Newsletter: If you reopen it, will they come?

Napa County
A deserted restaurant in the Napa County city of Yountville. Napa has become the first Bay Area county to welcome back dine-in customers.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

As California reopens, businesses will see if customers feel confident or cautious.


If You Reopen It, Will They Come?

After months of closures, the California economy is grinding back to life. But one major question looms: Do consumers feel safe enough to come back?

After Gov. Gavin Newsom eased the criteria for reopening retail businesses and restaurants this week, many smaller counties are already turning on the “open” signs while larger counties like Orange and San Diego hope to join them soon. So far, most of California’s 58 counties have applied to move further into the second phase of Newsom’s reopening plan, which allows retail shopping and restaurants to serve in-person patrons.


Yet the early experiences in some places are sobering.

Napa on Wednesday became the first county in the Bay Area to reopen restaurants for in-house dining. Customer traffic was light, and some restaurateurs worried that people might be too afraid, given the high number of coronavirus deaths statewide still being reported.

By contrast, business has been more brisk in Yuba and Sutter counties, which defied the state order and have allowed in-person dining and the reopening of a wide range of businesses for several weeks under local guidance. Hair salons there have seen overwhelming demand from locals and shaggy out-of-towners.

Another county that has rebelled against the state is Tulare, where local officials have voted to reopen more businesses, despite having one of the highest COVID-19 death rates in California. The county could lose state disaster relief money as a result.

Voting in a Time of Pandemic

As states grapple with how to conduct elections safely, President Trump has continued to make unfounded claims about voter fraud and wage a war against mail-in voting, which he has publicly worried will lead to Republicans losing in November. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends voting by mail as a safe option during the pandemic.

On Wednesday, Trump threatened to hold up federal funds for Michigan and Nevada, two election battleground states that are trying to make it easier and safer to vote — though it’s unclear what funds he could withhold. He did not threaten Republican-run states taking the same or similar measures.


Today, Trump is scheduled to visit a Ford plant making ventilators and personal protective equipment in Michigan, which is facing another crisis: flooding that has forced the evacuation of about 10,000 people from their homes.

Portrait of a Protester

Jim Edmonds can’t say what led him to join an unauthorized protest against the coronavirus lockdowns at the California state Capitol, except fear and boredom and a need to do something as his decade-old business — renting out inflatable jump houses — collapsed in a matter of days.

But he can recall how he felt when California Highway Patrol officers grabbed him, pinned his arms behind his back with plastic zip ties and marched him into a holding pen in the building’s basement.


“I’m the bouncy house guy, for Christsakes,” he remembers telling them, at first incredulous he was being arrested, then angry. “It was surreal.”

More Top Coronavirus Headlines

— As all 50 states start reopening, questions about the accuracy of tracking data are fueling concerns. The issue has turned into a sensitive political issue as some Republican-led states, including Florida and Georgia, have moved aggressively to restart their economies.

— Most public school districts in California are planning to reopen campuses on their regular start dates in late August and September, but the new normal amid the coronavirus outbreak will probably include masks, daily school sanitation and smaller class sizes. In South Korea, kids are back in class. Here’s how the first day of school went there.


— The notion of the federal government handing out free money used to be a liberal dream and a conservative nightmare. No more. The coronavirus outbreak, which plunged the nation into an economic free fall, has created an opening for governments and nonprofits to experiment.

— The coronavirus is threatening China’s Belt and Road Initiative, an effort to finance nearly half a trillion dollars in new infrastructure across Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America.

— What’s the future for California salons and barbershops? Hairstylists worry and wait for their turn to reopen. And while some would-be customers protest for reopening, others take matters into their own hands with DIY trims and secret meetups.

For more, sign up for Coronavirus Today, a special edition of The Times’ Health and Science newsletter.



On May 21, 1994, a fire broke out at the Seal Beach Pier.

According to The Times, firefighters blamed faulty electrical and other utility lines running beneath the wooden structure, which was built in 1906. The 1994 fire was the second electrical fire in two years, and one of several in the pier’s history. About 145 people were trapped on the far end of the pier until firefighters could extinguish the blaze.

A man walks along the beach as smoke billows from Seal Beach Pier after a fire broke out on May 21, 1994.
(Alexander Garcia / Los Angeles Times)


— The Los Angeles Fire Department will launch a citywide effort to inspect vape and smoke shops. An explosion seriously injured several firefighters in a downtown corridor that some consider a haven for supplies used in the creation of unlicensed cannabis products.


— Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said he will defy a subpoena from a civilian oversight board to testify about jail safety during the novel coronavirus crisis.

— ICE said a 74-year-old South Korean immigrant was too dangerous to release, despite repeated requests from his attorneys. He died of apparent suicide in a Bakersfield facility.

— Authorities say the body of former professional wrestler Shad Gaspard was found early Wednesday morning along the shore near the Venice Pier. The 39-year-old had been missing since Sunday afternoon when he was swept out to sea at Venice Beach.

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— The Supreme Court has granted an emergency appeal from Trump’s lawyers and blocked House Democrats, for now, from examining grand jury materials from Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election. The justices said they would consider a full appeal petition from the Justice Department, which will probably delay a decision about whether to hear the case until at least the end of June.

— A North Dakota construction company favored by Trump has received a $1.3-billion contract to build a section of Trump’s signature wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

— Trump’s longtime personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen will be released from federal prison today and is expected to serve the remainder of his sentence at home, a person familiar with the matter told the Associated Press.

— A powerful cyclone plowed inland along the coastline of India and Bangladesh, where more than 2.6 million people fled to shelters in an evacuation made all the more challenging by the coronavirus pandemic.


— At start of new term, Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen called for stability in China relations but said she would not accept Beijing’s political terms that would “downgrade Taiwan and undermine the cross-strait status quo.”


— The streaming service HBO Max launches May 27. It will be a watershed moment for WarnerMedia, as it attempts a pivot to become a new media powerhouse.

— Investigative journalist Ronan Farrow’s critics are circling. Here’s what you should know about the media war around him.

— If you’re not paying attention to late-night TV right now, you should, TV critic Robert Lloyd writes.


— Indie rocker Mikel Jollett is best known as the frontman for the Airborne Toxic Event. But these days, he’s focused on “Hollywood Park,” his new memoir of overcoming a dark childhood at Synanon.


— There are no sports. There are no open bars. So how does a sports bar get by in a pandemic?

— In troubled times, people have been known to hoard currency. But now, cash — passed from person to person like the coronavirus itself — is a source of suspicion.


Major League Baseball has developed a plan to reopen while protecting players, according to documents obtained by The Times.


Magic Johnson versus Vin Scully: You could have guessed that the Los Angeles Times’ monthlong tournament to determine “The Biggest Icon In L.A. Sports History” would eventually come down to this, right? Vote here.

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— It’s time to cut off Newsom’s blank check and get the Legislature involved again as the state Constitution intended, The Times’ editorial board writes.

— Columnist Steve Lopez got tested for COVID-19. Should you? Some experts aren’t so sure everyone, regardless of whether they have symptoms, should.



— So much of our economy depends on Americans of all incomes and backgrounds buying things. What happens when we just stop? (BuzzFeed News)

— An effort to recover the Titanic’s telegraph from the shipwreck has received a boost from a court ruling. (National Geographic)


At USC’s Keck Hospital, medical center workers equipped with black Sharpie pens tried to lighten the mood by doodling on the big bright-green stickers worn by patients and staff showing that they have been screened for coronavirus symptoms and have sanitized their hands. It was all fun and games until someone started bringing presidential politics into it. But after a brief pause, USC found a way to fight on with the drawings but not fight over them.

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