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World & Nation

Newsletter: The changing coronavirus timeline

Los Angeles County Chief Medical Examiner Jonathan Lucas stands between large refrigerated trucks used to transport the dead. The coroner's office has tripled its storage space to 1,500 to be ready for a possible COVID-19 surge.
Los Angeles County Chief Medical Examiner Jonathan Lucas stands between refrigerated trucks used to transport the dead. The coroner’s office has tripled its storage space to 1,500 to be ready for a possible COVID-19 surge.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

As health officials find out more information about the coronavirus’ early spread in California, the big picture is shifting.

TOP STORIES

The Changing Coronavirus Timeline

How long has the coronavirus been circulating in California? Information that has emerged in the last week is beginning to paint a different picture than the one suggested by the first official version.

The Santa Clara County medical examiner says postmortem testing indicates that two county residents who died in their homes in early to mid-February were infected with COVID-19, which now has killed more than 46,000 in the U.S., including more than 1,400 in California. That new information, combined with antibody testing results, suggests that the virus was spreading in California for at least a month before it came to light.

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The Santa Clara County deaths — including that of a seemingly healthy 57-year-old woman in San Jose — also represents the earliest cluster of infection so far reported in the United States.

Researchers at Stanford University and USC are seeking such historical glimpses of novel coronavirus activity to understand how fast it spreads and how lethal it is. That information helps build better computer models that public officials such as California Gov. Gavin Newsom rely on to decide when to ratchet down shelter-in-place orders and when it might be safe to allow people to resume a more normal life or go back to work.

Those same models will also factor heavily in decision-making once restrictions are lifted, if there is a second wave of virus outbreaks — which officials say could be worse than the first.

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About That Immigration Ban ...

On Monday, President Trump tweeted he would “temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!” On Tuesday, he said he would sign an executive order to ban new immigrants seeking permanent status in the U.S. On Wednesday, he signed an order that does neither.

Instead, it will restrict some people from entering the U.S. who do not already have visas or other travel documents over the next 60 days, but it includes broad exemptions. A senior White House official acknowledged that because of the sharp reduction in travel and immigration already prompted by the coronavirus, it’s impossible to know for certain how many people Trump’s latest action would affect.

When asked about the inconsistency between Trump’s earlier statements and the text of the order, Trump senior advisor Stephen Miller accused The Times of having “decided to take the dictionary and shred it for your personal and political reasons.”

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A Shield for Senior Care Providers?

Should nursing homes be held harmless in coronavirus-related cases?

Nursing homes and senior care facilities have been the epicenter of infections and deaths. The healthcare industry has been lobbying Newsom to sign a sweeping order it has drafted that would shield those facilities, as well as doctors and hospitals, from lawsuits and prosecutions. The order is similar to directives issued by other governors nationwide.

In California, the nursing home industry has some leverage to fend off legal action too: The state needs these nursing homes to relieve pressure on hospitals.

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More Top Coronavirus Headlines

— Divisions are growing in the U.S. between some governors and mayors over reopening their states as COVID-19’s toll on both lives and jobs grows, leaving leaders torn between dueling demands to prevent more outbreaks and to revive the economy. In California, Newsom says the shutdown must continue, despite the pleas of some local officials, but a surge in testing will help to decide when to ease the state’s strict stay-at-home order and allow people to return to work.

— Even as California continues to bend the coronavirus curve, state health officials worry about a “second wave” of COVID-19 cases and deaths that could be as bad as or worse than the first.

Los Angeles County health officials announced 66 more coronavirus-linked deaths, bringing the total number to 729. But a new, more optimistic forecast says coronavirus cases could be leveling off.

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— In rural California, children face isolation and hunger amid the coronavirus school closures.

— Federal officials say two pet cats in New York state have tested positive, marking the first confirmed cases in companion animals in the U.S. Authorities say that while it appears some animals can get the virus from people, there’s no indication pets are transmitting it to human beings.

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:

— Working from home got you stiff and sore? An ergonomics expert offers eight tips to stay healthy.

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— How to care for someone with COVID-19.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

In April 1948, the Groves family took up residence on a hill near Elysian Park. They had been evicted and intended to build a home there, according to a Times story. But the hill proved too steep and they attracted the attention of the city health department.

Health officials ordered them to leave “because of a lack of sanitary facilities, because the only cooking that can be done is upon an open cookstove, because of the danger to children on the 45-degree hillside in the event of rain.” The family refused. The Times reported they received offers for help and it’s not clear whether they took them.

April 23, 1948: Mrs. John Groves and children near Elysian Park.
April 23, 1948: Mrs. John Groves prepares a meal on open cookstove while one child plays and others struggle uphill with water. The family of seven, homeless, was ordered to leave the hillside, where they established a tent and hoped to build home.
(Los Angeles Times Archive / UCLA)
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CALIFORNIA

— The L.A. City Council balked at imposing a ban on evictions that goes further than the restrictions it has already passed, voting 7 to 6 against a stricter moratorium during the pandemic.

— Across the country, cities are closing homeless shelters to new residents over coronavirus concerns. But L.A. officials are opening more, convinced that homeless people are safer when it’s easier for outreach workers and medical professionals to provide care.

— It costs roughly $800,000 a year to feed the animals and $24 million a year to run the Oakland Zoo. Finding that money, while attendance is at zero, is a daunting task.

— From Southern Califronia to the Bay Area, police say street racers are taking advantage of empty roadways. Meanwhile, the California Highway Patrol says tickets for speeding in excess of 100 mph have surged 87%.

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— Despite promises for help getting basic internet access, families in the low-income neighborhoods of Watts, Boyle Heights and South Los Angeles have struggled to get online.

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NATION-WORLD

— Amid deep opposition from Republicans, House Democratic leaders have scrapped plans to vote this week on a historic change to congressional rules that would have allowed lawmakers to vote remotely during the pandemic.

— Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman wants to reopen the Strip, even though she has no jurisdiction over it. She dismisses critics as “alarmist.”

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— The American Civil Liberties Union is asking a federal judge to order the release of immigrant detainees from two California border facilities amid the coronavirus crisis.

— With coronavirus raging, are Trump and Iran moving toward confrontation again?

— Up to 10 million of the world’s 70 million refugees live in crowded camps and informal settlements. That puts them at risk of a coronavirus outbreak.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— Hulu’s version of “Little Fires Everywhere” stuck to the book, until it didn’t. Here’s why the show’s writers changed the ending.

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— Los Angeles punk band X is back with its original members and they have a new album — their first in 35 years.

Amoeba Music‘s owner says it will soon begin construction on a new Hollywood location.

— Pianist Glenn Gould’s decades-old radio documentaries still resonate. Podcasters, take note.

BUSINESS

— Is Netflix on the prowl? The company said it is raising $1 billion in a debt offering, money that could be used for purchases related to content and potential acquisitions.

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Small businesses like Hollywood’s Counterpoint Records & Books say they’re getting locked out of aid intended for them, leaving their futures hanging by a thread. Meanwhile, JPMorgan gave its small-business coronavirus loans to its biggest customers.

SPORTS

— Olympic figure skater Mirai Nagasu is finding hope in the fight to keep her parents’ restaurant in Arcadia from closing.

China wants to resume basketball season, but key details are still up in the air. Dozens of American players who play on teams there are in limbo.

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OPINION

— Columnist George Skelton says it’s time to give Gov. Gavin Newsom credit. He’s trying it all to fight the coronavirus and California’s economic collapse.

Air pollution in L.A. and cities across the globe has plummeted as coronavirus shutdowns keep most of us indoors. It’s a sign of how toxic our car culture is, writes Matthew Fleischer.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— Struggling to get an order in with grocery delivery services? You may be competing with bots. (Vice)

— We’re living more of our lives through screens. So what can we learn from these classic movies? (Irish Times)

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ONLY IN CALIFORNIA

The coronavirus pandemic hasn’t thwarted Mother Nature’s springtime show in the Antelope Valley, where rolling hillsides are blanketed in a fiery orange hue from a recent poppy bloom. But like everything else deemed nonessential during the pandemic, the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve near Lancaster — where crowds have flocked in years past to witness the breathtaking bloom — is closed to visitors. Still, not everyone is staying away. So, here’s a tip: Check out this live cam instead.

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


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