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World & Nation

Newsletter: Crucial weeks ahead in the COVID-19 fight

Dr. Anthony Fauci arrives on Capitol Hill to testify about the Trump administration's response to COVID-19.
Dr. Anthony Fauci arrives June 23 on Capitol Hill for testimony on the Trump administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
(Kevin Dietsch / Pool Photo)

As coronavirus cases surge in much of the U.S., Dr. Anthony Fauci says the coming weeks are pivotal.

TOP STORIES

Crucial Weeks Ahead in the COVID-19 Fight

California shattered a daily record for new coronavirus cases with more than 6,000 infections reported Monday. Rising case counts in Florida, Texas and Arizona, among other states, represent “a disturbing surge,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “The next couple of weeks are going to be critical in our ability to address those surges,” he said, noting that some parts of the U.S. are improving, such as former COVID-19 hotspot New York City.

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Still, the Trump administration, eager to claim victory, has been considering scaling back the national emergency declared to control the pandemic, according to healthcare industry officials who have spoken with the administration. The prospect has stoked alarm among public health leaders, physicians, hospital officials and others who fear that such a move would make it more difficult for state and local governments and health systems to keep the coronavirus in check.

Pressed on the issue Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany told The Times that no such move was imminent. But White House officials have a history of contradicting themselves, most recently on Monday when McEnany claimed President Trump was joking over the weekend when he said he’d directed aides to slow coronavirus testing. Trump said Tuesday it wasn’t a joke.

Hours later, Fauci and other top government officials fighting the pandemic told Congress they had not been ordered to slow down testing. “To my knowledge, none of us have ever been told to slow down on testing,” Fauci said. “That is just a fact.”

Meanwhile, Trump gave a speech before a largely unmasked crowd at a Phoenix church, once again using a racist joke to describe COVID-19, after he had visited a stretch of border wall.

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More Top Coronavirus Headlines

— In Los Angeles County, getting a coronavirus test is becoming more difficult. It’s especially frustrating for participants in recent protests against police brutality who are anxious to learn if they are infected.

— Infections among L.A. police officers have spiked in recent weeks, reflecting a broader increase in cases regionally and raising fresh questions about the role of protests in the spread.

— Nearly 50,000 L.A. families hurt by the economic and health fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic could get help from a $100-million rent relief program passed by the City Council.

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

Silicon Valley’s Diversity Problem

The tech industry is dominated by white and Asian men. Despite years of promising to become more diverse, it has failed to move the needle — just as so many other industries have.

The net result is an entire sector of the economy — the sector that has created the most wealth in California in the last 10 years, minted billionaires and reshaped the Bay Area in its own image — that is functionally barely open to Black and Latino people.

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Tech leaders have often pointed to a “pipeline problem” to explain away the lack of Black hiring and promotion. But in 2016, 12% of graduates with a degree in science, technology, engineering or math were Black, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics. Even the graduating class of computer science majors at Stanford, Silicon Valley’s elite training ground, is more diverse than the companies just down the road.

Since the fall of 2019, The Times has surveyed dozens of Black people and other people of color in tech. Some of the common experiences: enduring daily microaggressions; feeling targeted by superiors or external critics; being trotted out to defend a company’s diversity practices; and being tasked with extra work typically reserved for diversity and inclusion officers.

More About Race in America

— Senate Democrats have indicated that they will block the current version of a GOP policing reform bill, calling it “woefully inadequate” to meet the broad changes needed in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death in police custody.

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— A deeply divided L.A. school board failed to agree on proposed reforms to the school police, effectively leaving the matter to a task force created by Supt. Austin Beutner and disappointing activists who had called for eliminating the department.

— The L.A. County Board of Supervisors is calling for an independent investigation into the death of 18-year-old Andres Guardado, who was fatally shot by a sheriff’s deputy last week.

— Federal officials said that the apparent noose found this weekend in the Alabama garage stall of NASCAR’s only full-time Black driver was a door pull that was present last year, months before Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. was assigned the garage at the Talladega Superspeedway.

A Councilman Is Arrested

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Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar, an ambitious player in city politics for nearly two decades, faces a racketeering charge after being arrested in an ongoing federal investigation into corruption at City Hall.

The charge arises from allegations that he ran a sprawling pay-to-play scheme in which real estate developers were shaken down for cash bribes and campaign donations in exchange for Huizar’s help getting high-rise development projects through the city’s arduous approval process.

Along the way, prosecutors say, the councilman and his associates allegedly enjoyed free plane travel, lavish meals, casino chips and other perks offered up by developers. In all, Huizar improperly received approximately $1.5 million in financial benefits, according to federal filings.

Prosecutors portrayed Huizar as the head of the enterprise, with others involved in the scheme referring to him as “the boss.” In a statement, lawyers for Huizar said the councilman “intends to respond to the government’s allegations in court.”

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What’s That Sound?

In New York, Los Angeles, Baltimore, the Bay Area, Hartford, Conn., and beyond, residents have taken to social media and neighborhood message boards for weeks to complain of fireworks at all hours of the night.

A few bottle rockets are to be expected around the Fourth of July. But officials in cities across the country say what’s happening now seems more widespread, with bigger fireworks and without clear explanation.

Some officials wonder if an underground market is thriving, though fireworks company associations have disputed that claim. Others say city residents are acting out of boredom. And there’s a third theory: that the pyrotechnics are the same, and it’s our sense of hearing that’s sharpened during weeks of quarantine.

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Columnist Steve Lopez also notes that answers are unlikely. By the time authorities arrive, the show’s already over. Earplugs might be your best bet.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

On June 24, 1971, a pocket of natural gas exploded in a Metropolitan Water District tunnel beneath Sylmar. Crews of workers had been drilling in the tunnel and 17 people were killed, according to The Times. It was the second explosion there in two days. The first injured four people.

Workers told The Times about the gruesome task of trying to rescue one another and escape the smoky tunnel. The Lockheed Shipbuilding and Construction Co. was ultimately tried for its role in the accident. After 54 weeks of proceedings, a jury found the company guilty of “16 counts of gross negligence and 10 counts of violations of state industrial safety code.”

Aerial view of a shaft leading to the Metropolitan Water District tunnel in Sylmar, where a blast killed 17 in 1971.
June 24, 1971: Aerial view of a shaft leading to the Metropolitan Water District tunnel in Sylmar where 17 workers were killed in an explosion during construction.
(Fitzgerald Whitney / Los Angeles Times)
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CALIFORNIA

— Even as the COVID-19 pandemic is slashing tax revenue across the board, officials have unveiled an $800-million plan to house Los Angeles County’s homeless people who are most vulnerable to the disease.

— An L.A. city program was crafted to ensure that cannabis sales licenses go to people from communities most harmed by the war on drugs. Now the “social equity program” is under renewed scrutiny over whether the initiative is fulfilling its promise.

Ron Jeremy, one of the most prominent figures in the adult entertainment industry, has been charged with sexually assaulting four women in West Hollywood since 2014, prosecutors said.

— The City Council of Fort Bragg, a small Northern California city named after Braxton Bragg, a Confederate army general and slave owner, has decided that it will not place a town name change on the November ballot.

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NATION-WORLD

— Federal prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky is expected to testify before Congress today that he faced political pressure to go easy on Roger Stone, a longtime friend of Trump.

— Scores of mourners gathered at a historic Atlanta church for a funeral for Rayshard Brooks, the Black man whose fatal shooting by police in a fast-food parking lot stoked further protests across the U.S. against racial injustice.

Kentucky and New York officials are facing a deluge of mail-in votes they say is likely to delay the results for days after high-profile primaries Tuesday.

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— A powerful earthquake centered on Mexico’s Pacific coast shook southern and central Mexico on Tuesday, killing at least five people.

South Korea‘s first female barber kept her scissors going in the postwar years. The coronavirus hasn’t stopped her.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

Chris D’Elia has been dropped by his agent and his manager after five women detailed the comedian’s alleged sexual improprieties.

— Episodes of the NBC comedy “30 Rock” featuring characters in blackface will no longer be available in rerun or streaming form, at the behest of executive producers Robert Carlock and Tina Fey.

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— “I was really scared to play a murderer,” says Amanda Peet. But the 48-year-old actress came to embrace the psychological gymnastics required to take on one of the toughest roles of her career: Betty Broderick, the suburban housewife convicted of the 1989 murders of her ex-husband and his new wife.

— Our latest Emmys roundtable features eight actors on how to make stories that matter, especially when “white Hollywood does not write our culture.”

BUSINESS

— Less than three months into the life of the “new” T-Mobile US Inc., the self-proclaimed maverick mobile-phone carrier is already asking to roll back commitments it made in exchange for approval to buy its smaller rival Sprint Corp.

— Lemeir Mitchell’s Happy Ice is shaking up L.A.'s dessert culture. But it was a long road for the water ice business from food truck to a new location on Melrose Avenue.

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SPORTS

— Players have signed off on Major League Baseball’s health and safety protocols and agreed to report to training camps at their home stadiums by July 1 in preparation for a pandemic-shortened regular season of 60 games.

— Tennis star Novak Djokovic tested positive for the coronavirus after taking part in a tennis exhibition series he organized in Serbia and Croatia.

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OPINION

— Most people don’t think twice about clicking “I agree” when shown the legalese of a privacy policy. But it’s never a good deal to give up our personal data for free. Tech companies should pay for it, writes former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang.

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— A city councilman is charged with racketeering, and we just yawn. That’s how bad things are, writes columnist Steve Lopez.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— As thousands of people looked for ways to support growing antiracism protests, they poured money into bail funds. Now, tiny nonprofits are drowning in cash, wondering what happens next? (The New Yorker)

— How conspiracy theories about the NYPD Shake Shack “poisoning” blew up. (New York Post)

ONLY IN L.A.

Seven years before the coronavirus pandemic hit, Arthur Kreitenberg, a Los Angeles orthopedic surgeon, came up with an invention in his basement to quickly disinfect an airplane cabin using ultraviolet light. He even bought airplane seats from the airline graveyard in the Mojave Desert to test his idea. But the idea did not catch on quickly. Now, Honeywell International says it is teaming up with Kreitenberg to build the UV invention, originally named the GermFalcon — which looks like an airline beverage cart equipped with two mechanical arms that stretch out over the plane’s seats like a pair of wings.

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


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