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Opinion

Newsletter: A migrant’s COVID-19 tale should scare everyone

Migrants on a hunger strike at the Mesa Verde ICE Processing Center in Bakersfield on April 10.
(California Committee for Immigrant Liberation)

Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, May 9, 2020. Los Angeles trails (likely where I am as you read this) open today; here are some helpful hints on how to behave so they are not closed again.

Let’s take a look back at the week in Opinion.

Mass suffering and the Trump administration’s incompetence (and arguably indifference) have been the two consistent themes that have dominated coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic. The latter theme, as with everything involving the media-obsessed President Trump, has prompted much of the commentary on the crisis. Just this week, our newest Opinion columnist Nick Goldberg asked if Drs. Deborah Birx and Anthony Fauci ought to quit their jobs after the president reportedly shelved his own administration’s guidelines for restarting economic activity, and Jonah Goldberg called the Trump administration’s belligerent, politically motivated rhetoric toward China reckless.

As for mass suffering, there’s plenty written about it, but less by people experiencing it. Our op-ed and letters pages have featured their share of first-person perspectives, including a letter today from a reader whose mother is isolated from her family in a locked-down nursing home. They’ve also featured several entries from people seeking economic assistance, doctors and nurses treating patients and parents taking on new responsibilities with their children in our “Dispatches from the Pandemic” series. Still, much of the coverage on that front consists of pieces about the spiraling unemployment rate, about sickened food workers, about the trauma inflicted on infected patients who survive COVID-19.

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This week, however, our op-ed page carried a chilling piece that combined the themes of the administration’s malevolent incompetence and the pandemic’s human toll. It was a first-person tale of an immigrant detained under already inhumane conditions (among them overcrowding and indeterminate custody). He watched with increasing dread for months as other detainees became gravely ill from COVID-19 and as guards provided scant and misleading information, only to fight off an infection himself and ultimately be released to his family. The piece, by New Jersey resident Nicolas Morales, reads not as an operatic cry for help but as a dispassionate recitation of the facts of his experience, which are enough to paint a vivid portrait of an administration already indifferent to immigrants’ ordeals and made still more so by the pandemic.

It does not bode well for our chances of escaping this crisis with a minimum of unnecessary suffering.

Just put a mask on it already. It’s one of the simplest sacrifices (if you can call it that) we’ve been asked to make, and yet it’s already suspected of provoking gun violence. Columnist Virginia Heffernan has a simple message: No, wearing a mask isn’t for libs, it’s for people who would rather not die. Besides, writes Cindy LaFavre Yorks, mask-wearing doesn’t have to be a serious, no-frills business; rather, it offers an opportunity to refine your fashion tastes.

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This is how Netflix will keep the new content coming in a pandemic: Sets tend to be intimate environments, where actors and crew members frequently come in close contact. While this may seem to pose an unacceptable risk to people who rely on Hollywood for their paychecks, writes Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos, such a tightly controlled environment has its advantages. Sarandos describes what will happen when production returns to Sweden this month and Norway in July. L.A. Times

Michael Flynn is guilty as sin, and the Justice Department dropping charges against him is sickening. Columnist and former U.S. attorney Harry Litman points out the obvious fact that the retired Army lieutenant general himself, who briefly served as Trump’s first national security advisor, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. Worse, he says, is what this means for the FBI and the Justice Department, both of which have had their credibility and integrity placed in serious jeopardy by the White House. L.A. Times

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How does the economy restart without child care? Schools remain closed, and the head of the nation’s second-largest school district remains noncommittal on reopening campuses this fall. It’s great that some economic activity is beginning to get underway — even with the important caveat that it could be suspended once again if COVID-19 infections and deaths spike — but editorial writer Kerry Cavanaugh points out a huge complication: “An increasing number of employees are expected to show up for work, starting now. Their jobs can’t be done remotely. But the schools are still closed, child care is limited, and it’s risky to rely on grandparents and extended family when babysitting could expose them to infected but asymptomatic kids.” L.A. Times

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Take a break from reading about the coronavirus by signing up for the L.A. Times’ new weekly newsletter on that other existential threat, climate change. While you’re at it, sign up for our daily newsletter on the other great crisis of our time, the COVID-19 pandemic.

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As always, you can share your feedback by emailing me at paul.thornton@latimes.com.


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A cure for the common opinion

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