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Newsletter: California’s turn for the worse

Customers at Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles
Customers at Grand Central Market in downtown L.A. on June 25. A surge in coronavirus cases is prompting officials to issue more warnings about taking proper precautions.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Once again, there are dire warnings in California about coronavirus cases and the capacity of hospitals to deal with them.

TOP STORIES

California’s Turn for the Worse

In the coronavirus crisis, it was one of health officials’ biggest fears: that reopening would coincide with sudden jumps in disease transmission that have the potential to overwhelm public and private hospitals. In parts of California, those fears are beginning to be realized.

Some of the worst outbreaks are in Imperial and Riverside counties, where ICU beds are nearly full. With a predicted increase in hospitalizations, for the first time since the coronavirus crisis seemed to ease locally, Los Angeles County is now projecting the possibility of running out of hospital beds in two to three weeks. Likewise, the number of intensive care unit beds in the county could be exhausted sometime in July.

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Statewide, Gov. Gavin Newsom said, there are about 30,000 hospital beds available for COVID-19 patients in the traditional hospital system, including about 3,300 available ICU beds, but the beds are unevenly distributed throughout the state. As of Monday, he said, 4,776 people were hospitalized with a confirmed case of the virus — up 43% in the last two weeks.

That rapid increase in the coronavirus numbers prompted Newsom to close bars in seven counties earlier this week, and he warned that the state will continue to pull back on reopening as needed.

On Monday, L.A. County confirmed 22 additional coronavirus-related deaths and 2,903 new COVID-19 cases, the largest single-day number of new infections the county has reported since the pandemic hit the U.S. As a result of the spike, L.A. County will close its beaches Friday and ban fireworks displays in anticipation of the Fourth of July holiday.

The worsening situation in California has left numerous health officials feeling frustrated and fearful. Many said that while hospital capacity has increased, and more is known about how to treat the disease, those on the front lines still face shortages, stress and chagrin that the public is not taking precautions such as wearing face coverings and avoiding large gatherings. Likewise, many businesses haven’t been adhering to health orders.

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Not helping matters: the politicization and divisiveness surrounding masks and other COVID-19 control measures.

More Top Coronavirus Headlines

Memorial Day was the beginning of California’s turn from coronavirus success story to cautionary tale. A Los Angeles Times analysis has found that new coronavirus hospitalizations in California began accelerating around June 15 at a rate not seen since early April.

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— Not everyone sees Newsom’s order requiring all Californians to wear face masks as welcome news. Since shortly after the outbreak began, Newsom has faced criticism from some over his ample use of executive authority during the COVID-19 pandemic.

— The pandemic’s toll: Our ongoing collection of obituaries of Californians who’ve died.

— In pictures: Drive-through graduation ceremonies are a rite of passage.

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

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A Surprise Setback to Abortion Opponents

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joined the Supreme Court’s liberal justices to deal a surprising setback to abortion opponents, striking down a restrictive Louisiana abortion law and reaffirming the court’s past rulings that have upheld a woman’s right to choose.

By a 5-4 vote, the court threw out a Louisiana law that would have required abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. If put into effect, it was expected to result in the closing of all but one of the state’s abortion providers.

It was the court’s first abortion ruling since President Trump’s two appointees took their seats, and it dashed hopes of abortion opponents who expected the more conservative court to move to repeal Roe vs. Wade, or at least give states more power to narrow it.

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Anti-abortion advocates cast the loss in political terms, saying the ruling underscored the need to reelect Trump in November. Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, said the election would be critical to protecting abortion rights.

More Questions About Bounties

The Associated Press is reporting that top officials in the White House were aware in early 2019 of classified intelligence indicating Russia was secretly offering bounties to the Taliban for the deaths of Americans, a full year earlier than has been previously reported, according to U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the intelligence.

The assessment was included in at least one of Trump’s written daily intelligence briefings at the time, according to the officials. Then-national security advisor John Bolton also told colleagues he briefed Trump on the intelligence assessment in March 2019.

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The White House did not respond to questions about Trump or other officials’ awareness of Russia’s provocations in 2019. The White House has said Trump was not — and still has not been — briefed on the intelligence assessments because they have not been fully verified. However, it is rare for intelligence to be confirmed without a shadow of a doubt before it is presented to top officials.

Members of Congress in both parties called for additional information and consequences for Russia and its president.

Beijing Tightens Its Grip

China has approved a sweeping new national security law for Hong Kong aimed at crushing dissent in a city where millions protested over the past year demanding greater autonomy from Beijing.

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The law drastically changes the complexion of Hong Kong society, which has long enjoyed special freedoms absent from the mainland that for decades have contributed to the city’s status as a global financial hub and a cosmopolitan redoubt for expats.

The unanimous passage of the law by China’s top legislature veers Beijing’s relationship with other major powers into deeper uncertainty. In just the past few months, China has taken a more confrontational nationalist stance with Taiwan, India, Australia and what analysts are calling a new Cold War with the U.S.

A Healthy Dialogue or Not?

At a quietly publicized roundtable in mid-June at the Abundant Life Christian Church, about two dozen pastors, gang interventionists and other community members met with L.A. Police Chief Michel Moore in an effort to increase mutual understanding in the aftermath of the George Floyd protests. Some leaders of the Black community call such meetings with law enforcement critical to rebuilding relationships and battling misconceptions.

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But others have firmly rejected the idea of dialogue. These activists say that conversations with police will not lead to sweeping change in public safety, and that rather than attempt to reform the system from within, talks should occur with City Hall officials.

“We absolutely do not need to be sitting down and meeting with police,” said Melina Abdullah, co-founder of Black Lives Matter in L.A. “It’s not a reformable system — developing dialogue is the last thing we should be doing. We’re looking to reimagine public safety, not to buy into the existing system.”

FROM THE ARCHIVES

In June 1935, animal trainer C.W. Webber could be seen taking a trained bear named Muni for walks, sometimes past a beer parlor at Avenue 58 and North Figueroa Street. And among Muni’s skills was the ability to drink from a bottle of sugar water.

On June 29, a misunderstanding led to a write-up in the next day’s Times when the authorities were called about a “drunk bear at a beer parlor.” According to The Times, “somebody had seen Muni standing erect in a beer parlor drinking from a bottle held between his mighty forepaws.” Webber told officers he had just stopped for a beer for himself, while Muni refueled with sugar water from his bottle.

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Muni the Bear, standing on his hind legs, drinks sugar water from a glass bottle
June 29, 1935: Muni the Bear, standing on his hind legs, drinks sugar water from a glass bottle.
(Los Angeles Times)

CALIFORNIA

— The state’s budget bill sets new accountability rules for distance learning by requiring teachers to take online attendance and document student learning.

— Before the pandemic, UCLA Health’s 3 Wishes Project sought to make the end of life more dignified and personalized by fulfilling small requests for dying patients and their families. Now it’s meeting the demands of the coronavirus crisis.

— Some homeowners were already struggling to pay PACE home improvement loans. Then the coronavirus took their incomes and savings.

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— Joseph James DeAngelo Jr., a 74-year-old former police officer accused of terrorizing California as the Golden State Killer, pleaded guilty to a long list of charges in a university ballroom turned courtroom at Cal State Sacramento.

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NATION-WORLD

— The Supreme Court has given the president the power to fire the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau at will.

— The U.N. humanitarian chief warned that a halt to cross-border aid deliveries to the last rebel stronghold in Syria would cause suffering and death, but Syria’s ally Russia accused the U.N. and Western nations of trying to sabotage assistance from within Syria.

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— The Chinese government is taking draconian measures to slash birth rates among Uighurs and other minorities as part of a sweeping campaign to curb its Muslim population, even as it encourages some of the country’s Han majority to have more children.

Poland’s conservative president won the first round of the country’s election, but fell short of victory. He now faces a runoff with a centrist candidate.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— Hollywood put up plenty of obstacles. But the Showtime drama “Soul Food” still became a Black TV pioneer, bursting into prime time 20 years ago.

— At the BET Awards, racial upheaval and COVID-19 add potency and portent, our pop music critic says.

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— WarnerMedia is putting CNN Center, the longtime Atlanta-based facility for the cable news network, up for sale. But employees will remain in the city.

— A limited series based on Colin Kaepernick’s high school years is coming to Netflix.

BUSINESS

Twitch and Reddit have banned content linked to Trump for violating their rules against encouraging hate.

— Hugo’s Tacos has temporarily closed its two locations in L.A. after employees reported an onslaught of harassment from customers angered by the business’ “no mask, no service” policy.

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SPORTS

Mike Leake, Ryan Zimmerman and Joe Ross are the first Major League Baseball players to opt out of the season.

— Tensions are growing as high school teams continue workouts amid the coronavirus.

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OPINION

— A virus is raging and the political discourse is so ugly and raw that it has manifested in dangerous defiance of steps to keep neighbors safe. The Times’ editorial board says: United we stand; divided we fall — to the coronavirus.

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— The coronavirus drove a boom in virtual content, including virtual art galleries and live DJ sessions. Now it’s time for copyright law to catch up, writes lawyer Edward Klaris.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— Carl Bernstein reports on Trump’s phone calls with leaders of other countries. They have alarmed U.S. officials. (CNN)

— A century after the Negro Leagues’ inaugural season, Oscar Charleston, its brightest star, is honored. (The Undefeated)

ONLY IN L.A.

One place has been a Hollywood fixture for more than 30 years and it’s the kind of place where staffers will carry your Monstera deliciosa out to your car for you while offering care tips. At another, every plant, from Peperomia ferreyraeto to staghorn ferns, comes with a care card written by the owner. If you’ve decided it’s time for another houseplant in your life, check out our 14 favorite places to shop for them in L.A. — and offer your own recommendation.

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


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