Public health officials are bracing for a bad week in the coronavirus crisis. But President Trump, frustrated by the economic damage, says he may soon ease restrictions.
‘It’s Going to Get Bad’
In the U.S. on Monday, more than 100 coronavirus-related deaths were reported in a single day — a first — as Dr. Jerome Adams, the U.S. surgeon general, said that “this week, it’s going to get bad.”
In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom warned that the state will need more than twice as many hospital beds for coronavirus patients than previously anticipated and announced new action to encourage social-distancing measures. In New York, there are more than 20,00 confirmed cases — 5% of all cases worldwide.
In Washington, Senate Republicans and Democrats grew visibly angry and emotional on the Senate floor, as negotiations over a financial rescue package appeared to stall — even as Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said he and Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin were close to a final agreement.
And at the White House, President Trump, desperate to turn around the cratering economy, indicated that he is likely to ease within weeks extreme restrictions on commerce that are intended to slow the deadly coronavirus pandemic, resisting advice from public health advisors who have urged a longer shutdown.
Any easing of federal public health guidelines may have little immediate effect on millions of Americans, including those in California and New York, where governors and mayors have imposed restrictions.
But a change in federal policy could weaken public resolve and lead to uneven practices, with Americans in some areas returning to work or school while others stay home. Public health experts warn that a patchwork response could spur dangerous new outbreaks of the coronavirus, especially if the lag in testing and tracking continues.
Not Passing the Test
Without a nationwide testing strategy established by federal health officials, states have struggled to respond to the coronavirus crisis. California has been been problematic, given its large size and the many testing operations now beginning to ramp up.
Indeed, California has fallen behind New York and other hot-spot states as an assortment of public and private groups pursue testing programs in an uncoordinated fashion. Public health experts say that a robust, coordinated testing program is crucial so the state knows not only who is infected but how quickly and where the virus is spreading in order to effectively deploy limited resources, such as protective equipment, ventilators and medical staff.
Hospitalizations Grow in L.A.
Experts say a steep rise in people being hospitalized with COVID-19 in Los Angeles County probably signals the approach of a wave of extremely sick patients that could overwhelm hospitals in the coming weeks. As of March 6, five people in the county had been hospitalized at some point with COVID-19. Two weeks later, on Friday, that figure had jumped to 48. By Monday, the total had climbed to 90.
Though the raw numbers remain relatively low, the rate of increase has set many doctors and nurses on edge after watching the disease’s alarming trajectory in China, Italy and now New York City. Medical providers in L.A. County say they’ve noticed a steady flow of COVID-19 patients into their ERs in recent days and are rushing to draft policies to handle the tough decisions they anticipate making in the coming weeks as the outbreak surges and they contend with a limited number of beds, equipment and staff.
More Top Coronavirus Stories
— San Francisco officials warned that a surge in coronavirus is expected to come within a week or two, and voiced dismay over images of the public crowding beaches and parks across California.
— Mobile hospital units are on their way to California and the Navy hospital ship Mercy is headed for Los Angeles, among other measures to respond to the outbreak.
— California’s chief justice has ordered criminal and civil trials to be discontinued for at least two months in an effort to sharply cut down public traffic in state courthouses.
— Trump said he will extend the Oct. 1 deadline for people to apply for Real ID licenses, which will be required to board domestic flights in the United States.
— Will Texas or Florida be “the next Italy”? Red states are behind the blue in stay-at-home orders.
— What should you do if you think you have the coronavirus? Columnist Steve Lopez relays advice from an ER doctor.
Plus, here are some practical tips on getting through the days ahead. For more, sign up for Coronavirus Today, a special edition of The Times’ Health and Science newsletter that will help you understand more about COVID-19. As with all our newsletters, it’s free:
— Help yourself and others by practicing social distancing. If you absolutely must be out in public, maintain a 6-foot radius of personal space.
— What you should know about wearing gloves and more if you can’t work from home.
PG&E Pleads Guilty
In a federal filing documenting its role in causing California’s deadliest wildfire, Pacific Gas & Electric announced it has pleaded guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter for the 2018 Camp fire in the Northern California town of Paradise.
PG&E, in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, said it reached the settlement with the Butte County district attorney’s office on March 17. As part of the agreement, PG&E also pleaded guilty to one count of unlawfully causing a fire in violation of the state penal code and will pay a total fine and penalty of about $3.5 million.
Under the deal, PG&E said prosecutors won’t pursue further criminal charges. The outcome disappointed some utility watchdogs — and could have major implications for other utilities in California.
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FROM THE ARCHIVES
We’re sure you’re used to getting emails from businesses, eager for your attention and money. But before the internet, stores had to get more creative to entice shoppers and brand themselves with window displays. In a March 24, 1980, article, The Times explored two very different approaches to displays through two of L.A.’s prominent luxury stores: Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills and Hollywood boutique Maxfield Bleu.
Saks Fifth Avenue represented “the traditional and generally conservative viewpoint,” with classic dressed mannequins and a prop or two. The Times referred to Maxfield Bleu’s displays as “startling ambiguous window designs.” One campaign featured a mannequin lying under a boulder, as if crushed in a rock slide. Another also featuring rocks: bionic children playing with small boulders.
— L.A. City Council President Nury Martinez has canceled council meetings scheduled for Tuesday and the following week, saying the city is not yet ready to conduct a remote meeting. The move alarmed labor unions, nonprofit groups and activists.
— The Medical Board of California is looking into physicians selling COVID-19 tests while sick people around the country can’t get tested because of a nationwide shortage, after a Times story examined the practice.
— As coronavirus spreads, a former juvenile correctional facility in Orange County will be used as a shelter for older individuals who are homeless but not showing signs of infection.
— L.A. Unified schools will remain closed until at least May 1 in response to the pandemic.
HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS
— Paradigm Talent Agency became the first major agency to sign a franchise agreement with the Writers Guild of America, a significant step in the union’s push to get talent agencies to change long-standing industry practices.
— The Visual Effects Society has called on studios and the film industry to support efforts to allow VFX artists to work from home due to the outbreak of the new coronavirus.
— “One Day at a Time” shows how TV is facing the coronavirus outbreak.
— Neil Diamond made a coronavirus parody of “Sweet Caroline” with CDC-compliant lyrics. It’s so good (so good, so good!)
— The Supreme Court has put new limits on race-bias lawsuits, dealing a setback to Los Angeles TV producer Byron Allen. He’s maintained that Comcast refused to carry his channels on its cable network because he’s black.
— Four field organizers for billionaire Michael R. Bloomberg’s aborted presidential bid are suing his campaign, arguing that they were fraudulently promised employment and healthcare through the November election.
— U.S. troops remain at the southern border despite waning migration, as coronavirus spreads elsewhere.
— British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, facing criticism over a coronavirus-containment strategy more lax than that of European neighbors, has announced stringent new measures meant to keep people at home.
— In Colombia, human rights activists have called for the release of some inmates from overcrowded prisons after weekend rioting linked to fears of the coronavirus left 23 prisoners dead and scores injured.
— The Federal Reserve unveiled aggressive moves to support economy. Is it running out of options?
— California companies are jumping in to supply ventilators needed in the coronavirus fight.
— Butcher shops have seen a dramatic rise in sales, especially on cuts that lend themselves well to freezing and long cooking times. But some environmental groups want people to stock up on fish instead.
— There will be no fond farewell for one of L.A.’s most venerable restaurants. Lucques, the 21-year-old Californian-Mediterranean restaurant, will not reopen.
— A year ago, Jovan Vavic, longtime head coach of USC women’s water polo, was fired for his role in the college admissions scandal. Now the team has been dealt another devastating blow: COVID-19 prompted the NCAA to cancel the winter and spring championships.
— Did somebody lose a bar bet? Nope, it’s just skijoring, a sport that blends ski boots and spurs.
— Congress’ solutions to the coronavirus crisis are stuck in the past, columnist Jonah Goldberg writes.
— Joe Biden made a smart move by promising to choose a woman as his running mate, writes columnist George Skelton. Next he needs to be smart again and choose the right woman.
WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING
— Can’t get enough of “Seinfeld,” “Fraiser,” and “The Office”? Why we can’t get enough of comfort TV in trying times. (The Atlantic)
— Teens around the world are keep posting TikToks. It’s a window into life under quarantine in countries like China and Italy. (Vox)
ONLY IN L.A.
Peter Loughrey, the founder of Los Angeles Modern Auctions and a guest appraiser on PBS’ “Antiques Roadshow,” was this city’s ambassador for modernism. He died last month of cancer at age 52. After living in a classic California Midcentury post-and-beam home, Loughrey and his wife, Shannon, bought an unconventional 1972 circular home designed by the L.A. firm Benton/Park/Candreva that would be featured as the “party house” in the 2019 film “Booksmart.” He described it as “the kind of home Mike Brady would have built for some really eccentric clients.”
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