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Newsletter: The mask rebellion and its dangers

Some people wear masks and others do not as they walk along Harbor Boulevard in downtown Fullerton on Thursday.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

The evidence shows face coverings help prevent the spread of coronavirus, yet some people push back against their use.

TOP STORIES

The Mask Rebellion and Its Dangers

As California rapidly reopens its economy, health officials have made clear the only way to avoid a wave of new coronavirus infections is with strict safety rules, including social distancing, limits on the capacity of businesses and wearing face coverings when around other people.

Yet a mask rebellion is underway in some parts of the state, with residents pushing back on mandatory face-covering rules even with coronavirus cases on the rise and as more businesses open their doors and some people yearn to return to old routines.

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The potency of mask politics became clear this week in Orange County, where the health officer resigned after weeks of attacks — and a death threat — over her mandatory mask rules. Amid intense pressure from the Board of Supervisors, her replacement rescinded the rules and substituted them with a strong recommendation to wear masks in public settings.

Now, of California’s 15 most populous counties, Los Angeles, San Diego, Santa Clara, Alameda, Sacramento, Contra Costa, San Francisco and San Mateo counties require mask wearing in public, while Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Fresno, Kern, Ventura and San Joaquin do not.

But there’s increasing evidence that face coverings are essential to allow a broader reopening. Places that have kept coronavirus transmission under control, such as Hong Kong and Taiwan, have virtually universal wearing of masks in public. And a recent study out of Germany found that face masks reduce the daily growth rate of reported infections by around 40%.

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More Top Coronavirus Headlines

— The coronavirus has battered the finances of Black healthcare centers in the Bay Area, leaving them with uncertain futures while Black communities are among the hardest hit by the virus in California.

— Los Angeles County has released the list of requirements Hollywood productions will have to meet so they can return to work beginning today. The restrictions raise questions over how actors can realistically perform.

— In Las Vegas, casino employees are wearing masks, but tourists act as if the virus is long gone. (It isn’t.)

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— A coronavirus vaccine in 2020? Maybe. Here’s what has to go right.

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

‘Less-Lethal Launcher’

Police call it a “40-millimeter Less-Lethal Launcher.” To those who have found themselves in the line of fire during recent protests, the wounds feel deadly serious — and unjustified.

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A homeless man in a wheelchair had his eye bloodied in downtown Los Angeles. A San Jose activist suffered a ruptured testicle after a blast to the groin. A radio reporter interviewing protesters in Long Beach suffered a neck wound. And an untold number of others sustained cuts, bruises and worse during the demonstrations that followed the in-custody death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

In many cases, the departments and weapon manufacturers have previously suggested that the devices — which are usually loaded with single-shot hard-foam projectiles — allow for more precise targeting of violent suspects and thereby reduce serious injuries caused by other “less-lethal” alternatives.

But the Less-Lethal Launchers, or “LLLs” as the LAPD calls them, have drawn the same kind of objections from protesters and civil libertarians as shotgun “beanbag” rounds and hard rubber pellets that were the dominant weapons used by police during previous crowd-control efforts. Critics say the fault is not with the weapons, but with the wanton and indiscriminate way in which some officers fire them.

More About the Protests

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— A Times review of social media videos from the first days of the protests found LAPD officers using extreme and at times violent measures against protesters.

— Lawyers are calling for the LAPD to destroy the arrest records of hundreds of protesters who arrested for curfew violations or failure to disperse, but were not charged.

USC has removed the name of Rufus von KleinSmid, president of the university from 1921 to 1947, from a prominent campus building because of his active support of eugenics.

Louisville, Ky., has banned the use of “no-knock” warrants and named the new ordinance for Breonna Taylor, who was fatally shot by officers who burst into her home.

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Homelessness Still Rising

Despite hundreds of millions of dollars spent to curb homelessness, officials say the number of people without a home in Los Angeles grew for the fifth time in the last six years.

What’s worse, the double-digit increases reported in the city and county reflected only the status in January, when the annual count is taken, and before the coronavirus pandemic thrashed the region’s economy, raising the likelihood of a new wave of people losing their homes.

The annual point-in-time count released Friday estimated the county’s homeless population at 66,433, up just under 13% from the prior year, the second consecutive double-digit increase. The estimate for the city was 41,108, up nearly 14% and only slightly less than last year’s increase of 16%.

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“This doesn’t take into account the almost 600,000 people that since January, and even just since May, have lost their jobs due to COVID-19,” said Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority executive director Heidi Marston.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

In the 1930s, the U.S. Army coastal defense force maintained a pair of 14-inch railway guns. Unfortunately, at 365 tons, they were too powerful to stay near Los Angeles Harbor. A firing in 1928 shattered windows and they sat unused for eight years. In June 1936, the railway guns were relocated to an isolated spot near Oceanside. On June 12, they were tested again “with throaty bellows of defiance” and no unintended damage, according to The Times. Dozens of spectators gathered to watch the test.

June 12, 1936: A United States Army Coast Defense 14-inch railway gun is fired during target practice near Oceanside, Calif.
(J. H. McCrory / Los Angeles Times)

YOUR WEEKEND

— Ten L.A.-based, Black-owned fitness businesses with virtual classes.

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— Did you adopt a new dog during quarantine? Learn how to better train and bond with your pet.

— The best houseplant for your zodiac sign. (Yes, really.)

— Treat your feet with a foot peel. (Sorry.)

CALIFORNIA

— A former staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California has sued the nonprofit civil rights organization, alleging that as a Black woman, she was subjected to retaliation and discrimination for repeatedly complaining about systemic racism in the workplace. The ACLU did not offer a comment.

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— As UC Chief Janet Napolitano prepares to step down Aug. 1, she leaves with a better ending than beginning, as fans and foes largely agree she learned from her mistakes.

— Human remains have been found atop Mt. Baldy several weeks after a man told his family he was going for a hike there and did not return, officials said this week.

— A woman exercising in a park in Torrance was accosted by another woman who unleashed a string of profanities and told her to “go back to whatever ... Asian country you belong in.” The incident that was captured on video.

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NATION-WORLD

Joe Biden says his chief worry is that President Trump will attempt to “steal” the November election. Meanwhile, Biden’s campaign war chest is growing as donors, many in California, grow increasingly alarmed by Trump.

— Army Gen. Mark Milley, the nation’s top military officer, said he was wrong to have accompanied Trump on a walk to a church in Washington after authorities used pepper spray and flash bangs to clear a park and streets of protesters.

Jacksonville, Fla., has been selected to host the celebration marking Trump’s acceptance of his party’s nomination for reelection, the Republican National Committee chairwoman said.

— In Thailand, a renegade soldier is leading a revolution ... for craft beer.

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HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— First was “Cops.” Now A&E has canceled “Live PD,” which followed police officers around the country. The cancellation followed reports that a Black man in Texas died in police custody as the show was filming.

— Amid national conversations about racism, country trio Lady Antebellum said it was changing its name to Lady A, dropping a word widely understood to refer to the period before the Civil War.

Playwrights are calling out racism in theater. Their art lights a path to justice, writes theater critic Charles McNulty.

— The annual Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, which has been postponed because of the pandemic, will occur, “as of now,” on April 9-11, with the second weekend occurring April 16-18, according to the promoter.

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BUSINESS

— The Dow Jones industrial average sank more than 1,800 points on Thursday as coronavirus cases in the U.S. increased again, deflating recent optimism that the economy could recover quickly from its worst crisis in decades.

— In a sign of easing labor tensions, two of three major Hollywood unions have now agreed to a new labor contract.

— Jen Gotch, the co-founder and chief creative officer of L.A. lifestyle brand Ban.do, has resigned as the company and its leadership face accusations of racism and discrimination.

SPORTS

— Olympic gold medalist sprinter Tianna Bartoletta wants people to “give a damn” about the fight for Black equality.

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— A new sports documentary will focus on Lakers legend Magic Johnson, from his glory days as a five-time NBA champion to his successful transition to entrepreneur. It’s expected to air in 2021.

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OPINION

— Amid national protests, the spotlight has been focused as never before on two contributing factors in the evolution of local police into quasi-military forces: union contracts and a flood of battlefield equipment, writes business columnist Michael Hiltzik.

— As millions protest systemic racism, Californians could soon have chance to restore affirmative action, writes columnist George Skelton.

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WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— The U.S. financial system could be on the cusp of calamity, and the worst-case scenario is ... the worst. (The Atlantic)

— Remembering Robert Lawrence Jr., the first Black astronaut in the 1960s. (Atlas Obscura)

ONLY IN L.A.

Walter Thompson-Hernández was 6 when he first saw the Black cowboys of Compton, and he was fascinated. “They seemed ethereal — like superheroes on the back of mystic creatures,” he writes in his new book, “The Compton Cowboys.” The riding program known as the Compton Jr. Posse was established in the mid-1980s as an alternative for young people at risk of gang violence and other perils of the streets. Their motto: “Streets raised us. Horses saved us.”

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


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