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Newsletter: Coronavirus hits the White House ranks

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Two White House staffers having tested positive for the coronavirus amplifies the nervousness over reopening the country.

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Coronavirus Hits the White House Ranks

With Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin saying the U.S. could be looking at a “real” unemployment rate — including those who are underemployed — of 25%, President Trump and his administration have been pressing for reopening the country’s businesses.

But for many, there is nervousness in doing so. Infectious-disease specialists warn that reopening too quickly will ignite new hot spots. A widely relied-upon model of the COVID-19 outbreak is now projecting that the nationwide fatality count could reach 137,000 people by Aug. 4; it currently stands near 80,000. The model’s researchers say California is one of a handful of states where coronavirus cases and deaths are rising faster than they expected.

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Two cases announced within the White House are adding to the anxiety. Last week, a spokeswoman for Vice President Mike PenceKatie Miller, wife of senior White House aide Stephen Millertested positive for the coronavirus, as did a personal valet to Trump. On Sunday evening, Pence’s office denied that the vice president was in quarantine, after multiple news reports said he was self-isolating.

Meanwhile, White House economic advisor Kevin Hassett said it is “scary to go to work” knowing the virus has appeared in the West Wing. The positive tests spurred three senior doctors on the coronavirus task force to protectively isolate themselves, including top infectious-disease specialist Anthony Fauci, who said he would observe a “modified quarantine.”

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‘Slow-Motion Train Wreck’

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As the U.S. struggles with its response to the pandemic, a bleaker picture is unfolding in many of the world’s poorest countries.

The United Nations predicts that a global recession will reverse a three-decade trend in rising living standards and plunge as many as 420 million people into extreme poverty. There are already 734 million people in extreme poverty, which is defined as earning less than $2 a day, and this will make it harder for them to escape it too.

In Guatemala, villagers are begging for food along highways by waving pieces of white cloth at passing drivers. Recent phone surveys in places as diverse as Senegal and rural China suggest that large swaths of society have lost their livelihoods and are eating less.

In Mexico, where an estimated 1.6 million households survive on money sent from relatives working in the U.S., many are beginning to feel the effect of the closures of restaurants, hotels and the construction industry north of the border.

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A Sometimes Overlooked Legacy

For many black people, Obamacare has meant more than healthcare. The decade-old Affordable Care Act has advanced civil rights and fostered hope and pride, as it has begun to lessen the racial disparities that have long shadowed the U.S. healthcare system.

The connection between healthcare and race has been particularly resonant along the Mississippi River, where access to medical care was long a dividing line, as rigid as separate schools and drinking fountains. It’s also where federal healthcare initiatives half a century ago helped end segregation.

The 14 states that continue to oppose expansion of Medicaid insurance made possible by the law are concentrated in the South, effectively maintaining large racial disparities in access to care. Most of those same states are suing in federal court to have the law invalidated by the Supreme Court — an effort supported by the Trump administration.

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Today, as the coronavirus crisis disproportionately affects black communities across the country, the legacy of the law is as meaningful as ever.

Putting Away the ‘Welcome’ Sign

Lake Havasu City bills itself as “Arizona’s playground.” At least, in normal times it does. More than a month ago, the city’s mayor urged visitors to stay home. But that hasn’t stopped stir-crazy Californians from flocking to Lake Havasu.

Though many locals are grateful for the tourism dollars, some are worried that the crowds could cause an increase in coronavirus cases locally and overwhelm the city’s only hospital, which has just 16 ICU beds for its 55,000 residents.

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“I think people are getting bored of the shutdown so they think it should just be over, and they’re coming here to explore,” said one resident. “I really wish they would stay away right now.”

More Top Coronavirus Headlines

— The decision to shelve detailed advice from the nation’s top disease control experts for reopening communities during the coronavirus pandemic came from the highest levels of the White House, according to internal government emails obtained by the Associated Press.

Far-right, neo-Nazi and white nationalist groups seeking to exploit the pandemic have a new tactic: threatening people who report coronavirus lockdown violations.

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— Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration sent a clear warning this week to rural counties defying California’s stay-at-home order to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus: Keep it up, and you’ll lose disaster funding.

— Experts say that when school campuses reopen, the demand for children’s mental healthcare will be greater than the available services — and now is the time to prepare.

Celia Marcos, a nurse at Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, rushed to save a man who had stopped breathing. She was wearing a thin surgical mask. Fourteen days later, she was dead.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

On this date in 1963, Dodgers pitcher Sandy Koufax threw the second of his four career no-hitters, in an 8-0 victory over the San Francisco Giants. In front of a crowd of 55,530 on Ladies Night at Dodger Stadium, Koufax took a perfect game into the eighth inning. But a perfect game was not to be.

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“It’s too bad I walked those two guys, but it still is my greatest thrill,” Koufax said.

Dodgers pitcher Sandy Koufax threw the second of his four career no-hitters against the San Francisco Giants on May 11, 1963.
Dodgers pitcher Sandy Koufax threw the second of his four career no-hitters against the San Francisco Giants on May 11, 1963.
(Harold Filan / Associated Press)

CALIFORNIA

— As forecasters predict a perilous wildfire season, authorities are growing increasingly concerned over their ability to muster a large, healthy force of firefighters in the face of COVID-19.

— A special election to fill a vacant House seat in the 25th Congressional District to the north of L.A. is highly competitive. It’s taken on a new dimension because of the pandemic and gained notoriety after one of Trump’s well-worn accusations: alleging Democrats are trying to steal the election.

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— A day in the life of supermarket workers involves threats from customers and fears. But they still manage to say, “Have a nice day.”

— Columnist Steve Lopez looks at 73-year-old Don Wood’s quest to document the Westside’s homeless and hold officials accountable.

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NATION-WORLD

— When Trump lashed out at the Lincoln Project, a political action committee, over an ad called “Mourning in America,” he gave his critics more publicity than they could have dreamed of.

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— In Venezuela, a botched amphibious assault has become a rallying cry for President Nicolás Maduro and a black eye for Juan Guaidó, the Trump administration’s man in Caracas.

— As France prepares to start letting public life resume after eight weeks under a coronavirus lockdown, many parents are deeply torn over a question without a clear or correct answer: Should I send my child back to school?

— Visitors wearing face masks streamed into Shanghai Disneyland as China’s most prominent theme park reopened.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— Speculation about the future of Endeavor has been rife for months. Many wonder whether the biggest, brashest talent agency owner, which recently announced a round of furloughs and layoffs, can weather the coronavirus crisis.

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A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop-a-lop-bam-boom! These clips show how Little Richard defined the sound and style of rock ‘n’ roll. The piano-pounding showman died Saturday at 87.

Andre Harrell, the founder of Uptown Records who died last week at 59, had a radical, genius idea: Hip-hop and R&B belonged together.

— Behind the scenes of “Space Jam,” the 1996 film in which Michael Jordan and Bugs Bunny joined forces: As seen in the ESPN documentary “The Last Dance,” Warner Bros. built a training facility for him called the “Jordan Dome.”

Jerry Stiller, father of actor Ben Stiller and best known for his Emmy-nominated portrayal of the outrageous and combustible Frank Costanza on NBC’s “Seinfeld,” has died of natural causes. He was 92.

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BUSINESS

— The freight industry has taken a hit during the pandemic, but the trains keep chugging along.

— In a Twitter tantrum, Elon Musk threatened to move Tesla’s headquarters from California to Nevada or Texas over the coronavirus shutdown.

SPORTS

UFC carried on with a fighting event in Florida hours after a fighter and two of his corner men tested positive for COVID-19. Will other leagues do the same when faced with a similar scenario?

— Former UCLA football coach Karl Dorrell got his dream home and job in Colorado. Then the coronavirus hit.

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OPINION

— Newsom has been the leader California needs during coronavirus. But he can still do better, The Times’ editorial board writes.

— The coronavirus exposed California’s weaknesses like never before. Tell us: What needs to change after the pandemic?

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— Coronavirus researcher Peter Daszak, a British-born American scientist, saw his research funding from the U.S. National Institutes of Health killed because of a political disinformation campaign. (60 Minutes)

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— Twenty-five years ago, Taiwanese singer Teresa Teng died at 42. Her music was banned by Beijing, but that didn’t stop Chinese fans from loving it. (South China Morning Post)

ONLY IN L.A.

It’s hard to miss Andrew McGregor. He stands about 6 feet 10. He wears a red-and-green plaid kilt and vest, and knee-high woolen socks with a sgian-dubh — a small ceremonial dagger. Because of the coronavirus, he wears a blue, gold and white cloth face mask. And every night, he goes to a park in Santa Monica and plays “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes. “This is the first time in my life that I’ve known despair,” McGregor said. “Despair — to use a Southern California surfing analogy — you can ride the wave of it, or it can crush you. Sometimes, it’ll do both in the same day.”

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


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