROME — Italian experts are warning that a second wave of coronavirus infections will most certainly accompany Italy’s gradual reopening from its lockdown, which was Europe’s first.

They are calling for intensified efforts to identify possible new victims, monitor their symptoms and trace their contacts.

Dr. Silvio Brusaferro, president of the Superior Institute of Health, briefed a Senate committee on Tuesday about the next phase of Italy’s coronavirus pandemic. He joined experts a day after 4.4 million Italians went back to work and restrictions on personal movement were eased for the first time in two months.

Brusaferro says the key to keeping the outbreak under control lies in the early isolation of people with suspected infection, more tests, and the quarantine of close contacts. He says it will require “a huge investment” of resources for training medical personnel to monitor possible new cases. He adds that any phone app that can help trace contacts, although useful, doesn’t substitute for the actions of people.

The head of the institute’s infectious disease department, Dr. Giovanni Rezza, told La Repubblica that the coming weeks were essentially an “experiment” to see how the infection curve would react to the easing of the lockdown and the ramping up of production.

“We are not out of the epidemic. We are still in it. I don’t want people to think there’s no more risk and we go back to normal,” Rezza told La Repubblica.

In the hard-hit region of Lombardy, tens of thousands of sick overwhelmed the healthcare system. Scientists say a second wave of infection would particularly hit the south, which didn’t have many infections.

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Voices from the spectrum: Autistic people deal with the coronavirus

When the coronavirus hit Southern California, Hector Ramirez tried to hang on to some of the guideposts in his usual routine. Waking up at 6 a.m. each day. Making his bed. Showering. Heading out to walk his service dog in his Chatsworth neighborhood.

Ramirez, who is autistic, used to try to greet at least 30 people before he returned home, a ritual that grounded him and connected him to the world. Now his walks are quiet; his routine, disrupted.

But Ramirez has had to cope with such stresses before. “Like many people with disabilities, I’ve dealt with social isolation whether I wanted it or not,” said Ramirez, 45, who spent part of his youth in an institution in Camarillo, separated from his family. “I have years of experience being separate from society.”

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Rotting food. Hungry masses. Chaotic supply chains. Coronavirus upends the U.S. food system

Near downtown Los Angeles, a meat processing plant ramped up production even as it worked to keep front-line employees separated from one another. In Salinas, Calif., a lettuce grower hustled to redirect supply after being forced to plow under unused crops.

In the Bay Area, a food distributor that previously served restaurants started selling produce boxes directly to consumers. Near the Mexico border, a food bank expanded distribution to meet an explosion of need. And in Hollywood, a nonprofit that has served sit-down meals to homeless people for 33 years shifted to takeout.

“We’ve completely had to change what we’re doing,” said Sherry Bonanno, executive director of the Hollywood Food Coalition. “We just keep adapting and adjusting.”

In less time than it takes a farmer to plant and harvest a head of lettuce, the nation’s entire food industry has been flipped on its head by the COVID-19 pandemic. An intricate system for matching supply with demand, established over decades, has been thrown out of whack just as unemployment and food insecurity are skyrocketing among families.

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New, apparently more contagious strain of coronavirus has overtaken original

Scientists have identified a new strain of the coronavirus that has become dominant worldwide and appears to be more contagious than the versions that spread in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new study led by scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The new strain appeared in February in Europe, migrated quickly to the East Coast of the United States, and has been the dominant strain across the world since mid-March, the scientists wrote.

In addition to spreading faster, it may make people vulnerable to a second infection after a first bout with the disease, the report warned.

The 33-page report was posted Thursday on BioRxiv, a website that researchers use to share their work before it is peer reviewed, an effort to speed up collaborations with scientists working on COVID-19 vaccines or treatments. That research has been largely based on the genetic sequence of earlier strains and might not be effective against the new one.

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Spain’s villages were already shrinking. The coronavirus has dealt a new blow

DURUELO DE LA SIERRA, Spain — When someone dies in tightly knit Duruelo de la Sierra, the whole community walks from the church service to the cemetery, accompanying the deceased to the final resting place. But amid the COVID-19 pandemic, just a few relatives are allowed.

“You are used to seeing a funeral with lots of people,” said Alberto Abad, a 54-year-old carpenter who’s also the mayor and sees the virus as tearing at his town’s social fabric. “It touches you because you know all the people who live here.”

Spain has been one of the hardest-hit countries in the pandemic, with more than 25,600 confirmed deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. But while Madrid has been a center of the suffering, each death in the countryside is a sorely felt blow for struggling villages.

Duruelo de la Sierra lies in Spain’s north-central province of Soria, one of Europe’s most sparsely populated areas, home to shrinking communities amid a landscape dotted with abandoned villages. Many in these dwindling villages and towns thought their sparse populations would shield them from the coronavirus.

On the contrary: Soria’s relatively high percentage of older adults and limited healthcare resources created conditions for COVID-19 to have a particularly devastating effect on communities that were already struggling to survive.

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British official acknowledges that more testing should have been done earlier

LONDON — The British government’s chief scientific advisor has acknowledged that the country should have been testing more people for the new coronavirus early in the country’s outbreak.

Patrick Vallance told Parliament’s health committee: “If we’d managed to ramp up testing capacity quicker, it would have been beneficial, and for all sorts of reasons that didn’t happen.”

Critics say Britain’s Conservative government responded too slowly when COVID-19 began to spread and failed to contain the outbreak by widely testing people with symptoms, then tracing and isolating the contacts of infected people.

Countries that did that, including South Korea and Germany, have recorded lower death rates than those that did not.

The U.K. has recently expanded its testing capacity and is setting up a “test, track and trace” program as it looks to relax a nationwide lockdown.

Britain is one of the world’s hardest-hit countries in the pandemic, and looks likely to overtake Italy for the largest number of COVID-19 deaths in Europe. A new count released by the Office of National Statistics exceeds the government’s tally of deaths and puts the toll in Britain at more than 30,000, which surpasses Italy’s total.

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Germany expects second wave of infection but is prepared for it, official says

BERLIN — The head of Germany’s national disease-control center says there will be a second wave of coronavirus infections, but his country is well-prepared to deal with it.

Lothar Wieler, the head of the Robert Koch Institute, was asked Tuesday whether a planned contact-tracing app was still relevant given that new infections had slowed significantly. Wieler put the current reproduction rate in Germany — the number of people whom one person with the virus infects — at 0.71.

Wieler, however, pointed to the nature of a pandemic and said: “We know with great certainty that there will be a second wave — the majority of scientists are sure of that. And many also assume that there will be a third wave.” He said it meant that “this app is not coming too late.”

Wieler said Germany’s preparation was “definitely better” for a second wave. “It’s clear, depending on how strong this second wave is, certain measures will of course have to be taken again if we want to slow the wave — I don’t know how it could be handled differently,” he said.

Germany is currently in the process of loosening restrictions imposed in March to slow the initial coronavirus outbreak.

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Britain’s coronavirus death toll exceeds 30,000, new data suggest

LONDON — New figures show that Britain has had more than 30,000 deaths among people with the coronavirus, possibly a third more than the official count.

The Office for National Statistics says there were 29,710 deaths involving COVID-19 in England and Wales up to April 24, which is 34% more than the government’s own figure of 22,173 for the same period. Deaths in Scotland and Northern Ireland, collected separately, push the number past 30,000.

Britain’s official death toll, which includes cases where there was a positive test for the virus, stands at 28,734, just behind Italy’s 29,079, and is the third-highest in the world.

The statistics office data, which is published with a 10-day lag, includes deaths where COVID-19 is suspected, even if there was no test.

Scientists say it will be hard to determine the total toll from the disease until there are complete statistics for excess mortality during the pandemic.

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Pakistanis stranded in India due to the coronavirus are allowed to return home

Nearly 200 Pakistanis stranded in a nationwide coronavirus lockdown on the other side of the border in India have been able to cross back home.

Border security forces on Tuesday allowed masked passengers in private vehicles with luggage strapped to roofs to cross the Attari-Wagah border that separates the sprawling Punjab region split between Indian and Pakistan. The border opened Tuesday for the first time since the ongoing lockdown began.

Wahid Khan, a 55-year-old from Lahore, Pakistan’s second-largest city, said he and five family members were in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh visiting relatives when the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi imposed a near-total lockdown on March 24 to curb the spread of the virus. Khan said authorities were helpful and extended his family’s visas without incident.

India has recorded nearly 45,000 cases and more than 1,500 deaths. The lockdown was partially lifted Monday to allow some employment for the millions of daily wage workers who found themselves jobless overnight and have survived only on donated food. But the pace of infection is growing and experts say the virus still hasn’t reached its peak in India.

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Hong Kong to relax some of its social-distancing measures in two weeks

Hong Kong on Tuesday said it would relax some of its social-distancing measures, allowing certain businesses such as gyms, cinemas and beauty salons to reopen and doubling the number of individuals allowed at public gatherings to a maximum of eight.

Businesses must continue to observe social-distancing measures, said Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam in a news conference.

Schools will resume May 27, with students in the more senior grades at secondary schools returning to school first, while some younger pupils will follow suit in June.

Lam said Hong Kong’s social-distancing measures would remain in place for about two more weeks, until May 21.

All Hong Kong residents will receive a locally developed reusable mask, and each household will also receive a packet of 10 disposable masks. Schools as well as homes for the disabled and vulnerable populations will also receive face masks from the government.

Hong Kong has seen no local transmissions of the coronavirus for 16 consecutive days, and its total coronavirus cases stand at just over 1,000, with four reported deaths.

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Aircraft carrier prepares to go back to sea after coronavirus outbreak

It’s time to get back to work.

On board the coronavirus-stricken Theodore Roosevelt, the crew is getting the aircraft carrier ready to head back out to sea. For the ship’s commander, Capt. Carlos Sardiello, the road to recovery has been a challenge. For the crew sidelined in Guam for more than a month, it’s been an emotional roller coaster.

Sardiello was a former Roosevelt captain when he abruptly returned to the ship in early April to take command after Capt. Brett Crozier was fired for urging faster action to stem the virus outbreak onboard. In an Associated Press interview from the ship late Monday night, Sardiello said he had a simple message to the crew when he came aboard: “We have an unprecedented mission that we have never faced before. We’re gonna face it together.”

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FDA to rein in flood of coronavirus blood tests after lax oversight

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has pulled back a decision that allowed scores of coronavirus blood tests to hit the market without first providing proof that they worked.

FDA officials said Monday they took the action because some sellers had made false claims about the tests and their accuracy. Companies will now have to show their tests work or risk having them pulled from the market.

Under pressure to increase testing options, the FDA decided in March to let companies begin selling tests as long as they notified the agency of their plans and provided disclaimers to consumers, including a caution that they were not FDA-approved. The policy was intended to allow “flexibility” needed to quickly ramp up production, officials said.

“However, flexibility never meant we would allow fraud,” Dr. Anand Shah, an FDA deputy commissioner, said in a statement. “We unfortunately see unscrupulous actors marketing fraudulent test kits and using the pandemic as an opportunity to take advantage of Americans.”

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Trust in CEOs has fallen during coronavirus outbreak, report says

Amid an enormous public health crisis, trust in governments is rising, while trust in businesses and their leaders in particular has fallen sharply, according to a new report by communications firm Edelman.

Although half of respondents typically voice trust in CEOs, that number has now fallen to less than one out of three, 29%.

For the last decade or so, governments around the world have generally failed to pull ahead of businesses in establishing trust in Edelman’s annual global survey of trust and credibility in government, business, NGOs and the media. But with nearly three in four respondents supporting restrictions on movement as an appropriate response to the coronavirus outbreak and 61% willing to disclose personal health and location data to aid with containing its spread, support for governments is on an upswing.

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Mexico’s fragile health system running out of room for coronavirus patients

They waited for hours outside Las Américas hospital for word about their loved ones.

Then the small group ran out of patience and stormed inside. Upon discovering bodies on gurneys packed into the pathology ward, they accused the staff of murder.

“I unzipped the bag of my son to confirm that it was him,” María Dolores Castillo later told a television interviewer, describing how she touched his head. “My son was still warm!”

The coronavirus pandemic has battered sophisticated healthcare systems in Europe and the United States. Mexico is in another category.

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Newsom administration refuses to divulge nearly $1-billion contract for coronavirus masks

Attorneys for Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration refused Monday to reveal the contents of a $990-million contract for purchasing protective masks from a Chinese electric car manufacturer, even though millions of the masks have already arrived in California to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a letter responding to a public records request from the Los Angeles Times, the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services insisted the contract with BYD did not have to be made public, despite similar requests made by legislators since Newsom announced the deal last month.

“Cal OES determined all responsive records are exempt from disclosure, including exemptions for records reflecting attorney work product, attorney-client privileged information, or other information exempt from disclosure under federal or state law,” Ryan Gronsky, an attorney with the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, wrote in a letter to The Times.

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Defendant in Ghost Ship fire released from jail over coronavirus fears

A man facing a second trial after a fire killed 36 partygoers at a San Francisco Bay Area warehouse he’s accused of illegally converting into a cluttered artists enclave was released from jail Monday over coronavirus concerns.

Derick Almena, who’s been behind bars since 2017, was released after a court hearing by phone, the Alameda County sheriff’s office said. He will be under electronic monitoring while he waits for a new trial.

The 50-year-old is charged with involuntary manslaughter in the Dec. 2, 2016, fire that swept through an electronic music party at the so-called Ghost Ship warehouse in Oakland. Prosecutors allege Almena, who was the master tenant on the lease, was criminally negligent when he turned the industrial building into a residence for artists and held events without proper permits.

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Garcetti says L.A. might not begin reopening by Friday, vows ‘careful consideration’

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Monday that different cities would need to take different steps to emerge from the pandemic-induced shutdown and that city and county officials were still trying to determine the safest course.

“Our timing on opening may vary from other parts of the state,” he said. “I will reopen our city with careful consideration, guided by public health professionals.”

Garcetti said he did not expect city businesses to be able to offer curbside delivery Friday in step with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s comments. The city’s Safer at Home order is in effect until May 15, and Garcetti said he hoped steps restricting commerce could begin to be rolled back by then.

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Here are the California businesses that can reopen this week and the ones that can’t

Gov. Gavin Newsom has announced that some stay-at-home rules will be modestly eased later this week.

He said details would be provided later in the week, but here are some highlights:

Businesses that can open

Bookstores, music stores, toy stores, florists, sporting goods retailers and others can reopen for pickup as early as Friday. Additional businesses could be named later this week, also with curbside pickup.

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