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World & Nation

Newsletter: The new abnormal

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Major parts of everyday life in the U.S. are shutting down in an effort to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

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The New Abnormal

Public life across the state of California and indeed much of the U.S. has taken on a more ominous tone, as attempts to slow the spread of the new coronavirus shut down community gatherings, sports events and government meetings and forced the planned closure of Disneyland for just the fourth time in its 64-year history.

After calling for the cancellation of all gatherings of more than 250 people, California Gov. Gavin Newsom has issued an executive order allowing the state, if necessary, to take over hotels and medical facilities to treat a potential surge of coronavirus patients.

The unprecedented actions mirror a hunkering down across the U.S. Among just a few developments: The National Collegiate Athletic Assn. canceled its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, all theaters on Broadway went dark, the U.S. Supreme Court said it would no longer welcome visitors, and Major League Baseball called off spring training games and said the start of the season would be delayed at least two weeks.

Meanwhile, health experts are struggling to come to grips with the magnitude of the challenge. At a House Oversight Committee hearing, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the U.S. was “failing” to provide testing for everyone who needs it.

One reason testing for the novel coronavirus in California continues to face severe limitations is that health officials lack key components to conduct laboratory analysis. The shortfall compounds a month of sluggish progress in deploying diagnostic tests developed by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And despite mounting pleas from California and other states, the Trump administration isn’t allowing states to use Medicaid more freely to respond to the coronavirus crisis by expanding medical services, unlike in previous emergencies under other Republican and Democratic administrations.

Trying to Stem the Financial Damage

After a day of negotiations and partisan brinkmanship, even as financial markets recorded their worst day of trading since the 1987 crash, House Democrats and Trump administration officials moved close to a final agreement last night on an economic stimulus package to address the effects of the coronavirus on workers and businesses.

The deal — being forged by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin via frequent phone calls — is expected to eliminate insurance co-payments for COVID-19 testing and provide billions of dollars in aid to state and local governments for food programs and unemployment benefits. It is also expected to include up to 14 days of sick pay for workers dealing with the coronavirus who don’t receive sick pay from their employers and up to three months’ leave for people who need to care for sick relatives.

A proposal from President Trump to cut payroll taxes was not included, as both parties in Congress have panned it. But even if the House passes a bill Friday, the Republican-controlled Senate is unlikely to do anything further until Monday at the earliest.

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More About the Crisis

— Trump’s surprise order banning travel to the United States from much of Europe opened a stark new rift with European allies and drew accusations that he was fanning xenophobia rather than engaging in a serious effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus. In fact, just when it’s needed most, global diplomacy has become the latest casualty of the outbreak.

Joe Biden delivered the opening salvo in the general election campaign against Trump in a speech that centered on the coronavirus crisis but, more broadly, posed the question Democrats hope to make the centerpiece of their campaign: What kind of leader does America want?

— What if more and more schools are closed for weeks? That’s already the reality in parts of Asia.

— Why will it take so long to make a coronavirus vaccine that can prevent COVID-19?

The outbreak has some Los Angeles restaurants taking drastic measures, including closing for more than a month.

— Can Tom Hanks and the NBA stop coronavirus skepticism in boomers and others?

— Know your labor law rights, from paid sick leave to working from home.

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.

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FROM THE ARCHIVES

It’s Friday the 13th: a day some say brings bad luck, whether it’s black cats, broken mirrors … or a chicken pecking you in the eye. On Friday, March 13, 1936, The Times ran the tale of a woman named Ella Zanow and her flock of 75 chicks. The story began: “Never trust a baby chick, not even the most downy and guileless. They’re all vicious at heart and will do you in the eye, given half a chance.”

Zanow said she’d been breaking up a fight among the birds when one of them pecked her in her left eye. “Can you imagine that, after all the care I’ve taken of the chicks?” she said. She was treated at a hospital, but there was no lasting damage, according to the story.

March 1936: Ella Zanow admonished a chicken after one of the 75 chicks she raised poked her left eye and sent Zanow to the hospital. There was no lasting damage, but she began wearing glasses when around the chicks.
March 1936: Ella Zanow admonished a chicken after one of the 75 chicks she raised poked her left eye and sent Zanow to the hospital. There was no lasting damage, but she began wearing glasses when around the chicks.
(Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA)

YOUR WEEKEND

— Do you have hand washing down pat but you’re still touching your face? Here is how to stop doing it.

— You should also stop obsessing about the coronavirus news. Easier said than done, but give it a try.

— When the world feels scary, many people want to garden. Use this guide to what to plant right now.

— How to keep your kitchen clean: Follow these eight pro tips from our cooking editor.

Eating out in the time of coronavirus. Our food editor’s opinion.

CALIFORNIA

— A tightknit corner of the San Fernando Valley was rocked this week by the allegations against former L.A. City Councilman Mitch Englander. Residents say the news is “like a movie!

— Federal prosecutors say former Rep. Duncan Hunter deliberately hid his behavior, even as he insisted publicly that he never mishandled campaign donations. A new court filing details their case against the Republican from Alpine.

— A 23-year-old woman has admitted to posting Nazi propaganda at two Orange County school campuses.

— After a mostly dry start to the year, Southern California has finally been getting some rain, and more is on the way.

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HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— South by Southwest may have canceled the premiere of his new documentary, but David Arquette isn’t counting himself out yet. He’s determined to prove he’s no joke.

— Studios are pushing back big-budget releases as the coronavirus spreads. Among the films: “A Quiet Place Part II” and “F9,” the latest installment in the “Fast and the Furious” franchise. Meanwhile, productions in Hollywood are grinding to a halt.

Live Nation Entertainment and AEG Presents, the two live entertainment promotion firms that overwhelmingly dominate the global concert industry, have suspended all touring activities because of the pandemic.

NATION-WORLD

— As the new coronavirus spreads, it’s giving new momentum to a Census Bureau campaign that touts new options for participating in the 2020 population count. This year is the first that people can respond online.

— A federal judge ordered the release of former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, ending roughly a year of incarceration that she had served for refusing to testify to a grand jury.

— Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, has tested positive for the new coronavirus.

— Federal lawmakers want to curtail the FBI‘s power to eavesdrop on Americans. Thanks to an unusual alliance of civil libertarians and Republicans, the legislation has a chance.

BUSINESS

— Despite some of the commentary on Fox News Channel, the company is taking the coronavirus seriously.

Cash has been slowly falling out of favor with Americans and their businesses. Has the pandemic opened a new front in the war on bills?

SPORTS

— Though Major League Baseball has suspended spring training, the Dodgers intend on proceeding as close to normal as possible. Manager Dave Roberts said the club will keep its doors open at Camelback Ranch for players until further notice.

Claressa Shields has more world titles and more Olympic gold medals than she has losses in a 10-year boxing career. But she’s at her most powerful when she‘s counseling in schools.

OPINION

— The global crisis we’re forgetting about — 71 million people displaced by war and political unrest. The Times’ editorial board says we had better find a solution, and quickly.

— So much of our normal lives are conducted from a social distance, like texting and and ordering food on apps. City Beat columnist Nita Lelyveld asks: Why does it feel different when it’s prompted by the coronavirus?

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— A first-of-its-kind survey gives a glimpse into the politics of people behind bars. (The Marshall Project)

— Social media is built for lurking — the practice of quietly observing other people’s lives through our screens. What does it say about our brains? (BuzzFeed News)

— Sometimes a dancing Elmo says what a clapping Britney Spears can’t. Reaction GIFs are so popular on social media that each celebrity source has its own emotional range. (The Pudding)

ONLY IN L.A.

The deadly coronavirus has already altered much of life in L.A. “Already, people are out of work, the markets have tanked and, if panic buying gets any worse, Southern California stores will be out of toilet paper by tomorrow morning,” writes columnist Steve Lopez. “But my colleagues were kibitzing in our downtown bureau the other day about how easy it is to get a restaurant reservation just about anywhere, and it’s tempting to get lost in the idea of a livable Los Angeles, where you can breeze from here to there in a fraction of the time and avoid crowds at even the most popular eateries.”

Comments or ideas? Email us at headlines@latimes.com.


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