Iran’s supreme leader to pardon 10,000 more prisoners in apparent effort to curb spread of virus
Iran’s top leader will pardon 10,000 more prisoners in an apparent effort to combat the coronavirus, state TV reported Thursday.
As part of steps to curb the spread of the new virus that has killed more than 1,100 people in Iran, the country has already released 85,000 prisoners on temporary leave.
Separately, the United Arab Emirates added to its list of people barred from entering all residents who are currently abroad. The decision impacts people whose homes, children, bank accounts and livelihoods are in the country, but who were traveling or outside the country. The ban goes into effect at mid-day Thursday for at least two weeks. Only Emirati citizens are allowed to return.
The UAE, which is home to Dubai and Abu Dhabi, has 113 confirmed cases of the virus. It announced it was suspending all new labor permits, including those for drivers and domestic workers, until “further notice.”
The UAE is unique in that only about 10% of its population, or about 1 million people, are Emirati citizens. The other 90% are foreign residents who fuel its economy and keep the country running. They hold the vast majority of jobs in construction, transportation, hospitality, sales, medicine, education and other key sectors.
The Middle East has some 20,000 cases of the virus, with most in Iran or originating from Iran.
UCLA announces virtual commencement ceremonies
To limit the spread of the new coronavirus, UCLA announced Wednesday that its spring commencement ceremonies will be conducted through virtual events.
“Please remember that, even for an event as momentous as commencement, the day does not define the journey,” Chancellor Gene Block said in a statement.
UCLA previously announced it would transition to remote learning and suspend all nonessential events of any size through the end of the spring.
Block said that for the UCLA College, whose commencement is UCLA’s largest, “we will hold an engaging virtual ceremony on June 12, 2020.”
The ceremony will feature a keynote speaker, whose name will be announced soon.
University leaders will reach out to the schools and departments that hold individual commencement ceremonies to provide support where possible.
“We will work diligently to make graduation as special as possible for all of our students and all of your loved ones,” Block said. “Even when we are apart, we remain deeply connected as Bruins, and I look forward to celebrating your accomplishments this spring.”
L.A. will turn recreation centers into homeless shelters, in hopes of slowing virus spread
Los Angeles will convert 42 of its recreation centers into temporary shelters for homeless residents, providing 6,000 new beds in an effort aimed at slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus, Mayor Eric Garcetti said Wednesday.
In the initiative’s first phase, the city will will open 1,600 shelter beds at 13 recreation centers by the end of the week, Garcetti said during a live Facebook briefing on the city’s response to the pandemic. Beds will be provided by the American Red Cross, he said.
“We have the supplies. We have the space. and we are prepared for this task,” he said.
The initiative comes as an array of city buildings — libraries, aquatic centers, cultural facilities and even City Hall — remain closed to the public, part of the city’s reduce the number of new infections. Garcetti called the move to create thousands of additional beds unprecedented, but said it’s needed because homeless residents are at much greater risk of dying during the pandemic.
L.A. animal shelters are closed, but adoptions are available by appointment
Animal shelters run by the city of Los Angeles are closed to the public to help stem the spread of the novel coronavirus — but that doesn’t mean that you can’t adopt or foster an animal.
L.A.'s Department of Animal Services announced Wednesday that people can check out adoptable animals on their website, then call 888-452-7381 to set up an appointment to see them at the shelter. The appointments will be arranged so that no more than 50 people are assembled at one time, including shelter staffers.
“Orange County is not on lockdown”: Officials clarify Tuesday’s health order
On Wednesday afternoon, Orange County leaders held a news conference to clarify the health order issued Tuesday and calm local business owners who had expressed confusion about whether they were being forced to close.
“There has been confusion about the wording and meaning of yesterday’s public health order, but let me make it very clear — Orange County is not on lockdown and, except for businesses directed to close by the state, all businesses can remain open,” Orange County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Michelle Steel said.
After the release of Tuesday’s health order, many residents and members of the media thought officials were announcing a shelter-in-place order, which many Bay Area counties have implemented.
At Wednesday’s news conference, local leaders stressed that was not their intent and that there is no shelter-in-place order in the county. Rather, residents are asked to avoid large gatherings and practice social distancing and good hand hygiene, among other things.
Local leaders repeatedly stressed that Orange County was business friendly and that the sheriff had no intention of sending out deputies to patrol the streets looking to jail merchants.
The hope, officials said, is that local businesses that must close under the county order — all bars that don’t serve food, movie theaters, gyms and health clubs — will voluntarily follow the order. Restaurants, food trucks and farmers markets must only offer food through delivery, pickup or drive through while also practicing the recommended six feet for social distancing.
“The most important point to make, I think, is that Orange County is not shut down for business. We are asking for all of our citizens to be responsible in how you’re interacting out in the community,” Supervisor Donald Wagner said.
Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said of all the days to announce bars were closed, St. Patrick’s Day was a good test to see how businesses and patrons would react.
Barnes said deputies did find some bars still operating, but deputies were able to resolve each incident without issue.
“I think even the patrons there, as much as they wanted to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, realized this was much bigger than one day a year,” Barnes said.
As of Wednesday, Orange County has confirmed 42 cases of the coronavirus, up from 29 on Tuesday.
Orange County Health officer Dr. Nichole Quick said she anticipated that number to increase.
“The more we look for this, the more we’re likely to find, so increasing cases are not unexpected,” Quick said.
Fire Chief Brian Fennessy said in response to the pandemic, firefighters and paramedics going on calls to help someone thought to possibly have the coranavirus are being supplied with protective gear. Additionally, the agency has been better able to protect personnel because dispatchers are asking callers more questions about COVID-19 and supplying that information to first responders.
While on duty, 20 firefighters have been exposed to someone thought to possibly have COVID-19, but thus far, only one Orange County firefighter has been exposed to a person with a confirmed case. That firefighter is self isolating at a hotel, he said.
‘We are being punished’: Some Californians from Grand Princess question quarantine
With much of the state being asked to stay at home, questions are being raised about the forced quarantine imposed on hundreds of Californians from the Grand Princess cruise ship who continue to be held at military bases, even as passengers from other states are released.
“My feeling is a lot of it has to do with optics,” said Kate Gilbert, whose 82-year-old grandmother Hinda Gilbert is at Travis Air Force Base in Solano County.
Gov. Gavin Newsom has the ability to take over monitoring of Californians on the base, potentially allowing them to quarantine themselves at home, but his office hasn’t responded when asked.
Pasadena approves eviction moratorium and other economic relief measures
The Pasadena City Council approved a Local State of Emergency Declaration and instituted a handful of relief measures to reduce the economic impacts on residents.
1. Suspension of any new late fees and penalties for City-provided services, including water, power and garbage pickup.
2. Suspension of any new all utility shut-offs for non-payment.
3. Modification of various parking policies to reduce the financial burden on residents and support local businesses, including: Temporary suspension of metered parking enforcement to facilitate delivery and curbside pickup zones for food from restaurants; temporary suspension of non-critical vehicle impounds; temporary suspension of impounds of vehicles with five or more past-due parking citations or expired registrations.
4. Approval of $150,000 to provide meals to for seniors, as well as disabled and other vulnerable citizens.
5. Enactment of a moratorium on eviction for non-payment of rent if a residential or commercial tenant has been impacted by COVID-19 and, therefore, unable to pay.
Councilmembers also asked City Manager Steve Mermell to begin formulating a mandatory stay-at-home order should local public health officials deem it necessary.
The 44 best TV shows to binge while self-quarantining, according to TV experts
It’s a strange time for television, there’s no doubt about that. While many productions have halted to slow the spread of the coronavirus, new spring series that had already finished filming are still rolling out as planned, and social distancing has left all of us with more time than we might like to peruse the seemingly endless number of streaming titles. What’s a discerning viewer to do?
For one, stay tuned to The Times, which will be bringing you guides to everything from children’s TV to free streaming trials to help you navigate being housebound in the coming days and weeks, in addition to regularly scheduled programming. For another, use the following poll of 41 (!) TV critics and journalists to plan your binge-watching. From socially relevant dramas to escapist, feel-good comedies, this is a to-do list worth tackling between bouts of fresh air.
LAUSD packs 400,000 meals, prepares for months of ‘grab-and-go.’ Recipients express relief
One man wore plastic gloves and a face mask as he pulled up in a pickup to receive school-packed meals for his children. A woman with a preschooler at her side took her boxed meals through her car window and quickly drove away. Another woman said she was grateful to hear that the district was giving out milk. She couldn’t find any the last time she went to a local market.
As students and parents woke up to news that public schools in California might be closed for the remainder of the school year, Los Angeles school officials opened campus gates to what they said would be the first of many morning food pickups in the weeks and possibly months ahead.
Los Angeles Unified, the nation’s second-largest school district, has been training volunteers and ramping up food services to care for more than half a million students, and even their families, affected by the closures. About 80% of its students are from low-income families and qualify to receive breakfast, lunch and sometimes dinner from school.
About 400,000 “grab-and-go” meals were prepped and ready to be distributed Wednesday between 7 and 10 a.m. at 60 pickup sites throughout the district. The locations are set up for drive-through and walk-up distribution. Officials say they will make adjustments in the coming days based on how many people show up and where.
L.A. moratorium on business evictions could squeeze landlords
A Los Angeles moratorium on evicting restaurant operators and other small businesses that are losing customers during the novel coronavirus pandemic may cause pain to landlords while offering relief to their struggling tenants.
Early reports, however, suggest that commercial property landlords are not eager to boot tenants who have fallen on hard times because they might not be able to find new renters any time soon.
What’s closed or restricted in California’s largest counties?
County health agencies have banned gatherings and closed schools and stores. More than 10 counties have directed residents to shelter in place, the most restrictive measure in the U.S. These closures affect more than 30 million Californians.
Here’s a survey of the measures currently in place in the state’s largest counties.
Costa Mesa creates Disaster Council to ramp up emergency preparedness
Costa Mesa is taking steps against the coronavirus, city leaders assured residents at a sparsely attended City Council meeting Tuesday night.
To shore up its emergency preparedness team, the council unanimously approved an ordinance to form a Disaster Council with authority to create emergency and mutual-aid plans.
Four of the seven council members participated remotely in light of protective measures in place to help curb the spread of the virus that causes the respiratory disease COVID-19.
Powell’s, Portland’s beloved indie bookstore, will lay off most workers
In response to the coronavirus outbreak, Portland, Ore.,'s beloved Powell’s Books is laying off most of its employees in the coming days.
The indie bookstore’s owner and CEO, Emily Powell, sent its workers a letter Tuesday night announcing the layoffs during “these unprecedented and grievous times.”
“When we closed our doors, we also closed off the vast majority of our business without any prospect of it returning soon,” she said in the letter. “As a result, we have been forced to make the unthinkable decision to lay off the vast majority of you in the coming few days.”
Fox News to be offered as a free channel ‘during dangerous times’
Fox News will be made available free to viewers amid the coronavirus public health crisis.
On Wednesday, Rupert Murdoch’s media company said it would partner with cable and satellite TV providers to make Fox News Channel and its Fox TV stations widely available “to ensure that every person in America can access the latest national and local news regarding coronavirus.”
The company, based in New York and Los Angeles, said it would also offer free streams of Fox News Channel and programming feeds from Fox-owned TV stations.
Nevada shuts down casinos and nonessential businesses
On Tuesday, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak ordered the immediate closure of all casino and gambling operations, as well as nonessential businesses, in an effort to curb the further spread of the coronavirus.
The casino shutdown went into effect at midnight and will last at least 30 days. Nonessential businesses, which include restaurants that aren’t doing delivery or takeout only, will have to close by noon today. Hospitals, grocery stores and gas stations will remain open.
In addition to Nevada, other states have ordered the closure or partial closure of nonessential services like restaurants and bars. They include California, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts and Washington.
COVID-19 outbreak in San Jose Fire Department
When it comes to the front line for the coronavirus, the San Jose firefighters are experiencing what officials fear will become a common problem among first responders.
So far, 10 firefighters have tested positive for COVID-19, and 50 others are in self-isolation.
There have been a scattering of other cases of first responders testing positive, including a Los Angeles Police Department officer and an L.A. firefighter.
But the number of San Jose firefighters with the disease and those quarantined grew rapidly this week, according to the San Jose firefighters union. As the virus sweeps across the Silicon Valley, firefighters are treating every call as though it is a COVID-19 call, union leaders say.
Burbank places moratorium on evictions
The closure of businesses throughout the state, combined with the shelter-in-place orders given to the public to slow the spread of the coronavirus have many workers and business owners worried about being able to pay their rent or mortgage.
To address those concerns — at least for several weeks — the Burbank City Council unanimously voted Tuesday to adopt an urgency ordinance that prohibits the eviction of residential and commercial tenants for not being able to pay their rent due to lost income and/or increased medical expenses related to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The moratorium also urges financial institutions to put a hold on mortgage foreclosures on residential and commercial properties for the same reasons.
The emergency order went into effect Tuesday night and will last through April 30, unless extended by the City Council.
Costa Mesa restaurant offers free toilet paper rolls with takeout order
As restaurants across Orange County shutter their dining areas and offer only takeout or delivery in response to coronavirus isolation measures, one Costa Mesa restaurant is providing a bonus: free toilet paper rolls.
Descanso and its owner, Rob Arellano, announced the promotion on Facebook: one free roll for every $20 spent on takeout orders.
Many restaurants are offering free delivery or discounts, but Arellano’s establishment might be the only one sweetening the deal with an item most can’t find elsewhere right now.
“So far it’s been very well-received,” he said, adding that the promotion is getting some social media buzz.
How LeAnn Rimes, MGK and more are entertaining themselves in quarantine
So you have some time on your hands thanks to increasingly strict social-distancing recommendations from the CDC.
While you’re consuming hours of Netflix, what about all the people who make those shows — and write the books, direct the films and play the music that’s keeping you sane in isolation?
The Los Angeles Times reached out to stars, artists, filmmakers, showrunners and some of L.A.'s leading culture figures to find out what they’d be digging into for the next few weeks.
Free streaming sites Roku, Pluto TV are becoming more popular as home viewing surges
MILLBRAE — Video streaming apps Roku and Pluto TV are becoming more popular among consumers looking to entertain themselves amid concerns about the rapid growth of the coronavirus outbreak.
Pluto TV, a free, ad-supported streaming service based in Los Angeles, and Roku Inc., which operates an app that connects consumers to various streaming services and also offers free licensed shows and movies, landed in the top 10 most used video streaming apps for Android phones in the U.S. for the first week of March compared with a month ago, according to San Francisco-based analytics firm App Annie.
Pluto TV was ranked ninth, while Los Gatos-based Roku was eighth in the first week of March, App Annie said. That’s a considerable improvement from a month earlier, when Pluto TV was 12th and Roku was 11th, the analytics firm said. The rankings were based on the amount of time Android phone users spent on the apps.
California state park campgrounds close. Here’s the latest on national, local parks too
California State Parks closed all campgrounds Wednesday because of the coronavirus, but hiking trails and beaches remain open. Outdoor spaces also remain open in local and national parks, but many services have been suspended.
Park programs, shuttles and tours have been halted as a precaution against the outbreak, while some lodgings and restaurants are closed.
IOC responds to criticism a day after insisting 2020 Olympics plans proceed
An International Olympic Committee communique insisting that preparations for the 2020 Summer Games should proceed — and rejecting “any drastic decisions” in the face of the coronavirus outbreak — has sparked debate on the global sports scene.
Faced with criticism, the IOC walked back its comments slightly on Wednesday, issuing a follow-up statement.
“This is an exceptional situation which requires exceptional solutions,” a spokesman said. “The IOC is committed to finding a solution with the least-negative impact for the athletes, while protecting the integrity of the competition and the athletes’ health.”
U.K. schools to close beginning Friday
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that schools across the country would close on Friday until further notice as the death toll from the coronavirus topped 100.
Schools will remain open for the children of key workers, such as National Health Service staff, as well as for vulnerable youngsters, but all others will be asked to stay home indefinitely.
This year’s summer exam period will also be canceled, the prime minister said.
Johnson said the measures already introduced across the country — namely, asking entire households to self-isolate for 14 days if anyone within the house is unwell and asking the entire population to avoid unnecessary social contact and diligently wash their hands — had worked well to curb the virus’ spread so far.
But he said now was the time to amp up the measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 even further.
“We think now that we must apply downward pressure on the upward curve by closing the schools,” the prime minister said.
The number of coronavirus-related deaths in the U.K. rose to 104 on Wednesday with 2,626 confirmed cases. More than 56,000 tests have been carried out, and the government plans to more than double the number of tests.
London continues to be the epicenter of the virus, reporting the highest number of cases, but Johnson has so far resisted calls to order a mandatory shutdown of all nonessential businesses, although he has not ruled that out.
Trump suspends public housing evictions, invokes wartime law to produce needed supplies
President Trump announced Wednesday that he had ordered federal housing officials to suspend evictions and foreclosures until the end of April as the fast-spreading coronavirus crisis forced a number of Americans out of work or reduced their wages.
Trump also said he would invoke the Defense Production Act, a Korean War-era law giving the federal government more authority to force private companies to produce needed goods.
The authority could help address shortages in medical equipment such as masks, gloves and ventilators, or supply goods needed to combat the spreading virus.
“There’s never been an instance like this where no matter what you have it’s not enough,” Trump said at the White House.
U.S. stocks fall 7%, triggering a brief halt in trading
NEW YORK — U.S. stocks dived 7% on Wednesday, triggering a “circuit breaker” that halted trading on Wall Street for 15 minutes.
Markets have been incredibly volatile for weeks as Wall Street and the White House acknowledge an increasing risk of a recession due to the coronavirus outbreak. The typical day this month has seen the stock market swing up or down by 4.9%. Over the last decade, the median move was just 0.4%.
The selling pressure swept markets around the world. Benchmark U.S. oil fell roughly 10% and dropped below $25 per barrel for the first time since 2002. European stock indexes lost 4% following broad losses in Asia. Even prices for longer-term U.S. Treasury bills, which are seen as some of the safest possible investments, fell as investors flocked to the very shortest-term Treasury debt.
Yes, the U.S. government has a stockpile of ventilators; no, it likely won’t be enough
WASHINGTON — President Trump says the federal government has stockpiled “massive numbers of ventilators” and “tremendous amounts of equipment” to help hospitals respond to a crush of seriously ill coronavirus patients.
The problem, experts say, is that the government’s cache of supplies probably won’t be nearly enough to satisfy the demand. That’s because its stockpile was designed to be a temporary lifeline to healthcare workers in a particular place or region, until they can get more equipment and medicine from the private sector — not to provide all the gear they need, and to caregivers nationwide, simultaneously.
“There will likely soon be a surge all over the country and every state is going to be asking for material, and I think the concern is that it’s going to be depleted very quickly,” said Dr. Anand Parekh, chief medical advisor for the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington-based think tank. “The government’s stockpile is a great asset to have nationally, but if it’s taxed, it won’t have enough supplies. Many people have called for greater stockpiles, but unfortunately we are where we are.”
Treasury proposal: Deliver $500 billion to Americans starting April
WASHINGTON — The Treasury Department wants to start issuing direct payments to Americans by early next month as the centerpiece of a $1-trillion plan to stabilize the economy as the coronavirus pandemic threatens a body slam to taxpayers and businesses.
In a memorandum issued Wednesday, Treasury is calling for two $250-billion cash infusions to individuals: a first set of checks issued starting April 6, with a second wave in mid-May. The amounts would depend on income and family size.
The Treasury plan, which requires approval by Congress, also recommends $50 billion to stabilize the airlines, $150 billion to issue loan guarantees to other struggling sectors, and $300 billion for small businesses. The plan appears to anticipate that many of the loans will not be repaid.
The details are for the third coronavirus response bill that lawmakers hope to pass next week.
Column: Another strike against Trump’s tax cut — most of it would go to the rich
Decision-makers in Washington have come together on the idea of a major cash infusion to household pocketbooks to counter the economic impact of the coronavirus crisis, with the debate now focused chiefly on how much to deliver and who gets the money.
Still on the table, though fading, is the notion of providing the assistance by eliminating the payroll tax, possibly through the end of the year. If this idea has any life at all, it’s because it’s been a hobby horse of President Trump. But a new study showing that two-thirds of the benefit would go to the richest Americans should kill it for good.
The statistical analysis is offered by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a nonprofit think tank that tracks how taxes and tax breaks are distributed along the income spectrum. ITEP compared the distributional effects of the payroll tax cut to those of a proposal for an immediate cash payout of up to $2,000 per adult and $1,000 per child, phased out for households earning $140,000 or more.
Watch Live: White House task force gives updates
UCLA student tests positive for COVID-19, is being treated at hospital
A UCLA student who lives off-campus has tested positive for COVID-19 and is receiving care at a local hospital, university officials announced Tuesday.
Anyone who had close contact with the individual, who was not identified by officials, will be contacted and notified if they need to be isolated or tested, Chancellor Gene D. Block wrote in a news release.
“I know the entire UCLA community joins me in keeping our fellow Bruin in their thoughts and remaining committed to our shared well-being as we navigate this new reality together,” Block wrote.
Shut inside? Open your window and start singing. You’ll feel better
You may have seen those videos of quarantined Italians serenading each other from the balconies of their apartment buildings, snapshots of isolated people reaching for a connection. They’re singing local anthems, breaking out the folk song “Volare,” doing the Macarena (and changing the refrain to “Hey, Quarantena!”) and highlighting why more households here in the States need to have tambourines handy in the event of a global pandemic.
Watching these displays of solidarity, shared on social media, has been a balm in these times of social distancing, inspiring people throughout Europe to follow suit. Italians singing “tell me what it is which makes us feel like we’re together, even when we’re apart” hits home, and even if you don’t understand the words, the emotion comes through. We’re all feeling lost right now.
Eight great very long books you finally have time to read
Certain books are just imposing, with dimensions that call to mind the monolith in “2001: A Space Odyssey” more than your standard-size novel or memoir. Some call them doorstoppers; others ponder whether they could be used to repel intruders. There are more than a few that sit on people’s shelves, unread, as statements of purpose: “Ulysses,” “Infinite Jest,” “Middlemarch.”
If you’re currently under self-quarantine or just embracing social distancing, now might be the time to tackle a book the size of a human head. There are plenty of notable tomes out there, in addition to sizable complete collections of short stories by the likes of J.G. Ballard or Mavis Gallant.
But certain supersized books have the makings of ideal quarantine reading. If this goes on for long enough, you might even have time to tackle more than one. Some of the books below will transport you to another place or another time; others will give you a better sense of your own place in time. They have little in common except for their scale and their hypnotic ability to make you forget your own predicament.
Trump says U.S., Canada have agreed to close border to nonessential traffic
WASHINGTON — President Trump announced the near-closure of the U.S. border with Canada on Wednesday, adding to severe coronavirus-related travel restrictions already affecting Asia and much of Europe.
“We will be, by mutual consent, temporarily closing our Northern Border with Canada to non-essential traffic. Trade will not be affected. Details to follow!” Trump tweeted.
The president is expected to speak in detail at a news conference scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Eastern.
Come and ravage us: Scenes from the fire sale at one of L.A.’s hottest restaurants
At 11 a.m. on Tuesday the line to enter All Day Baby in Silver Lake trailed around the block, even though the sign on its door said “closed/cerrado.”
People had turned out to support the modern American diner, which opened in late November, for the last time in its foreseeable future. The day before, managing partner Lien Ta had posted on Instagram that the space would host “Baby’s Pop-Up Bodega” to sell the remaining food left at the restaurant and its older sibling, Here’s Looking At You in Koreatown.
“All of us at ADB + HLAY are now without jobs and with an uncertain future, and trust me, that will live on my conscience forever. (We can’t even get the unemployment website to work.)” Ta wrote in the post. “So!! Instead of Gelson’s or Vons or whomever’s aisles have been ravaged, come and ravage us. Please.”