Newsletter: With deaths near 100,000, a disconnect

President Trump salutes at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery to mark Memorial Day.
(Alex Brandon / Associated Press)

The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 is about to reach 100,000 people, but as Memorial Day weekend came and went, there was little sense of shared grief.


With Deaths Near 100,000, a Disconnect

The United States is set to pass another somber milestone in the coronavirus pandemic this week: 100,000 people dead from COVID-19 since February.

Yet there was little sense, even on a long Memorial Day weekend dedicated to remembrance, that Americans are grieving together over the many lives lost to the disease.


It made for some incongruous pictures: As people flocked to beaches and parks, public health experts made a new round of appeals for physical distancing and face coverings. Judging from several scenes around the country, not everyone was paying attention to those warnings — or in some cases willfully disregarding them.

Still, on a day typically marked by parades, solemn ceremonies, and barbecues, Memorial Day events took on new forms. In Southern California, traditional remembrances moved mostly online, and more than a dozen vintage warplanes soared in formation across the sky.

President Trump, who refuses to wear a mask in public, took part in a wreath-laying at Arlington National Cemetery and spoke at the Ft. McHenry national monument in Baltimore, while presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, clad in a black protective mask, laid a wreath at a memorial in Delaware.

Trump’s ceremonial duties contrasted sharply with his Twitter feed, where he blasted news coverage of his Memorial Day weekend golf trips, launched a barrage of political and ad hominem attacks, threatened to move the Republican National Convention from North Carolina, and continued to promote a disproved conspiracy theory insinuating that MSNBC host and former congressman Joe Scarborough killed an aide.

Church and State Orders

California has released new coronavirus health guidance for religious services, saying houses of worship must limit total attendance to 25% of a building’s capacity and stop passing around offering plates, in addition to taking other precautions. The 13-page document does not obligate churches, mosques, temples and other houses of worship to resume in-person activity, and it’s likely many will choose to continue to focus on online services.

The guidance comes after Trump said on Friday that he was designating churches as “essential” — though on Friday night, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Gov. Gavin Newsom’s ban on in-person church services.


In separate guidance, the state says that, subject to approval by county public health departments, all retail stores can reopen for in-store shopping.

More Top Coronavirus Headlines

— Elections officials across California, seeking a way to offer in-person voting in November with strict coronavirus protections, are urging lawmakers to close schools in the days leading up to and including election day and allow campus gyms and auditoriums to be used. In addition, three Republican groups have sued Newsom over his executive order to send mail-in ballots to California’s 20.6 million voters in November.

— The World Health Organization will temporarily drop hydroxychloroquine, the antimalarial drug Trump says he is taking, from its global study into experimental COVID-19 treatments, saying that its experts need to review all available evidence.


— As states begin to reopen from coronavirus-related shutdowns, a wave of unpaid utility bills coming due will saddle Americans with new debt and could also drive up rates for everyone.

In California and across the country, lockdown protests have a wide array of participants, from peaceful to malevolent. The presence of extremists is raising concerns.

— In spite of it all, the reopened Shanghai Disneyland is maintaining its magical allure for rapt visitors.

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


An Activist Faces Accusations

Animal rights activist Marc Ching drew a celebrity following for his campaign against the dog meat trade in Asia, which included posting shocking videos of dogs being tortured and killed that he said were filmed while he was undercover.

But a Times investigation has found evidence that contradicts Ching’s claims about the authenticity of some of the most shocking videos and raises questions about his rescue efforts overseas.

Butchers in Indonesia told The Times that Ching paid them to stage dog killings for the camera. Ching denied orchestrating any scenes or paying to have dogs harmed.


Keeping a Shameful History Alive

The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre that began the night of May 31 left nearly 300 black people dead. Thousands were forced to flee. Some bodies were never found.

While schools and white-owned newspapers mostly ignored it, this black-owned newspaper has kept up the fight to remind Tulsa of its history.


Most Los Angeles Times newsroom employees aren’t spending time in our El Segundo offices these days; it’s either work in the field or work from home. But on this date in 1922, Times journalists were pecking at their typewriters in the confines of the third L.A. Times building at the corner of 1st Street and Broadway in downtown L.A.


Ralph W. Trueblood, shown in the photo below, was the assistant manager editor at the time. He later became the newspaper’s editor, retiring in 1944.

May 26, 1922: Ralph W. Trueblood, left, then the assistant managing editor of the Los Angeles Times, works in the paper’s newsroom. Trueblood later became the editor of the L.A. Times.
May 26, 1922: Ralph W. Trueblood, left, then the assistant managing editor of the Los Angeles Times, works in the paper’s newsroom.
(Los Angeles Times)


— Though L.A. County remains the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in California, there are some encouraging signs. The county’s three-day average number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients has declined 15%, while its seven-day average of deaths per day is down 3%, according to the latest figures from the Public Health Department.

— Health officials said outbreaks of COVID-19 have struck nine industrial facilities in Vernon, including five meatpacking plants. The union that represents workers at the Farmer John plant is calling for the immediate closure of the facility.


— L.A. County transportation officials are seeking $120 million more for the yet-to-open Crenshaw line from Mid-City to the South Bay, as crews work to repair flaws in the project.

— Police in San Leandro say a woman has been arrested on suspicion of posting handwritten messages at the homes of Asian Americans and suggesting that those not native to the U.S. should leave the country immediately.

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— With Brazil emerging as one of the world’s most infected countries, President Jair Bolsonaro is deflecting all responsibility for the COVID-19 crisis, casting blame on mayors, governors, an outgoing health minister and the media.


— Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has lifted a coronavirus state of emergency in Tokyo and four other remaining parts of the country, ending restrictions nationwide as businesses begin to reopen.

— In Wuhan, the Chinese city where the coronavirus began, the government’s victory narrative is filled with slogans about “People’s War.” But survivors there struggle with worries of new infections and without a feeling of closure.

— In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning that rats could exhibit “unusual or aggressive rodent behavior” because they’ve been starved of restaurant leftovers for months.


— The Hollywood Bowl has canceled its season, but there was an unusual, socially distant concert there over the weekend.


— Columnist Mary McNamara, a former staffer at Ms. magazine, calls “Mrs. America” quite possibly the bravest show in the history of television.

Juliette Lewis reveals the secret to scene-stealing: risking failure “on a huge scale.”

— Billionaire Elon Musk and singer Grimes have apparently changed their baby’s name — slightly.


— Car rental company Hertz filed for bankruptcy late last week. It’s another study in how the pandemic has decimated businesses.


Bayer has reached verbal agreements to resolve a substantial portion of an estimated 125,000 U.S. cancer lawsuits over use of its Roundup weed killer, according to people familiar with the negotiations.


— Will there be a Major League Baseball season? Here’s what the players and owners must resolve.

— Lakers president Jeanie Buss went on a podcast to discuss a wide range of topics heavy and light, including her dreams about Kobe Bryant that let her know “he’s OK.”

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Local newspapers are dying. Here’s how we can save them.

— California gives too many unchecked tax breaks. Columnist George Skelton says it’s time to shine a light on them.


— Novelist H.G. Carrillo long claimed he was a childhood Cuban immigrant. It wasn’t until he died of COVID-19 — and his siblings reached out to correct his obituary — that the truth emerged for his fans and his spouse. (Washington Post)

— If all goes as planned, a crewed space launch will take place this week on U.S. soil for the first time in nine years. It may also herald a new era of commercial space transportation. (Atlas Obscura)



Jay Cohen is the first union musician in L.A. to play in front of a live audience since the pandemic shutdown, even if that audience consists of a lone security guard. He’s the bugler at the Santa Anita racetrack, where horse racing has resumed but no spectators are allowed. “There are people out there who sound better than me when they empty their spit valves,” he says. “It’s really weird that I’m the one working … but I’m going with it.”

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