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World & Nation

Newsletter: The plan to reopen California

Gov. Gavin Newsom has introduced a phased plan for reopening California businesses.
(Associated Press)

Gov. Gavin Newsom has introduced a phased plan for getting California going again, but when that happens isn’t clear.

TOP STORIES

The Plan to Reopen California

Faced with millions of people out of work, some local officials wanting to ease the coronavirus lockdown, and rising criticism — but with some areas, including Los Angeles County, still struggling to get a handle on the public health crisis — California Gov. Gavin Newsom has unveiled a four-phase plan to reopen the state.

Businesses seen as presenting less risk of spreading the coronavirus could open in the near future: “We believe we are weeks, not months, away from making meaningful modifications” in the current restrictions, he said. The academic year for K-12 students could start in late July or early August.

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But, notably, Newsom’s announcement did not come with a guaranteed timetable or a number of details. He said that while current public health indicators such as hospitalizations and testing capacity look promising, additional progress needs to be made toward slowing the spread of the virus.

Meanwhile, L.A. County continues to be the coronavirus epicenter of California, having surpassed 1,000 deaths. The county represents about a quarter of the state population but about half of all COVID-19 hospitalizations. Officials say the restrictions on movements must continue for now, but they are developing a plan to ease the Safer at Home order, which is set to expire May 15.

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No Longer Ready for Prime Time?

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President Trump’s public musing last week that doctors should consider injecting household disinfectant — a known poison — into coronavirus patients set off a political shockwave so severe that aides and allies scrambled to rein in his prime-time nightly news conferences.

For the first time since mid-March, Trump took a two-day break from the podium over the weekend. On Sunday, he tweeted that the appearances were “not worth the time & effort.” But the former reality TV star has refused to leave the stage, even as polls show his approval rating has fallen in recent weeks.

On Tuesday, as U.S. deaths from COVID-19 topped 58,000 — exceeding the number of American fatalities during the entire Vietnam War — and confirmed cases exceeded 1 million, Trump appeared before the cameras twice during the day, for 90 minutes total. He still managed to berate reporters, air familiar grievances and shower himself with praise.

An Unlikely Lab for Testing

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When the coronavirus hit, L.A. County faced a testing crisis: Officials had only one test processing machine at a laboratory in Downey and had little hope of getting help from the federal government.

So they turned to a brand-new Silicon Valley start-up, Curative-Korva, with a novel approach that said it could provide a large number of drive-through tests very quickly, by allowing patients to swab their own mouths after coughing. That’s not the method preferred by the Food and Drug Administration, which recommends an uncomfortable swabbing deep inside the nose by a professional.

This makes Los Angeles County an unlikely laboratory for COVID-19 testing. If it works, it could usher in a much more streamlined form of testing across the country. If it’s less accurate than other approaches, it could mean some of the measurements tracking the extent of the outbreak are muddier than previously known.

More Top Coronavirus Headlines

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— Trump signed an executive order that compels slaughterhouses to remain open, setting up a showdown between the giant companies that produce meat and the unions and activists who want to protect workers in a pandemic.

— Two weeks after other states started sending checks, California has begun accepting unemployment benefit claims from millions of independent contractors, gig workers and the self-employed, but many said online glitches prevented them from filing applications.

— There are high hopes for antibody tests, but those high hopes are running smack into the roadblocks of reality.

Hollywood is figuring out how to start rolling again, and lots of interested parties have ideas on how to make that happen.

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Something’s in the Air

It’s been hailed as a silver lining of the coronavirus lockdown: With fewer cars on the road, air quality has improved, bringing clearer skies to cities across the world, including L.A., which had its longest streak of good air days in decades.

But that streak is over, after a recent heat wave generated unhealthy smog levels across Southern California. Air quality officials are predicting more bad air days to come, even with public health restrictions in effect, as the region enters a hotter, drier time of year.

Still, scientists and regulators say the situation offers an unintended glimpse at what the nation’s smoggiest region could be like with more electric vehicles.

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The L.A. Times is starting a newsletter exploring climate change, energy and the environment. Sign up for Boiling Point for the latest on everything from water wars to wildfires to ways to live more sustainably. It begins May 7.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

Newspaper readers loved the Gumps, a comedy strip that ran from 1917 to 1959. In the 1920s, Universal Pictures released a series of comedy shorts that brought the strip to the big screen. The Times advertised the series with an April 1924 promotion called “The Times Andy Gump Shopping Tour.” Fans could meet actors dressed as the main characters (and spend money) at various Los Angeles Times advertisers. And did they ever: Crowds turned out at the tour stops and the shorts were a hit.

April, 1924: Crowds turned out during a Los Angeles Times promotion in downtown Los Angeles for the Gumps.
April 1924: Crowds turned out during an L.A. Times promotion in downtown Los Angeles. The stars of the Gumps movie shorts are standing in the car. On left is Jack Morgan, as Chester; Fay Tincher, as Min; and on the right is Joe Murphy as Andy Gump. The four-day Times promotion began on April 29, 1924.
(Los Angeles Times)

CALIFORNIA

— Students are suing the University of California and California State University systems, demanding coronavirus-related refunds as campuses close and classes move online.

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— The state is home to some of the busiest airports in the country. Weeks into the pandemic, a Times analysis finds commercial departures are down 65%. Here’s how air travel has changed.

Children’s hospitals have responded to the coronavirus with virtual pet therapy and a separate floor for potential cases.

— Crashing waves emitting a flash of neon blue have lighted up darkened stretches of Southern California’s coastline this month, most recently making an appearance in the South Bay. The cause: dinoflagellates.

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NATION-WORLD

Joe Biden won Ohio’s presidential primary, clinching a contest that was less about the Democratic nomination and more about how states can conduct elections amid the coronavirus.

— Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, an independent and former Republican, says he is launching an exploratory committee for the 2020 Libertarian Party’s presidential nomination.

Las Vegas has returned to the wedding business, nearly six weeks after the Marriage License Bureau was closed to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

— While the world has been focused on the coronavirus, China installed new officials in Hong Kong who are now trying to stop the likely return of pro-democracy protests.

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— Rumors over Kim Jong Un’s health make one thing clear: North Korea’s cult of personality endures.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has made changes to this year’s eligibility rules that, for the first time, will allow films to qualify for Oscar consideration without a theatrical release because of the coronavirus.

— Like “Blackfish” before it, “Tiger King” has inspired Hollywood stars like Joaquin Phoenix, Glenn Close, Olivia Wilde and Sarah Silverman to take up the cause of tiger conservation.

— Apple TV+'s limited series “Defending Jacob” reconsiders the “murder gene” trope. Here’s what the science says.

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— How might L.A.'s theater scene reopen when the time is right? Industry leaders begin talk of the post-coronavirus future.

— Did you enjoy Brad Pitt‘s performance as Dr. Anthony Fauci on “Saturday Night Live”? Fauci did.

BUSINESS

— The coronavirus is boosting health insurance profits. So why are insurance companies seeking federal help?

— On your first post-pandemic hotel stay, management will be glad to see you. But don’t expect to see staff smiles, free cookies, wine-and-cheese happy hours or maybe even room keys.

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SPORTS

Major League Baseball reversed a policy that had restricted fans from seeking refunds on tickets to canceled games. The decision paves the way for individual teams to announce refund policies.

— For the Chargers and Rams, the NFL’s first virtual draft was a game changer.

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OPINION

— Who’s in charge at the Mayo Clinic — the doctors, or Vice President Mike Pence, who appeared there without wearing a mask in defiance of the rules?

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— Why did Trump push disinfectant as a cure for the coronavirus? He listens to quacks, columnist Robin Abcarian writes.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— A neonatologist in Denver details the torture of watching her 4-year-old son struggling to breathe while battling the coronavirus. (CBS)

New Zealand and Australia have flattened the curve, but New Zealanders wonder if they have paid too high a price compared with Australians. (The Guardian)

— Does it seem like Instagram influencers are giving away a lot of cash lately? It’s not charity. It’s an online pay-to-play economy, where big bucks can buy big — real — followings. (New York Times)

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ONLY IN CALIFORNIA

The Fox Theater in Bakersfield dates to 1930. It’s a grand old venue that presented some of the first talking motion pictures. More recently, it has hosted concerts, comedy, movies and community events, including local ballet companies and school graduations. Though the venue is dark now because of the coronavirus, the theater manager found a way to light things up: with a message on the marquee about the Houston Astros that should appeal to Dodgers fans.

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


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