Coronavirus updates: California allows more Orange County beaches to reopen
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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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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
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.
Trump skips face mask at Honeywell mask factory
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.
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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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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Chris and Cristina Cuomo’s teen son has ‘healed’ after contracting COVID-19
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
How herd immunity will help us fight COVID-19
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here are the California businesses that can reopen this week and the ones that can’t
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.