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Las Vegas mayor wants to reopen the Strip and dismisses critics as ‘alarmist’
When Matthew DeFalco’s phone started blowing up with text messages from friends asking whether he was listening to Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman’s comments about reopening casinos, he headed home from a hike and switched on CNN.
It was a “Say what?” moment. Then he got appalled.
“My first instinct was to be embarrassed,” the 32-year-old political consultant said. “But more than that, it’s dangerous and reckless. It’s completely bonkers.”
The mayor — dressed in pearls, a blue blazer and decked out in defiance — took to the airwaves Wednesday to tell Anderson Cooper it was time for the fabled Las Vegas Strip to reopen after weeks of lockdown. It was stunning TV, but it was also a glimpse, although an extreme one, into how divided America is over loosening restrictions and opening the economy as coronavirus deaths climb.
California pastors’ request to allow in-person worship is denied by federal judge
Churches in Riverside and San Bernardino counties must continue to follow government orders banning in-person religious services to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
At a hearing conducted by telephone Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Jesus G. Bernal refused to grant a temporary restraining order that would have prevented state and county officials from enforcing the ban, which was included in broader stay-at-home orders prohibiting gatherings and closing down many businesses.
Three pastors and one parishioner filed a lawsuit this month alleging that the stay-at-home orders violated their 1st Amendment religious freedoms and other constitutional rights.
L.A. acts to keep some laid-off workers from being replaced by newer, cheaper labor
Hotels, sports arenas and selected other businesses that imposed layoffs in recent weeks could be required to offer those jobs to their former employees once they start rehiring, under a proposal backed Wednesday by the Los Angeles City Council.
Council members voted 15 to 0 to draft an ordinance requiring employers in the hospitality, property management and other targeted industries to reach out to their pool of workers who lost jobs during the coronavirus outbreak, with rehiring based on seniority.
The measure is meant to ensure that workers — especially those who are older and more experienced — are not replaced by newer, cheaper labor once the economy rebounds, said Councilman Bob Blumenfield, who represents the west San Fernando Valley.
Trump signs immigration order sharply different from what he said he planned
WASHINGTON — President Trump on Wednesday signed a proclamation on immigration that will restrict some people from entering the country over the next 60 days, but does not shut off applications for permanent residence as he had publicly declared just one day earlier.
The order, which Trump signed Wednesday afternoon, will block some new entrants who do not already have visas or other travel documents. But it includes broad exemptions for several categories of foreign workers and employers, from investors to healthcare professionals, as well as their spouses and children.
Also exempt are any parents, children, or spouses of U.S. citizens; any children or spouses of U.S. military, and potential refugees and asylum seekers.
The order does not change the status of immigrants already in the U.S.
California to borrow federal money to cover soaring jobless claims
SACRAMENTO — California has been approved to borrow what is expected to be billions of dollars from the federal government to pay unemployment benefits to those left jobless by the coronavirus pandemic, raising concerns about the cost of repaying the debt.
The state made the request as its reserves for paying unemployment benefits are being quickly depleted, requiring California to begin borrowing in just a few weeks, officials said Wednesday.
“We have protocols in place for difficult moments such as this to ensure critical safety nets remain in place,” California Labor Secretary Julie Su said.
Drive-through protest around L.A. City Hall calls for California to reopen economy
They drove around City Hall, honking and waving signs reading “Open Cali Now” and “Freedom is Contagious.” Some also held signs supporting President Trump.
It’s the latest of several protests across the country, which come as both local and national polls show wide support for the social distancing rules.
Big banks ready to unleash a flood of applications for new small-business loans
Big U.S. banks are preparing to flood loan applications into the government’s emergency financing program for small businesses the moment Congress replenishes it with $320 billion in additional funding. Packets ready to go at just a few of the largest firms stretch into the tens of billions of dollars.
The pressure is particularly high on Wells Fargo & Co. and Bank of America Corp. after they lagged behind smaller rivals in helping legions of business customers tap the Paycheck Protection Program’s initial $349 billion in funding. Bank of America had arranged roughly $5 billion by the time the initial funding was depleted last week, according to people with knowledge of the matter, ranking below smaller rivals, including Truist Financial Corp. and PNC Financial Services Group Inc. Wells Fargo organized a mere $120 million.
The companies, which have said they sought clarity on rules from the Small Business Administration, have since faced withering criticism from longtime clients who tried in vain to get applications processed to weather the coronavirus pandemic. Many have flocked to social media, recounting that bankers advised them to try community banks instead. Some have sued.
The Beatles’ animated ‘Yellow Submarine’ sing-along is coming to YouTube for free
“We all live in a yellow submarine” is the new “We’re all in this together” amid the coronavirus crisis.
As part of a campaign encouraging users to #StayHome during the pandemic, YouTube is streaming a free sing-along version of the Beatles’ 1968 animated film “Yellow Submarine” for one day only.
The live event will begin Saturday at 9 a.m. Pacific on the Beatles’ official artist channel, where viewers are encouraged to follow along with lyrics appearing at the bottom of the screen during each musical number.
“For those of you missing singing together, I’ve got good news,” said Ringo Starr in a promo video posted Wednesday on Twitter. “Tune in ... for a special ‘Yellow Submarine’ movie sing-along for kids and kids at heart. Peace and love.”
Olympian Mirai Nagasu finds hope in fight to keep parents’ restaurant from closing
Mirai Nagasu grew up in her parents’ restaurant, Sushi Kiyosuzu in Arcadia, sleeping in the storeroom and earning quarters for washing dishes when she wasn’t in school or taking figure skating lessons.
Her mother, Ikuko, and father, Kiyoto, didn’t always attend her skating competitions because they felt obligated to keep their business open and their employees working. Mirai respected that — and she learned much more from them than how to make an appetizing tuna roll.
Like thousands of other small businesses, Sushi Kiyosuzu was staggered when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and restaurants were forced to close their dining rooms. Ikuko and Kiyoto, who immigrated to the United States from Japan, couldn’t navigate the maze of government loan programs and were reluctant to tell their daughter how dire their situation was.
“They try to protect me from a lot of hardship. I think it’s more like they want to stay strong and be strong for me because I think that they know I would worry for them,” said Nagasu, who became the first American woman to land a triple axel jump in the Olympics while leading Team USA to a bronze medal at Pyeongchang in 2018, eight years after she finished fourth in the Vancouver Games.
Ventura eases hard closure of city parks, beaches and pier ahead of warm weekend
The city of Ventura eased its hard closure on parks and beaches this week in effort to help residents stay mentally and physically healthy amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Under an amended ordinance, residents can now access the city’s beaches, pier, promenade and parks as long as they keep their distance from one another and remain active. People can walk back and forth on the pier or the sand but are not allowed to sit down, or stand against the railing to fish, for example.
The city’s two golf courses also are slated to open by Friday, with changes that promote physical distancing and limited contact with employees with personal protective equipment, according to city spokeswoman Heather Sumagaysay.
Playgrounds, picnic areas, parking lots, pools and recreational courts and fields will remain closed.
Democrats scrap plans to vote this week on historic rule change to allow remote voting
WASHINGTON — Amid deep opposition from Republicans, House Democratic leaders on Wednesday scrapped plans to vote this week on a historic change to congressional rules that would have allowed lawmakers to vote remotely during the coronavirus pandemic.
Democrats had hoped to set up a system of proxy voting by which lawmakers could direct another member to cast a vote on his or her behalf, allowing Congress to function without requiring all 435 House members to travel to Washington.
The concern is particularly acute for lawmakers from the West Coast, who face the longest flights to Washington as airlines reduce operations.
Instead, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) said Wednesday she would set up a bipartisan group of lawmakers to review the issue of remote voting by proxy and reopening the House, according to a Democratic leadership aide.
Republicans almost universally panned the idea, and the aide said Pelosi wanted a bipartisan resolution.
California poppy bloom tempts visitors to break stay-at-home order
The coronavirus outbreak hasn’t thwarted Mother Nature’s springtime show in the Antelope Valley, where rolling hillsides are blanketed in a fiery orange hue from a recent poppy bloom.
But like everything else deemed nonessential during the pandemic, the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve near Lancaster — where crowds have flocked in years past to witness the breathtaking bloom — is closed to visitors. The California Department of Parks and Recreation has set up a live cam of the bloom in the hopes that people will enjoy the spectacular sight from home.
State parks officials have also set up roadblocks to allow only local traffic into the area and to reduce fence-jumping by those hoping to snap a photo among the flowers. But even that hasn’t kept everyone away, officials say.
What is herd immunity and why does it matter?
Fewer tables in restaurants. Everyone wearing masks. Staggered start times at schools. The “new normal,” as outlined by California Gov. Gavin Newsom last week, will be a big change in the time of the coronavirus.
But the old concept of normal — sharing a drink in a crowded bar or standing shoulder to shoulder with fans at a packed sporting event — might not be back “until we have herd immunity,” the governor said.
How long until then? In short: It’s complicated.
Here’s what to know about herd immunity, our long-term goal in the fight against COVID-19.
Newsom says California shutdown must continue, but expanded testing will help
SACRAMENTO — Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday announced an expansion of coronavirus testing capability throughout California, saying the findings will be critical to deciding when to ease the state’s strict stay-at-home order and allow people to return to work.
Newsom’s announcement comes as more and more cities and counties have urged him to modify the restrictions, which they say have put local economies on the brink of ruin. The governor has thus far resisted, saying COVID-19 remains a serious and growing health threat and loosening his statewide order prematurely could lead to a second wave of infections and fatalities.
Murdochs and other Fox Corp. executives cut pay
Fox Corp. has become the latest media company to slash salaries as the coronavirus has decimated the advertising marketplace.
In a memo to employees issued Wednesday, Fox Corp. Executive Chairman Lachlan Murdoch said he and his father, Rupert, would forgo their salaries through Sept. 30, as will the company’s chief operating officer, John Nallen; chief legal and policy officer, Viet Dinh; and chief policy officer, Steve Tomsic.
The Murdochs’ direct reports, which include Fox News President Suzanne Scott, will take a 50% pay reduction over the same period. Executives at the vice president level or higher will see their salaries reduced 15% from May 1 through July 31.
The reductions will affect around 700 employees at the company, which includes its network TV operation, television stations, sports division and Fox News Media. Compensation increases also have been suspended.
Puerto Rico will not hold primary on Sunday
Puerto Rico’s Democratic presidential primary will not take place as scheduled on Sunday and has been postponed indefinitely in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The vote, originally set for March 29, was originally delayed until April 26. Charles Rodriguez, chairman for the Democratic Party of Puerto Rico, said he, along with the president of the Puerto Rico State Commission on Elections, chose to further delay the primary.
“We resolved to remain vigilant and monitor the emergency situation, along with the governor and the Department of Health, before selecting a new date in the summer,” Rodriguez said.
Puerto Rico has been on lockdown with all nonessential businesses closed and a curfew in place since March 16. The measures are scheduled to last through at least May 3. The island had 915 positive cases of coronavirus as of Wednesday, a smaller number than initially thought after testing bungles led to some patients double counted in government data.
At least a dozen states have delayed their primaries or switched to all-mail-in voting in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier this month, Wisconsin held an in-person election and at least seven people contracted the virus after the vote. Residents of of the territory of Puerto Rico are considered U.S. citizens but can’t vote in U.S. presidential elections. They still participate in the primary process, with 51 pledged delegates and seven automatic delegates.
Tickets for speeding in excess of 100 mph surge 87%
SACRAMENTO — With freeway traffic down significantly because of the statewide stay-at-home order, the California Highway Patrol said Wednesday there has been an 87% increase in citations for speeding in excess of 100 mph.
The CHP’s message to motorists: Slow down.
In the month after the start of the stay-at-home order March 19, the CHP issued 2,493 tickets throughout California for speeding more than 100 mph. Officers wrote 1,335 tickets for that offense during the same period last year.
Caltrans officials believe the increase in speeding is connected to a reduction in traffic volume on state roads, which has declined by about 35% compared with this time last year.
New York City mayor to isolate anyone with virus
New York City officials intend to enlist thousands of healthcare workers next month to conduct hundreds of thousands of diagnostic tests a day, and isolate anyone found to be carrying the disease.
The plan, which hinges on the city’s still-unmet capacity to test residents, will require training thousands of “disease detectives” to interview each individual found positive for the virus, Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a news briefing Wednesday. The city would then trace his or her social contacts to test and isolate them if necessary.
De Blasio’s goal is far more ambitious than New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s goal announced Tuesday of 40,000 tests a day for the entire state.
The city will rent thousands of hotel rooms for virus carriers with no or mild symptoms who live in crowded households that make isolation impossible, De Blasio said.
Italy cases on rise again
Italy registered its highest number of new coronavirus cases in four days on Wednesday as Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte prepared a stimulus package for an economy paralyzed by a nationwide lockdown.
The country also posted a record figure for recoveries from the disease, with 2,943 over the past 24 hours.
Figures from civil protection authorities showed there were 3,370 new cases for the 24-hour period, compared with 2,729 a day earlier. Confirmed cases now total 187,327. Italy, the original European epicenter of the outbreak, registered 437 deaths linked to the virus on Wednesday, compared with 534 the day before. That brings total fatalities to 25,085.
Texas cases rise 18%
Texas recorded an 18% jump in new cases, the second consecutive daily increase, according to state health department data. Deaths rose at the same pace, bringing the fatality total to 543 statewide. The 2,220 available intensive-care beds were still more than double the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations.
The escalation in cases comes as Governor Greg Abbott prepares to announce plans on Monday for reopening the second-most-populous U.S. state. The two-term Republican’s goal of easing restrictions is running into resistance in some of the state’s biggest metropolitan areas — Houston and Dallas — where Democratic leaders are tightening rules and, in one case, extending the lockdown.
L.A. County will list restaurants that have had outbreaks
L.A. County Department of Public Health will soon begin publicly listing restaurants that have had outbreaks of COVID-19.
In a news conference Tuesday, department director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said the county already listed on its website confirmed COVID-19 cases that occurred in nursing facilities, jails and prisons, shelters, treatment centers and other “institutional settings.”
“Later this week, we will be including on this list restaurants that have had outbreaks as well,” she said.
It’s unclear how the policy will be implemented, what constitutes an outbreak or how long the restaurants will be listed online. L.A. County’s public COVID-19 list currently includes any facility that has had at least one confirmed case among staff or residents once the facility is given official notice.
Outbreak in Turkey is under control, official says
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s health minister has reported 117 additional COVID-19 fatalities in the past 24 hours, bringing the total death toll to 2,376.
Fahrettin Koca also reported 3,083 new confirmed infections in the country, raising the total to 98,674. The number of new cases was the lowest since April 4 and down from the 4,611 cases reported the previous day.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said this week that the number of daily infections was stabilizing and that the country could transition to normal life after a religious holiday at the end of May.
“The data indicates that the outbreak is under control,” Koca told reporters.
But he warned against any relaxation of measures to contain the spread, especially during the upcoming holy Muslim of month of Ramadan, when people traditionally hold fast-breaking dinners with family and friends.
AT&T takes a $600-million hit from crisis
AT&T Inc. posted a 4.5% drop in revenue from a year ago and withdrew its forecast of 2% revenue growth for the year, saying it can’t provide a financial forecast for 2020 due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The COVID-19 crisis hurt earnings by 5 cents a share in the first quarter and knocked $600 million off of revenue due to lower ad sales from canceled sports events like the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
“The economic effects of the pandemic and resulting societal changes are currently not predictable,” the company said.
But the U.S. stay-at-home orders, which started in mid-March, did help improve some of AT&T’s slumping consumer businesses.
German residents required to wear face masks on public transportation
BERLIN — People across Germany will be required to wear face masks or some other form of facial covering while using public transport, and in many cases in shops, starting next week.
The country’s smallest state, Bremen, became the last to announce the measure. The eastern state of Saxony on Monday was the first to make wearing masks obligatory on public transport and when shopping. The other 15 states followed over the past two days.
In Germany, state governments are ultimately responsible for imposing and loosening lockdowns.
Two pet cats in New York test positive
NEW YORK — Two pet cats in New York state have tested positive for the coronavirus, marking the first cases in companion animals in the United States, federal officials say.
The cats, which had mild respiratory illnesses and were expected to recover, are thought to have contracted the virus from people in their households or neighborhoods, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say.
The finding, which comes after positive tests in seven tigers and lions at the Bronx Zoo, add to a small number of confirmed cases of the virus in animals worldwide. U.S. authorities say that, although it appears some animals can get the virus from people, there’s no indication the animals are transmitting it to human beings.
The two cats live in different parts of the state; the USDA and CDC wouldn’t say where specifically.
Authorities are recommending that any pet owners with COVID-19 avoid contact with their animals as much as possible, including wearing a face covering while caring for them.
Gayle King wants to hear your stories for her new podcast
Another day, another new podcast inviting listeners to call in with their stories about the coronavirus and way the crisis has upended our lives.
Gayle King and SiriusXM announced Wednesday that the “CBS This Morning” co-host will launch a new podcast Thursday featuring phone conversations with “Americans affected by lockdowns and social distancing measures following the coronavirus outbreak.”
The hourlong show, titled “Gayle King in the House,” will air live each Thursday on SiriusXM at 2 p.m. Pacific for the next six weeks.
“These are such surreal times. I look forward to hearing how everybody’s feeling and thinking…how do we navigate the uncertainty of this moment?” King said in a statement. “As unsettling as this is, I believe we’ll make it through. While it’s crucial to be socially distant it’s just as important for us to be emotionally connected and engaged with each other. ... Call me!”
Following closure, Mt. Baldy ski resort reopening in limited capacity
Weeks after they closed Mt. Baldy as part of the statewide effort to flatten the coronavirus curve, the resort’s operators say it’s time to start carving the slopes again.
The plan to reopen in a limited capacity starting Wednesday — which the San Bernardino County ski destination announced on its website — marks the latest reopening of a recreational resource that was shuttered as elected and health officials have worked to contain the coronavirus outbreak.
“With coverage on the mountain about as good as it gets for April, and golf courses reopening around Southern California, we have decided to follow suit and open for ‘Ski & Ride Times’ beginning tomorrow morning,” Mt. Baldy posted on its website Tuesday.
Column: A ‘rocket ship’ of an economic recovery? Don’t count on it
Vince Lee, like the rest of us, is getting mighty tired of being stuck at home and is looking forward to stores, restaurants and other businesses reopening.
But the Newport Beach resident is in no hurry to return to how things were prior to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’d like to get the hell out of the house,” Lee, 87, told me. “But I’m not going to be rushing anywhere.”
That, in a nutshell, is why all those prognosticators — including President Trump — who say the economy will come roaring back once current safety measures are eased may be indulging in wishful thinking.
Complacency is one of the greatest dangers, WHO director says
Amid evidence that the number of coronavirus cases appears to be stabilizing or declining in many nations in Western Europe, the leader of the World Health Organization said, “One of the greatest dangers we face now is complacency.”
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the WHO, said at a news conference Wednesday that the global COVID-19 pandemic was still in its early phases in many parts of the world. “This virus will be with us for a long time,” he said.
Since the virus erupted in China in late December, 2.5 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported to the WHO, along with more than 160,000 deaths. Ghebreyesus said there was no question that stay-at-home orders and other physical distancing measures had successfully suppressed transmission of the coronavirus in many countries, and that’s a good thing. Early test results, however, suggest that most of the global population remains vulnerable to infection. That means epidemics can reignite.
He reiterated that lockdowns should not be lifted until governments are able to use testing to find every case, isolate people with the disease, test every case, care for every case, and trace and quarantine every contact.
Passenger air travel down more than 90%, leaving LAX a ghost town
The number of Americans getting on airplanes has sunk to a level not seen in more than 60 years as people shelter in their homes to avoid catching or spreading the coronavirus.
The Transportation Security Administration screened 94,931 people on Wednesday, a drop of 96% from a year ago and the second straight day under 100,000.
The official tally of people who passed through TSA checkpoints exaggerates the number of travelers — if that is possible — because it includes some airline crew members and people still working at shops inside airport security.
Column: The craze for Trump’s chloroquine COVID-19 remedy is dying out
You may have noticed that mentions of antimalarial drugs as remedies for the novel coronavirus infection have fallen off a cliff lately. Two new data points released in recent days might well end the craze completely.
The two latest developments include a study of cases at Veterans Affairs Department hospitals showing that COVID-19 patients who received hydroxychloroquine died at higher rates than those who didn’t receive it.
Nor did the researchers find that treatment with the drug affected the rate at which the patients, who generally had advanced COVID-19 illness, needed to be put on ventilators, the most extreme therapy for the disease.
With humans shut in, polluted cities are seeing stars, wildlife is roaming
As people across the globe stay home to stop the spread of the new coronavirus, the planet is becoming cleaner and more wild.
Smog stopped choking New Delhi, one of the most polluted cities in the world, allowing Indians to see distant mountains not visible in decades. Nitrogen dioxide pollution has declined 30% in the northeastern United States. And in Rome, air pollution levels plunged 49% between mid-March and mid-April, making stars seem more visible at night.
Wild animals are being noticed in unusual places. Coyotes have been spotted meandering along downtown Chicago’s Michigan Avenue and near San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. A puma roamed the streets of Santiago, Chile, while goats took over a town in Wales. In India, already daring wildlife has become bolder, with hungry monkeys entering homes and opening refrigerators to look for food.
Tulare County demands action after outbreak kills 15 at one nursing home
One of the state’s worst outbreaks of COVID-19 at a skilled nursing facility has driven up the death toll in rural Tulare County, accounting for more than half of the county’s reported cases despite early action by local officials to guard against the spread of the coronavirus.
In February, organizers of a three-day international agriculture show set in the city of Tulare stopped China-based companies from sending representatives after the federal travel ban. Health officials prepared to expand testing at the county public health lab, which serves five other counties in the San Joaquin Valley, purchasing new equipment days after the first few cases were discovered.
But their efforts weren’t enough to stop an outbreak at a skilled nursing facility in Visalia, the rural county’s most populous city. As some parts of the country consider reopening communities, local health officials are trying to figure out how to stop the spread at the facility, where more than 100 patients have been infected. As of Tuesday, the county reported 436 confirmed cases. While 62 people have recovered, 22 have died.
Crisis will cut money immigrants send home by 20%, World Bank says
In a second-story storefront in an Artesia shopping mall, Andrea Luchavez slid $500 in cash beneath a cashier’s window to a teller who would wire the funds to her children and mother in the Philippines.
It was $300 less than what Luchavez sent every month, before the coronavirus paralyzed Southern California and the world, putting millions out of work, including her husband, and paring back the hours of those who, like her, managed to keep their jobs.
Each year, immigrants such as Luchavez collectively send hundreds of billions of dollars from the countries where they work to those they call home. These remittances are a lifeline for individual families and some national economies, accounting for a fifth of El Salvador’s and Honduras’ gross domestic product, and more than a third of Haiti’s.
Self-isolating with Chicano Batman
‘Second wave’ could be worse for California than the first, officials warn
Even as California continues to bend the coronavirus curve, a rise in the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths as well as concerns about a “second wave” of the outbreak are reasons to stay vigilant, officials say.
California has recorded almost 36,000 cases, adding nearly 2,000 on Tuesday alone. Part of the uptick in new cases this week is the result of a lag in labs reporting test results and releasing bulk numbers. More than 1,300 people have died across the state.
Gov. Gavin Newsom and others have said that California and the nation have not necessarily seen the worst of coronavirus and that lifting stay-at-home rules could be disastrous.
“If we all pull back, we could see a second wave that makes this pale in comparison,” Newsom told CBS News. “I don’t anticipate that normalcy that many of us wish for happening anytime soon.”
New small business bill still has the ‘Shake Shack loophole.’ No one accepts blame
It’s a classic Washington whodunit.
No one wants to take the blame for the loophole that allows name-brand restaurant chains like Shake Shack to get huge sums of pandemic-relief money meant for small businesses.
Lobbyists, lawmakers and agency officials deny responsibility. Yet fingers are pointing over how big national chains including Potbelly Corp. and Ruth’s Chris Steak House landed $10 million or more apiece in loans while millions of mom-and-pop firms were left stranded when the program ran out of money.
Now, with Congress poised to approve $320 billion of new funds this week, many lawmakers want the loophole closed. But a draft of the new legislation, obtained by Bloomberg, doesn’t fix it. The Senate passed the measure Tuesday, and the House could vote Thursday.
Prisoners could add 100,000 to U.S. death toll, ACLU says
The Trump administration’s projection for U.S. deaths from the coronavirus pandemic may be short by about 100,000 because it isn’t fully accounting for the nation’s high prison population, the American Civil Liberties Union said.
Models that properly account for the roughly 740,000 people in jail in the U.S. on any given day suggest the country will experience “much higher death rates” than currently projected if inmate populations aren’t reduced rapidly, the organization said in a statement about its findings on Wednesday.
U.S. economy could reopen by end of August, Mnuchin says
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says he anticipates most of the U.S. economy will restart by the end of August after the coronavirus has led to social distancing measures that have shuttered many businesses.
“We’re operating under the environment that we are going to open up parts of the economy and we’re looking forward to — by the time we get later in the summer —having most of the economy, if not all of the economy, open,” he said Wednesday on Fox Business Network.
U.K. death toll tops 18,100
LONDON — The British government says 759 more people with the coronavirus have died in U.K. hospitals, taking the total to 18,100.
The daily increase reported was lower than the 823 in the previous 24-hour period.
The U.K.’s death toll is the fourth highest in Europe, behind Italy, Spain and France, all of which have reported more than 20,000 deaths.
There has been, however, increasing scrutiny of the U.K. figures in recent days for understating the actual number of people having died of COVID-19. The numbers don’t include those who have died in care homes or elsewhere in the community.
Earlier, British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the country was at the “peak” but that it was too early to start considering a relaxation of the lockdown measures in place since March 23.
Opening businesses ‘defies logic,’ Atlanta mayor says
ATLANTA — Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s decision to allow hair and nail salons, massage therapists and other businesses to reopen “really defies logic,” says Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.
The mayor says the governor didn’t tell her before he announced the decision publicly on Monday.
“He did not tell me directly, and he’s the governor so I don’t always expect to receive a call directly from the governor,” she told NBC’s “Today” show on Wednesday. “But something of this magnitude, I would have expected at least a call from someone on his team.”
The mayor says with manicures, haircuts and massages, “the nature of the business is that you are in close contact with someone and that’s what’s most disturbing to me about the way this order has been lifted.”
Orange County debates closing beaches as hot weather sparks fears of out-of-town crowds
Orange County officials have been debating whether to close beaches and trailheads during an upcoming heat wave after coastal residents raised concerns about out-of-towners descending on their communities in droves.
The county — and several Orange County cities — previously closed parking lots, parks, piers and trailheads adjacent to their beaches in an effort to curb access amid the coronavirus pandemic. Seal Beach and Laguna Beach closed their beaches entirely.
Still, Laguna Beach Mayor Bob Whalen expressed concern this week in a letter to Supervisor Lisa Bartlett, who represents a swath of south Orange County, that leaving the county beaches adjacent to Laguna Beach open would put the health of residents at risk.
JPMorgan’s small business loans went to its biggest customers
JPMorgan Chase & Co. provided loans to virtually all of its commercial banking customers that sought financing through the small business relief program while the lender’s smallest customers were almost entirely shut out through another channel, according to data disclosed by the bank.
About 5,500 larger, and sometimes more sophisticated, customers of JPMorgan’s commercial banking business applied for funding through the Paycheck Protection Program, part of the $2-trillion CARES Act that Congress adopted in late March. Nearly all of them got loans, according to the bank’s data.
More than 300,000 customers of JPMorgan’s business banking unit, which serves smaller firms, applied for loans. About 18,000 were funded, for a 6% success rate.
JPMorgan made a total of $14 billion in small-business loans through the federal program.
Zoos struggle to find funds to feed animals, who seem to miss the crush of humanity
OAKLAND — While animals in deserted national and state parks seem to be thriving without the presence of people, many at the Oakland Zoo seemed downright bored without the crowds.
On Monday morning, a pair of mountain lions lolled together lazily in a hammock, while a gibbon couple, Rainer and May, sang and called, before dejectedly lying back in the high branches of the Chinese elm they call home.
Since March 17, the Oakland Zoo, a 100-acre wildlife park, has been closed to visitors — by order of state and local governments requiring the public to shelter in place during the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the zookeepers, only the bald eagles, and maybe the wolves, seem to relish the solitude.
As Texas governor eases restrictions, some counties tighten them, ordering residents to wear masks
HOUSTON — County leaders in Houston are expected to require the area’s 4.7 million residents to wear masks in public starting Wednesday — adding restrictions to prevent the spread of coronavirus even as the Texas governor has eased others statewide this week.
It wasn’t clear whether the Republican governor or city and county leaders — many of them Democrats — would prevail.
So far, Texas cities and counties have enacted more coronavirus restrictions than the state. Many major cities closed dine-in restaurants and issued stay-at-home orders before the governor did, and now they’re requiring masks, a step the governor never took (he appears at briefings without one).
The new rules in Houston’s Harris County, expected to be announced by county leaders at a Wednesday briefing, will require those 10 and older to cover their nose and mouth with a mask or other face covering when outside, according to an official with knowledge of the plan who was not authorized to speak publicly. The rules will take effect Monday and last for a month. Employers at essential businesses must provide face coverings to workers who have contact with the public.
Gov. Greg Abbott eased some pandemic restrictions this week —
reopening state parks, allowing more surgeries and more retail-store product pickups. He has yet to extend other restrictions beyond the end of the month. He plans to announce on Monday a comprehensive plan for reopening the state. Abbott said his order would override local ones. Harris County officials have yet to extend their stay-at-home order, which is set to expire this month, but Dallas County already has, through May 15.
Abbott has been consulting with state and business leaders on a plan to reopen the economy, including Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who this week doubled down on his position that getting people back to work was worth the potential loss of lives to COVID-19.
“We know that Texans really want to get back to work. It’s kind of part of the Texas DNA,” Abbott said at a Tuesday briefing.
Abbott said this week that the number of Texans testing positive for COVID-19 was “leveling off.” Texas has reported 20,196 cases and 517 deaths, but only a fraction of the population has been tested. Abbott has said he plans to ramp up testing before he lifts restrictions, and he deployed Texas National Guard teams this week to test 3,500 more people daily.
Harvard says it didn’t get small business aid after Trump threat
WASHINGTON — Harvard University denied Tuesday that it received funding through the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses grappling with the coronavirus crisis, after President Trump told reporters he planned to force the school to pay back federal assistance.
“President Trump is right that it would not have been appropriate for our institution to receive funds that were designated for struggling small businesses,” the university said in a statement Tuesday.
Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said Tuesday that the program wasn’t intended for publicly traded companies that had other ways to access funding and that his department would be issuing guidelines soon in an effort to get corporations that did receive funds to give back the forgivable loans to the federal government.
Vatican to resume normal activities early next month
VATICAN CITY — The Vatican is thinking ahead to a Phase 2 of the coronavirus pandemic and plans to resume normal activities starting early next month.
The Vatican says its secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, met with the Holy See’s top officials on Wednesday to “reflect on a second phase of the COVID-19 emergency.”
Italy, the European epicenter of the pandemic, is planning a gradual reopening of some activity and services starting May 4. In a statement, the Vatican said it would follow suit, deciding on a “gradual reactivation of ordinary services, while keeping in place the health precautions aimed at limiting contagion.”
The Vatican closed its doors to tourists when Italy locked down in early March after recording its first domestic case Feb. 21. The Vatican has registered nine positive tests so far.
Surviving the Shutdown: Siblings keep the family legacy alive at Kareem’s Restaurant
The stacked metal tables and chairs outside Kareem’s in Anaheim speaks to the Middle Eastern restaurant’s particular predicament during this pandemic.
In the pre-coronavirus days, families and friends packed tables and freely reached over one another to nosh off platters packed with emerald-green falafels, crunchy fattoush, smooth labneh and other Palestinian standards.
“Our cuisine is all about communion, and that’s now all gone,” said Mike Hawari, 23, who runs the restaurant alongside his older sister, Nora. “The whole culture starts with the pita in the hand, and we can’t do that right now or for a while.
South Korea reports 11 new cases, 1 death
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported 11 new cases of the coronavirus and one more death, bringing its national totals to 10,694 cases and 238 deaths.
Wednesday marked the 21st day in a row that the daily jump in infections was below 100. They continue to wane in the hardest-hit city of Daegu, which reported just one new case.
South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said at least 1,017 cases were linked to passengers arriving from abroad, with most of the cases detected in recent weeks in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area.
With its caseload slowing, South Korea has begun to relax social distancing guidelines amid concerns over the pandemic’s economic shock.
China reports 30 new cases, no deaths
BEIJING — China on Wednesday again reported no new deaths related to the coronavirus but registered 30 more cases — 23 of them brought from abroad.
Of the domestic cases, all seven were reported in Heilongjiang province near the Russian border where a field hospital had been set up to deal with a new flare-up related to people coming home from abroad. Just over 1,000 people are hospitalized for treatment, while about the same number are under isolation and monitoring as either suspected cases or after testing positive but showing no symptoms.
China has reported a total of 4,632 deaths among 82,788 cases, the bulk of them in Wuhan where officials recently raised the death toll by 50% after a review of records.
Italy to double stimulus aid; Spain extends emergency
Italy and Spain — the worst-hit countries in Europe — are preparing more resources to limit the damage to their economies. Ahead of a planned restart schedule, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s Cabinet is expected to seek parliamentary approval to broaden the budget deficit by about 55 billion euros ($60 billion).
Spain reported a small increase in the number of new cases, though the numbers remain steady. The country’s parliament on Wednesday will vote on Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s request to prolong a state of emergency for two weeks through May 9. Spain, which had the most extensive outbreak in Europe, made its first move on Tuesday to relax curbs. Children under 14 will be allowed out of their homes as of April 26 for walks, in the company of an adult and following social-distancing and health rules.
Germany’s ruling parties will hold talks on the virus response on Wednesday evening amid tension over the pace of loosening curbs. The number of new coronavirus cases in Germany stayed close to a three-week low as the country allowed small shops and hardware stores to open starting on Monday.
Germany to start trial for vaccine
BERLIN — Germany’s health minister has regulatory approval for the first trial in the country of a vaccine for the coronavirus.
Jens Spahn says the trial will involve 200 people ages 18-55. He cautioned the process of fully testing the vaccine would take months.
Germany’s regulatory authority, the Paul Ehrlich Institute, approved the trial for an RNA-based vaccine being jointly developed by BioNTech and Pfizer. Regulatory approval for trials is also being sought in the United States and China.
Numerous companies are racing to develop a vaccine for the coronavirus that has infected more than 2.5 million people worldwide and caused at least 178,000 deaths in the past four months.
In rural California, children face isolation, hunger amid school closures
With schools closed because of the coronavirus, educators in vast stretches of rural California are struggling not only to teach their students, but also to reach them.
From the mountain hamlets of Northern California to the farming communities of the Central Valley to the desert towns near the U.S.-Mexico border, small schools are grappling with how to serve far-flung, impoverished students with less access to at-home internet, spotty cellphone service and who rely on schools to feed them.
In Trinity County, some bus drivers are traveling up to 1.5 hours along winding mountain roads to deliver two meals per day to families who can’t afford to drive into town. In Siskiyou County, students are dropping off homework on teachers’ front porches. In Tulare County, one tiny district hurriedly installed internet antennae throughout town, including the roofs of some houses.
Getting free internet is hard for poor students despite provider offers, survey finds
Tamara Solis faced a choice when it came to her children’s education: Pay for rent and food or pay for internet access. Broadband came in second, so she takes her kids to a friend’s garage apartment in Watts for internet — where they do their schoolwork in close quarters amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s a small place,” said Solis, noting that it was difficult to abide by recommended physical distancing guidelines. “We try to do the best — one on the table, one on the sofa, one on the bed ... but it’s not big enough to keep far away.”
Her plight is not unique.
This Hollywood book and record shop hangs by a thread, waiting for federal help
Counterpoint Records & Books, serving the Hollywood Hills since 1980, is in danger of closing its doors for good.
In normal times, that wouldn’t count as news anywhere outside the store’s Beachwood Canyon neighborhood. But millions of mom-and-pop businesses have gone dark around the country to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus. Many are just as spooked as Counterpoint Records & Books co-owner Susan Polifronio. With no customers or revenue, with bills still to be paid and debt piling high, the possibility grows every day that many won’t be able to reopen.
The federal government was supposed to help, but its $349-billion small-business-loan program was exhausted in days, with some of the money going to major corporations that include national restaurants and at least one coal mining company. Millions of small businesses that sought loans have yet to see any money, according to the National Federation of Independent Business, which surveyed its members Friday and found that 80% were still waiting on federal help.
L.A. housing stricken by overcrowding triggers fears of the spread
Lorenzo Salinas doesn’t know how he’ll pay next month’s rent, much less how he would keep his whole family from getting sick if one of them fell ill with the coronavirus.
Living in South Los Angeles with his wife and three children, ages 11 to 20, there’s little space to spare in the two-bedroom apartment.
“I think we’d have to stay outside,” said Salinas, who lost his job at a restaurant over a month ago. “Now we’re all shut in. The apartment feels smaller and more uncomfortable than usual.”
Salinas and his family live in one of the most crowded ZIP Codes in the United States, according to a Times population-adjusted ranking. Nearly 24% of the homes there are considered “crowded” — having more than one person per room, excluding bathrooms, the analysis of Census Bureau data shows.