Coronavirus updates: All L.A. County residents can now get free tests


The Los Angeles Times will provide around-the-clock updates on COVID-19 from across Southern California and around the world.

Coronavirus updates for April 28 are here

NYPD called after overwhelmed funeral home stores bodies on ice in rented trucks

Police were called to a Brooklyn neighborhood Wednesday after a funeral home overwhelmed by the coronavirus resorted to storing dozens of bodies on ice in rented trucks, and a passerby complained about the smell, officials said.

Investigators who responded to a 911 call found that the home had rented four trucks to hold about 50 corpses, according to a law enforcement official. No criminal charges were brought and the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the investigation, spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

The Andrew T. Cleckley Funeral Home was cited for failing to control the odors. The home was able to obtain a larger, refrigerated truck later in the day, the official said.

New York City funeral homes have struggled as at least 18,000 people have died in the city since late March.

The NYPD notified the state Department of Health, which oversees funeral homes, about the situation at the Andrew T. Cleckley Funeral Home. It did not respond to an email seeking comment.


San Diego’s fruit swap captures spirit of neighbors helping neighbors during coronavirus crisis

Beryl Forman sorts and bags donated fruit
Beryl Forman sorts and bags donated fruit in City Heights to hand out to residents in need.
(Jarrod Valliere / San Diego Untion-Tribune)

All the loquats that grow on Marcela Talavera’s fruit trees don’t make it to the kitchen table.

The natural abundance of Talavera’s trees encouraged the resident of National City, in southwest San Diego County, to donate fruit from her yard to a fruit swap — where people can drop off produce and those in need can pick it up for free — in San Diego’s City Heights neighborhood.

Business owners, community organizations and residents joined forces in early April to run a weekly fruit swap at the public open space Fair@44 to help those in need during the coronavirus crisis.



Newsom may close beaches throughout the state to slow coronavirus spread

Gov. Gavin Newsom may order beaches to close in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

A memo sent to California police chiefs said the governor intends to make the announcement Thursday. A law enforcement source confirmed to The Times that authorities were briefed on the plans and that might also include closure of some parks.

The governor’s office declined to comment Wednesday night. Eric Nunez, president of the chiefs’ association, told the Associated Press that the memo was sent to give police leaders a heads-up before a Thursday announcement.

Newsom on Monday criticized Californians who defied the statewide stay-at-home order and flocked to beaches over the weekend, saying that ignoring restrictions could prolong the spread of the coronavirus in the state.



Face masks thrown on freeway cause traffic jam in Northern California

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, a Bay Area freeway suffered a mini-traffic jam Wednesday when someone tossed hundreds of face masks onto the road and some motorists stopped to grab them, the California Highway Patrol reported.

About 1:30 p.m., CHP officers received a report that a white truck had stopped on Interstate 880 in Union City and someone tossed out boxes of medical masks, the CHP reported.

Hundreds of the prized masks spread across southbound lanes, authorities said.



San Diego will partially close some streets to boost outdoor recreation space during coronavirus

San Diego will create more outside recreation space beginning Thursday by transforming four road segments into “slow streets,” where part of the roadway is reserved for pedestrians and cyclists.

The goal is to allow residents to more easily get exercise and move around while also practicing safe social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Social distancing can be difficult on narrow sidewalks or bike lanes.

The city also will reopen several commuter bikeways and install larger “walk” buttons that can be pressed using a clothed elbow instead of a hand. The goal of the larger buttons at pedestrian crossings is preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus.



3 million coronavirus masks arrive in California as part of quiet deal with Chinese company

The first shipment of protective masks purchased from a Chinese company by advisors to Gov. Gavin Newsom arrived in California over the weekend, part of a still-confidential agreement costing California taxpayers almost $1 billion.

Newsom briefly mentioned the delivery in his remarks Wednesday on the state’s coronavirus response, and it was later confirmed by the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. In all, the state received some 3 million surgical masks made by BYD, a company known for building electric vehicles with an assembly plant in Los Angeles County.

The masks “arrived on Saturday night, got into the state warehouse on Sunday, started getting distributed to 18 specific sites yesterday,” Newsom said. “And as more protective gear comes in, more quickly, we’ll get it out.”



NHL offers hope players can return to ice in small groups by middle or end of May

NHL players, coaches and staff members will remain in self-quarantine indefinitely, the league and the NHL Players’ Assn. said Wednesday in a joint statement, but the two groups offered hope for a return to the ice by suggesting players might engage in small-group activities by the middle or end of May “provided that conditions continue to trend favorably.”

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman put the 2019-20 season on pause on March 12 in response to the coronavirus pandemic. He subsequently issued several stay-at-home directives, with the most recent period scheduled to run through Thursday. European-born players were permitted to return to their homelands to await word on whether the season will resume, and many have done so.

Bettman said last week he is willing to schedule games during the summer to complete the season and award the Stanley Cup, which he said could be accomplished without infringing on the 2020-21 season.

The regular season was about 85% complete when the season was put on hold and no decision has been made on whether the schedule would be played out — even though several teams were eliminated from playoff contention — or whether play would pick up with the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Read more > > >


Coronavirus death toll higher in California than previously known, new data suggest

Total deaths across the state during the COVID-19 pandemic are more than 9% higher than historical averages, according to newly released federal statistics, suggesting the toll could be hundreds or even thousands of deaths more than what’s been attributed to the disease thus far.

The new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show roughly 4,500 additional deaths from all causes have occurred in 2020 over what would be expected from historical averages, according to a Times analysis.

With the agency’s coronavirus death total for the state at 1,017 as of Monday, the difference of about 3,500 suggests a broader implication on mortality attributable to the disease, experts say.

The statistics, they caution, are preliminary and more extensive research will reveal the true impact of the disease on California deaths. But they say the new figures are an important early indicator in understanding it.

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Rocked by coronavirus losses, TV, radio, newspapers seek government ad dollars

Every year the federal government spends about $1 billion in advertising to promote its programs and military recruitment.

But many of the local TV, radio and newspaper companies that carry those advertisements are being financially devastated by the economic shutdown in most of the country due to the coronavirus crisis — even as the hunger for news and information on the pandemic is driving up viewing and readership.

So media companies have joined an initiative led by the National Assn. of Broadcasters to push for a significant increase in the current ad budget as part of the next fiscal stimulus package being considered by Congress, known as Phase 4.

“For so many broadcasters and newspapers, this is a life-or-death situation,” said Dennis Wharton, an executive vice president for NAB. “The advertising that supports local journalism and hometown radio and TV stations in many cases has simply disappeared. It’s just a desperate situation, and far more dire than anything seen in decades.”

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All L.A. County residents can now get free coronavirus tests, Garcetti says

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Wednesday that all county residents can now get free coronavirus testing.

Until now, only residents with symptoms as well as essential workers and those in institutional settings like nursing homes could be tested.

Officials say expanded testing is essential to getting a better sense of how many people have the virus — data that could be used to ease stay-at-home rules.

Under the new guidelines, priority for the same- or next-day testing will still be given to people with symptoms, such as a fever, cough and shortness of breath.

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Orange County’s coronavirus death toll hits 44 as number of infections climbs past 2,200

Two more Orange County residents have died of COVID-19, health officials said Wednesday, as the region’s overall infection count climbed past 2,200.

Half of the county’s 44 total COVID-19 victims were at least 75 years old, and 17 were anywhere between 45 and 74, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.

The county’s observed mortality rate associated with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, continues to be just below 2%, significantly lower than the levels seen in neighboring Los Angeles County and statewide.

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These are the latest coronavirus case numbers by community in L.A. County

Los Angeles County health officials Wednesday announced the largest increase in new coronavirus cases reported in a single day since the pandemic began, pushing the county’s total number of infections past 22,400.

Public Health Department Director Barbara Ferrer announced 1,541 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, nearly 1,000 more than reported the previous day. The large increase is mostly the result of a boost in testing as well as a lag in weekend reporting, Ferrer said.

County health officials also reported 56 additional fatalities linked to the virus, bringing the county’s death toll to 1,056.

Here is a rundown of cases by community:

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Riverside County health order is extended to June 19

In an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Riverside County residents will be required to wear face coverings when outside and to continue practicing social distancing through June 19.

On Wednesday, Riverside County Public Health Officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser extended his order to the date, reminding residents that the county is also moving “to fully align with the governor’s stay-at-home order” until it’s amended or rescinded.

Under the governor’s order, Riverside County residents are still required to stay home unless they must leave for essential business or activities, such as buying groceries or visiting their doctor.

Riverside County has seen 3,735 confirmed cases and 141 deaths caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“While we work within the governor’s plan for reopening the state, people must be mindful that COVID-19 has not been eliminated,” Kaiser said in a statement. “The new normal in Riverside County will still require social distancing, facial coverings and other precautions. Summer will only slow the virus, and we are already thinking about what will happen in the fall.”

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Yankees’ Giancarlo Stanton to donate face shields to hospitals in Southland and New York

The shortage of personal protective equipment in America’s hospitals is a national problem. With more than a million Americans testing positive for the novel coronavirus and more than 60,000 dead, some doctors and nurses have been asked to care for patients without the fresh masks and shields that could protect them from contracting the illness.

Giancarlo Stanton did something about it. The 2017 National League most valuable player announced Wednesday that he is donating 15,000 face shields to hospitals in Southern California, where he grew up, and in New York, where he now plays for the Yankees.

The local recipients are Centinela Hospital Medical Center in Inglewood, Valley Presbyterian Hospital in Van Nuys and East Los Angeles Doctors’ Hospital.

“The African American and Latino communities are hit the hardest,” Stanton said. “Those hospitals have the least resources. They were depleted.”

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Germany avoids the worst of the coronavirus crisis — but how?

BERLIN — Strolling through Berlin’s sprawling Tiergarten, window-shopping along stylish Kurfurstendamm boulevard, getting stuck in traffic again: after a winter of vigilance, Germans are venturing out, masked and properly socially distanced, to enjoy the first warm days of spring.

These scenes of normality — albeit laden with precautions — are gradually returning, as Germany appears to have avoided the worst of a pandemic that has devastated its neighbors and reminded those old enough of a world war that shook the continent.

Europe’s richest and most populous country — with a trained scientist at the helm, a generally rule-following public and an enviable healthcare system — is becoming a case study in how to deal with a public-health crisis.

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Florida to ease restrictions beginning May 4

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that on May 4 portions of the state would see eased restrictions.

Restaurants and retail shops would reopen at 25% capacity. But, DeSantis said, three of the most populous counties in the state — Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach — would stay under a strict order for several more weeks to help slow the spread of the virus.

Florida has seen 32,800 confirmed virus cases and at least 1,170 deaths. DeSantis said the state was taking a “very slow and methodical approach.”

“There’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.

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Here are the Orange County communities with coronavirus cases

Orange County announced an additional 108 coronavirus infections Wednesday, bringing the region’s cumulative total to 2,252.

Health officials also confirmed two more deaths, raising the toll to 44 since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Of those who have tested positive for the virus, 175 are hospitalized — 70 of them in intensive care, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency. Both those numbers are down slightly from those reported Tuesday by the county, which were the highest to date.

Testing continues to ramp up dramatically in the county. So far, 29,940 people have been tested for coronavirus infection, including 2,203 on Wednesday alone, the second most in a single day.



For a coronavirus infection, doctor’s orders, rest and fluids are the best medicine

There’s a wide range of symptoms of COVID-19, including fever, loss of smell and taste, headache and sore throat. Unfortunately, there isn’t yet an antiviral medication to treat it or a vaccine to prevent infection by this new coronavirus.

It’s difficult to develop treatments for viral illnesses because a treatment needs to be able to target a specific part of the virus’ life cycle that makes it possible to reproduce, according to Harvard Medical School.

As scientists work to develop treatments and a vaccine, what can you do if you are sick?



California to provide more food benefits to families during the coronavirus crisis

Volunteers help hand out bags of food at a distribution site in San Fernando.
Volunteers hand out bags of food at a distribution site at San Fernando Senior High School.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

SACRAMENTO — With California campuses closed because of the coronavirus, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday that low-income families would receive $365 per child to buy food during the next two months to make up for the loss of free and reduced-priced lunches previously provided by the schools.

Newsom estimated up to $1.4 billion in federal funds would be provided to 3.8 million families in California.

“We think that is a significant thing,” Newsom said during his daily coronavirus briefing. “We are going to do our best to get [the money] in people’s pockets because we deeply recognize people’s food insecurity, not just their economic insecurity.”

Families with children currently enrolled in the state’s food stamps program, CalFresh, or Medi-Cal or foster care programs do not need to apply for the extra money. They will receive a new pandemic electronic benefit transfer card in the mail in May.



Dirty money piling up in L.A. as coronavirus cripples international money laundering

Dirty money is piling up in Los Angeles. In the last three weeks, federal agents made three seizures that each netted more than $1 million in suspected drug proceeds.

The reason, according to the city’s top drug enforcement official: The coronavirus pandemic has slowed trade-based money laundering systems that drug trafficking groups use to repatriate profits and move Chinese capital into Southern California.

With storefronts closed, supply chains in disarray and the global economy in peril, these complex schemes are hobbled and cash is backing up in Los Angeles, Bill Bodner, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Los Angeles field division, said in an interview.



Britain now has world’s third-highest coronavirus-related death toll

The U.K. has the third-highest death toll in the world from the coronavirus after the British government published new figures Wednesday that include deaths outside of hospitals.

After factoring in deaths in all settings such as care homes, the number of people in Britain who have died after testing positive for the virus has now hit 26,097, way ahead of the 21,678 announced on Tuesday. Until now, hospital deaths have been reported daily, while deaths in nursing homes and other settings were reported separately on a weekly basis.

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Marin and UCSF differ on whether isolated Bolinas can be declared free of coronavirus

No one in the reclusive seaside town of Bolinas tested positive for the coronavirus during an unusual privately funded project, Marin County health officials said Wednesday.

Several hours after that announcement, however, officials from UC San Francisco Medical Center disputed that the testing results were final. “No conclusions can be drawn about actual rates of COVID-19 infection in the community until analysis of all samples is complete,” a UCSF spokesman said.

A group of volunteers raised private money to have the entire town, including people who work in Bolinas but live outside the community, tested last week. More than 1,800 Bolinas residents and area first responders were swabbed for the virus over four days. UCSF Medical Center is processing the samples.

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Gov. Gavin Newsom says staying home now will help reopen California sooner

Gov. Gavin Newsom urged Californians on Wednesday to stay home and practice physical distancing to avoid spoiling the progress the state has made to prevent the spread of the coronavirus as he prepares to allow some businesses to gradually reopen.

“Why put ourselves in that position when we are just a week or two away from significant modifications of our stay-at-home [order], where we can begin a Phase 2, beginning to reopen sectors of our economy that are low risk?” Newsom said.

On Tuesday, Newsom unveiled a broad outline of a plan to lift his stay-at-home order and slowly ease the restrictions on Californians in four stages in the weeks and months ahead. The governor also announced that schools could potentially reopen in July or August, catching educators who were learning about it for the first time off guard.

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McNamara: My husband’s cancer was diagnosed three days into the shutdown. Here’s the silver lining

As my surname might imply, I am not an optimist by nature. We have a refrigerator magnet that reads: “An Irishman has an abiding sense of tragedy which sustains him through temporary periods of joy.” (Or at least we did; someone’s probably stolen it by now.)

So you can imagine my surprise when I was recently gifted a small potential silver lining about a topic I previously considered un-silver-line-able: my husband’s cancer.

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Who can get a coronavirus test and how long does it take to get results?

It’s slowly getting easier to obtain a coronavirus test in California — following an initial rollout marked by restrictions and shortages that had the state lagging behind most others just weeks ago.

So who can get tested?

Hospitalized patients and symptomatic healthcare workers are still considered top priority for testing. A second-priority tier includes symptomatic people who are either older or have underlying conditions.

Read more >>>


Clippers, L.A. artist Mister Cartoon release limited-edition gear for coronavirus relief

In the past, Los Angeles artist Mister Cartoon designed his work in the hopes it would be shown in public.

First known for his graffiti writing in the early 1990s, Cartoon has created brightly colored lowriders that have been displayed at art festivals. Celebrities covet his tattoos. A uniform worn this season by the Clippers was inspired by his work.

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Clinical trial of remdesivir may be a turning point in coronavirus fight

In the first clear signal that a drug can effectively treat those sickened by the coronavirus, government researchers reported Wednesday that the antiviral medication remdesivir helped patients with advanced COVID-19 recover more quickly than a placebo treatment.

The early results, emerging from a large clinical trial sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, appear to position the drug as the standard therapy for hospitalized COVID-19 patients going forward.

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Second Riverside County inmate dies after testing positive for COVID-19

A Riverside County jail inmate who tested positive for COVID-19 died Tuesday, marking the second coronavirus-related inmate death in three days.

The back-to-back deaths come as the Sheriff’s Department faces questions from civil rights attorneys and activists about its efforts to protect people who live and work in the jails.

As of Wednesday, 141 inmates have tested positive for the virus and most have recovered, according to the Riverside University Health System-Public Health. The Sheriff’s Department has not provided a breakdown of coronavirus cases at each of the jails it runs.

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Bon Temps in the Arts District closes permanently, a casualty of the shutdown

Less than a year ago, Lincoln Carson opened Bon Temps, a modern American restaurant in the Arts District that quickly received local and national acclaim.

But the restaurant won’t survive to see its first anniversary. The career pastry chef said Wednesday that he had closed Bon Temps permanently, a casualty of the shutdown forced by the COVID-19 crisis.

“We’re a new place, and regardless of how well we were written about, it was a big build-out, and the costs have been formidable in the first year,” Carson said in a phone interview. “In an industry with notorious margins, the expenses have only become tighter and tighter. I looked hard at our fixed costs and saw this prolonged closure wasn’t something we could come back from.”

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Face masks won’t be required in Ventura County, health official says

Ventura County officials have credited social distancing and a local stay-at-home order with stemming the spread of the coronavirus and keeping the number of cases and deaths in the county low.

But Dr. Robert Levin, the county’s public health officer, says he will not require the wearing of face coverings, a step that neighboring counties like Los Angeles and Riverside have mandated for residents who are conducting essential business.

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Moratorium on debt collection urged by L.A. City Council

Debt collection should be halted during the coronavirus crisis, the Los Angeles City Council urged in a proposal that passed unanimously Wednesday.

The proposal, introduced by Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez, does not take any immediate action to halt the practice but calls on Mayor Eric Garcetti to impose a moratorium on debt collection. It also asks the mayor to declare collection and credit agencies to be nonessential businesses during the emergency order spurred by the pandemic.

Rodriguez billed the suggested move as a way “to further protect Angelenos who have lost their jobs and had their businesses closed.” Her plan passed without discussion Wednesday.

The push was applauded by groups such as the Western Center on Law and Poverty and the California Low-Income Consumer Coalition, which assert that California has not gone far enough to ease debt collection during the emergency.



Coronavirus is retreating in Bay Area, advancing in Los Angeles

Reopening California has been complicated because the coronavirus outbreak is behaving differently in various parts of the state.

The San Francisco Bay Area has seen consecutive weekly declines in the number of new cases, while Southern California has seen the pace of new cases increase.

Los Angeles County has become the heart of the coronavirus crisis in California, recording more than 1,000 deaths. Even adjusted for its larger population, its rate of 9.9 deaths per 100,000 people is 68% higher than the next-hardest-hit urban county, Riverside, and 80% higher than the hotbed of the crisis in the Bay Area, Santa Clara County, according to a Times analysis of coronavirus data.



Tom Hanks donates his plasma to UCLA after beating COVID-19: ‘As easy as taking a nap’

Helping others is in Tom Hanks’ blood.

On Wednesday, the screen icon shared on social media some up-close photos of his plasma, which he donated to coronavirus relief efforts earlier this month after beating COVID-19.

“Here’s last week’s bag of plasma,” the “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” star tweeted along with snaps of his blood contents. “Such a bag! After the paperwork, it’s as easy as taking a nap.”



Reopening California schools: 4 things you need to know

Could an early reopening of schools over the summer offer students a chance to catch up with work while offering parents a much needed respite from schooling at home?

With about 6.1 million California students shut out of their campuses since about mid-March amid the coronavirus crisis, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday that public schools might be able to reopen their doors by late July or August. The plan is high on ambition but low on details.

School districts throughout the state are just now beginning to assess how to reopen what are almost certain to be reconfigured campuses and schedules to protect the health of students and staff.

Here are four things to know:



U.S. moves toward a slow reopening

Amid a bleak financial outlook in which the U.S. economy saw its steepest drop since the Great Recession, a mix of both optimism and caution blanketed the country on Wednesday as officials weighed responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo noted that the death rate had declined in recent days but was still high. At least 330 people died across the state on Tuesday, Cuomo said, down from 335 and 337 the previous days.

“You see the decline has been slow at best, and still disgustingly high,” Cuomo said during a news conference at the state Capitol building in Albany.



French deaths rise by 427; hospitalizations fall

France reported an increase in new deaths linked to the coronavirus on Wednesday, even as hospitalizations continued to decline.

Deaths rose by 427 to 24,087, the Health Ministry said in an emailed statement. France’s public health service reported 198,215 coronavirus infections as of Wednesday, after restating some data because of erroneous analysis earlier this week.

France plans to ease strict lockdown measures starting May 11, with a plan to reopen shops as one of the first steps, as the number of patients in hospitals and intensive care has steadily dropped for the past two weeks.

Patients in intensive care because of the virus, which health authorities consider a key indicator of how the pandemic is affecting France’s hospital system, fell by 180 to 4,207, the lowest in more than a month. Hospitalizations fell by 650 patients to 26,834, the biggest drop since the number first started falling April 15.

France’s daily coronavirus figures have fluctuated amid inconsistent reporting from nursing homes, which were first included in the tally this month.


Fauci calls data from Gilead drug trial ‘good news’

The U.S. government’s top infectious disease expert said early results of a closely watched clinical trial offered “quite good news” regarding a potential COVID-19 therapy made by biotechnology company Gilead Sciences Inc.

Anthony Fauci, head of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which is conducting the study, said at a White House meeting with President Trump and Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards that the trial showed a significant positive effect in treating the virus.

Early Wednesday morning, Gilead issued a news release saying it had become aware of results from the NIAID trial showing its experimental drug remdesivir helped patients recover more quickly than standard care, suggesting it could become the first effective treatment for an illness that has turned modern life inside-out.

NIAID’s trial enrolled more than 1,000 patients internationally and compared remdesivir treatment alongside supportive care with a placebo. Patients who were given the drug recovered in an average of 11 days, while those who get a placebo recovered in 15 days, Fauci said.


L.A. councilman proposes ban on storage-unit evictions

Rebecca Wu wishes she could just grab some photo albums from her storage unit before everything in it is at risk of going up for auction May 1. She is two months late on the rent for the unit near where she lives in Placer County, northeast of Sacramento, and her access code to the facility has been turned off.

California has roughly 3,500 storage facilities, according to Self Storage, and has the most expensive storage rents in the country, according to statistics compiled by Neighbor, a company that matches people’s empty space with people who need to store items. With millions of people applying for unemployment during the coronavirus outbreak, storage represents another monthly bill many can’t pay right now.

“At least I wouldn’t be losing a couple of boxes of the really sacred stuff. To me, it wouldn’t be fair under the situation, but it would be decent,” said Wu, who lost her job in mid-March as a home healthcare worker.



Bay Area will allow some businesses to reopen, construction to resume

SAN FRANCISCO — Six San Francisco Bay Area counties will allow all construction projects, real estate transactions and certain outdoor businesses to resume operations with certain conditions on Monday, while also largely retaining other stay-at-home restrictions through the month of May intended to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The outdoor businesses that will be allowed to resume include wholesale and retail nurseries, landscapers, gardeners and other businesses that primarily provide outdoor services. Certain outdoor recreational facilities previously ordered closed, including skate parks, can reopen if they do not involve shared equipment or physical contact.

Restaurants will continue to only be allowed to offer food for sale for takeout, delivery or drive-through service, even if they offer outdoor seating.



What science can tell us about the psychological effects of isolation

When 13 passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship arrived in Nebraska in mid-February, David Cates was determined to make their mandatory stay as pleasant as possible.

The passengers were among the first Americans known to be exposed to the coronavirus and had been ordered to remain isolated at a national quarantine center at the University of Nebraska Medical Center for at least two weeks, or until they no longer tested positive for the disease. Some would spend more than a month at the center before returning home

As a psychologist and behavioral health consultant for the quarantine center, it was Cates’ job to tend to their emotional well-being while they remained isolated from friends and family in the outside world. He convened a daily “town hall” meeting via teleconference so those in isolation could ask doctors questions about the virus, give nurses feedback on the food they were served, and talk to case workers about tracking down their luggage and booking flights home.



Federal Reserve signals it will likely hold rates near zero for months

WASHINGTON — The Federal Reserve signaled Wednesday that it will keep its key short-term interest rate near zero for the foreseeable future as part of its extraordinary efforts to bolster an economy that is sinking into its worst crisis since the 1930s.

The Fed said it will also keep buying Treasury and mortgage bonds to help keep rates low and ensure that companies can continue to lend easily to each other amid a near-paralysis of the economy caused by the coronavirus. It did not specify any amounts or timing for its bond purchases.

“The Federal Reserve is committed to using its full range of tools to support the U.S. economy in this challenging time,” the central bank said in an unusually sweeping declaration at the top of its statement.

The Fed’s policy statement also said the viral outbreak and measures to contain it are “inducing sharp declines in economic activity and a surge in job losses.”

Widespread business shutdowns have caused roughly 30 million workers to lose jobs over the last month and a half. As layoffs mount, retail sales are sinking, along with manufacturing, construction, home sales and consumer confidence.

During two emergency meetings in March, the central bank cut its benchmark rate to a range between zero and 0.25% . It has also announced nine new lending programs to pump cash into financial markets and provide support to large and medium-sized businesses as well as cities and states.

The Fed’s statement Wednesday came on the same day that the Commerce Department released grim news about the economy: Economic output shrank at a 4.8% annual rate in the first three months of the year — the worst showing since the Great Recession struck near the end of 2008.


L.A. City Council debates converting developer fees for cultural events into arts relief fund

For every private development project of $500,000 or more in the city of Los Angeles, the developer must pay an arts fee to the city based on the square footage of the building or a percentage of the value of the permit. Those funds are then allocated to cultural events such as festivals and other public arts happenings.

But with dense public gatherings not possible for the foreseeable future, L.A. City Councilman David Ryu hopes to use those funds as relief grants for arts organizations. Earlier this month, the councilman made a motion to have the percent for arts funds for his district — the fees are distributed by council district — made available as a small-dollar grants program geared at small arts organizations. The measure is scheduled to go up for debate at Wednesday’s City Council meeting.

“Hundreds — if not thousands — of small arts organizations are at risk of closing their doors for good because of this coronavirus pandemic,” Ryu said in an emailed statement to The Times. “I don’t want to see Los Angeles lose its creative heart.”



How giant Tyson Foods helped create the meat shortage it now warns against

John Tyson, the billionaire whose family business reigns as the largest meat processor in the U.S., took out ads in national newspapers to complain about a “breaking” food supply chain.

No one would argue that supplies aren’t an issue right now. President Trump is invoking the Defense Production Act to secure meat production. But the roots of this problem go back to decades of consolidation that Tyson’s own company helped lead.

Tyson Foods Inc. and its top two rivals — JBS SA and Cargill Inc. — today control about two-thirds of America’s beef, and the large bulk of it is processed at a few dozen giant plants. Pork and chicken are similarly dominated.

“This is 100% a symptom of consolidation,” said Christopher Leonard, author of “The Meat Racket.”



Florida governor expected to announce plans for reopening

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was expected to reveal Wednesday just what he meant when he said the state would be taking “baby steps” to reopening the economy after the coronavirus shutdown that began in March and slammed many doors shut April 3.

DeSantis planned to hold an afternoon news conference to reveal Phase 1 of his reopening plan. The state, like the nation, has seen large swaths of its workforce thrown into unemployment because of the shutdown and its two biggest economic sectors, tourism and agriculture, decimated as visitors have fled and institutional produce buyers such as hotels and schools have closed.

More than 800,000 Floridians have filed for unemployment.

DeSantis was one of the last governors to issue a statewide stay-at-home order, preferring a county-by-county approach throughout March. Statewide, he closed bars and gyms on March 20, limited restaurants to takeout and delivery and banned gatherings of more than 10 people. Schools closed in late March.

On April 1, the Republican governor ordered the closure of nonessential businesses statewide and ordered employees to work from home wherever possible.

DeSantis has said his approach has worked, as Florida’s confirmed cases of COVID-19 and deaths are significantly lower per-capita than many states that instituted earlier and much stricter restrictions. Critics have said that, by not closing beaches, bars, restaurants and theme parks earlier, DeSantis allowed tourists to congregate and spread the disease, then return to their home states and countries — infections that wouldn’t show up in Florida’s totals.

As of Wednesday morning, the state reported 33,193 confirmed cases since early March and 1,218 deaths.


San Mateo County to reopen trails in 13 parks following closures

San Mateo has joined the growing cohort of California counties moving to reopen outdoor areas shuttered by the coronavirus pandemic.

Trails will reopen in 13 parks Monday, according to the San Mateo County Parks Department.

Certain restrictions, however, will still be in effect. Visitors will have to carry face coverings, maintain a buffer of six feet, avoid mingling with people they don’t live with, and hike single file on narrow paths.

Parks director Nicholas Calderon said the county — which closed 23 of its parks on March 27 in a bid to slow the spread of COVID-19 — is “eager to welcome visitors back” so they can “experience the physical and mental health benefits of being outdoors and on the trails.”



U.S. will let federal social distancing guidelines expire

WASHINGTON — President Trump says the federal government will not be extending its social distancing guidelines when they expire Thursday.

Trump told reporters in the Oval Office that the coronavirus guidelines would be “fading out” because of work that governors were doing in their states.

Vice President Mike Pence said the guidelines issued 45 days ago had been incorporated into guidance provided to the states on how they could begin the process of gradually reopening their economies.

The guidelines — which were originally supposed to last 15 days and were then extended another 30 — included encouraging Americans to work from home and avoid restaurants and discretionary travel, as well as telling older Americans and those with serious underlying health conditions to isolate themselves.


Poop may tell us when the lockdown will end

Every day, millions of Americans could be flushing critical coronavirus data down the toilet.

With the nation growing ever more weary of sweeping stay-at-home orders and a worsening economy, some scientists say our poop could be the key to determining when a community might consider easing health restrictions.

From Stanford to the University of Arizona, from Australia to Paris, teams of researchers have been ramping up wastewater analyses to track the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Initial studies show that sewage monitoring, or “wastewater-based-epidemiology,” could not only tell us how much the virus might actually be spreading in a community — but also when the virus has finally gone away.

Understanding the true scale of COVID-19 has been a major stumbling block across the country as officials struggle with testing shortages, false negatives, and people who are infected but have no symptoms. Sewage data could potentially help fill these gaps by capturing critical information in the aggregate.



Column: What would Mary Poppins do during the lockdown? Julie Andrews launches a podcast

Somewhere in New York’s Suffolk County, perhaps right at this moment, a woman is holed up in a closet, surrounded by pillows, blankets and towels, and she’s reading a story from a picture book.

A story that might go something like this:

Once upon a time, in a green and pleasant land far, far away, there lived a little girl who liked to sing. She traveled around the country with her mother and stepfather, and they sang for all sorts of people — soldiers and lorry drivers and shopkeepers; housemaids and homemakers and, on one very special occasion, the king himself.

As the girl grew, so did her voice, and by the time she was a woman, people from all over the the world would stop whatever they were doing just to hear her sing. And when she grew older and no longer sang as often as she once did, the people were just as happy to hear her talk. Because her voice was a magical voice, still full of music and hope — so no matter how sad or scared or angry you might be, the sound of that voice would make you feel better.



Even post-coronavirus, will esports replace real games?

Warning that “things will not be as they were before,” the head of the Olympic movement has suggested that when the coronavirus pandemic finally subsides, it might leave behind a world with fewer big-time sports events.

And maybe more esports.

In a wide-ranging letter published on Wednesday, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said the fallout from COVID-19 had revealed a current system under financial strain from so many competitions.

“At this moment, nobody knows what the realities of the post-coronavirus world will look like,” he wrote. “What is clear, however, is that probably none of us will be able to sustain every single initiative or event that we were planning before this crisis hit.”



Competition planned for COVID-19 tests

The U.S. National Institutes of Health is urging scientists and investors to compete in a $500-million national challenge that will help the agency identify the best candidates for at-home or point-of-care tests for COVID-19.

The NIH is likening the program to “Shark Tank,” the reality television show where entrepreneurs compete for financial backing. Scientists and innovators will compete for a share of a $500-million fund that will be awarded to those with the most promising technologies. Finalists also will be matched with technical, manufacturing and business experts to help advance their products.

The contest is part of a new program called the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics initiative, which received $1.5 billion in federal stimulus funding, the agency said Wednesday.


Brazil deaths on the rise

Brazil is rising in the ranking of places hit hardest by the coronavirus, becoming the third country with the largest number of deaths reported over the past 24 hours after the U.S. and the U.K.

Total virus-related deaths surpassed 5,000, with 474 on Tuesday alone. In contrast to other parts of the world, the curve of new cases in Brazil is climbing, Health Minister Nelson Teich said at a news conference Tuesday. As of Tuesday, the country had counted nearly 72,000 positive cases, 5,017 deaths, and a 7% death rate.

When asked during the same news conference about mounting fatalities, President Jair Bolsonaro answered, “So what? What do you want me to do about it?” before joking that even though his middle name means messiah in Portuguese, “I can’t make miracles.”

The leader has refused to follow World Health Organization guidance on combating the virus throughout the outbreak. On the domestic front, he’s criticized governors who have called for quarantines, fired his health minister for advocating for restrictions and containment measures, and personally took to the streets without a protective face mask, shaking hands and visiting crowded bakeries and markets as a rebellious gesture.


‘FREE AMERICA NOW’: Musk presses for U.S. to reopen ahead of Tesla earnings

Tesla Inc. shares have soared in spite of production shutdowns, likely demand disruptions and uncertainty about how soon the electric-car maker can restore more-normal operations.

The advance puts Chief Executive Elon Musk in position to receive the first tranche of stock options he’s eligible for as part of a pay package that set moonshot goals two years ago. Before he can cash in, the billionaire is advocating for the U.S. to reopen and may need to deliver earnings that keep investors bullish.

“Give people their freedom back!” Musk tweeted ahead of Tesla’s release of first-quarter results Wednesday. “Elon Musk: FREE AMERICA NOW,” he wrote in another post.



AMC says it will boycott Universal movies as ‘Trolls’ battle heats up

AMC Theatres, the largest theater chain, said Tuesday that it would boycott Universal Pictures movies at its cinemas after the studio suggested it would pursue online releases for more of its films.

“Effectively immediately AMC will no longer play any Universal movies in any of our theatres in the United States, Europe or the Middle East,” AMC Chief Executive Adam Aron said in a statement addressed to Universal Pictures Chair Donna Langley. “This policy affects any and all Universal movies per se, goes into effect today and as our theatres reopen, and is not some hollow or ill-considered threat.”

AMC’s move follows comments by NBCUniversal Chief Executive Jeff Shell about the release of “Trolls World Tour,” the sequel to 2016’s computer-animated musical, “Trolls.” The new DreamWorks Animation movie, which was originally planned for a wide theatrical run before the coronavirus outbreak, generated nearly $100 million in online sales in three weeks.



U.K. schools plan reopening

U.K. Education Secretary Gavin Williamson says schools in England will open to children in a “phased manner” once the coronavirus lockdown ends.

Williamson said Wednesday he could not yet give a date for schools to restart but would give them “as much notice as possible” so they could prepare properly. He ruled out opening them during the summer vacation between mid-July and the start of September.

“We recognize that the idea of schools all returning on Day One with the full complement of pupils is not realistic or practical,” Williamson told the House of Commons Education Committee in an online session on Wednesday. “I do expect schools to be opened in a phased manner.”

Schools, colleges and nurseries across the U.K. have been shut for five weeks, apart from a limited provision for vulnerable children and those of designated key workers. Williamson said he was looking at the experience of countries that had started to reopen schools, such as Germany and Denmark, to establish which age groups should return first.


No plans for more rescue money for airlines, Mnuchin says

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says he isn’t considering providing additional money to help airlines reeling from the effects of COVID-19.

U.S. airlines reached deals to access a share of $50 billion in federal payroll assistance to bridge funding gaps as the industry waits for customers to start flying again. Companies accepting the aid can’t furlough or reduce wages for workers until Sept. 30.

“At the moment, there are no thoughts for changing those restrictions or additional money,” Mnuchin told reporters Wednesday during a video conference. “This money was critical to keep the airlines together, which was important for national security.”

Many airlines announced the possibility of thousands of job cuts after September, including United Airlines Holdings Inc., Delta Air Lines Inc. and Southwest Airlines Co.

Airline analyst Helane Becker of Cowen & Co. said as many as 105,000 jobs could be lost in the industry unless there was a quick improvement in demand.

Half of the money Mnuchin is disbursing is in payroll grants, while the rest are loans. He has so far doled out more than $12 billion to 93 companies, and more is expected to be sent out on a “rolling basis,” the department has said.

“We’ve struck the right balance of both payroll support and offering them lending facilities, which will also create additional liquidity,” Mnuchin said. Airlines can also turn to the Federal Reserve for support, he said.

Among the Fed’s coronavirus-related programs is the Main Street lending facility for midsize businesses. Mnuchin has so far committed $75 billion from Treasury’s Exchange Stabilization Fund to backstop that program, which can create as much as $600 billion in liquidity.

The Fed has not yet launched the program.

Mnuchin said Wednesday he was open to adding more money should the program prove popular.


War-torn Yemen sees five new cases

CAIRO — War-torn Yemen has reported five new confirmed cases of coronavirus infection in the southern city of Aden, bringing the tally in the poorest Arab country to six.

Health authorities announced the cases Wednesday in a tweet. The first case was for a 73-year-old Yemeni national who worked at the port of Al Shahr in Hadramawt province. He was a confirmed COVID-19 patient on April 10.

Yemen is a dangerous place for the coronavirus to spread. Repeated bombings and ground fighting over five years of war have destroyed or closed more than half its health facilities. Deep poverty, dire water shortages and a lack of adequate sanitation have made the country a breeding ground for disease.

The U.N. health agency said Tuesday that 8.8 million require healthcare in Yemen, making them more susceptible to contracting infectious diseases like COVID-19 due to compromised immune systems.

Dr. Ahmed Mandhari, the World Health Organization regional director, says more than 13 million people a month are dependent on food assistance and 2.5 million children under age 5 require nutritional support.


In Greece, use of face masks will be compulsory

ATHENS — Greek authorities say the use of face masks will be compulsory — on pain of a 150-euro ($163) fine — in public transport and shops beginning May 4, when the country starts to ease its lockdown restrictions. But they’ll be optional in schools when secondary-school children start returning to class May 11.

Classes will have no more than 15 children, kept about 5 feet apart, while students in larger classes will be split up and attend lessons on alternate days, Education Minister Niki Kerameos says.

Coronavirus task force chief Sotiris Tsiodras said it was important for children to return to normal life as much as possible, adding that although transmission of the virus from children to adults couldn’t be ruled out, “it seems to be unusual.”

Health officials have reported one new death and 10 new COVID-19 infections in the previous 24 hours, bringing the country’s total to 139 deaths and 2,576 infections.


Britain’s death toll passes 26,000

LONDON — Britain’s official death toll from the coronavirus has jumped to more than 26,000 after deaths in nursing homes were added to the daily total for the first time.

The government says 3,811 more people died after testing positive for the coronavirus than had been previously reported.

The death toll now stands at 26,097, up from the 21,678 announced Tuesday.

Until now, hospital deaths have been reported daily, while deaths in nursing homes and other settings were reported separately on a weekly basis.

The new total is the second-highest official toll in Europe after Italy, although countries do not use exactly the same measures.

It is still likely to be an underestimate because testing has not been routinely carried out in nursing homes until recently.


After 6-week closure, Laguna Beach to reopen beaches on weekday mornings

Laguna Beach will reopen city beaches for several hours on weekday mornings beginning Monday, allowing water activities and walking or jogging along the shore.

The Laguna Beach City Council voted unanimously at its meeting Tuesday evening to approve reopening the city’s beaches from 6 to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Visitors will not be permitted to sunbathe or lounge on the sand. Officials also reopened city trails, with the exception of the trail at the end of Alta Laguna Boulevard, which in the past has drawn significant crowds.

“I think the opening we’re discussing is moving in the right direction,” Mayor Pro Tem Steve Dicterow said. “People keep talking about the safety valve. Let’s open it slowly and progressively, and I think if we do that, we have the best chance of avoiding a real problem.”



Terminal Island prison inmates have worst outbreak in federal system

Nearly half of the inmates at the federal prison at Terminal Island in San Pedro have tested positive for the coronavirus in what has become the nation’s worst outbreak in a federal penitentiary.

As of Tuesday, 443 of the prison’s 1,055 inmates have the virus, along with 10 staff members. Two inmates have already died of complications related to COVID-19, according to the Bureau of Prisons.

In a week, the outbreak at FCI Terminal Island has quickly escalated as prison officials have ramped up testing. Dozens of inmates have been moved into tents in an effort to create social distancing, according to sources. Family members of inmates say the facility has locked down inmates in an effort to stop the spread of the virus in the low-security prison in the San Pedro area of Los Angeles.

Inmates told their families that a military-style medical facility was being erected in the prison yards to cope with the burgeoning number of sick.



Teens are feeling lonely and anxious in isolation. Here’s how parents can help

In March, not long before the Safer at Home order was extended to May 15, my 18-year-old son took part in a drive-by birthday caravan in the San Fernando Valley where he saw his friends for the first time since his school closed abruptly because of COVID-19.

If you’ve never heard of this touching act, it can be described as a social-distancing birthday party on wheels. As neighbors looked on and cheered, in the same vein as the nightly balcony celebrations for healthcare workers, my son Bob and his classmates offered birthday congratulations and honks as they drove by the beaming birthday celebrator.

I had hoped seeing his friends, even from afar, would be an uplifting experience, but he came home feeling lonelier than ever. “When am I going to be able to see my friends again?” he asked me.



Navy delays decision on reinstating captain fired in wake of outbreak on ship

WASHINGTON — The Navy will conduct a wider investigation of circumstances surrounding the spread of the coronavirus aboard the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, a move that effectively delays a decision on whether to reinstate the ship’s captain, who was fired after pleading for more urgent protection of his crew.

The investigation was announced Wednesday by James E. McPherson, the acting Navy secretary, who said in a brief written statement that an initial inquiry was insufficient. “I have unanswered questions that the preliminary inquiry has identified and that can only be answered by a deeper review,” he said.

The broader probe is to examine communication and leadership actions in the Navy chain of command in the Pacific, to include events before the initial virus outbreak in late March, officials said.

The decision comes several days after McPherson and Adm. Mike Gilday, the chief of naval operations, met with Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to discuss the Navy’s recommendation that Capt. Brett Crozier be restored to command of the ship.

“I am directing Adm. Gilday to conduct a follow-on command investigation,” McPherson said. “This investigation will build on the good work of the initial inquiry to provide a more fulsome understanding of the sequence of events, actions, and decisions of the chain of command surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt.”

The wider investigation is intended to last no longer than 30 days, according to one Defense official who discussed the matter on condition of anonymity to provide details before McPherson issued his statement.


California reopening: There’s a plan but no firm timetable and many questions

California has the beginnings of a framework for slowly reopening, but it’s not exactly a timeline.

Gov. Gavin Newsom released a four-part plan that he said could have some businesses running in weeks and some schools reopened by the summer.

But the outline, officials acknowledge, still has many uncertainties. It is contingent on improvement in the fight against the coronavirus outbreak and on increased testing to assess how the illness is spreading.

Under Newsom’s plan, some retail businesses, manufacturing, schools and open spaces could reopen first, with strict social-distancing rules. Down the line, certain entertainment venues and religious institutions could reopen. Live sports, concerts and other crowded events would be the last to resume.



Can dogs get coronavirus? Possible first canine case is detected in North Carolina

DURHAM, N.C. — The virus that causes COVID-19 has been detected in a family’s dog, possibly for the first time, a North Caroline healthcare provider reported.

Duke Health said Monday night the virus had been confirmed in a dog in the home of a Chapel Hill family who had enrolled in a study at Duke, according to WRAL-TV. Most of the family members had also tested positive for the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19.

The family and their pets — except for a bearded dragon — were tested as part of an epidemiological study at Duke, said Dr. Heather McLean, a Duke pediatrician whose family was the subject of the discovery.

“To our knowledge, this is the first instance in which the virus has been detected in a dog,” Dr. Chris Woods, director of the Hubert-Yeargan Center for Global Health, said in a statement released by Duke Health.



Column: The COVID-19 crisis shows how dangerous misinformation becomes contagious

In olden times, it was fairly easy to identify the sources of misinformation and cultural ignorance: They were either commercial entities that profited from misleading the public, such as tobacco companies, or conspiracy theorists and other inhabitants of the lunatic fringe.

“When it comes to misinformation, I normally tell people not to trust information unless it comes from a trusted source,” says Mark Dredze, an expert at Johns Hopkins University on how health-related misinformation and disinformation spread via social media. “Don’t take your health information from random websites, and don’t take any medication without talking to your doctor.

“But how do you tell people to trust the federal government, but don’t pay attention to the president of the United States?”



California says 40% of coronavirus-related deaths are at nursing homes. Is it higher?

SACRAMENTO — California earlier this week reported, for the first time, that nearly 40% of coronavirus-related deaths had occurred at skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities.

As of April 28, 578 residents of nursing homes had died. As of April 25, 144 deaths had occurred in assisted living facilities. Additionally, 11 healthcare workers have died after contracting the virus in a nursing home setting.

The state has refused a request to identify where the deaths occurred. Also, the newly released data are incomplete, a Los Angeles Times analysis found, missing multiple facilities with known outbreaks and not including facilities with six or fewer beds, of which there are hundreds.



California maritime academy gets OK to start limited in-person classes

VALLEJO, Calif. — California Maritime State University Academy has received permission to resume limited in-person classes this semester and hopes to send 350 students and staff on its annual summer training cruise — a graduation requirement for cadets, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Cal Maritime is a specialized campus of California State University offering licensed and non-licensed degree programs serving the maritime industry, including training ships’ officers. The move to reopen it comes as California’s other public colleges remain in remote learning mode.

Cal Maritime President Thomas Cropper said in a letter to the Vallejo campus Friday that the approval is for “a limited reopening of our campus to resume face-to-face instruction” for completion of the spring 2020 semester.



Two Georgia men hospitalized after drinking cleaning products

ATLANTA — Two Georgia men were hospitalized after drinking cleaning products over the weekend.

Georgia Poison Control director Gaylord Lopez told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution the men had histories of mental health issues and were expected to recover.

Lopez said he didn’t know if the men ingested the cleaning solutions because of President Trump’s musings on whether injecting disinfectants could treat the virus during a White House briefing on Thursday.

Lopez said the first man, in his 50s, drank about 16 ounces of bleach on Saturday. He was treated in a hospital and had since been discharged from a psychiatric ward.

A second man, in his 30s, was discharged after guzzling a mixture of Pine-Sol, pain medications and other liquids on Sunday.

According to the CDC, calls to poison centers about disinfectants have increased 20% in the first three months of this year.


Italy doubles ventilators for possible 2nd wave

ROME — Italy’s head of the coronavirus pandemic strategy says the country is prepared for a second wave of infections “even bigger than the first” if its gradual reopening leads to a surge in new cases.

Domenico Arcuri told the lower Chamber of Deputies that Italy’s 20 regions now had twice as many ventilators as were currently needed and that the country had doubled its number of intensive care beds to 9,000.

Italy, the European epicenter of the pandemic with more than 27,000 dead, entered the crisis with a fraction of the ICU capacity compared with other developed nations.

Arcuri told lawmakers that beds in sub-intensive care had increased sixfold, the same increase in Italy’s bed capacity in infectious disease and pneumology wards.

Italy’s planned reopening begins May 4.


Germany sees output shrink by 6.3%

Germany expects the impact of the coronavirus to plunge the economy into its worst recession since the nation began its recovery in the aftermath of World War II, as confidence at companies and households plummets across Europe.

Gross domestic product is forecast to shrink by 6.3% in 2020, more than during the financial crisis a decade ago, according to Economy Ministry projections published Wednesday. The low point of the recession is expected in the second quarter, before a gradual recovery and growth of 5.2% next year.


U.S. will be ‘really rocking again’ by July, Kushner says

“You’ll see by June a lot of the country should be back to normal and the hope is that, by July, the country’s really rocking again,” said Kushner, Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, in a Fox News interview. May will be a transition month, he said.

“You’ll see a lot of the states starting to phase in the different reopening based on the safety guidelines that President Trump outlined on April 19,” Kushner said.


A look at the NHL teams that could be most affected by the shutdown

The roster of NHL owners includes some heavyweights in the world of billionaires. Among them are Walmart heir Ann Walton Kroenke and her commercial real estate magnate husband, Stan Kroenke (Colorado Avalanche); real estate/arena operator Philip Anschutz and partner Edward Roski Jr. (Kings); Broadcom co-founder Henry Samueli and his wife, Susan (Ducks); and assorted software, venture capital and media moguls.

Most NHL teams have owners whose pockets are deep enough to keep them going during the league’s ongoing pause. But a few teams — listed alphabetically — could be in precarious shape even if the NHL resumes play.



‘You’re one of the lucky ones’: A nurse and her father say their goodbyes

As Donald Lackowski lay in a hospital bed at Torrance Memorial Medical Center, a woman covered in protective gear from head to toe, revealing only her eyes, walked into his room.

Lackowski, who suffered from dementia, recognized his daughter, Elizabeth Seyferth, through the layers of protection.

“Liz is that you?”

“Yes Dad, I’m here and I love you.”

“I love you, too, Liz,” he told her.



Will prosecution of tobacco shop for violating coronavirus lockdown go up in smoke?

In the eyes of the city of Los Angeles, Natali Mishali is a coronavirus scofflaw.

After California Gov. Gavin Newsom and L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti ordered all nonessential businesses to shut down in mid-March, her DTLA Smoke Shop remained open. On April 3, Mishali, 30, became one of the first four people criminally charged with violating orders meant to slow the spread of the virus. The other businesses included another smoke shop, a shoe store and a discount electronics retailer.

“Nonessential businesses remaining open at this time jeopardize public health and safety, and my office is committed to vigorously enforcing the mayor’s order,” Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer said in a statement.

With that, Mishali became just one part of a growing culture war over the question of when the U.S. economy should be reopened.



How a Zoom party connects dancers across the globe

Some danced the tango with a partner, gracefully maneuvering around furniture in their living rooms and kitchens. Others danced the tango alone — embracing a pillow or a pink stuffed flamingo or nothing at all, their arms holding an invisible companion. And still others simply watched the dance party, smiling and bobbing along to tango classics including “Andate con la Otra.”

Like many other gatherings in the age of social distancing, the tango lovers were united via the video conferencing platform Zoom for the biweekly “Earth Virtual Milonga.”

L.A.-based Argentine dancer and instructor Yelizaveta Nersesova organized the first Zoom tango affair in early April, bringing together nearly 400 friends and strangers from five countries. Two weeks later, the 4½-hour session attracted more than 600 people from 11 countries, including Australia, Spain and China.

The most recent virtual tango event featured a rotating cast of DJs and a live Portland-based musician playing jazzy renditions of songs like Bill Withers’ “Lovely Day” on guitar while people danced or watched from the comfort of their homes.



With laboratories shut, coronavirus forces scientists to ‘stop cold’

Dr. Nader Pouratian implanted matchbook-sized devices into the brains of four blind volunteers more than two years ago.

Since then, the participants in the neurosurgeon’s pioneering study have visited his UCLA lab each week to let him hone a system that could give them a rudimentary form of vision. Pouratian had hoped to expand his experiment next year to include dozens of people around the country and eventually make the treatment available to blind people everywhere.

Then the coronavirus came along.

Now seven years of work have ground to a sudden halt. Regular life will resume someday, but Pouratian’s project may not.



Spain outlines loosening of restrictions

MADRID — With 325 new confirmed deaths from coronavirus as of Wednesday, Spain is seeing a slight rebound in fatalities, for a total of 24,275 since the beginning of the pandemic.

Infections now number more than 212,000, although the Health Ministry’s figure only includes the cases confirmed by the most reliable laboratory tests, which are not being conducted extensively.

Authorities say they’ll allow the country to emerge from a near-total freeze on social and economic life in stages and at different speeds, depending on how its provinces and islands are able to respond to the health crisis during the rollout of the plan.

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez on Tuesday announced his plan and called it “a road to a new normal” but one “without a GPS system.”

Individual exercise will be allowed beginning Saturday, as well as haircuts and other personalized services with an appointment. In most places, some shops will open on May 11. Socializing will be permitted in outdoor cafés and bars, and services will be allowed in churches and mosques at one-third of capacity.

Territories that by that point have kept the epidemic at bay will be granted further relaxation of restrictions in restaurants, cinemas, theaters and museums by the end of May. Preschools will reopen then but only for parents who need to work, since in-classroom education won’t resume until the new school year in September.

Barring any worsening of the outbreak, capacity in venues will be increased toward mid-June and beaches will open before gradually settling into a “new normal” that will allow domestic travel. International travel still needs to be sorted out by the European Union, Spain says.


U.S. economy, in clear sign of recession, shrinks 4.8% in first quarter

WASHINGTON — In the broadest measure so far of COVID-19’s economic damage, the government said Wednesday that total U.S. output in the first quarter fell 4.8% — faster than at any time since the Great Recession.

But economists quickly noted that even this decline was likely the tip of the iceberg because the first-quarter number included January and February, and reported coronavirus cases did not begin to surge until March. The full dimension of the pandemic’s economic damage will not be visible in the data until the second quarter.

It left little doubt that the nation’s record 10½ years of economic expansion had come to an abrupt end, with profound political and economic repercussions.

Wednesday’s negative news, coupled with grimmer prospects ahead, pose serious challenges to President Trump’s reelection strategy, which was designed to capitalize on now-vanishing prosperity.



Criticism grows over Gov. Newsom’s management of the crisis

SACRAMENTO — Advocates for seniors and people with disabilities blasted Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration last week for advising hospitals to prioritize younger people with greater life expectancy for care during the coronavirus outbreak, saying the state’s medical shortage guidelines were discriminatory and crafted without their input.

“The disability, aging and older-adults community had reached out a number of times to the state of California sharing our concerns ahead of time and offering to meet,” said Claudia Center, legal director for the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund. “We got no response.”

Then, as quietly as the guidelines were initially posted online, the document was removed and replaced with another version stating California’s commitment to prohibiting discrimination and promising that the administration would revise what had been previously labeled as the final recommendations “to ensure that they reflect our values as a state.”



Expecting deep cuts, L.A. County OKs $35.5-billion budget

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a recommended $35.5-billion budget for the coming fiscal year — a spending plan that is expected to change substantially over the next few months as the county continues to navigate the coronavirus outbreak and its significant drain on funds.

Already, the county is projective that it will lose $2 billion in tax revenue — $1 billion by the end of the fiscal year in June and an additional $1 billion in revenue in 2020-21, according to the county executive’s office.

The county’s chief executive, Sachi A. Hamai, predicted a budget process “unlike any we’ve ever faced.”

“We are in a profoundly challenging economic environment that may get worse before it gets better,” Hamai said in a statement. “There are many factors outside the county’s control, including the length and severity of the COVID-19 crisis, and the amount of assistance we will receive from the state and federal governments.”



French autoworkers start trickling back to work

ONNAING, France — Masked and keeping their distance, French autoworkers are returning to factory floors at Toyota and Renault in a cautious move toward reviving the virus-battered economy.

Renault restarted assembly lines Tuesday for its Zoe electric cars at a plant in Flins outside Paris, though only a quarter of staff is allowed in so far. The company — which is negotiating with the French government for billions of euros in potential bailout funds —
has resumed some activity at plants in China, Spain, Portugal, Russia and Romania, but work remains halted in India, Latin America and most facilities in its home country of France.

In the northern town of Onnaing near Valenciennes, Toyota workers came back to work this week at a plant that used to churn out more than 1,000 Yaris a day. Employees are having their temperatures checked and being given masks, and new social distancing rules are in place on the factory floor and cafeteria and other common spaces.


McManus: Coronavirus is the great unequalizer

WASHINGTON — We live in an unequal society, and the coronavirus is making it worse.

The pandemic has struck disproportionately at poor people in cities, almost as if it were deliberately targeting minorities. In New York, the death rate among African Americans and Latinos has been roughly twice as high as among white people.

The economic impact has been unequal too. A survey released Tuesday by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation reported that more than half of the workers who had lost income because of the pandemic were already below the federal poverty line. Higher-income workers, by contrast, have mostly kept their jobs.

Now add a third cruel form of inequality: unequal risk.

Knowledge workers who can work at home are riding out the pandemic in relative safety. First responders, healthcare workers, bus drivers, grocery store clerks and delivery workers don’t have that luxury.



Talk of reopening grows in L.A. and Orange counties despite rising death toll

Los Angeles County passed another grim coronavirus milestone Tuesday with more than 1,000 fatalities even as officials began preparing to ease stay-at-home orders and to restart the economy.

The county continues to be the coronavirus hotbed of California, accounting for an outsize number of deaths and total cases. Consequently, officials have said the restrictions on movements must continue for now. The county represents about a quarter of California’s population but about half of all COVID-19 hospitalizations.

As of Tuesday, the number of confirmed cases surpassed 21,000. Residents in institutional settings account for 46% of all county deaths.

Still, officials are developing a plan to ease the Safer at Home order, which is set to expire May 15. Public Health Department director Barbara Ferrer said Tuesday there were no plans to extend the current order but that, as the deadline approaches, officials would reevaluate what was best for the county.

More than 20,000 in the county of 10 million have tested positive for the novel virus. County officials have warned that, although social distancing practices have worked to slow the spread of the virus, the number of those who have been infected is likely far higher than the official count.



Boris Johnson and partner, who both had COVID-19, announce birth of baby boy

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his partner, Carrie Symonds, announced the birth of a son on Wednesday, just two days after Johnson returned to work following hospitalization for the coronavirus.

Johnson’s office said Symonds gave birth to a “healthy baby boy at a London hospital” on Wednesday morning, and both mother and son were doing well.

Johnson, 55, and Symonds, 32, announced in February that they were engaged and expecting a child together. At the time, they said the baby was due in early summer.

Johnson only returned to work Monday after suffering from a bout of coronavirus that left him dangerously ill. He spent a week in a London hospital, including three nights in intensive care, before recovering for two weeks away from London.



A family of strawberry growers had big dreams. Then came the pandemic

Cruz Carranza, left, father Javier and brother Flavio grow their own strawberries.
Cruz Carranza, left, father Javier and brother Flavio are photographed in an Oxnard strawberry field where they grow the berries.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

They were picking strawberries, father and son, in the afternoon sunlight of the Oxnard Plain.

The men, 62-year-old Javier Carranza and his son Cruz, 43, piled the ripened fruit into cardboard boxes destined for farmers markets. Father on one row, son on another, moving steadily from mound to mound.

Once or twice, the pickers chomped into a berry, testing their crop for flavor. Yes, these were ready for sale tomorrow. Not any longer, like so many supermarket varieties picked before peak ripeness. As if to emphasize it, Cruz leaned in to offer a visitor a brilliant red strawberry.

The pandemic age gives this normally kind farm-life gesture a new layer of risk. Could this organically grown fruit have been contaminated by something other than regular old dirt? The strawberry hadn’t been anywhere but here, where it was born. In a bite, the spike of acid and sweetness shook the brain.

There is nothing like the taste of a fresh California strawberry, one of the state’s most plentiful and emblematic agricultural staples. Crimson, shiny in any light, firm but juicy, the strawberry in peak form is a marvel of taste that has been grown on the coastal plains for generations.



German pharmaceutical company says it has begun testing a vaccine

BERLIN — German pharmaceutical company BioNTech says it has begun testing a potential vaccine for the new coronavirus on volunteers.

BioNTech, which is working with U.S.-based Pfizer, said Wednesday that 12 participants of a clinical trial in Germany had received doses of the vaccine candidate BNT162 since April 23.

Numerous pharmaceutical companies are racing to deliver a vaccine for the virus that has caused the COVID-19 pandemic and led to more than 218,000 deaths worldwide and sickened at least 3 million people.

BioNTech said in a statement that, in a next step, it will begin increasing the dose of BNT162 in a trial involving about 200 participants ages 18 to 55.

The company said it expected to receive regulatory approval to begin trials in the United States soon.


China to convene legislature, confident it’s conquered the coronavirus

BEIJING — China took another step toward returning to business as usual by announcing Wednesday that its previously postponed national legislature session would be held in late May.

The National People’s Congress, delayed from early March because of the coronavirus outbreak, will start on May 22, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the 3,000 or so delegates would come to Beijing for what is the biggest political meeting of the year, or if it would be held virtually through videoconferencing.

A more than 2,000-member advisory body that meets in tandem with the congress will start one day earlier on May 21, Xinhua reported.

The two-week annual meetings are largely ceremonial, with the legislature rubber-stamping decisions reached earlier by Communist Party leaders, but they are typically a colorful spectacle in the nation’s capital.



U.S. government sued over denial of coronavirus relief to American spouses of illegal immigrants

PHOENIX — The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund has sued the federal government over its denial of coronavirus relief payments to U.S. citizens who are married to immigrants without Social Security numbers.

The lawsuit was filed in Maryland on Tuesday on behalf of six U.S. citizens who were denied coronavirus relief checks because they had filed and paid taxes with a spouse who had an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, a method for immigrants without legal status to pay federal taxes, which millions do.

MALDEF says the Treasury Department is violating Americans’ 1st and 5th Amendment rights by denying them payment simply because of whom they are married to. Congress last month passed a $2.2-trillion package to help businesses, workers and a healthcare system staggered by the coronavirus. Many Americans had their share deposited into their bank accounts in the last couple of weeks.

It’s estimated that 2 million U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents are married to people without Social Security numbers, although it’s unclear how many of them file jointly.