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Newsletter: Californians’ line in the sand

After being on lockdown for more than a month, people congregated at Huntington Beach on April 26.
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

Attempts to slow the coronavirus have set off a battle over the beaches, specifically those in Orange County.

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Californians’ Line in the Sand

Last weekend, hot weather and perhaps a touch of spring fever sent crowds flocking to Orange County beaches during the coronavirus pandemic. As the photos that went around the internet showed, few were wearing masks.

This weekend, even though the forecast is cooler, Gov. Gavin Newsom is having none of that. He has directed a temporary “hard close” of all state and local beaches in Orange County as part of the effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed more than 2,000 people across the state.

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Newsom is cracking down on the Orange County coastline at a critical moment, when some communities have begun pushing to loosen local restrictions. Sparsely populated Modoc County, in the northeastern corner of California, might even defy orders and allow all businesses, schools and churches to reopen starting today, as long as people stay six feet apart.

But the beach battle is striking a nerve the way other restrictions largely have not. The Coastal Commission, the gatekeeper of California’s beach access law, is supporting Newsom’s decision. Some local officials and frustrated beachgoers and surfers argue that getting out to the water has benefits of its own. Scientists say heat and sun won’t protect you at the beach; only social distancing will.

Perhaps as a consolation, state officials emphasized there are many other outdoor activities Californians can do while adhering to the stay-at-home order. Those include tree climbing, crabbing, meditation, trampolining, outdoor photography and washing the car. But not congregating at the beach.

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What’s on Voters’ Minds

A thumbs-up for the state government and Newsom (at least before the beach battle). A thumbs-down for President Trump and the federal government. And a go-slow on on ending stay-at-home orders. Those are among the biggest findings in a new poll of California voters from the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies.

The poll, taken April 16 to 20, found that 70% of California voters approved of how Newsom is doing his job, and that 61% said Trump is mostly or completely responsible for the shortages of tests and medical supplies that have dogged efforts to combat the coronavirus.

The hardship caused by the pandemic and the economic disruption surrounding it are also documented. The poll found 16% of California voters said they were unemployed and that nearly 4 in 10 expected they may lose their job as a result of the pandemic, with that concern heaviest among the state’s African American and Latino populations and those without a college education.

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One Coronavirus Mystery

The coronavirus typically lasts about two to three weeks in the body, but in a small percentage of cases it can last much longer. One man in Singapore tested positive for five more weeks after ending up in the hospital with COVID-19, even though his symptoms were mild. He wasn’t released until the 40th day after he first fell ill, when he finally tested negative two days in a row.

Cases like his are coming under more scrutiny as medical researchers worldwide puzzle over why the coronavirus appears to endure longer in some patients, even relatively young, healthy ones.

More Top Coronavirus Headlines

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— Republican lawmakers and other U.S. officials, determined to punish China for concealing early data on the coronavirus outbreak, are proposing numerous measures to turn up the heat, from suing Beijing to ending U.S. military cooperation with Hollywood studios that censor their films for Chinese consumption.

— The Trump administration’s program to aid hospitals and doctors on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis is leaving behind the nation’s Medicaid safety net — the pediatricians, mental health providers and hospitals that serve the poorest patients.

Every California resident with symptoms of the coronavirus is now considered a top priority for testing, state public health officials have announced. The move signals growing confidence that testing capacity has increased enough to handle a significant portion of the state’s population.

Colleges have long promised a certain kind of experience, one with dorms and dining halls. As schools figure out how to reopen, some of those traditions may be rewritten.

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Job seeking in an uncertain economy is hard enough. Throw coronavirus fears, home quarantines and hiring freezes at many companies, and the hunt for work becomes even more difficult.

Thank You for Being a Friend

There are some people you consider friends, even if you’ve never met them. If you’ve read the L.A. Times at some point over the last three decades, columnist Chris Erskine probably is one of them. He’s documented life as a dad in suburbia, with all of its joys — and tragedies. But soon, Erskine will be leaving The Times and off on a new adventure.

“I’ve been writing about the suburbs forever, and I apologize for the monotony of that, like a song on a single-string guitar,” he writes in one of his final pieces. “It’s just that I thought these little moments — the skinned knees, the bungled home projects — worthy of a great newspaper, not because they were happening to me, but because they were happening to everyone.”

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FROM THE ARCHIVES

On this day in 1923, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum opened its gates for the first time. It was dedicated as a war memorial to those who lost their lives in World War I. At its opening, the Coliseum was a smaller version of itself, with 75,000 seats for sports games and concerts. But it wouldn’t stay that way: By 1932, the Coliseum hosted its first Olympics and seating capacity was increased to 101,000, though it was later decreased. Since then it’s hosted a second Olympics, two Super Bowls, a World Series and a papal Mass.

The Coliseum is scheduled to help host the Olympics again in 2028, when the Summer Games return to Los Angeles.

July 30, 1932: Opening ceremonies of the 1932 Olympics at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
(Los Angeles Times)

CALIFORNIA

— The coronavirus outbreak at the Terminal Island federal prison has worsened, with at least five dead and 600 infected.

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— Los Angeles County implemented a zero-bail requirement for most misdemeanors and low-level felonies. Police now say they’re arresting the same people multiple times.

—Across L.A. and beyond, sheltered-in-place people are finding ways to cope and connect with others: yard art, sidewalk chalk drawings, poetry. For a Mar Vista family and their neighbors, it’s all about riddles.

— The first heat wave of the year brought high temperatures and thousands of people to the beaches. Now a second one is brewing.

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YOUR WEEKEND

— Is your teen feeling lonely and anxious in isolation? Here’s how you can help.

— You can’t visit Disneyland, but you can bring its rides home if you’re willing to get creative.

— These seven essential baking tips will get you the tastiest results.

— Teaching kids at home? These classroom-worthy virtual experiences can ease your burden.

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NATION-WORLD

Michael Flynn pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to FBI agents about his conversations with Russia’s ambassador. Now the retired general has launched a quest to clear his name by claiming he was “deliberately set up and framed by corrupt agents.”

— Tensions between police and members of New York City’s Hasidic Jewish community flared again as officers interrupted a crowded funeral procession to crack down on social distancing violators.

— COVID-19 deaths are growing at factories in Mexico, but the U.S. government is sending a clear message: It’s time for plants that have stopped production to get back to work.

— As the Trump administration moved ahead on an immigration agreement with the government of Honduras, U.S. law enforcement has indicted another senior Honduran official on drug-trafficking charges that implicate the country’s president.

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HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— American film sets may not be able to resume anytime soon. But studios are eyeing Iceland as a promising new location for post-coronavirus production. Meanwhile, documentary filming has continued, with a few new techniques.

— How was the “Parks and Recreation” reunion last night? Our critic says it’s the perfect medicine for uncertain times.

— Artists spend months, even years, working on a gallery show for audiences to see. What if no one sees it?

LeBron James isn’t going to let the coronavirus crisis ruin high school graduations this year. He’s drafted Bad Bunny, Pharrell Williams, the Jonas Brothers and other entertainers for a national, virtual graduation ceremony.

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BUSINESS

— You can skip mortgage payments for six months. But many homeowners fear what may come after that: a massive lump sum.

Charlie Plowman, the owner of Outlook Newspapers in La Cañada Flintridge, has acquired the assets of the Burbank Leader, Glendale News-Press and La Cañada Valley Sun from the L.A. Times’ parent company.

SPORTS

— Amid the coronavirus shutdown, the NBA hasn’t given up on salvaging the regular season.

Santa Anita has plans to resume live horse racing without spectators in mid-May, though local authorities still need to approve the plan.

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

OPINION

— Former Vice President Joe Biden should agree to an independent investigation of Tara Reade’s claim that he assaulted her in the 1990s, The Times’ editorial board writes.

Jared Kushner is treating American death as a personal publicity project once again, Virginia Heffernan writes.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— You might want to make sure there’s not a rat in your car’s engine. (New York Times)

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— The editor of Taco Bell Quarterly explains how to make art out of a fast-food brand. (Vox)

ONLY IN CALIFORNIA

Fruit trees are everywhere in Southern California, but one can only eat so many loquats or grapefruits or lemons. In San Diego’s City Heights neighborhood, a fruit swap is connecting neighbors and feeding the community. Business owners, community organizations and residents have joined forces to redistribute extra produce from fruit trees and gardens. Neighbors drop off their extra oranges and cilantro sprigs, while volunteers hand out bags of produce to those in need.

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


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