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Newsletter: 100,000 lives lost

Workers wearing personal protective equipment bury bodies in a trench on Hart Island, New York City’s longtime potter’s field, last month.
(John Minchillo / Associated Press)

The U.S. has recorded more coronavirus-linked deaths than any other country.

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100,000 Lives Lost

The coronavirus death toll in the U.S. has officially surpassed 100,000 people in less than four months. It’s a heart-rending inflection point in a pandemic that has profoundly altered Americans’ daily lives, ravaged the economy and put the country’s political disunity in full view.

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As elsewhere in the world, elderly people and those rendered vulnerable by preexisting medical conditions have accounted for most U.S. deaths. But the virus has sickened all age groups, including children afflicted by what remains a little-understood inflammatory syndrome.

The efforts to contain the contagion have closed businesses, sent unemployment to Depression-era levels, spurred Congress to pass four relief measures totaling nearly $3 trillion, with more promised, and upended the year’s political contests.

The loss of lives reflected in the tragic new milestone has put President Trump’s reelection at risk, as numerous polls show widespread belief among voters that he has mismanaged the crisis — from his early denials of a problem and promise of zero deaths to his erratic stewardship of the response once the death count began.

Spurred partly by Trump’s defiant rhetoric and example, even the responses recommended by his own public health experts — social distancing, wearing masks, staying home — have come to divide Americans along partisan lines.

Yet amid all the statistics and rancor, it’s worth remembering the thousands of lives lost, in cities and small towns, in hospital wards and nursing homes.

Here are some of the stories of the more than 3,000 people who have died in California

An Evolving Response

California has surpassed 100,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, as many communities continue to push forward with reopening the economy — and a key architect of the nation’s first coronavirus shelter-in-place order is criticizing the state’s increasingly fast pace of lifting stay-at-home restrictions, saying it poses “very serious risk.”

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Still, the state health department has issued new instructions to all skilled nursing facilities to test everybody in their facilities in hopes of slowing the spread of the coronavirus, a move that overrules a less strict testing policy allowed by Los Angeles County.

Nursing homes have become ground zero for the COVID-19 pandemic because elderly people with underlying health conditions living in close quarters provide an almost perfect breeding ground for the lethal new virus. A Times data analysis earlier this month found that about half of all coronavirus deaths in California occurred in skilled nursing or assisted living facilities.

The state’s new testing guidelines for skilled nursing facilities come as health officials elsewhere, including New York, New Jersey, Florida and Texas, have concluded that the best way to get a handle on the unfolding tragedy is to test residents and staff in nursing homes and isolate anyone who is positive.

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Harry Sentoso had been back to work at Amazon for just two weeks before he died. As the company continues to hire, workers are being forced to confront a difficult choice: Is working for Amazon a lifeline, or a life-threatening risk?

— For the first time in U.S. history, House members voted without being physically present in the Capitol, a change in congressional rules brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic that Republicans are already turning into a campaign issue.

Theme parks in Florida and casinos in Las Vegas will reopen in June and July, with state and company officials promising “every precaution” and “a safe product.”

— California Gov. Gavin Newsom said his administration will release guidelines “in a week or so” for allowing gyms, yoga studios and other fitness facilities to reopen.

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— Tens of thousands of renters facing pandemic-related economic struggles in Los Angeles could receive financial assistance under a new $100-million City Council proposal.

— A Huntington Beach company promised buyers an FDA-approved coronavirus home testing kit with results in 10 minutes. Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer says it was a scam.

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

Plenty of Chirping

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Trump has threatened to strongly regulate or close down social media platforms he deems unfriendly to conservatives after Twitter for the first time warned that Trump was posting false claims, about mail-in voting. Fittingly, the president’s threats were delivered on Twitter.

So what does that mean exactly?

Like many of Trump’s daily threats, this one appears mostly about political posturing. The White House press office said that Trump planned to sign an executive action related to social media today but provided no details on what it would do.

Trump often uses executive actions to make political statements on issues where he has limited authority to act unilaterally. The 1st Amendment bars the government from restricting speech, but it does not prohibit private companies from imposing restrictions.

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FROM THE ARCHIVES

When movies transitioned from silent to sound, it was a big adjustment not only for studios, but actors too. They had to be taught how to speak and control their voices for an audience through lessons in “voice culture.” Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer sent its actors to the school of speech at the University of Southern California.

On this day in 1928, The Times photographed actress Anita Page as she took lessons with professor Ray K. Immel, dean of the school of speech. Her voice was recorded and she listened back with a “head receiving set” to analyze her performance and practice. Page went on to star in “The Broadway Melody,” which became the first talking movie to win the Academy Award for best picture.

May 28, 1928: Actress Anita Page takes her first lesson at the University of Southern California school of speech.
May 28, 1928: Actress Anita Page takes her first lesson at the University of Southern California school of speech as Hollywood goes from silent films to talkies. Looking on is Dr. Rufus B. Von Kleinsmid, president of USC.
(Los Angeles Times)

CALIFORNIA

— Several hundred demonstrators, organized by Black Lives Matter-LA, converged on downtown L.A. to march around the Civic Center, part of a series of national protests to show outrage over the the death of George Floyd, a black man killed after a white Minneapolis police officer pinned him to the ground with his knee. The mayor of Minneapolis called for criminal charges to be filed against the officer.

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— A former aide to L.A. City Councilman Jose Huizar has agreed to plead guilty in the ongoing corruption investigation at City Hall, becoming the closest associate of the councilman so far to be snared in the federal “pay to play” probe.

Big Oil lost a pair of court battles that could lead to trials in lawsuits by California cities and counties seeking damages for the impact of climate change. Separately, California joined nearly two dozen other states in suing the Trump administration over its decision to weaken fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks.

— When California voters approved bonds in 2008 to build a bullet train, a ballot measure promised them that future passenger service would not require operating subsidies. Now officials say it might.

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NATION-WORLD

— The Trump administration is engaged in a pressure campaign against immigrant parents to get them to give up either their kids or their legal claims to protection in the U.S., citing the coronavirus.

— Secretary of State of Mike Pompeo has notified Congress that the Trump administration no longer regards Hong Kong as autonomous from mainland China.

SpaceX and NASA planned to launch astronauts from the U.S. for the first time since 2011. But the weather in Florida didn’t cooperate, and the next launch window is Saturday.

South Africa banned the sale of tobacco and alcohol as part of its lockdown, one of the world’s strictest, to combat the spread of the coronavirus. Eight weeks later, a bootleg economy is thriving.

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HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— Activist and playwright Larry Kramer, known for the acclaimed 1985 drama “The Normal Heart” about the early years of the AIDS crisis, has died at 84. “When I met with Kramer, what struck me was his sadness,” writes theater critic Charles McNulty, “the sadness of someone whose anger is rooted in love.”

— She came to L.A. for fame. 20 years later, Tabitha Brown found it on TikTok with vegan cooking tutorials and a side of moral support.

— A Greek tragedy: The Greek Theatre in Griffith Park has called off its entire 2020 season because of the coronavirus crisis, after the Hollywood Bowl did the same. But if you’re really missing outdoor performances, you can revisit the best from Hollywood Bowl seasons past.

Billie Eilish released a powerful short film “Not My Responsibility” with a clear message: Her body is none of your concern.

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BUSINESS

— Prominent anchors Jeff Michael and Sharon Tay, along with meteorologist Garth Kemp, were cut from CBS TV stations in Los Angeles amid sweeping corporate layoffs.

Six Flags became the first major U.S. theme park company to release a set of safety protocols for reopening its U.S. parks. It offers a preview of what’s to come for theme park fans: guest limits, temperature checks, masks and being spread out in lines and on rides.

SPORTS

Elijah Wade left UCLA football because of an in-season injury that he felt was mishandled by UCLA staff. Now he’s working to protect his former teammates in the COVID-19 era.

— Soccer could be the first U.S. professional team sport to return from the COVID-19 break with the National Women’s Soccer League announcing plans for a 25-game tournament beginning June 27. Players would be able to opt out.

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OPINION

— You’re white and don’t care about wearing a mask? Asian Americans don’t have that privilege, writes Anna Almendrala.

— Almost unnoticed in the coronavirus crisis, Trump is systematically demolishing a cornerstone of global stability: the system of nuclear arms control agreements between the United States and Russia, writes The Times’ Doyle McManus.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

Steve Buscemi has spent a lifetime playing weirdos and lovable misfits. He also knows a thing or two about anxiety, grief and death. (GQ)

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— Artist Victoria Ying offers this illustrated essay on comfort food during the pandemic. (The Nib)

ONLY IN L.A.

Ever dreamed of owning exclusive real estate? Ever wanted to call Hollywood legends neighbors? You can, and the good news is it will only cost a mere $745,000. The bad news is you’ll have to die if you want to move in any time soon. Columnist Steve Lopez stumbled upon a curious listing for a funeral plot in Westwood Village Memorial Park. Read more about it — and the man behind the listing — here.

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


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