Good evening. I’m Diya Chacko, and it’s Friday, April 24. Here’s what’s happening with the coronavirus outbreak in California and beyond, plus ways to spend your weekend at home.
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In L.A. County, where beaches are closed from Malibu to the Orange County border, officials and those patrolling the beaches say that compliance with the shutdown has been high, with only about half a dozen people cited for breaking the ban in more than a month. But a heat wave sweeping Southern California is causing them to worry that residents will flock to still-open beaches in Ventura and Orange counties this weekend.
The Coastal Commission, the gatekeeper of California’s beach access law, has been allowing cities and counties to make the call on whether their own beaches should be temporarily closed, although with a reminder that access limitations were not absolute and that “the coast belongs to all.” And many point to the unequal impact of the closures, given that residents in some coastal communities also have greater access to parks and hiking trails while more working-class (and often less white) communities inland swelter in more confined spaces.
While people visiting Orange County beaches will be able to get on the sand and in the water with proper social distancing, parking lots will remain closed, and officials are urging outsiders to keep away. That may work: A new poll shows the vast majority of California residents support stay-at-home restrictions for as long as they’re needed.
Many of the wealthiest Americans, however, are finding ways to bypass or ignore those restrictions, leaving cities on personal buses, private planes and yachts for second homes and expensive rentals in beach towns and resorts. With the pandemic putting millions out of work, it’s exposing the stark divide between the rich who can afford escape plans and everyone else. “I feel in danger every day,” said a cashier in a coastal Oregon town popular with wealthy visitors. “Those of us that live here full time and wait on them are the ones that are at risk.”
The World Health Organization joined with global leaders Friday to speed up the development and production of vaccines and therapeutics to stamp out the pandemic and ensure they are distributed quickly and equitably across the globe. “Past experience has taught us that even when tools are available, they have not been available equally to all,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO director-general. “We cannot allow that to happen.” Leaders from countries in Africa, Asia and Europe joined the call announcing the initiative. Representatives from the United States and China were noticeably absent.
The scientist recently ousted from a senior federal position overseeing research on coronavirus vaccines felt pressured by Trump administration officials to award a $21-million contract to a Florida laboratory to study hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malaria drug touted by the president as a COVID-19 treatment. The scientist’s lawyers said Thursday they were planning to file a federal whistleblower complaint alleging he was reassigned to a lesser job “because he resisted efforts to provide unfettered access to potentially dangerous drugs.”
And after President Trump incorrectly suggested that common household disinfectants could be used for an “injection inside” to kill the virus (they can’t), a slew of federal and state agencies — and the makers of both Lysol cleaners and Clorox bleach — issued multiple rebukes on Friday. They warned that Trump’s off-the-cuff medical advice and off-the-wall musings in nightly White House briefings could endanger even more lives. “PLEASE always talk to your health provider first before administering any treatment/medication to yourself or a loved one,” tweeted the U.S. surgeon general.
What to do this weekend
Practice social distancing by staying at home over the weekend. Here are some ideas on how to spend it:
If you’re missing the sand, consider building your own backyard beach with these tips from columnist Chris Erskine. All you really need, he says, is sand, a beach chair and umbrella and a good playlist.
Listen to The Times’ daily podcast. “Coronavirus in California: Stories From the Front Lines,” hosted by Gustavo Arellano, brings listeners dispatches from Californians in the thick of the crisis.
Celebrate a special occasion with Times restaurant critic Bill Addison’s suggestions on where to order exceptionally good takeout. (Sign up for his and fellow critic Patricia Escárcega’s Tasting Notes newsletter for more.)
Set up virtual get-togethers. You can do happy hour, sing karaoke, have a game night, host a watch party or meet with a book club. We’ve got technical instructions here, plus more ideas for stuff to do. Everyone’s itching for human contact, and this is the next best thing.
Work out at home. When was the last time you stretched? Try some of our 10 ways to exercise in your living room, from video yoga to fitness apps to free on-demand classes.
Get closer to nature. You’re still allowed to go out for a walk, run or ride a bike — provided you stay six feet away from other people and, in some cases, wear a mask (more on that below). Remember, beaches and hiking trails in L.A. County are off-limits.
Plus, here are lists of the 51 best TV shows to binge, 11 TV shows to occupy your kids, 10 free L.A. Times podcasts to listen to, 100 ideas for activities and the ultimate Times entertainment guide to staying at home.
By the numbers
California cases and deaths as of 4:30 p.m. PDT Friday:
Track the latest numbers and how they break down in California with our graphics.
Where is the coronavirus spreading?
Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state will create a program to provide three meals a day to senior citizens in need, employing out-of-work restaurant workers and funded largely by the federal government. The program, which will provide $66 a day per person in meal funds, is to launch immediately with a focus on seniors who are either at risk for COVID-19 or have limited incomes.
Newsom has suspended California’s plastic bag ban for 60 days amid concerns that grocery store clerks may be at risk if shoppers are required to supply their own reusable bags. The ban, originally enacted in 2016, was aimed at reducing plastic litter on beaches and streets.
In Los Angeles, construction projects — deemed essential by the state and allowed to proceed by the city — have continued. Industry and labor officials say the lack of housing in the region and a need for sustained employment justify the essential business classification, even though workers on several large projects have tested positive for COVID-19. And residents sheltering at home aren’t happy about the sustained noise and vibrations, with one calling it “anxiety-inducing and frustrating at best.”
Medical teams from the California National Guard have been dispatched to five especially hard-hit nursing homes in Los Angeles County to bolster staff and resources. Of the more than 800 deaths in the county since the beginning of February, 40% have been at nursing home facilities. County health director Barbara Ferrer said that staff who test positive for the disease “need to stay out of the workplace for an extended period of time. So we do have staffing issues in all nursing homes where we’ve had significant outbreaks.”
Helping a loved one get into a substance abuse rehab center can be stressful and emotionally draining under the best circumstances. Trying to do it during the pandemic is forcing some families to deal with an unprecedented combination of medical, psychological and financial anxieties. It’s critical that people know that many treatment centers are open, said the admissions director of a rehab facility in Santa Cruz. To find help, visit the website of the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at samhsa.gov.
How to stay safe
— Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds! Here’s a super-fun how-to video.
— Stop touching your face, and keep your phone clean.
— Watch for symptoms including fever, cough and shortness of breath. If you’re worried you might be infected, call your doctor or urgent care clinic before going.
— Practice social distancing, such as maintaining a six-foot radius of personal space in public.
— Wear a mask if you leave home for essential activities. Here’s how to do it right.
— Here’s how to care for someone with COVID-19, from monitoring their symptoms to preventing the virus’ spread.
How to stay sane
— Was your job affected by the coronavirus? Here’s how to file for unemployment.
— Here are all the ways to stay virtually connected with your friends.
— Visit our free games and puzzles page for daily crosswords, card games, arcade games and more.
— Here are some free resources for restaurant workers and entertainment industry professionals having trouble making ends meet.
— Advice for helping kids navigate pandemic life includes being honest about uncertainties, acknowledging their feelings and sticking to a routine. Here’s guidance from the CDC.
Around the nation and the world
Georgia became the first state Friday to reopen a broad swath of businesses, lifting restrictions on gyms, barber shops, hair and nail salons, tattoo parlors and bowling alleys. But some mayors urged residents to continue social distancing, and some businesses remained closed of their own volition. More than 22,000 people in Georgia have tested positive for the virus and 892 people have died since the outbreak began. “There is nothing essential about going to a bowling alley or getting a manicure in the middle of a pandemic,” the mayor of Atlanta said.
In Denmark, soccer games will be played in empty stadiums, but the FC Midtjylland team has devised a way to get fans involved. The club will erect massive video boards outside its arena, facing a parking lot where more than 2,000 designated spots will serve as a sporting version of the old-fashioned drive-in movie. It’s one example of the big changes that sporting events across the globe may adopt when play resumes.
Before the coronavirus appeared, Wuhan was known for its production of chemicals, including the ingredients needed to cook fentanyl and other powerful synthetic opioids. But when the pandemic hit the city, it upended the fentanyl supply chain, causing a ripple effect that has cut into the profits of Mexican traffickers and driven up street drug prices across the United States. Experts say the narcotics trade, which relies on the constant movement of goods and people, has been stymied by lockdowns, travel bans and other efforts to contain the virus.
Although many Americans are still waiting for stimulus relief, recipients of the $1,200 Internal Revenue Service electronic payments include thousands of taxpayers who are dead. An IRS spokesman told The Times that the agency is “very aware” of the situation, considers it a high priority and is working on getting the public some answers. Tax experts say the beneficiaries of the deceased can probably keep the money.
Your questions answered
Today’s question comes from readers who want to know: Should my child wear a face mask? Design writer Lisa Boone asked a pediatrician:
It can be really hard for parents when kids don’t understand why masks are important. But if they are over the age of 2, children should wear a face mask when they go outside, because they may be asymptotic carriers of the coronavirus and risk spreading it to people who are more vulnerable to the disease. The Centers for Disease Control recommend that cloth face coverings NOT be put on babies or children younger than 2 because of the danger of suffocation.
A general rule of thumb is that a face covering is advised when there is a chance that the child may not be able to fully maintain physical distancing. The face covering should not pose a choking hazard, nor should it obstruct a child’s ability to breathe.
Practice or rehearse wearing masks with very young children before they go outside to get them comfortable with the behavior. Encourage them to ask questions and share what they know and how they feel.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has helpful information for parents, including a set of frequently asked questions about cloth face coverings for children, available on its parent/caregiver website.
Got a question? Our reporters covering the coronavirus outbreak want to hear from you. Email us your questions, and we’ll do our best to answer them. You can find more answers in our Frequently Asked Questions roundup, and in our morning briefing.