Newsletter: The epicenter is now the U.S.

As of Thursday afternoon, the United States was reporting more than 82,400 COVID-19 cases, above China’s tally of more than 81,700 and Italy’s count of more than 80,500.
As of Thursday afternoon, the United States was reporting more than 82,400 COVID-19 cases, eclipsing China’s tally of more than 81,700 and Italy’s count of more than 80,500.
(Maura Dolan / Los Angeles Times)

The number of confirmed cases of the new coronavirus swells in the U.S.


The Epicenter Is Now the U.S.

The United States has surpassed Italy and China in having the most confirmed coronavirus cases, according to a global case tracker run by Johns Hopkins University: more than 85,900, as of early Friday morning. Italy tops the list of countries with the most coronavirus deaths, reporting more than 8,200, versus more than 1,200 in the U.S. Regardless of whether you think China has suppressed its numbers or not, the U.S. figures show disturbing growth.

While New York has been the hardest hit, California saw its number of cases surge past 4,000 as of Thursday evening; California’s death toll from the virus hit 83. In Los Angeles County, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths rose by more than half in one day.


“These are not numbers, these are neighbors,” said L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti. “There is no projection in which, a couple weeks from now, we’re doing fine. This will be tough.”

Experts warn that such a growth rate could overwhelm hospitals in coming days. According to projections presented at a San Jose City Council meeting, Silicon Valley could see a coronavirus-related death toll of 2,000 to 16,000 by the end of May, depending on how seriously people take orders to stay at home.

It could also force doctors into making decisions they never thought they’d have to make: who lives and who dies. Across the U.S., there could be as many as 31 patients requiring ventilation for every ventilator machine available, according to an article published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine. The shortage could be just as severe in California.

The Unprecedented ...

Even in the darkest hours of 2008, when the nation teetered on the edge of a second Great Depression, Congress never passed anything close to the roughly $2-trillion economic stimulus plan expected to receive final approval.

The Senate’s plan stands out not only for its record amount — almost 10% of U.S. gross domestic product — but also in giving employers unprecedented and untested financial incentives to keep people on their payrolls.


In addition to providing payments to many American adults (see how much you could get here) and direct help to those who are losing their jobs and livelihoods due to a global pandemic, the bill includes ideas designed to encourage employers to avoid layoffs, including offering loans that could turn into grants if companies maintain enough workers, payroll mandates for large firms and expanded government help for state unemployment insurance programs.

The Labor Department said that in just the seven-day period ending March 21, about 3.3 million people filed for first-time unemployment claims, a number that points to what many expect will be a dramatic increase in the jobless rate, possibly even into double digits later this spring. In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom said more than a million people have applied for unemployment benefits this month.

... and D.C. Business as Usual

What does sunscreen have to do with the coronavirus crisis? Nothing, except that a yearlong effort to speed up the Food and Drug Administration’s review of over-the-counter drugs and sunscreen products is part of the unprecedented stimulus bill.

Within the bill’s more than 880 pages are plenty of examples of provisions plucked from the wish lists of hotels, restaurants, retailers and over-the-counter drug manufacturers. Some of these measures are temporary and remain in effect only as long as the coronavirus crisis and its economic fallout last. Others are permanent.

More Top Coronavirus Stories

President Trump often boasts about his Jan. 31 decision to restrict travel from China, where the outbreak began, claiming he saved thousands of American lives. But Trump has repeatedly overstated the effect of his decision, and the supposed opposition to it, even as he has misrepresented federal efforts to develop a vaccine and supply protective masks, ventilators and other critically needed gear.

— This Georgia man survived COVID-19, lost his job and he’s broke — but he still thinks America is overreacting. As the virus spreads into rural and small-town America, significant numbers of Americans continue to doubt its strength, and that’s a big obstacle for public health officials.

— A new study finds pregnant women infected with coronavirus can pass it to their babies.

Empty freeways, canceled flights: How life in California has changed, by the numbers.

— The quinceañera is yet another ritual that is falling by the wayside.

Rows of tanks? National Guard patrols? Police stops? Officials are debunking rumors.

Plus, here are some 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:

— Q&A: I have a cough and fever. Should I get checked for coronavirus?

— Was your job affected by coronavirus? Here’s how to file for unemployment.

How to care for someone with COVID-19.

— Hospitals need medical safety gear. Here’s how you can help.


Newberry Springs is a desert community. Like other small towns in the Mojave Desert, it was known for its dry, dusty climate — until a massive underground river was discovered. By 1965, area residents could pay as little as $2,500 to create their own personal lake. “The bill to maintain it is less than for a backyard-type swimming pool,” according to a story in The Times.

On March 27, 1965, The Times photographed Eugene Cowell fishing from the tiki house he built off his oasis. He told photographer John Malmin he’d been raising catfish, which his wife, Bobbie, fed bits of hamburger.


— Faced with concerns among workers about the spread of COVID-19, the California Department of Motor Vehicles announced in a memo to employees that it is closing all of its more than 170 field offices to the public starting today.

Nursing schools are warning state officials that an estimated 10,000 nursing students are in jeopardy of not graduating, meaning they will be unable help evaluate and treat patients amid the coronavirus pandemic.

— L.A. officials are trying to lower the number of people behind bars to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Here’s how it works.

Lori Loughlin and 13 other parents charged in the college admissions scandal have asked a judge to dismiss the fraud, bribery and money-laundering charges against them. They argue that federal prosecutors in Boston violated their rights and broke judicial rules.

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— A quarantine survival guide: Ten things you can do to make your house cozier, work out at home, help your neighbors and friends and preserve your and your kids’ sanity.

— Seven great takeout meals our restaurant critic has tried (so far).

— Our cooking series “How to Boil Water” offers an essential guide to roasted vegetables.

Flowers are begging for your attention. They’re worth it.


— Sick as a dog, comedian Kathy Griffin hit the ER with coronavirus concerns. Here’s what happened.

— Goodbye, royalty. Hello, Disney. Meghan Markle‘s first post-Megxit gig will be narrating Disneynature’s “Elephant,” a documentary launching next month on Disney+.

Video games are not just a way to learn about people and life, but a way to practice at understanding both, games critic Todd Martens writes in a love letter to games.

— Cooped-up audiences are hungry for information, and they’re driving up TV news viewership to new heights.


— British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tested positive for the coronavirus.

— The Justice Department has indicted Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro on drug-trafficking charges. It’s a major escalation in the Trump administration’s campaign to force Maduro from power.

— Like a biblical plague, locusts are swarming East Africa, laying waste to crops and livelihoods.

Sex workers in Germany, where prostitution is legal, are facing difficult times because of the coronavirus.

— For many migrant workers and others in India, the biggest concern isn’t coronavirus. It’s hunger.


Taco trucks are a beloved L.A. staple. Operators say sales are down and they’re in survival mode. So are L.A. bars, whose owners are learning a new meaning for “last call.

— Malls are empty and stores are closed while online ordering is booming. Experts say the coronavirus may permanently change the way we shop.

— We’re at war with COVID-19, and distilleries are pivoting to produce hand sanitizer. What other economic lessons can we learn from World War II?


— The Dodgers’ trade for Mookie Betts was a move sure to give them a stellar 2020 season. Amid the coronavirus crisis, he may leave without ever playing a game for them.

Joseph Radisich Sr., a beloved high school football coach in San Pedro, has died at 84 after testing positive for COVID-19, his son said.


— Gov. Gavin Newsom is doing what he should with the coronavirus crisis. He’s just not explaining it well, writes columnist George Skelton.

— Smaller restaurants may struggle to reopen, but we can’t let big chains take their place, writes food columnist Lucas Kwan Peterson.


— How the N95 mask was created. (Fast Company)

— The pandemic has created a new kind of internet celebrity: the untrained, uncredentialed “coronavirus influencer.” (BuzzFeed News)


Yesterday was supposed to be opening day at Dodger Stadium. Instead, the entrance on Vin Scully Avenue was virtually empty, and in front of the gate was a sign: “No public access.” The only traffic jam, stretching for nearly half a mile, reports columnist Bill Plaschke, led to the Los Angeles Fire Department training center parking lot on Stadium Way for drive-through coronavirus testing.

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