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Newsletter: Weighing the risks of reopening

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a White House briefing.
(Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

Health officials advocate a take-it-slow approach when it comes to restarting the economy amid the coronavirus crisis.

TOP STORIES

Weighing the Risks of Reopening

Senior U.S. health officials and some governors are warning against moving too quickly to ease restrictions put in place to combat the coronavirus, fearing the virus could once again start rapidly spreading, causing a renewed increase in illness and death. And when the moment is right, they add, it’s unlikely to be a dramatic “light switch” moment, as Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious-diseases specialist, put it.

For the record:

11:02 PM, Apr. 14, 2020An item in this newsletter about Sidney Poitier winning the lead actor Oscar for “Lilies of the Field” stated he received the award in 1963. It was April 13, 1964.

President Trump, who once talked about wanting to reopen the economy on Easter, has lately been mentioning May 1 as a new target for starting to do so, even though that is less than three weeks away. Asked last week about what metrics he would use in deciding when to push for a restart, Trump pointed to his head. On Easter Sunday, Trump’s Twitter account also retweeted and commented on a post that said, in part, “Time to #FireFauci...”

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Despite the president’s frequent talk about the topic, Trump doesn’t have the authority to order businesses, schools and other institutions reopened. He didn’t order them closed in the first place, instead issuing guidelines, and most of that power lies in the hands of governors and mayors, who by and large have been much more reluctant to set any early deadlines. Several emphasized the need to wait and see on Sunday. In addition, a return to normal economic activity would depend on citizens’ confidence in feeling safe while going out in public.

A Somber Easter Sunday

As churches across the U.S. held Easter services online, officials in states hit hard by coronavirus looked for glimmers of hope that the pandemic might be slowing in some areas. Though New York continued to lead the country with more than 9,300 deaths, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said key indicators, including hospitalizations and ICU admissions, had increased at a lower rate over the last few days. There was similar news from New Jersey.

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Los Angeles County officials reported 31 new coronavirus deaths on Sunday, the largest single-day total so far. Twenty-five of those fatalities were people over the age of 65, and six people were between the ages of 41 and 65. Across California, meanwhile, communities ushered in Easter with new restrictions to keep people indoors and away from gatherings to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Faith leaders now find themselves in the difficult position of wanting to help but needing to keep people away. Dozens are holding regular conference calls with L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and are recording public service announcements in empty churches, urging their members to stay home. Garcetti, for his part, has struck a tone that is one part stern dad, one part life coach, with a hint of Marianne Williamson, in his nightly coronavirus briefings for the city.

An ‘Apollo 13 Moment’

Today is the 50th anniversary of the explosion during the Apollo 13 mission to the moon — an accident that required great ingenuity and courage to bring the astronauts safely back to Earth. Doctors, researchers and entrepreneurs across the U.S. are now having their own “Apollo 13 moment,” as one physician in New York put it, as they confront the nation’s shortages of critical medical supplies and turn their ingenuity to finding solutions.

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In one case, doctors and respiratory therapists are scavenging for tubes and electronics, crafting a key part on a 3-D printer and successfully converting a $1,500 sleep therapy device into a full-blown ventilator, capable of substituting for the $50,000 machine on many, although not all, patients. In another, it’s one of the country’s largest toy manufacturing companies working with doctors to create masks to protect healthcare workers and to assist patients with breathing problems.

More Top Coronavirus Headlines

— There are new signs that suggest the coronavirus was in California far earlier than anyone knew.

— From the Black Death to AIDS, pandemics have shaped human history. Coronavirus will too, but it’s too soon to say exactly how.

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Nursing homes and assisted living centers are fast becoming a locus of outbreaks. Dwindling staff are making do with what they have.

Breast cancer patients are having to make tough choices about chemotherapy and pausing treatment.

High school seniors trying to decide on colleges face new questions of affordability, safety and choosing a place sight unseen. On the other side of the process, colleges have new challenges too.

— Hollywood’s dirty little secret? Sanitation practices on set are often lacking. The coronavirus has added a new dimension to efforts to change.

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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. As with all our newsletters, it’s free:

— The social etiquette of social distancing: how to say “back off,” politely.

— The ultimate guide to birthdays at every age during coronavirus.

The Healing Power of Baking

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Have you been baking up a storm while waiting for the coronavirus cloud to lift? You’re not alone, as a look at Instagram or an attempt to buy yeast would attest. “Anxiety baking” has been around for a while now, but stay-at-home orders and a need for some kind of grounding activity have taken things up a notch. Our latest Column One feature, written by restaurant critic Patricia Escárcega, explores why we’re covered in flour.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

On this date in 1963, Sidney Poitier became the first black man to win an Oscar in competition when he picked up the lead actor Academy Award for “Lilies of the Field,” in which he portrayed an itinerant handyman who builds a church for a group of East German nuns.

April 13, 1963: Sidney Poitier, pictured with producer Sidney Skolsky, won the lead actor Oscar for his role in "Lillies in the Field."
(Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences)

CALIFORNIA

— Federal authorities have charged a man known to have lived in Chula Vista with trafficking millions of dollars in illegal drugs through a tunnel that stretched from Mexico to a warehouse in Otay Mesa.

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— Authorities say six people were shot at a party attended by dozens of people in Bakersfield, even though there is a stay-at-home order in effect.

Stan’s Donuts, a doughnut shop that was a Westwood institution, has permanently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

— How did Ron Reagan, son of a true believer, become an atheist unafraid of “burning in hell”? Columnist George Skelton gave him a call.

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NATION-WORLD

— At least 150 Mexican citizens in the New York City area have died after becoming infected with the coronavirus. The crisis has made it almost impossible to ship bodies back to Mexico for burial.

— The coronavirus crisis has increased tension between Canada and the United States, bringing a new challenge to the longtime amity that has existed between the nations.

— British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been discharged from a London hospital, where he had been treated in intensive care for COVID-19. He said he owes his life to the National Health Service staff who treated him.

— As nations have complained about receiving faulty masks and flawed tests, China says it’s placing new quality control checks on exports.

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HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

“Saturday Night Live” returned with a show hosted by coronavirus survivor Tom Hanks and featuring remote performances. It held up remarkably well, critic Robert Lloyd says.

— Actor Tzi Ma is already Hollywood’s go-to Asian dad. Netflix’s “Tigertail” makes him the star.

— Theater leader Diane Rodriguez has died of cancer at age 68. Luis Valdez, who wrote “Zoot Suit” and “La Bamba,” remembers her vision.

— Six nights on tour, and never leaving their house: The L.A. band Sure Sure is making the best of being quarantined.

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BUSINESS

— The world’s top oil producers pulled off a historic deal to cut global petroleum output by nearly 10%, putting an end to the devastating price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia.

— There’s been a spike in coronavirus cases at meat plants in the U.S. That’s adding to questions over the fragility of the food-supply chain and raising concerns about worker safety.

SPORTS

Jaime Jarrin, 84, was set to begin his 62nd season as the Dodgers’ Spanish-language broadcaster, a needed focus after his wife died. Instead, he is at home watching old games, reliving memories and keeping hope alive.

Ziaire Williams, The Times’ high school basketball player of the year for Southern California, says he will play at Stanford.

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OPINION

— The U.S. was caught flat-footed. How can we do better?

— We got unlucky on COVID-19. The wrong man is in charge during a once-in-a-lifetime crisis, writes columnist Nicholas Goldberg.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— The U.S. Postal Service says it will run out of cash by September, but there’s a partisan fight over giving it the money to keep going. (Vox)

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— The story of a nurse anesthetist in New Orleans who became infected with the coronavirus, recovered and charged back to the front lines. (NOLA.com)

ONLY IN L.A.

If you miss pre-pandemic L.A., look no further than the HBO comedy “Insecure.” At least that’s what TV critic Lorraine Ali has been doing. She liked the show before our current situation, but now it’s even better when you can catch glimpses of “a random Wienerschnitzel hut, open for business, a shining beacon of hope; a fleeting shot of Burbank’s Donut Prince; Tiffany, and others, arriving to their destinations with a Porto’s bakery box in hand. It doesn’t matter what’s inside. The Cuban bakery is open in their alternate, Glendale universe.”

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


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