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Newsletter: How will the pandemic end?

Shops on Main Street in downtown Ventura reopen after being shut down by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Shops on Main Street in downtown Ventura reopen after being shut down by the COVID-19 pandemic. Scientists say it’s too soon to predict how the outbreak will end.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

As infections grow in California and the U.S., the coronavirus has time on its side. We have science.

TOP STORIES

How Will the Pandemic End?

Since its emergence, the coronavirus known to scientists as SARS-CoV-2 has jumped national borders with ease, infecting more than 9 million people around the world and killing at least 470,000 in about seven months. The roughly 7.7 billion people who have evaded infection so far seem to be squarely in its sights. But humankind has a few tricks of its own.

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In fits and starts, public health officials have mustered their citizens to shun the kinds of gatherings that provide a virus rich opportunities to spread. Scientists have peered into the coronavirus’ genome to unlock secrets about where it came from, how it has evolved and what it will take to thwart it. Now it’s a race to see which side gains the upper hand.

As U.S. coronavirus cases surge to their highest level in two months, in California there are concerns the state may be losing the battle. Gov. Gavin Newsom said COVID-19 hospitalizations, as well as the number of coronavirus patients sent to intensive care units, have been rising significantly. Four suburban Southern California counties — Ventura, Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside — are among those primarily responsible for a dangerous rise in hospitalizations, according to a Los Angeles Times data analysis.

There are a variety of possible reasons for the spikes, and health officials say one of them is the return of social gatherings.

“It’s like we’re cheating on our diet, and angry or baffled that we can’t lose weight,” said Dr. Robert Levin, Ventura County’s health officer. “There’s all those times that we’re not cheating. But [in] the few times we do, all that effort is for naught. So what is the price we pay? Where are we headed? More cases of COVID-19. More people hospitalized. More people in our ICUs. More people dead.”

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More Top Coronavirus Headlines

— With the European Union moving toward reopening external borders on July 1, travelers from the U.S. could be among those excluded over coronavirus concerns, according to diplomats and documents about the bloc’s decision-making process.

— A slum in Mumbai, India, has become an unlikely COVID-19 success story.

— Shutting down California was a challenge for Newsom. Reopening could prove even trickier. And economists say the state is unlikely to recover its pre-coronavirus prosperity over the next three years.

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Disneyland’s reopening will be delayed beyond July 17. Walt Disney Co. says it will wait for state guidelines before specifying a new target date.

— In the COVID-19 era, people are becoming U.S. citizens in drive-through ceremonies.

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

A Painful Reckoning

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Two years after the Los Angeles Times reverted to local ownership, one of the country’s largest metropolitan daily newspapers is facing a painful internal reckoning over glaring deficiencies and missteps regarding race and representation in its pages and its staff.

On Wednesday, Executive Editor Norman Pearlstine heard from aggrieved newsroom staff members during a more than four-hour meeting examining the mistreatment of Black and brown editorial staff members past and present. He acknowledged that the 138-year-old paper had failed to capitalize on an unprecedented opportunity to better diversify its newsroom since its 2018 purchase by L.A. biotech billionaire Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong and his wife, Michele B. Chan.

It came three weeks into a raw and deeply emotional self-examination that has unfolded on the company’s internal communications channels, a wide-ranging debate about the paper’s news coverage and treatment of people of color. Staff members have openly chastised senior editors for allowing racial disparities to persist.

In the aftermath of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police custody, journalists around the country have engaged in similar emotionally wrenching discussions about ingrained practices that have marginalized people of color.

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More About Race in America

— Democrats denied Republicans the votes needed to advance the Senate GOP’s policing reform bill, casting doubt on the future of the effort as thousands of people continue to protest over the death of George Floyd and police misconduct and excessive use of force.

— Police reform activists are calling on California’s top law enforcement officer to stop use of CalGang, a secretive and problem-plagued database of suspected gang members, frustrated that it continues to function under rules they say disproportionately target Black and Latino men.

— California voters will be asked to restore affirmative action in November, after a ballot measure won final approval from the state Senate.

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— Officials and activists agree it’s time to “reimagine” the LAPD, but they continue to spar over how.

Taipei’s ‘Street Friends’

In Taipei, Taiwan‘s prosperous capital, an apartment in an upscale part of town costs nearly $800,000. Young people line up for $7 boba tea with real gold flakes. Yet here, homelessness is a rare misfortune, not an epidemic spilling onto the sidewalks of wealthy neighborhoods.

About 650 people are homeless in the city of 2.5 million, according to official counts — a number that has held steady over the last decade, though is doubted by some. The reasons cited by experts boil down to affordable housing and family ties. The rent for a shabby room is within reach for most workers, and a strong tradition of looking after elderly parents still persists.

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In addition, universal healthcare ensures that no one goes bankrupt over medical bills.

The small homeless population is concentrated in Bangka Park and the main train station. In their daily routines, most Taipei residents do not come across “wandering people” or “street friends,” as they are called in Mandarin. Here is their story.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

On this date in 2009, Michael Jackson died at age 50 at his Holmby Hills estate after receiving a series of drugs meant to help him sleep.

As The Times noted in a front page story, Jackson was “an incomparable figure in music, dance and culture whose ever-changing face graced the covers of albums that sold more than half a billion copies. ... He spent much of his life as one of the most famous people on the planet, and to many, his untimely death felt both unthinkable and, oddly, inevitable.”

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Over the next year, the secret life of the King of Pop would come to light. Authorities declared his death a homicide and charged his physician with giving him the powerful drugs that would kill him. Dr. Conrad Murray would later be convicted. There would also be a legal battle over the singer’s estate and money, and allegations that Jackson sexually abused children.

Here’s a brief look back from the pages of The Times on the superstar’s death.

Michael Jackson fans gather around his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on June 26, 2009.
(Chris Pizzello / Associated Press)

CALIFORNIA

— After drawing a rebuke from the State Assembly, the board of California’s high-speed rail authority this week put off approving a crucial 2020 business plan — a sign it has agreed to reassess the bullet train project’s current $20.4-billion blueprint.

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— A judge has ruled that Rep. Devin Nunes has no right to sue Twitter over statements made by a fake Internet cow, someone parodying his mother and a Republican strategist.

— A magnitude-5.8 earthquake struck California’s Owens Valley on Wednesday morning, sending several truck-sized boulders off a mountain and causing one to slam into a tree near the trailhead of Mt. Whitney, the state’s tallest mountain.

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NATION-WORLD

— The Supreme Court is nearing the end of its term and ready to release major decisions on abortion, religion and the separation of powers between the president and Congress — specifically, whether House Democrats or a New York grand jury can obtain President Trump’s tax returns. Here’s a look at the major cases still pending.

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— A federal appeals court has ordered the dismissal of the criminal case against Trump’s former national security advisor Michael Flynn, ruling it was not within a lower judge’s power to prolong the prosecution or examine why the Justice Department made its extraordinary decision to drop it.

— Powerful forces in the Deep South are participating in America’s reckoning with its racist history. Mississippi’s Confederate-themed state flag has drawn opposition from Walmart and Southern Baptists, and Alabama’s main state history agency is acknowledging that it perpetuated white supremacy by promoting Confederate narratives.

— Three Georgia men have been indicted on murder charges in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man whom they chased and shot as he was running in their neighborhood.

— The head of the Arab League warned a high-level U.N. meeting that Israel’s annexation of parts of the West Bank would inflame tensions and endanger peace in the Middle East, and could ignite “a religious war in and beyond our region.”

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HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— Many Black TV writers can get hired but can’t get promoted beyond staff writer. One result: Although writers of color account for 46% of supervisor producers, their share of co-executive producers or executive producers is far lower, a recent Guild survey found.

— This year’s scaled-down Toronto International Film Festival will showcase 50 feature films, down from more than 300 last year, and will include drive-in screenings, outdoor events and a digital platform.

— The end of “Game of Thrones” opens up plenty of acting Emmys real estate this year. Will “Succession” be its successor? Awards columnist Glenn Whipp has some predictions for likely acting nominees.

Antoinette Nwandu wishes her award-winning play “Pass Over,” which forced difficult conversations about race and bias in theater after its 2017 premiere, weren’t still so relevant. “The thing that makes it successful is the continued pain and the continued violence against individual Black people by this white supremacist police state.”

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, who are settling into life in L.A., have signed on with the New York-based Harry Walker Agency for speaking engagements, according to a person familiar with their plans.

BUSINESS

— The CalPERS board appears to be waging a discipline campaign against dissident member Margaret Brown, columnist Michael Hiltzik writes. As the giant pension fund faces portfolio uncertainty from the pandemic, Brown is raising important issues, sometimes alone, and the board should listen.

“Gone With the Wind” has returned to HBO Max after it was pulled from the streaming service this month. The movie now opens with a roughly 4½-minute introduction by African American Turner Classic Movies’ host Jacqueline Stewart, who discusses its history and its racism.

SPORTS

— How will Major League Baseball operate during COVID-19 pandemic? It will involve some rules, protocols and oddities.

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— When the NBA comes back next month, coronavirus concerns will be paramount for players like the Lakers’ Javale McGee, who has asthma. Lakers doctors could “protect” any players they consider at high risk.

— The National Women’s Soccer League is the first pro sports league to return, giving a league long starved for attention a coveted TV audience. And for Major League Soccer, LAFC will open the MLS Is Back tournament on July 13.

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OPINION

— L.A.'s new $100-million rental assistance program is an important first step to ensure the pandemic doesn’t worsen the homeless crisis, but because it will still fall far short of meeting an overwhelming need, state lawmakers and Congress must also provide aid, The Times’ editorial board writes.

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— Bulldoze L.A. freeways if you really want to tear down insidious monuments to racism and segregation, writes Matthew Fleischer.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— What exactly are “less lethal” weapons? They’re not innocuous. (Scientific American)

Permanent work from home is coming for a number of industries. It has its pluses and minuses. (NPR)

ONLY IN L.A.

Trees can solve so many problems. Anyone who has gotten lost in the intricate details of an ancient African Cape chestnut tree in Elysian Park or the thick bark of a coast live oak in La Cañada Flintridge knows they are magical. Here are 15 of our favorite places to find shade in L.A. this summer. Have a favorite of your own? Let us know and we’ll add it to the list.

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


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