Newsletter: Cautious optimism in California

California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks in front of the Navy hospital ship Mercy after it arrived at the Port of Los Angeles on March 27.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks in front of the Navy hospital ship Mercy after it arrived at the Port of Los Angeles on March 27.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

Models show California is at or near the peak of new coronavirus cases, as long as restrictions remain in effect. The question: How fast will the numbers start dropping?


Cautious Optimism in California

It’s been nearly a month since Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a stay-at-home order to slow the spread of the coronavirus in California. That order came with some dire predictions: Millions of Californians could be infected by the coronavirus, hospitals could be overrun, desperate patients could die without ventilators.

Now, a more optimistic outlook is emerging, with several epidemiological studies suggesting the state is probably at the peak number of daily new cases — as long as social distancing restrictions remain in place.

While the threat of infection has diminished, it has by no means disappeared, with well over 1,000 new confirmed cases a day in California over the last week. The state reported a new high of 76 deaths Wednesday, 42 in Los Angeles County alone.

But academic models from London to San Francisco appear to show that California is at the top of the curve for new cases, with the peak in deaths probably following anywhere from one to three weeks behind.


The big question ahead is how sharp that downward curve will be. A slow decline could easily mean far more people die after the peak than before. A fast one would mean the opposite. Social distancing will be a critical factor. Lifting restrictions too early would probably lead to dangerous new jumps in cases. And then there is the progression of the coronavirus in — and lack of data for — other states.

L.A.’s Financial Woes Grow

About 2.7 million workers in California have applied for unemployment benefits and countless businesses are facing economic peril as a result of the coronavirus crisis; governments are struggling to adjust too.

Even before the outbreak, Los Angeles city leaders had been facing a budget crunch, in large part because of new pay raises and increased benefits for the city workforce.
Now, the shutdowns have unleashed a new and potentially more dire financial threat, endangering the city’s ability to maintain existing public services.

Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin says the city could experience a significant drop in revenue in the upcoming budget year, fueled in large part by the financial downturn triggered by the coronavirus pandemic. Much of that is because of a more than 70% decrease in tourism activity.

Mayor Eric Garcetti, who is preparing to release his proposed 2020-21 budget next week, has begun looking at the possibility of pay cuts and furloughs for city workers who don’t work in the police and fire departments, one city official said. During his coronavirus briefing Wednesday, the mayor said he and the city’s budget analysts are working to protect as many core services as possible. “But make no mistake,” he added. “There will be big cuts.”


Disarray on the World Stage

President Trump’s “America first” policies, contempt for multilateral organizations and testy relationships with other world leaders are contributing to what many see as a surprising lack of global unity and coordination in combating the coronavirus pandemic.

It is usually the U.S. president who would lead such an effort in times of global emergency. But Trump’s moves to weaken Western post-World War II alliances such as NATO, his harsh treatment of traditional American allies and his slow response to the coronavirus threat have prevented close cooperation even among the United States’ usual partners, such as Europe and Canada.

Taking their cue from Trump, other nations have similarly turned inward to fight a health threat that has defied borders. Far from rising to a shared cause, most countries are battling on their own. If anything, the pandemic has fueled nationalist sentiments and reignited international rivalries.

More Top Coronavirus Headlines

— California is expanding hours at its call center that handles unemployment insurance and preparing to expedite benefits to independent contractors. In addition, Newsom announced a $125-million relief effort to help roughly 150,000 Californians without legal immigration status.


— America’s obesity epidemic appears to be making the coronavirus outbreak more dangerous — and potentially more deadly — in the United States, new research suggests.

— Three potential coronavirus vaccines are making fast progress in early-stage testing in China and the U.S. Still, experts caution it’s a long road to prove if they’ll really work.

— Los Angeles may hold off on allowing big gatherings such as concerts and sporting events until 2021 because of the coronavirus threat, according to an internal Los Angeles Fire Department email reviewed by The Times.

Deaths are slipping through the cracks and escaping official COVID-19 tallies. In response, savvy loved ones are becoming advocates for the dead they’re certain are victims of the virus.

— In Michigan and Kentucky, flag-waving protesters gathered outside government buildings to voice their anger at stay-home orders.

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:


— Will police cite me for not wearing a mask when shopping? Here’s what authorities are saying.

— That toilet paper you bought on Amazon? You may be waiting a while — or forever.


On April 16, 1926, Times staffers were busy covering a leak out of the L.A. County jail. There was no secret source or a stack of confidential documents, but the leak was no less dramatic: In the middle of a court session, water began to rain down over the judge’s bench in Superior Judge Carlos Hardy’s courtroom. According to a Times story the next day, the judge apparently called for umbrellas to try to finish the session. Court was adjourned when the leak grew too large to work around. The Times attributed the water to a clogged drain.


— In rural San Bernardino County, officials are working to slow the spread of coronavirus in small towns, where lack of medical resources is as much of a looming threat as the virus itself.

— The coronavirus is keeping some from doing business, but not sex workers in South L.A. They say business as usual is their only option.


— Early in the pandemic, Southern California’s Latino communities were skeptical of wearing masks. Now some are not only converts, but mask evangelists.

— L.A. boasts one of world’s most vibrant salsa scenes. The coronavirus may wipe it out.

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— Sen. Elizabeth Warren endorsed Joe Biden for president. It’s the third major endorsement this week as the Democratic Party bands together in the general election drive to beat President Trump.

— High school students will be able to take an at-home, online SAT test if the coronavirus keeps schools closed into the fall, the College Board announced.

— Deadly tornadoes rampaged across the South this week, and the coronavirus has drastically changed disaster response. This time, there are no comforting hugs, politician handshakes or Red Cross shelters.


— More than half the deportees the U.S. sent back to Guatemala have tested positive for coronavirus, Guatemalan officials say.

— New clothes are piling up at Cambodian factories, as coronavirus forces U.S. brands to cancel orders.


— “Every night at 7 o’clock I burst into tears”: Fashion guru Tim Gunn is freaked out too about the coronavirus pandemic.

— Netflix’s class warfare movie “The Platform” has struck a chord. Two economists explain why.

— When Joaquin Phoenix accepted his Oscar for “Joker” earlier this year, his speech about humanity’s relationship to nature drew strong reactions from viewers. His message doesn’t seem so crazy in our coronavirus times, says critic Charles McNulty.

— FX’s new “Mrs. America” focuses on the decade-long battle over the Equal Rights Amendment, with Cate Blanchett as conservative crusader Phyllis Schlafly. How “the most liberated woman in America” became TV’s next great antihero.



U.S. airlines reached preliminary agreements with the Treasury Department to access billions of dollars in aid. The industry has been hit hard, but yes, some people are still flying. Here’s why and what their trips now look like.

— U.S. retail sales plummeted 8.7% in March, an unprecedented decline after an almost complete lockdown of business activity.

— L.A. County leaders passed new rules to protect the health of food delivery workers. Companies such as Instacart, Doordash and Shipt will be required to provide access to face coverings and gloves or hand sanitizer.


— Could baseball in a bubble work? Dr. Anthony Fauci thinks it could.

— Meanwhile, Major League Baseball has distributed 10,000 blood tests to its players, officials and employees to help in what researchers are calling the first large-scale national antibody study.

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— Stimulus checks will bear Trump’s signature. President Nixon wanted to take credit for government checks too, but a top official stopped him, writes columnist Michael Hiltzik.

— Many of us haven’t touched another human for weeks. For public health, that’s a good thing. But columnist LZ Granderson asks, is there an emotional toll too?


— Months after Trump promised to open FBI files to help families of the 9/11 victims in a civil lawsuit against the Saudi government, the Justice Department has doubled down on its claim that the information is a state secret. (ProPublica)

— “The kids will be alright”: As screen time rules relax, experts say parents shouldn’t feel too guilty. (Boston Globe)


Ken Mallory, a 95-year-old World War II veteran, was supposed to be honored as the Dodgers’ Military Hero of the Game last Saturday. But with baseball and so much more coming to a halt because of the coronavirus, his big moment in front of the Dodger Stadium crowd did not come. Instead, his family gave him a Zoom party, and columnist Bill Plaschke took the occasion to honor him right here.

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