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World & Nation

Newsletter: Hope grows for a COVID-19 turning point

A vial of the drug remdesivir.
A vial of the drug remdesivir.
(Ulrich Perrey / AFP-Getty Images)

A clinical trial of the drug remdesivir provides some optimism in the fight against the coronavirus, but it is no “silver bullet.”

TOP STORIES

Hope Grows for a COVID-19 Turning Point

In the first clear signal that a drug can effectively treat those sickened by the coronavirus, government researchers have reported that the antiviral medication remdesivir, originally designed to treat Ebola disease, helped patients with advanced COVID-19 recover more quickly than a placebo treatment.

The early results, emerging from a large clinical trial sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, appears to position the drug as the standard therapy for hospitalized COVID-19 patients going forward. The announcement came on the same day the death toll reached nearly 60,200 people in the United States and confirmed cases surpassed 1 million.

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Dr. Anthony Fauci, who leads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, hailed the new findings as a “really quite important” milestone in the scramble to find any effective treatment for a pandemic that has claimed more than 227,000 lives around the world.

Still, it will probably take a while for redemsivir to become widely used in clinical trials or in the routine care of hospitalized patients because the drug is said to be in short supply.

Medical researchers emphasize it is not a cure-all. “It is very important to understand remdesivir and antivirals in general are not silver bullets,” said Dr. Aneesh Mehta, an infectious diseases expert at Emory University who is leading the trial there.

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The Incredibly Shrinking Economy

It’s no surprise the U.S. economy is suffering mightily, with businesses across the nation shut down and millions upon millions out of work. This week, the data on gross domestic product began to show just how bad it was in the first quarter of the year — and the second quarter is expected to be much worse.

The government said that total U.S. output in the first quarter fell at a 4.8% annual pace, faster than at any time since the Great Recession. But economists have projected the GDP to crater in the next quarter by a record annual rate of 30% or more.

The abrupt end of 10½ years of economic expansion carries some profound political repercussions too.

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The Challenge of Reopening

Despite people being desperate to get back to work, California officials still have a lot to do before they can meet the technological benchmarks that Gov. Gavin Newsom set to reopen the economy and lift restrictions on daily life.

Much of the four-stage plan Newsom released this week relies on vast changes in the state’s ability to test and track new cases of the coronavirus. Doing so, especially by summer, is an arduous task requiring innovation, speed and luck.

Even getting to Stage 2 of the plan will mean major changes in the way merchants do business — from masks and gloves to social distancing.

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More Top Coronavirus Headlines

— Newsom may order beaches in California to close in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. A memo sent to police chiefs said the governor intends to make the announcement today.

Total deaths across California during the pandemic are more than 9% higher than historical averages, according to newly released federal statistics, suggesting the toll could be hundreds or even thousands of deaths more than what’s been attributed to the disease thus far.

— L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti says all L.A. County residents, even those without symptoms, can now get tested for COVID-19 if they go to a city testing facility.

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— L.A. County released its first neighborhood breakdown of COVID-19 deaths. The hardest hit areas are also among the poorest, including working-class neighborhoods such as East Hollywood, Pico-Union and Westlake.

— Nearly half of the inmates at the federal prison at Terminal Island in San Pedro have tested positive for the coronavirus in what has become the nation’s worst outbreak in a federal penitentiary.

— Some scientists say “wastewater-based-epidemiology” — or, more simply stated, poop — could be the key to determining when a community might consider easing health restrictions.

— How will movie theaters make customers feel safe, even if they’re back in business in mid-June? It’s one of the many questions Hollywood is facing.

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Biden in a Bind

Joe Biden’s campaign adamantly denied it and then stopped talking about it. His surrogates get uncomfortable when it comes up. And his aides insist the media already litigated it and exonerated the former vice president, which is not entirely true.

An allegation that the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee sexually assaulted a young staffer in a Capitol hallway nearly three decades ago refuses to go away, even as the campaign disputes the claim.

Top Democrats are rallying behind Biden, and there are no records from the time substantiating the accuser’s account. But Biden is facing demands by supporters and critics alike to put up a more aggressive defense.

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FROM THE ARCHIVES

On this day in 1971, President Nixon visited a group of U.S. Marines recently returned from Vietnam at Camp Pendleton. According to a Times story, he “declared that they had come home with ‘mission accomplished’” and that the United States would be withdrawing at the rate of one division a month from Vietnam. The war would not end until 1975 and 7,012 men from the 1st Marine Division were killed in action.

April 30, 1971: President Nixon and Marine Corps Commandant Leonard F. Chapman Jr. receiving salutes from 1st Division Marines, back at Camp Pendleton from Vietnam.
April 30, 1971: President Nixon and Marine Corps Commandant Leonard F. Chapman Jr. receiving salutes from 1st Division Marines, back at Camp Pendleton from Vietnam.
(Los Angeles Times Archive / UCLA)

CALIFORNIA

— Political fundraiser Justin Kim agreed in March to plead guilty to a bribery charge. Now, some elected officials at City Hall are giving back the money he donated to their campaigns.

— The coronavirus pandemic has slowed trade-based money laundering systems that drug trafficking groups use to repatriate profits and move Chinese capital into Southern California, according to a DEA official.

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Fire season is coming. But PG&E and some cities are holding up battery backups and solar installations, citing the coronavirus.

— There is nothing like the taste of a fresh strawberry, one of the state’s most plentiful and emblematic agricultural staples. And as demand plummets amid the pandemic, a Ventura County family has lots of berries to spare.

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NATION-WORLD

— As businesses close their doors, thousands of workers in the U.S. with H-1B visas not only stand to lose their jobs, but also their legal status.

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— The United Kingdom has the third-highest death toll in the world from the coronavirus after the British government published new figures that include deaths outside hospitals.

Germany has managed to avoid the worst of coronavirus crisis. But how?

— Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has yielded to growing criticism around his nomination of a new federal police chief seen as too close to his family, revoking the appointment just hours after it was temporarily suspended by the Supreme Court.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

AMC Theatres, the largest theater chain, said it will boycott Universal Pictures movies at its cinemas. The studio had suggested that it would pursue online releases for more of its films after the streaming success of “Trolls World Tour.”

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— Sally Rooney’s “Normal People” is full of thoughts, feelings and nuance. How did Hulu adapt an unadaptable novel into TV? It hired the author.

Irrfan Khan, a veteran character actor in Bollywood movies and one of India’s best-known exports to Hollywood, has died. He was 54. Priyanka Chopra and Riz Ahmed are among the stars who are paying tribute to him.

— The 2020 summer movie season is canceled. But will it be the worst summer movie season ever? Nope. Introducing The Times’ #UltimateSummerMovie Showdown, a quest to determine the best ever summer movies.

BUSINESS

— Essential business owner or scofflaw? The owner of a downtown L.A. smoke shop was one of the first four people criminally charged with violating orders to close nonessential businesses, and she’s fighting back.

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Restaurant vendors are now selling to the public. But with orders small and delivery costs high, that plan might hurt them instead of help.

SPORTS

— Will there be Stanley Cup playoffs in the summer? The NHL has a lot on the line to finish the season, even more than other pro leagues, as columnist Helene Elliott explains.

— The NCAA Board of Governors says it supports changes that would allow college athletes to receive compensation for third-party endorsements, social media influencing and personal appearances.

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OPINION

— The only heartbreak hotels during the pandemic are the ones that won’t let homeless people in, The Times’ editorial board writes.

— Columnist Steve Lopez says he would love to go to the beach. “But it would be selfish, irresponsible, dangerous and stupid of me to do so. And the same applies to everyone else.”

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— A 1,000-year-old mill in Dorset, England, has resumed production because of a drop in tourists and rising demand for flour. (Food & Wine)

— A newfound fossil tail from Spinosaurus stretches our understanding of how and where dinosaurs lived. (National Geographic)

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ONLY IN L.A.

Harrison Ford loves to fly. But once again, the Federal Aviation Administration is investigating an incident involving the actor. The FAA said that Ford was piloting a plane that crossed a runway at Hawthorne Airport last Friday when another plane was trying to land. In 2017, regulators determined Ford could continue to fly without restriction despite narrowly missing a jetliner carrying 100 passengers and landing his small plane on the wrong stretch of tarmac at John Wayne Airport in Orange County. And in March 2015, he crashed on a Santa Monica golf course after his World War II military trainer had a mechanical problem.

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


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