Coronavirus updates: Trump’s coronavirus task force is not disbanding, but refocusing

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

Coronavirus updates for May 5 are here


Trump administration shelves CDC guide to reopening the country

A set of detailed documents created by the nation’s top disease investigators meant to give step-by-step advice to local leaders deciding when and how to reopen public places such as mass transit, day-care centers and restaurants during the still-raging pandemic has been shelved by the Trump administration.

The 17-page report by a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention team, titled “Guidance for Implementing the Opening Up America Again Framework,” was researched and written to help faith leaders, business owners, educators and state and local officials as they begin to reopen.

It was supposed to be published last Friday, but agency scientists were told the guidance “would never see the light of day,” according to a CDC official. The official was not authorized to talk to reporters and spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

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Gov. Gavin Newsom reverses course, releases controversial coronavirus mask contract

SACRAMENTO — Two days after refusing to divulge details of a secretive deal to purchase protective masks from a Chinese electric car maker, Gov. Gavin Newsom‘s administration abruptly reversed course on Wednesday — disclosing a 42-page document that only hours earlier was changed, requiring the company to reimburse the state $247.5 million by the end of the week.

The repayment by BYD, through its U.S. subsidiary headquartered in Los Angeles, was attributed to a one-month delay in certification of the company’s N95 masks. Those masks may not be approved for effectiveness by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health until the end of May.

Newsom downplayed the setback during a coronavirus briefing earlier Wednesday, calling it a “little bit” of a delay and suggesting it was because the masks were a “new” product for the company to manufacture.

“All these things work out themselves,” he said.
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New law allows tenants to sue landlords over violating L.A. restrictions on evictions

Tenants will soon have the right to sue landlords who violate restrictions that Los Angeles has placed on evicting renters during the coronavirus crisis, under a law passed Wednesday by the City Council.

Renters could potentially win penalties of up to $10,000 per violation — or $15,000 per violation if the tenant is disabled or a senior. The effort was about “giving the tenants a big stick,” Councilman Bob Blumenfield said.

After the vote, Council President Nury Martinez said in a statement that while good landlords are working to help tenants stay in their units, “I want the bad operators to know, today, the city of Los Angeles is putting you on notice.”

Landlords are currently barred from evicting tenants who have been affected by the coronavirus, although the council has held off on imposing a blanket ban on evictions sought by tenant activists.
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In memo to teams, NFL commissioner outlines protocols for safe reopening of facilities

In a memo to all 32 NFL clubs, commissioner Roger Goodell on Wednesday outlined the protocols for the safe reopening of team facilities.

“The past few months have been among the most uncertain times that any of us has experienced,” Goodell wrote in the memo, obtained by The Times. “It is impossible to project what the next few months will bring. Uninformed commentary that speculates on how individual clubs or the league will address a range of hypothetical contingencies serves no constructive purpose … and instead distracts from the careful planning that is needed right now.”

Goodell added, “An important step in the process of planning for the 2020 season involves the reopening of club facilities,” which were closed last month in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Trump’s coronavirus task force is not disbanding, but refocusing

Despite earlier plans to shut down the White House’s coronavirus task force, President Trump tweeted on Wednesday that it would “continue on indefinitely with its focus on SAFETY & OPENING UP OUR COUNTRY AGAIN.”

“We may add or subtract people to it, as appropriate,” he added, providing himself with another opportunity to shift the emphasis toward the economy rather than public health.

Trump views rejuvenating the economy as central to his reelection campaign, and he often sounds wistful when talking about record-high employment and stock market gains that existed before the coronavirus struck.


San Diego detainee is first in ICE custody to die of COVID-19

SAN DIEGO — Hospitalized and on a ventilator for a little over a week, a detainee from Otay Mesa Detention Center on Wednesday became the first in immigration custody nationwide to die of COVID-19.

Carlos Ernesto Escobar Mejia died around 2:15 a.m., according to his sister, Maribel Escobar. Her brother would have been 58 this month, Escobar said.

She remembered her brother as very kind and helpful, in particular doing everything he could to support their sister Rosa, with whom he lived in the Los Angeles area.

“My brother was a one-of-a-kind person,” Maribel Escobar said.
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Bay Area, citing rising coronavirus cases, to keep stay-at-home order even as Newsom eases rules

SAN FRANCISCO — The Bay Area’s stay-at-home orders will continue to be enforced even as Gov. Gavin Newsom prepares to announce potentially more relaxed statewide guidelines, San Francisco city officials said Wednesday.

During a news conference, Mayor London Breed said the city has been working to learn the exact details of Newsom’s new guidelines, but she stressed that that Bay Area health officers can continue to order tighter restrictions.

The reason has “everything to do” with the numbers of cases and deaths in the Bay Area, she said.

“The numbers are still going up,” she said. “The number of deaths are still going up, and we have not lowered the curve, and we have to be mindful of that.”
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‘We’re vulnerable.’ On the Navajo Nation, a rush to curb the coronavirus

Road closures, mask mandates and weekend curfews have not stopped a troubling upward trajectory of coronavirus-related deaths on the Navajo Nation, a high desert landscape with underfunded hospitals and overburdened doctors stretching across three states.

As more states begin to ease stay-at-home orders, a desperate attempt to halt coronavirus cases is underway on the country’s largest reservation, which spans Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. But such efforts have proved difficult, because of the remoteness of the reservation and the lack of electricity and running water in some homes.

“We’re getting the message out through radio … from word of mouth, door-to-door. There shouldn’t be anyone who says they don’t know what’s going on with COVID-19,” Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said during a virtual town hall this week. “It’s up us to translate to our grandma and grandpa; it’s our obligation to keep our citizens safe.”
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Surviving the Shutdown: San Pedro Fish Market has sold over 15,000 shrimp trays since stay-at-home started

San Pedro Fish Market, the waterfront destination anchoring what remains of the old Ports O’ Call Village, has weathered many storms during its 65-year history, some more literal than others.

Yet none arrived with the ferocity of the coronavirus pandemic, which decimated foot traffic and forced third-generation owner Michael Unagro to completely overhaul his business model.

“An earthquake or a fire, that’s over in a couple days,” said Unagro, whose grandfather Mackey Unagro opened the family’s original fish shack in 1956. “How do you deal with a disaster that goes on for two months?”

During balmy summer days, the market’s harborside patio — which seats up to 3,000 — is usually packed with families sharing massive fajita-style shrimp trays and souvenir micheladas.
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After criticism, L.A. County supervisors to allow real-time public comment at its meetings

Starting on May 12, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will allow the public to comment live by phone for the first time since the coronavirus outbreak shut down in-person meetings.

The decision comes after the board has met three times virtually — on March 31, April 14 and April 28 — without allowing for live public comment via phone or video. Instead, supervisors asked that residents email or mail in their comments before the meetings. Those comments were then sent to the board, a county spokesperson said.

According to Supervisor Janice Hahn’s office, the public will now be able to call in for one hour at the beginning of the meeting. They will be able to speak on items of their choice from the meeting’s agenda, offer general comment, or do a combination of both. Each person will receive one minute if they are speaking on one agenda item, two minutes for two or more items, and one minute for general comment, according to Hahn’s office.
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Orange County’s beaches are reopening following coronavirus closures. Here are their hours

Many Orange County beaches have reopened this week following the brief “hard closure” Gov. Gavin Newsom imposed over concerns that crowding along the coast could accelerate the spread of the novel coronavirus.

In each case, the sandy stretches are open for active recreation — think running, walking, biking, swimming and surfing — rather than sitting around and soaking up the sun. Beachgoers also must maintain physical distancing and avoid gatherings with people they do not live with.

Here is when city-run beaches are open:
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Orange County tops 3,000 coronavirus cases as death toll reaches 65

Orange County reached a grim milestone Wednesday as health officials announced the region has surpassed 3,000 confirmed novel coronavirus infections.

Included in the county’s cumulative case count of 3,004 are 65 deaths — an increase of four since Tuesday.

Twenty of the county’s coronavirus-linked deaths have been announced since Friday.

Despite the recent fatalities, the county’s observed mortality rate associated with COVID-19 remained at about 2.1% — significantly lower than the state’s, which is roughly 4%.
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L.A. weighs requiring masks when people leave their homes

Los Angeles leaders are exploring whether to require Angelenos to have masks or other facial coverings whenever they leave their homes, a proposal championed by Councilman Paul Koretz as a way to prevent new infections.

“The last thing we need is another spike in cases to set us back as we’re trying to move forward,” Koretz said.

The council has not yet decided to draft such a law, but voted Wednesday to ask city staffers to report back on health guidelines for wearing masks, what requirements have been imposed by other cities, and how such rules might be enforced.

Mayor Eric Garcetti has ordered that people wear masks or other facial coverings when they visit many essential businesses, including grocery stores, laundromats, hotels and restaurants offering takeout. Workers at such businesses must be provided masks by their employers, a measure meant to ensure employee safety.
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McConnell’s coronavirus business liability pledge sparks lobbying frenzy

WASHINGTON — Republicans say they won’t support a new coronavirus relief bill unless it protects business owners from lawsuits related to COVID-19 exposure, sparking a lobbying frenzy from business groups hoping to get their industry or priority into the bill.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) warned that not protecting business owners from lawsuits related to COVID-19 would “dramatically slow” the economic recovery, calling it the GOP’s “red line” in future negotiations with Democrats.

But a week after making the declaration, Republicans don’t yet have a plan. All McConnell would say is that the proposal would be “narrowly crafted liability protection to target healthcare workers and others who have been on the front line here with something brand new that people were unclear of how to deal with.”
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These businesses can open in L.A. County beginning Friday

It’s not much, but Los Angeles County announced the very first steps in easing stay-at-home rules that have slowed the spread of coronavirus.

While some counties have defied the state and reopened widely, Los Angeles County said its easing efforts are much more modest, given the region remains the epicenter of coronavirus in California with more than 1,300 deaths.

Florists, car dealers and various types of brick-and-mortar stores — including those that sell toys, music, books, clothing and sporting goods — will be allowed to be open for curbside pickup only. In-store shopping will not be permitted.



Some wine country businesses in Napa Valley defy Newsom and reopen

Terry Letson watched business at his Napa Valley restaurant drop by 25% over the last six weeks. With no help yet from the state, no uptick in coronavirus cases in the county and still no sign of a lifting of restrictions on his eatery before Mother’s Day — the busiest day of the year for restaurants — enough was enough.

“We’re protecting the people that are high-risk at the sacrifice of our well-being, income and livelihood,” he said. “When the cure is more damaging than the disease, we’re in trouble.”

Defying county orders, Letson, 58, reopened his Fume Bistro on Monday after weeks of following state rules and serving only takeout. The tables are set 10 feet apart, employees are temperature-checked every morning and only 45 people are allowed inside the 18-year-old establishment, which typically serves up to 100 people at a time, Letson said.

Public health officials have already visited him in person and informed Letson by email that they will attempt to shut down the restaurant by Thursday. But he’s undeterred.



‘A profound danger’: Experts warn against broad U.S. reopening

More than 40 states will have reopened their economies in some capacity by the weekend, backed by President Trump’s urging of Americans to become “warriors” and fight COVID-19 not by sheltering in place but by leaving their homes again.

But as images circulate of sunbathers returning to beaches, revelers enjoying Cinco de Mayo fun and armed protesters demanding their governors open up businesses, public health experts Wednesday presented lawmakers with their own picture of what the country’s immediate future should look like.

“It’s clear to me we are at a critical moment of this fight,” Johns Hopkins University epidemiologist Caitlin Rivers told the House Committee on Appropriations on Wednesday.



Financial fear is rising. Half of small businesses say they won’t last six months

A shuttered shoe store in Canoga Park.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

This once-in-a-century pandemic has unleashed financing fears all over corporate America that far exceed the 2008 crisis, as executives prepare for fresh economic and market pain.

A new study by Federal Reserve researchers used a machine-reading program to sift through more than 600 earnings calls last month to map out the virus-induced fallout.

Some 42% of American non-financial public companies are discussing slashing investments, 27% are talking about equity payouts, and 17% are focused on drawing down on credit lines, conclude economists Andrew Y. Chen and Jie Yang. At the peak of the last recession, the figures were 25%, 11% and 7%, respectively.



California makes it easier to receive workers’ compensation benefits

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order Wednesday making it easier for essential workers who contract COVID-19 to obtain workers’ compensations benefits in a win for labor unions that called for the change.

The order streamlines workers’ compensation claims and establishes a rebuttable presumption that any essential workers infected with COVID-19 contracted the virus on the job, Newsom said. In effect, the change shifts the burden of proof that typically falls on workers and instead requires companies or insurers to prove that the employees didn’t get sick at work.

“This workers comp presumption is so important, because we want people to feel confident comfortable, they’ll have their benefits,” Newsom said. “The whole idea is, as we move into this second phase, we want to keep workers healthy and keep them safe.”



California pays $3.30 per mask under quiet deal with Chinese company

SACRAMENTO — Advisors to Gov. Gavin Newsom agreed to pay Chinese electric-car manufacturer BYD $3.30 for each mask the company made under a coronavirus response contract totaling almost $1 billion, according to an invoice obtained by The Times.

But the documents from the State Treasurer’s Office, which was responsible for the release of the funds, raise new questions about the exact terms of the contract — because the price paid seems to include only N95 masks, those considered to provide the most protection, but not the cost of traditional surgical masks BYD has also sold to the state. Some 10 million of the surgical masks have already been shipped by BYD, the first arriving late last month, with many of them quickly distributed to counties.



Trump calls Americans ‘warriors’ in fight to open the economy

WASHINGTON — Donald Trump has described himself as a “wartime president” during the coronavirus crisis, and now he seems to have found his army as he pushes the country to reopen despite the risks.

In recent days, he’s begun describing citizens as “warriors” in the battle against the pandemic, and suggested some of those fighters might have to die if that will help boost the economy.

“Will some people be affected? Yes,” he said on a trip to Arizona this week, his first outside of the Washington area in nearly two months. “Will some people be affected badly? Yes. But we have to get our country open, and we have to get it open soon.”

Trump previously described healthcare workers as “warriors” for risking their safety to treat coronavirus patients, wording he used again on Wednesday when signing a proclamation honoring nurses.

But his decision to expand the characterization to everyday Americans is a noticeable shift from his previous declarations that “one is too many” deaths.



Covering Congress amid coronavirus means masks, hallway contortions and apologies for the crying baby

WASHINGTON — Phone interviews with lawmakers all start with the same disclaimer now: I apologize in advance for the screaming child. He’s fine, he’s supervised.

We learned quickly when The Times closed its Washington bureau because of the coronavirus in March that my 10-month-old could not handle seeing me pop in and out throughout the day while I worked from home. He has some separation anxiety, and after a week of missed naps and screams, my beleaguered husband suggested no more pop-ins to say hello, and that I sequester in the spare bedroom while I work.

But the baby can still hear me on the phone doing interviews, and has taken to standing at the foot of the stairs, rattling the baby gate and screaming “Hey!” — the one word he knows — like a hostage yelling for help from the basement.

Thankfully, most representatives and senators just laugh it off.



Newport Beach reopens shoreline as California continues unlocking Orange County coast

Newport Beach can partially reopen its coastline after the state signed off on an active recreation plan for the city’s beaches, officials said Wednesday.

Beginning immediately, residents can now use the beaches for activities such as walking, running, hiking, biking, swimming, surfing and fishing from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, according to the city.

Beach parking lots remain closed, and more passive activities such as loitering and sunbathing are still off-limits. Beachgoers also must avoid gatherings with people they do not live with.

“The city is very pleased to reopen our beaches for the physical and mental well-being of our residents,” Mayor Will O’Neill said in a statement. “While the active recreation model was not the preferred choice by the City Council after discussions with our public safety personnel, we are confident that city staff will manage the beaches effectively under the approved plan.”


Coronavirus halted legal marriages in L.A. County. It could be weeks before they resume

The Los Angeles County clerk’s office closed March 16 because of the spreading coronavirus, and it hasn’t issued a marriage license since, leaving many couples wondering when they can tie the knot.

Gov. Gavin Newsom last week signed an executive order allowing couples to legally wed through videoconferencing during the coronavirus pandemic, but unlike several other counties in Southern California, L.A. County is weeks away from having a system in place to accommodate that. One might not arrive until June, according to Mike Sanchez, a spokesman for the county clerk.

“It’s something we’re developing actively,” he said. “We know people are anxious to marry their loved ones, and we’re doing the best to our ability.”


Singapore’s infections surge past 20,000

SINGAPORE — Singapore’s virus infections surged past 20,000 as more foreign workers living in crowded dormitories were diagnosed.

The city-state reported 788 new cases for a total of 20,198, the third highest in Asia after China and India. Foreign workers living in dorms accounted for nearly 90% of the cases.

Officials said the upsurge among foreign workers was expected amid ongoing virus testing at dozens of dorms that were locked down.

Singapore will allow selected businesses to operate starting May 12 in a gradual rollback of a two-month lockdown that is expected to end June 1.


California poised to surpass 60,000 cases amid push to reopen the state

More than 2,500 new coronavirus cases were reported in California on Tuesday — the highest single-day total statewide since the pandemic began — with the majority of the new infections centered in Los Angeles County, as debate continues to rage over easing statewide stay-at-home orders.

The state’s most populous county, which has been battered by the virus, reported an additional 1,638 cases Tuesday. The swell is largely due to a backlog in data reporting, according to Los Angeles County health officials. There have been nearly 28,000 confirmed infections in the county and more than 1,300 deaths.

California is poised to reach nearly 2,400 COVID-19 fatalities Wednesday and surpass 60,000 coronavirus confirmed infections statewide.



Drive-throughs and drive-ins were fading. Coronavirus made them a lifeline

To venture out in Southern California during the COVID-19 pandemic is to encounter a landscape dressed in an unfamiliar coat. Freeways bear unimaginably light traffic. Playgrounds are wrapped in caution tape. The simple act of picking up a loaf of bread at the supermarket is now a dystopic obstacle course of Plexiglas shields, social distancing markers and masked shoppers circling one another like repellent magnets.

Public space is not a place in which to gather, but something to be surmounted instead.

However, in Los Angeles, a city where public space can often be an elusive proposition, there are bubbles of normalcy. And some of that normalcy can be found at the drive-through.

On a recent Friday morning, most of the businesses along Olympic Boulevard in East L.A. remained shuttered due to the governor’s Safer at Home order. But the drive-through at McDonald’s at Eastern Avenue had a line more than half a dozen cars deep.



Beachgoers rejoice as Orange County’s coastline reopens under deal with Newsom

Beachgoers in Orange County rejoiced after state and local officials agreed Tuesday on plans to reopen some areas of the coast days after Gov. Gavin Newsom shuttered all beaches in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Dana Point, Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, San Clemente and Seal Beach submitted plans to Sacramento allowing the public to access the coastline for active recreation only. The plans, approved this week, include a range of measures to avoid overcrowding and allow safe physical distancing, according to the California Natural Resources Agency.

Eric Sundquist, 45, came to Huntington Beach from Redondo Beach to surf Tuesday. He’d been surfing there before the restrictions were loosened but said he hadn’t faced any, although he was aware of surfers being ushered out of the water over the weekend.



Latinos test positive at overwhelming levels in San Francisco survey

SAN FRANCISCO — During a four-day period, a team of community workers and volunteers with San Francisco’s Latino Task Force and infectious disease specialists at UC San Francisco tested 4,160 residents and workers for the novel coronavirus in a census tract of the city’s Mission District.

They found that 2.1% of those tested were positive; yet it was the details of the group’s demographics that were more revealing.

Although Latinos made up 44% of those tested, they accounted for more than 99% of the positive COVID-19 cases. In addition, 40% of those tested earned less than $50,000 per year. That group accounted for nearly 90% of the positive cases.

More than half of those tested who tested positive — 53% — had no symptoms of the illness.



Reopening Los Angeles will be slow as cases, deaths keep mounting

Some California businesses are expected to be able to reopen beginning Friday in the first major lifting of the state’s stay-at-home ban, which has been in effect for nearly two months.

But the extent of this shift is going to depend on regional conditions, and it still remains unclear how quickly Los Angeles County will see significant changes.

Officials in both Los Angeles and the Bay Area — where the coronavirus has hit the state the hardest — have urged caution in reopening. They say lifting stay-at-home orders too early could cause more outbreaks and hurt the economy further in the long run.

On Tuesday, Garcetti said he supported working on reopening “low-risk spaces,” such as trails, in the next few days and weeks.



Small businesses slash more than 11 million jobs in April

The nation’s small businesses slashed more than 11 million jobs in April as they were forced to close or suffered steep revenue losses amid the coronavirus outbreak.

That report comes from payroll provider ADP, which counted the jobs lost at its business customers who had fewer than 500 workers. The smallest companies, those with fewer than 20 workers, cut nearly 3.4 million jobs, and those with 20 to 49 employees cut 2.6 million.



In lockdown, Union Station’s aquarium loses its fans but not its keepers

Passengers are few and the restaurants and bars have closed, but some Angelenos are still going about their everyday lives at Union Station.

Swimming, eating a bit, then swimming some more.

The skinny señorita fish, the sex-changing sheephead, the blue-gray blacksmith, schools of rockfish and a horn shark — they’re all going about their business in a 7,500-gallon aquarium at Union Station’s east portal entrance, their audience largely reduced to marine biologist Dan Gilboa, who comes every week to check on his underwater community.

“It’s eerie; no one is hanging out at all,” he said, “but I have enjoyed being underwater more than usual. I can really hear the bubbles, watch the fish swimming around. It’s a real escape from what’s going on in the outside world.”



2 Russian doctors are dead and 1 is in ICU after plunging from hospital windows. What’s happening?

MOSCOW — Two Russian doctors have died and one remains in intensive care after falling out of hospital windows under mysterious circumstances.

The tragic incidents in the last two weeks made national headlines, with media reports saying all three doctors had come under pressure from their superiors over working conditions amid the coronavirus crisis.

In recent weeks, medical workers all over Russia have decried shortages of protective equipment and questionable infection-control procedures that turned dozens of hospitals into virus hotbeds, with hundreds of doctors and nurses contracting the virus. Many said they had been threatened with dismissal or even prosecution for going public with their grievances.



Overlooked small businesses are finally getting federal loans. Challenges remain

Danny Justman, manager of the Pawnmart pawnshop in Norwalk, was thrilled to see “$99,000 and change” show up in the company bank account Tuesday morning. That was his long-awaited slice of the federally sponsored Paycheck Protection Program intended to backstop small businesses amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’ll ensure that our employees get paid for the time they were off without any penalty to sick days or vacation time,” Justman said. Pawnmart, which is open for pawns and redemptions but not yet for retail sales, has 13 employees.

About three-quarters of more than $600 billion in PPP money now has been distributed, according to the National Federation of Independent Business.

Small-business owners say they are being treated better under the latest round of emergency government-backed loans. That is just one of their concerns about surviving the coming months.



With devastating speed, coronavirus spread through a Long Beach fire station. But these firefighters battled back

On a cold Sunday night in March, Long Beach firefighter and paramedic James Dolas began to feel the first tingle of illness.

The next day, as the 34-year-old came down with a fever, sore throat and muscle pain, his supervisor delivered the bad news: He feared that Dolas and other firefighters at Station 11 had been exposed to the novel coronavirus.

One day later, Dolas and eight other firefighters were confirmed as positive for COVID-19. Soon, that number doubled to 16.

Dolas self-isolated in a guestroom at home. He barricaded the door, which didn’t lock, with a chair to keep his 3-year-old daughter at bay. But he wondered whether he had already passed the virus on to her, as well as his 1-year-old daughter and his wife.



As California begins reopening, fears mount of more cases, deaths

SAN FRANCISCO — California is seeing signs that the increase in coronavirus deaths and hospitalizations is slowing, but there remains wide debate about whether the progress is enough to dramatically ease Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order.

The state has recorded its first week-over-week decline in reported COVID-19 deaths, according to a Times data analysis. Two weeks ago, California reported its highest one-week toll — 542 fatalities among people infected with the coronavirus. Last week, the weekly death toll dropped 9% to 495.

Although it was an improvement, last week’s number was still the third-highest over the course of the pandemic.

Even hard-hit parts of the state have seen some relief.



Time for seniors to roll over and die so younger generations can get back to work? Not so fast

I’ve got a Medicare card in my wallet and a target on my back.

“Sacrifice the weak, reopen,” said a protest sign in Tennessee.

In Antioch, next door to the Bay Area town I grew up in, a planning commissioner said “the sick, the old, the injured,” along with the homeless, should be left to die from COVID-19 and ease the burden on society.

Even the 70-year-old lieutenant governor of Texas offered himself up as a sacrificial lamb, saying if more people have to die to save the economy for future generations, “I’m all in.”



What a reopened California will look like — and businesses’ odds of survival

Businesses in California may start opening again as soon as Friday. But it won’t be business as usual.

Social distancing and sanitation protocols are likely to stay in place until testing, contact tracing and a vaccine become widely available. State and local officials are working to hash out exactly what that will mean for reopened businesses, but the basic principles are familiar enough by now: Staff and customers must wear masks; the number of people allowed in an establishment must be reduced to allow for six-foot spacing when possible; anything that people touch needs to be disinfected, frequently.

Restaurants and retail are likely to reopen with these restrictions within weeks, according to recent guidance from Gov. Gavin Newsom and health officials. Businesses involving close contact and larger crowds — movie theaters, bars, hair salons, gyms — will need to wait months. And those that involve mass gatherings, like sporting events and concerts, are unlikely to reopen until the threat of the novel coronavirus has largely passed.

But can businesses even afford to open their doors under these restrictions? Or can they figure out new ways to turn a profit?

The answer depends on the sector.



When pandemic reality hits reality real estate shows

Stuck at home? HGTV and the ever-expanding universe of renovation and real estate shows are happy to accommodate — by serving up even more home time.

Since the novel coronavirus disrupted lives — and production schedules — the network has had to get creative to keep Americans tuned in to their favorite aspirational programs.

HGTV paused air dates for several shows. Others that had wrapped, or nearly concluded filming, launched on schedule — sometimes with hosts using the iPhone FaceTime feature to complete a few scenes.

“Anything that was shooting is of course on stop-down right now,” said Loren Ruch, HGTV group senior vice president of production and development. “I would guess that’s somewhere in the 20-30 series range.” Work continues, however, on pre- and post-production, virtual casting and development.



Hospitals prepare for wave of mental health disorders among their workers

WASHINGTON — Nurse Camille Davis has watched more than 30 patients die from coronavirus infection, and has sobbed while holding her phone close to them so loved ones could say their goodbyes. Her long drives home are filled with worry about transmitting the disease to her 8-year-old son.

“I had a colleague who wanted to quit, it was too much for her, and I told her, ‘We can’t quit. We have to keep working until we get sick,’” said Davis, a nurse at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Manhattan. “That is how we are getting through this. But I wonder what we will be left to deal with when it’s all over. I’m worried I will develop PTSD.”

Hospital administrators say Davis’ experiences are hardly unique, and that is why they expect to confront a surge of mental health disorders affecting physicians and nurses who have battled COVID-19. As many as 20% to 25% of healthcare workers in hard-hit areas, experts say, are likely to develop disorders such as anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress — a rate similar to what is reported in soldiers returning from combat.

“The degree of stress that front-line healthcare workers are experiencing is extraordinary,” said Dr. Dennis Charney, the dean of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai and an authority on post-traumatic stress disorder. “There is a massive amount of stress that is comparable to a war.”



Column: Is it time for Drs. Fauci and Birx to quit on principle?

How long can Deborah Birx and Anthony Fauci keep this up? We’ve been watching their faces, and we know as surely as we know ourselves that they are in agony working for an administration ruled by chaos and led by an irresponsible enemy of science who gets his facts wrong, contradicts himself and steps clumsily on their life-or-death message.

The two eminent doctors have obviously made the calculation that they’re more valuable on the inside than the outside, and that they’ll make compromises and put up with a measure of indignity to remain in the inner circle of power.

But surely, late at night, they must have moments of moral doubt, looking hard into the mirror and asking themselves whether they’ve made the right decision to stick by President Trump’s side.

It’s an old dilemma — whether to work from within to change policy and fend off bad decisions or to storm out and resign on principle. In modern history, there have been plenty of dramatic examples of government officials who have decided that enough is enough. Atty. Gen. Elliot Richardson and his deputy, William Ruckelshaus, stepped down rather than obey President Nixon’s order to fire Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox. Morton Halperin resigned from Henry Kissinger’s staff to protest the invasion of Cambodia. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance quit over President Carter’s decision to attempt a military rescue of the American hostages being held in Tehran in 1980.

“You have to remind yourself there are lines over which you will not step,” said Ruckelshaus about his decision to quit in 1973.



Key British scientist quits after embarrassing coronavirus lockdown breach

LONDON — One of the British government’s key scientific advisors in the fight against the coronavirus has quit after receiving secret visits from his girlfriend amid a nationwide lockdown, prompting the health secretary to affirm Wednesday that the rules are “for everyone.”

Neil Ferguson, an epidemiologist at London’s Imperial College, developed influential models predicting that hundreds of thousands would die from COVID-19 unless Britain imposed drastic restrictions to slow the disease’s spread. Ferguson’s advice was key in triggering the national lockdown in March. Under the rules, people are barred from visiting family and friends if they are not already living together.

Ferguson quit the government’s scientific advisory panel late Tuesday after the Daily Telegraph reported that a woman he was in a relationship with had crossed London to visit him at his home.

Ferguson said in a statement that he had “made an error of judgment and took the wrong course of action.”



Outbreak at Indian fruit market fuels worry over greater spread

NEW DELHI — Health officials are rushing to contain a coronavirus outbreak in one of Asia’s largest fruit and vegetable markets in the southern Indian city of Chennai.

So far, the market has been linked to more than 500 cases in several districts of Tamil Nadu state and adjacent Kerala state. More than 7,000 people with connections to the Koyambedu market are being traced and quarantined, said J. Radhakrishnan, the leader of Chennai’s response to the coronavirus.

The market, which had remained open during India’s six-week virus lockdown, is central to the region’s food supply chain. The challenge for public health officials is to track the many traders, workers and shoppers who visited the market.

Experts said the virus cluster had exposed India’s poor surveillance during the pandemic. They said the country’s long denial of how prevalent the virus was resulted in people not taking precautions, and warned that the market cluster could result in cases in India snowballing.

Crucially, public health experts fear that many who visited the market will not inform authorities, fearing stigma or quarantines, and that some workers weren’t registered. Radhakrishnan said the state government was aggressively testing in response and had conducted more than 170,000 tests so far.


Spain to declare a national state of mourning

MADRID — Spanish Prime Minster Pedro Sánchez says that his government will declare a national state of mourning for the more than 25,800 deaths that his nation has suffered from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sánchez is appearing before the Spanish parliament Wednesday to ask for a fourth two-week extension of the state of emergency that has allowed his government to apply a strict lockdown. It appears that he will have the support despite losing the backing of the main opposition party.

Spanish health authorities reported 244 new deaths over the previous 24 hours Wednesday, taking the toll of virus fatalities to 25,857.

The figures, which are in line with the overall slowdown of the outbreak in Spain, don’t include thousands more who have died in nursing homes before they could be tested.

Spain also reports that its total number of confirmed infections surpassed 253,000.

Sánchez said he would specify when the national mourning would be held as the country emerges from a lockdown that has reduced the infection rate to under 1%. Some small shops slowly started to reopen this week.


Coronavirus cases in Africa expected to surpass 50,000 on Wednesday

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Africa has shot up 42% in the week ending Tuesday, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The number of cases is expected to surpass 50,000 later Wednesday, and the number of deaths could top 2,000. All but one of Africa’s 54 countries, tiny Lesotho, has reported virus cases.

The World Health Organization has warned that Africa could become the next hotbed of the pandemic. Severe shortages of testing kits mean the number of actual cases across the continent is unknown.

In Somalia, aid groups are warning that the number of virus cases is far higher than the 835 reported. The country has one of the world’s weakest health systems.

Twelve African nations now have more than 1,000 confirmed cases.


Schools in Wuhan begin to reopen

Senior students returned to classes Wednesday in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, after no new cases or deaths were reported from the outbreak that prompted a 76-day quarantine in the city of 11 million.

More than 120 schools reopened to senior students after the facilities were thoroughly cleaned. Returning students were required to show they were healthy before being allowed inside.

Wuhan accounted for the bulk of the more than 82,000 cases China recorded, along with most of its 4,633 deaths.

China’s daily report of new cases has fallen into the single digits, and the country has gone three weeks without announcing any new virus-related deaths, prompting authorities to allow a reopening of classes in Beijing and other areas for high school and university seniors preparing to take exams.

Tourist sites such as the Forbidden City in Beijing have also reopened with strict limits on the number of visitors, who must show they are healthy.


Palestinians fear a coronavirus outbreak in Jerusalem’s ‘no man’s land’

JERUSALEM — As the coronavirus pandemic gathered strength last month, community leaders in a Palestinian neighborhood on the outskirts of Jerusalem tried to impose lockdown and quarantine measures to protect residents.

The problem: There were no police to enforce the measures.

Kufr Aqab is within the Israeli-drawn municipal boundary of Jerusalem, which Israel views as its unified capital. It is therefore off-limits to the Palestinian Authority, which is headquartered in the nearby city of Ramallah and governs parts of the occupied West Bank.

But the neighborhood is on the opposite side of the separation barrier Israel built in the mid-2000s, so the Israeli police don’t go there either.

“This is no man’s land,” said Mayor Raed Hamdan.

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Europe forecasts ‘recession of historic proportions’ this year

BRUSSELS — The European Union predicted Wednesday “a recession of historic proportions this year,” with a drop in output of more than 7%, as it released its first official forecast of the damage the coronavirus crisis is inflicting on the bloc’s economy.

The 27-nation EU economy is predicted to contract by 7.5% this year, before growing by about 6% in 2021. The group of 19 nations using the euro as their currency will see an even greater decline, a record 7.75%, this year, and grow by 6.25% in 2021, the European Commission said in its spring economic forecast.

“Europe is experiencing an economic shock without precedent since the Great Depression,” EU Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni said in a statement.

More than 1.1 million people have contracted the virus across Europe and more than 137,000 have died, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control. Unclear outbreak data, low testing rates and the strain on health care systems mean the true scale of the pandemic is no doubt much greater.

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Disneyland’s Shanghai theme park to reopen Monday

The Disneyland theme park in Shanghai will reopen Monday under “enhanced health and safety measures,” the company said.

Only limited attendance will be allowed initially, and visitors will need to book tickets and make reservations in advance. Social distancing will be maintained in lines for amenities, in restaurants, on rides and other facilities and sanitization and disinfection will be boosted, the company said in a news release.

With warmer weather and new virus cases and deaths falling to near-zero, China has been steadily reopening, parks, museums and tourist sites such as the Great Wall of China and the Forbidden City ancient palace complex in Beijing.


Study reveals low number of undetected infections in the Czech Republic

A comprehensive study in the Czech Republic to determine the undetected infections with the coronavirus in the population has revealed a low number of COVID-19 cases.

Health Minister Adam Vojtech said a total of 26,549 people were tested across the country, including the capital, with 107 previously undetected positive tests.

The study was conducted in different parts of the Czech Republic where the epidemic was at different stages on people aged 18-89. In the capital of Prague and the second largest city of Brno, children were included.

The samples of the population included volunteers as well as selected groups, such as those suffering from chronic diseases.

A significant number of people infected with the coronavirus suffer no or only mild symptoms, but there is concern that they might unwittingly spread the virus to others.

Some 7,900 people have tested positive in the Czech Republic, according to Health Ministry figures released on Wednesday, 258 have died.


Qatar Airways to lay off workers

Long-haul carrier Qatar Airways says it will lay off staff as the coronavirus pandemic largely has grounded the global aviation industry.

The Doha-based carrier in a statement on Wednesday offered no figures for the number of employees who will be fired.

However, an emailed memo from the airline’s CEO that leaked online said the layoff numbers would be “substantial” and include members of its cabin crew.

Qatar Airways is one of the three major airlines in the Persian Gulf region created to capitalize on East-West travel. It began flying in 1994 and has a fleet of over 200 aircraft that it flies out of Doha’s recently built Hamad International Airport.


Philippine TV network’s shutdown amid pandemic sparks uproar

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

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

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



After hours of debate, Riverside County postpones vote on reopening amid coronavirus pandemic

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

The supervisors voted to meet again Friday.

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



Court upholds California ban on church services in coronavirus pandemic

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

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

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



USC students sue for tuition and dining refunds amid coronavirus disruption

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

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

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



UC San Diego to mass test students for the novel coronavirus

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

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

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

UC San Diego will become the first campus in the University of California system and one of the first in the U.S. to broadly test students for the coronavirus — an undertaking it is well-suited to do. It operates UC San Diego Health, which includes two major hospitals and many clinics, all of which are tied to one of the largest medical research programs in the U.S.



Lifting stay-at-home order too soon would cause more deaths, Northern California officials say

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

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

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



White House may close its coronavirus task force this month

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

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

“I think we’re starting to look at the Memorial Day window, early June window, as a time when we could begin to transition back to having our agencies begin to manage — begin to manage our national response in a more traditional manner,” Pence told reporters.