Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Thursday, March 12, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.
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What a difference a day makes. Any illusion of normalcy in the time of coronavirus was foreclosed upon Wednesday, as the World Health Organization finally used the word “pandemic” and an unrelenting drumbeat of once-unthinkable headlines beat down from around the globe.
Speaking to the nation from the Oval Office on Wednesday night, President Trump announced the United States is barring entry to the U.S. of foreign nationals who have been in Europe within 14 days of arrival for a 30-day period to combat the coronavirus. He also called for payroll tax relief to help the struggling economy.
[Read the story: “Trump suspends travel from Europe to battle coronavirus”in the Los Angeles Times]
Trump also called on nursing homes to stop all non-medical visits and announced federally backed small-business loans, with a proposed increase of $50 billion.
Stocks on Wall Street had careened downward Wednesday, with the Dow Jones industrial average sinking more than 1,400 points. Investors are calling for coordinated action from governments and central banks around the world to stem the threat to the economy from the virus. Mandating paid sick leave for American workers is beginning to look like a possibility at the federal level, as bipartisan talks continue over how Congress can respond to the economic fallout.
The public and private sectors are both grappling with increasingly extraordinary measures as the coronavirus toll mounts around the world, and the world that you’re waking up to this morning is probably going to feel a whole lot different than yesterday.
As of Wednesday night, there were more than 125,000 known COVID-19 cases globally — a tally that now includes one of the most famous names in the world. Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson, who are currently in Australia, announced in a statement that they had tested positive.
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Experts say the goal now, as reporters Melissa Healy and Amina Khan write, “is no longer to prevent the virus from spreading freely from person to person, as it was in the outbreak’s early days. Instead, the objective is to spread out the inevitable infections so that the healthcare system isn’t overwhelmed with patients.”
It’s a tactic known as “flattening the curve,” and you’re probably going to be hearing a whole lot more about it in the days to come.
[Read the story: “Why we should keep trying to contain the coronavirus and ‘flatten the curve’” in the Los Angeles Times]
Urgent action to slow the spread of the virus in California was taken late Wednesday night, when Gov. Gavin Newsom joined state health officials in recommending the cancellation of gatherings of 250 or more people “at least through March.” These size recommendations have the potential to touch virtually all corners of life across the state — community meetings, sports events and school theater performances.
California’s new “social distancing” guidelines echo decisions made earlier in the day by the states of Oregon and Washington. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown issued a temporary ban on all gatherings over 250 people statewide on Wednesday night. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee issued a similar ban on large events in the Seattle area earlier in the day, but Brown’s was the first to cover an entire state.
Social distancing measures rippled across many other aspects of life Wednesday. Both daytime talk and late-night TV shows are now forgoing studio audiences. Twitter announced that it would be requiring employees across the globe to work from home, a day after Google told its staff in North America not go into their offices unless they have to.
The NBA indefinitely suspended its 2019-20 season after a bizarre scene in Oklahoma City on Wednesday night, when a game between the Utah Jazz and the Oklahoma City Thunder was canceled seconds before tipoff. The NBA had learned that a player for the Jazz had preliminarily tested positive for COVID-19. As of last night, the NCAA tournament was set to continue, but it will be played in empty arenas.
Here’s more California coverage on the pandemic:
- The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health confirmed the county’s first coronavirus-related death and six new cases, bringing the county’s total to 29. Los Angeles Times
- L.A. will scale back public meetings at City Hall to limit the virus’ spread. The council will go from three meetings per week to one for the remainder of the month. Los Angeles Times
- San Francisco has banned any gatherings of more than 1,000 people. “We know that this order is disruptive, but it is an important step to support public health,” Mayor London Breed said in a statement. Los Angeles Times
- Drive-through coronavirus testing has arrived in the Bay Area, but supplies remain tight. San Francisco Chronicle
- These are the public health orders and recommendations for each Bay Area county: As with San Francisco, large gatherings are also banned in Santa Clara. KQED
- As the coronavirus makes social distancing mandatory, a columnist reflects on how what felt convenient and comfy feels different now. Los Angeles Times
Sign up for Coronavirus Today, a new special edition of the Los Angeles Times’ Health and Science newsletter that will help you understand more about COVID-19.
And now, here’s what’s happening across California:
Everyone’s a “producer.” Six-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady is launching a production company as he enters free agency. Deadline
The news you most need to distract from all the other news at hand: The full-size marble reproduction of Michelangelo’s “David” on display at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale toppled over and broke into pieces, probably as a result of a flaw that’s also present in the original artwork’s design. “I was surprised, but I wasn’t shocked,” said the cemetery’s museum director, who has a PhD in Italian Renaissance art history. Glendale News-Press
IMMIGRATION AND THE BORDER
The Supreme Court granted another emergency appeal to keep President Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy in place, putting a 9th Circuit Court ruling that declared the policy illegal on hold. The high court’s action is not a final ruling, but it will have the effect of maintaining the administration’s policy for at least three months and probably through early next year. Los Angeles Times
POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT
Former Police Chief Jerry Dyer will be Fresno’s next mayor. New results tabulated more than a week after voters cast their ballots put him over the 50% threshold to avoid a runoff and become the next mayor of California’s fifth-largest city. Fresno Bee
An undocumented Santa Ana public policy consultant is the first resident without legal immigration status to serve on a citywide committee in Santa Ana. “Being appointed, as ‘undocumented,’ is telling (other) undocumented residents, ‘We’re residents also, and we are valued, and we are encouraged to participate in the civic process,’ ” he said. Orange County Register
CRIME AND COURTS
Convicted rapist Harvey Weinstein received a 23-year prison sentence in his New York trial. Weinstein’s Los Angeles case is still pending. Los Angeles Times
A Los Angeles man who duped art buyers with fake Warhols and Basquiats agreed to plead guilty to federal charges of art fraud after trying to sell $6 million worth of forged paintings, some of which he acquired on EBay. The Guardian
For those in search of peace and quiet: A recent study found the Point Reyes National Seashore to have below-average sound pollution in comparison to other lands managed by the National Park Service. Point Reyes Light
Los Angeles: thunderstorms, 67. San Diego: rain, 65. San Francisco: partly sunny, 63. San Jose: sunny, 74. Fresno: sunny, 76. Sacramento: sunny, 79. More weather is here.
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