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Newsletter: A half-trillion more for relief

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) gestures to Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) as they speak on the floor of the House of Representatives.
(House Television)

Congress OKs more money to stem the effects of the coronavirus crisis. Will there be another round of relief?

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A Half-Trillion More for Relief

With unemployment claims topping 26 million in the last five weeks because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress has approved an additional half-trillion dollars in federal relief.

This round of spending would provide $310 billion for the small-business loan program known as the Paycheck Protection Program, $75 billion in emergency funding for hospitals and $25 billion to increase testing and contact tracing. It also requires the Trump administration to create a national testing plan, a move medical experts insist will be necessary before state governments can allow businesses to resume activity. It orders states and the federal government to collect demographic data on those who have fallen ill.

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With approval by the House on Thursday by a vote of 388 to 5, with one member voting present, the measure now heads to the president, who has said he will sign it.

Next, Congress will turn its attention to what is already a deeply partisan fight over what is expected to be a fifth bill to address the economic effects of the coronavirus.

Democrats want to make funding for state and local governments a priority, pointing to the huge financial hit local governments have taken in responding to the virus and meeting the surge in demand for other state benefits, such as unemployment. The nation’s governors say they will need about $500 billion. Separately, California has been approved to borrow what is expected to be billions of dollars from the federal government to pay unemployment benefits.

But Republicans such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky want to hit the brakes. McConnell has pushed back on the idea of providing a “bailout” to states, saying that many are cash-strapped because of heavy pension burdens, not necessarily the coronavirus. In an email to reporters, his team dubbed them “blue state bailouts.”

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Such divisions may mean a weeks-long fight for the next round of relief.

L.A. County’s Leading Cause of Death

Los Angeles County health officials say COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, has become the leading cause of death in the county, surpassing fatalities from flu, emphysema and heart disease.

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On Thursday, Barbara Ferrer, the county’s public health director, confirmed 68 new coronavirus-linked deaths, bringing the total to just under 800 since the outbreak began; 89% had some kind of underlying health condition.

Statewide, California had its deadliest day so far Wednesday. And with weather forecasts showing summer-like conditions today through the weekend, Gov. Gavin Newsom urged people to heed physical distancing orders.

In L.A., where beaches are closed, defying those orders may prove particularly tempting. Again, health officials say: Don’t do it.

How the Super Rich Quarantine

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The coronavirus doesn’t discriminate based on income, but as has been shown time and again, there’s a clear distinction between the risks facing the haves and the have-nots.

For some well-heeled Americans, that means activating pandemic escape plans. They’ve fled big cities and headed to second homes or $8,000-a-month rentals in places like Sedona, Ariz., and rural coastal stretches of the Pacific Northwest. They’re arriving by personal travel buses, private planes and boats.

But as David Geffen found out by sharing a picture from his yacht, not everyone is thrilled to see them.

More Top Coronavirus Headlines

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— As some states and cities lift stay-at-home orders and many seek to ramp up coronavirus testing, new evidence is emerging that infections spread farther, faster and earlier than initially thought. Overall in the U.S., the death toll approached 50,000 on Thursday.

— California agencies — and ultimately taxpayers — are paying high prices for protective gear, including up to nearly $13 per N95 mask, as suppliers and middlemen cash in on the global shortage. Across the country, the U.S. has been consistently outpaced by global competitors in the race to get masks and other medical supplies from China.

— L.A. County nursing homes are being advised to test all residents and staff, not just those who show symptoms. The number of reported cases is expected to skyrocket.

Rick Bright, the federal scientist recently ousted from a senior position overseeing research on coronavirus vaccines, felt pressured by Trump administration officials to award a $21-million contract to a Florida laboratory to study an antimalarial drug touted by the president as a COVID-19 treatment, according to a person familiar with the incident.

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— A federal judge has rejected the claims of three pastors and a parishioner who argued that California’s coronavirus measures violated their rights. But now the state faces another legal challenge to its virus response: This time over plans to offer aid to immigrants who lack legal status.

— Coronavirus and smoking: How do cigarettes, pot and vaping affect infections and outcomes?

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:

— Struggling to pay your student loan debt amid the coronavirus? You can now delay three payments.

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— How to care for someone with COVID-19.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

The original “Star Trek” was broadcast from 1966 to 1969. But after its end, the syndicated episodes were so popular, it led to the creation of an animated version, called “Star Trek: The Animated Series.”

Leonard Nimoy reprised his role as Spock, DeForest Kelley as Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy and William Shatner as Capt. James T. Kirk. The actors recorded their parts in a Los Angeles studio, as captured in this Times photo from April 24, 1973. Only 22 episodes were made, which The Times described as having “all the technical savvy of a cement mixer.” But the show did win an Emmy and, decades later, spawned a popular meme.

April 24, 1973: Leonard Nimoy, left, DeForest Kelley and William Shatner record their voices in a Los Angeles studio for "Star Trek: The Animated Series."
(Mary Frampton / Los Angeles Times)

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CALIFORNIA

— Gov. Newsom has suspended the ban on grocery stores providing single-use plastic bags amid concerns that clerks may be at risk for exposure to the coronavirus if shoppers are required to supply their own reusable bags.

— The Southern California housing market has seized up, with a drop in sales and new listings. Because supply and demand are both falling, prices are holding relatively steady for now.

— An heir to the Hot Pockets fortune who was sentenced in the college admissions bribery scheme asked to serve her time at home because of the coronavirus. Two other people sentenced in the case have already been released because of the pandemic.

Hotels, sports arenas and other businesses that imposed layoffs could be required to offer those jobs to their former employees once they start rehiring. It’s a new proposal backed by the Los Angeles City Council.

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L.A.'s homeless residents are searching for protection as the coronavirus spreads. Local communities are searching for a way to keep them out.

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YOUR WEEKEND

— Appease your inner lazy chef and roast some cauliflower.

— Win friends and influence people by becoming the perfect Zoom party host. Bonus: Change up your Zoom background.

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— Indulge in food YouTube. Here’s columnist Lucas Kwan Peterson’s picks.

— Spend time in your backyard counting bees or building your very own beach or getting rid of those weeds.

NATION-WORLD

— Even as the coronavirus crisis has brought most of the country to a screeching halt, President Trump has begun to turbocharge his administration’s efforts to slash business and other regulations, and to pursue other long-held policy goals, with consequences that are likely to outlive the pandemic.

— Despite failing to win enough support after three elections within a year, Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu has been able to cling to power, bolstered by the COVID-19 pandemic and a power-sharing deal cut this week.

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— A hundred years after Armenians fled during the Armenian genocide, their American descendants are returning to their homeland, a diaspora in reverse.

Harvard University said that it will turn down $8.7 million in federal coronavirus relief. Stanford, Princeton and Yale universities, too. But USC said it would accept its nearly $20-million allotment.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— The makers of Netflix’s “Extraction” are finding out in real time how to release an action movie during a pandemic.

“Parks and Recreation” is coming back with a special edition to support coronavirus relief.

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— Three weeks after their bandmate Adam Schlesinger died from complications related to COVID-19, the members of Fountains of Wayne performed together for the first time in seven years.

— In Pasadena, a couple is calming their neighborhood, one free porch concert at a time.

BUSINESS

— People are buying less. Stores are empty. Clothes are piling up. Here’s how some of L.A.’s designers are pivoting their businesses.

— What might theme parks look like when they reopen? Officials are weighing masks for guests and cutting attendance in limits in half.

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SPORTS

— In the NFL draft, the Chargers took Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert and traded up for Oklahoma left back Kenneth Murray Jr. The Rams won’t pick until today’s second round. And as TV programming, it was something to watch.

— A Norwegian promoter says he will proceed with plans for a major track meet in June by modifying several events to accommodate for COVID-19 restrictions. That means keeping two pole vaulters safely apart as they take turns, with a third competing by video from his backyard in France.

Free online games

Get our free daily crossword puzzle, sudoku, word search and arcade games in our new game center at latimes.com/games.

OPINION

— Despite Trump’s chloroquine hype, we’re still waiting for a “game changer” cure for COVID-19, The Times’ editorial board writes.

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— We need to talk about gloves, writes columnist Nita Lelyveld. That valuable PPE is becoming litter in our gutters, sidewalks and parking lots.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— Sure, your roommate is annoying. Maybe your kids are too loud. But you could be quarantined with 50 spiders. (New York Times)

— Prolonged isolation can lead to the creation of new accents, but today’s quarantining probably won’t affect your way of speaking. (Atlas Obscura)

ONLY IN L.A.

You won’t find a bigger fan of L.A.’s museums than Ben Barcelona. For eight years, the 81-year-old Koreatown resident has visited a different art museum, gallery or public art installation every day of the week. He’s never taken a sick day or holiday off. But amid the pandemic, the museums are the ones taking time off. And Barcelona is learning to cope without his “out-of-the-house living room.”

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


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