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Coronavirus Today: What you and the president have in common

Good evening. I’m Deborah Netburn, and it’s Friday, Oct. 9. Here’s the latest on what’s happening with the coronavirus, plus ways to spend your weekend and a look at some of the week’s best stories.

Regardless of how you feel about President Trump, you probably have at least one thing in common with him: You are desperate to see a vaccine for this coronavirus as soon as possible.

Trump has been pushing to get a vaccine out to the public before election day, an extremely tall order considering that vaccines typically take about a decade to develop, test and deploy.

At this point, it does not seem possible to meet the president’s self-imposed deadline. But even if it takes several more months for the first COVID-19 vaccine to clear the safety hurdles imposed by the Food and Drug Administration, it will have emerged roughly a year after the virus was identifieda tremendous feat in and of itself.

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Still, Trump does have the power to rush the process, should he care to use it. Today my colleague Melissa Healy reports that the president has the legal authority to make the FDA approve an experimental vaccine on his say-so because he is the chief executive and the FDA is an executive agency.

In the midst of a national emergency, the FDA has a great deal of legal latitude in granting emergency use authorization to drugs and vaccines. It can also modify its criteria as circumstances change.

The Trump administration has previously overruled government scientists on a wide range of issues overseen by federal regulatory agencies. But when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines, that strategy could backfire in a major way. It is essential that Americans feel confident that any vaccine the FDA approves is safe. If it appears rushed and untested, people will be less likely to take it — and the end of our pandemic nightmare will be that much further away.

After months of the issue being politicized, Americans’ faith in the safety of a forthcoming vaccine appears to be waning. In May, 72% of Americans said they would “probably” or “definitely” get vaccinated once COVID-19 immunizations were available. By September that number had dropped to 51%.

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By the numbers

California cases and deaths as of 6:44 p.m. Friday:

More than 849,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 16,500 deaths in California.

Track the latest numbers and how they break down in California with our graphics.

See the current status of California’s reopening, county by county, with our tracker.

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A map of California showing what tiers counties have been assigned based on their local levels of coronavirus risk.
(Los Angeles Times Graphics)
The tiers to which California counties are assigned based on coronavirus risk level. These determine what can reopen.

What to read this weekend

Scorn and schadenfreude for the president: Trump’s battle with COVID-19 has prompted many of his detractors to invoke karma, cosmic justice and chickens coming home to roost. Unlike so many Americans, Trump has had no problem gaining access to qualified doctors, cutting-edge medicines or the tests that diagnosed his infection in the first place. Yet he resists simple measures like wearing a mask. “I can only wish him a lengthy recovery,” said one healthcare worker as he prepared to take a coronavirus test. Some Trump critics have been shaken by their knee-jerk responses to the president’s news. “My initial response, which truly was, ‘I hope he dies,’ really causes me suffering, because I don’t feel that that’s the kind of person that I am,” said Tania Verafield.

A woman wears a black mask with the word vote
Tania Verafield, who thinks of herself as a compassionate person, has tried to examine her initial satisfaction at learning President Trump was positive for the coronavirus.
(Tyrone Beason / Los Angeles Times)
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The coronavirus bounces back in Europe: After months of low case numbers and hospitalizations on much of the European continent, it appears the virus is making a comeback. Higher case counts in countries such as France, Germany and Spain have led to stricter containment measures, but Europeans have grown weary of COVID-19 disrupting their lives. Rebellions have broken out among business owners, there have been disputes between local legislators, and nearly everyone admits to having a severe case of pandemic fatigue. “Collisions between the cold reality of the virus and a dreamed-of return to normality are a pan-European phenomenon,” my colleagues write.

How to make a pandemic documentary in just five months: Amy Kaufman from our entertainment desk talked to director Alex Gibney about his new film “Totally Under Control.” The documentary chronicles how the U.S. handled a pandemic that has killed more than 210,000 Americans so far. Gibney, who previously made films about Scientology, Enron and Theranos, tells Kaufman he was determined to channel the hopelessness he felt in April into a thorough investigation that could be seen by Americans before election day. The film opens in drive-in theaters tonight and will be available via video-on-demand starting Tuesday. It will make its way to Hulu viewers Oct. 20.

The history of L.A. Pride: In honor of its 50th anniversary, Metro reporter Maria LaGanga reports on the history of L.A.’s Gay Pride parade and explains how it will change in the future. Over the last half-century, what began as a ragtag parade evolved into a controversial, three-day extravaganza drawing hundreds of thousands of spectators and costing millions of dollars to stage. But what should have been the biggest celebration in its long history — its 2020 golden anniversary bash — was dimmed by the pandemic. Want more? Check out this video on the intersection of LGBTQ pride and Black Lives Matter.

A health equity hurdle: California’s new metric that ensures counties are helping the communities hit hardest by the coronavirus is creating new barriers to further reopening in Southern California, my colleague Colleen Shalby reports. At least 12 counties — including four in Southern California — aren’t meeting the goals of the new metric, which is designed to ensure that test positivity rates in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods don’t significantly exceed a county’s overall rate.

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A trashy beach read: The coronavirus outbreak has indelibly imprinted itself on life in Los Angeles — down to the composition of trash washing up on its beaches. Volunteers at L.A. County’s largest annual cleanup event recently collected nearly 750 pieces of disposable personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves. That has raised concern that the pandemic has worsened people’s “single-use habits,” which could lead to an influx of plastic waste that threatens to undo some of L.A. County‘s progress in reducing trash, Alex Wigglesworth reports.

And finally: Here’s a story that explores why White House officials won’t reveal when President Trump’s last negative coronavirus test occurred before he tested positive last week. It’s a question that journalists have been trying to get answered ever since the president announced via Twitter last week that he and the first lady “tested positive for COVID-19.” “Yeah, I’m not going to give you a detailed readout with timestamps every time the president’s tested,” White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters when they asked about it last weekend.

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What to do this weekend

Get outside. Anyone up for a bat hunt? Miguel Ordeñana, the community science manager at L.A.'s Natural History Museum, is looking for a few good citizen scientists to help him figure out where bats are roosting in Los Angeles. Find out more about how to pitch in on the Backyard Bat Survey website and subscribe to The Wild for more on the outdoors.

Hit the road. You can’t celebrate Halloween this year at a traditional theme-park fright night, but you can visit some of California’s (allegedly) haunted locations. If you’re game for a road trip, we recommend the Point Sur Lighthouse in Big Sur, said to be occupied by the ghosts of its former stewards and those who lost their lives offshore. Northeast of Yosemite is the actual ghost town of Bodie. Closer to home, some visitors to the Old L.A. Zoo in Griffith Park swear they can hear the cries of long-gone animals. Subscribe to our Escapes newsletter for more California travel ideas.

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An old rusted car in a dry field
The remains of a once-thriving gold mining community are the main attractions of Bodie State Historic Park.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Watch something great. Our weekend culture watch list includes a star-studded “Angels in America” production that draws parallels between the AIDS crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic, a cello extravaganza with Yo-Yo Ma and Sheku Kanneh-Mason, and 17 other events. If movies are your thing, try the documentary “Time,” which portrays a family trying to manage the inequities of the prison system and won the prize for best documentary directing at Sundance. For more great film ideas, check out Marc Olsen’s Indie Focus newsletter.

Eat something great. The Times’ Food section did a deep dive on mayo this week, and even if it’s not your favorite condiment, it’s a really fun read. Food columnist Lucas Kwan Peterson wrote a detailed portrait of Japanese cult favorite Kewpie mayonnaise, then joined cooking columnist Ben Mims for the ultimate mayo taste test. Surprises and upsets abound that could alter your mayonnaise-purchasing preferences from this moment on. For more on Mims’ thoughts on what to cook when fall calls but there’s no chill in the air, check out his cooking newsletter, Tasting Notes.

Go online. Here’s The Times’ guide to the internet for when you’re looking for information on self-care, feel like learning something new or interesting, or want to expand your entertainment horizons.

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Resources

— For general safety, 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. Practice social distancing, maintaining a six-foot radius of personal space in public. And wear a mask if you leave home. Here’s how to do it right.
— Watch for symptoms including fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat and loss of taste or smell. If you’re worried you might be infected, call your doctor or urgent care clinic before going there.
— Need a COVID-19 test? Here’s how to receive a free test if you’re in L.A. County. And here’s a map of testing sites across California.
— Here’s how to care for someone with COVID-19, from monitoring their symptoms to preventing the virus’ spread.
— If your job has been affected by the pandemic, here’s how to file for unemployment.
— 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.
— In need of mental health services? Here are resources for coping during the crisis from the CDC and the L.A. County Department of Mental Health. L.A. County residents can also call (800) 854-7771 or text “LA” to 741741.
— For domestic violence victims, the pandemic can pose a “worst-case scenario,” advocates say. If you or someone you know is experiencing such abuse, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or L.A. County’s hotline at 1-800-978-3600. Here are more ways to get help.

The pandemic in pictures

People wearing masks at an outdoor casino setup under a wood covering
Banker Fernando Martinez, left, looks at his hands before applying hand sanitizer while working at a baccarat table at Gardens Casino in Hawaiian Gardens.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Casinos in L.A. County reopened Friday, but gambling in a pandemic looks a little different from before thanks to masks, plastic partitions and a baccarat table set up in what used to be the valet area at Gardens Casino in Hawaiian Gardens.

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 reopening tracker.

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For the most up-to-date coronavirus coverage from The Times over the weekend, visit our homepage and our Health section, sign up for our breaking news alerts, and follow us on Twitter and on Instagram.


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