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Newsletter: The virus doesn’t take a holiday

Fourth of July in San Diego
San Diego police officers patrol Mission Beach during the Fourth of July holiday. Because of the coronavirus crisis, the typical holiday crowd appeared to be smaller than in previous years.
(Nelvin C. Cepeda / San Diego Union-Tribune)

Over the long weekend, the California coronavirus outlook worsened.

TOP STORIES

The Virus Doesn’t Take a Holiday

The coronavirus numbers over the Fourth of July weekend did not look good: Hospitalizations continued to rise at a record pace; the number of intensive care unit patients with confirmed infections is up 63% over the last three weeks; and more counties were added to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s watch list, which is now at its highest level since the pandemic began.

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The rate at which coronavirus tests in California are coming back positive has also jumped 42% over the last two weeks, according to data published on the Los Angeles Times’ California coronavirus tracker. An increasing rate of positive test results is an indication that disease transmission is worsening.

Contra Costa County, in the San Francisco Bay Area, and rural Colusa County, northwest of Sacramento, were added Sunday to the list of regions being monitored for their rising case counts and increasing hospitalizations, bringing the number to 24. Marin, Monterey and San Diego counties joined the list Thursday.

Los Angeles County announced that on Friday 3,187 new cases of COVID-19 were reported — the highest daily total since the pandemic began.

Nationwide, the picture is also grim. Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in the Trump administration, said on CBS’s Face the Nation that “we’re right back where we were at the peak of the epidemic during the New York outbreak.”

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But Gottlieb said there’s a big difference now: “We really had one epicenter of spread when New York was going through its hardship. Now we really have four major epicenters of spread: Los Angeles, cities in Texas, cities in Florida, and Arizona.”

More Top Coronavirus Headlines

— More than 200 scientists say the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are ignoring the risk from aerosols, which can hang in the air for long periods and float dozens of feet, making poorly ventilated rooms, buses and other confined spaces dangerous, even when people stay six feet apart.

— The world economy is entering the second half of 2020 still deeply weighed down by the pandemic, with a full recovery now ruled out for this year and even a 2021 comeback dependent on a lot going right.

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— This hospital in Houston has quadrupled capacity yet is almost full as coronavirus cases in Texas grow.

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

‘American Carnage’ 2.0

President Trump spent the holiday weekend denigrating the racial-justice movement galvanized by George Floyd’s killing and playing down the deadly pandemic by falsely claiming that 99% of coronavirus cases are “completely harmless.”

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In a pair of divisive speeches delivered against backdrops meant to invoke traditional images of patriotism and national pride — the massive presidential monument at Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota on Friday and a fireworks-and-flyover celebration in the nation’s capital the next day — Trump hewed to a message aimed at his hard-line base.

He appeared to try further stoking the culture wars stemming from the Floyd protests, including the drive to take down statues of Confederate-era figures. Trump also said he would establish a “National Garden of American Heroes” with statues that will pay tribute to “the greatest Americans to ever live.” In his Washington, D.C., speech, the president called the largely peaceful protesters who rallied for weeks in cities across America “an angry mob” who are “not interested in justice or healing.”

By sharp contrast, former Vice President Joe Biden vowed in his Fourth of July message to “rip the roots of systemic racism out of this country,” saying the U.S. had never lived up to the statement in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal.”

When It Rains, It Pours

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In 126 years of record-keeping in California, there’s never been a drier February than the one we experienced this year. Yet the previous February was the third-wettest on record.

The extremes underscore how global warming is exaggerating the year-to-year swings in California precipitation, which is naturally the most variable in the country. But surprisingly, scientists have found that the dramatic ups and downs even out. Average precipitation is not declining.

Though overall precipitation may not significantly change, it will come in a different form and at different times. Rising temperatures are turning snow into rain, diminishing the mountain snowpack that functions as nature’s slow-release reservoir in the spring and early summer. Evaporation will increase.

How California should adapt is the subject of considerable debate and not a little controversy.

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OUR MUST-READS FROM THE WEEKEND

— A Times analysis shows that of the nearly 18 million calls logged by the Los Angeles Police Department since 2010, about 1.4 million of them, or less than 8%, were reports of violent crimes, which The Times defined as homicides, assaults with deadly weapons, robberies, batteries, shots fired and rape. By contrast, police responded to a greater number of traffic accidents and calls recorded as “minor disturbances.”

— As anti-Asian hate incidents explode, climbing past 800 in California this year, advocates pushing for Newsom to boost funding for programs fighting bias and add a cultural representative to his new COVID-19 task force.

— Floyd’s death has inspired a movement in Indonesia: Papuan Lives Matter.

— Some say USC must “reckon with its history of white supremacy” in its namesake sites.

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Hollywood’s C-suites are overwhelmingly white. What are studios doing about it?

FROM THE ARCHIVES

Painting the Hollywood Bowl shell is a tall order, as this photo from 1935 shows.

On this date in 1935, the Los Angeles Times reported: “Martin Sipma, who has painted the shell of the world’s largest outdoor theater stage twice since it was built in 1927, donned a huge straw hat to keep paint from his face, took his spray-gun in hand and mounted to the top of a forty-foot high ladder-scaffold to redecorate the ceiling of the oval structure.”

“When he finishes the job, thousands of names scribbled by tourists from all parts of the world on the walls of the structure will be obliterated.”

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July 5, 1935: The Hollywood Bowl shell gets a new coat of paint for the first time in three years.
(Los Angeles Times Archive / UCLA)

CALIFORNIA

— With officials canceling Fourth of July fireworks displays because of the coronavirus outbreak, many in Los Angeles County decided to put on their own show — leading to dramatic increases in air pollution and calls for emergency services.

— Big surf and high tide hit Balboa Peninsula with flooding this weekend. The idyllic oceanfront community in Orange County has increasingly come face-to-face with sea level rise.

— A fast-growing brush fire near the Angeles National Forest spurred evacuations and a freeway closure in Santa Clarita amid hot and dry conditions in the area.

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Joshua trees could be listed as an endangered species. Some people in the high desert town of Yucca Valley say that would be an economic catastrophe.

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NATION-WORLD

— Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is making his first official visit to Washington to meet with Trump this week. The planned trip has ignited fierce controversy on both sides of the border.

— A loose network of Facebook groups that took root across the country in April to organize protests over coronavirus stay-at-home orders has become a hub of misinformation and conspiracy theories that have pivoted to new targets. Their latest: Black Lives Matter and the nationwide protests of racial injustice.

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— In southern Japan, deep floodwaters and mudslides left more than 30 people confirmed or presumed dead and hampered search and rescue operations.

Iran has confirmed that a damaged building at an underground nuclear site was a new centrifuge assembly center.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— Oscar-winning film composer Ennio Morricone, who came to prominence with the Italian western “A Fistful of Dollars” and went on to write some of the most celebrated movie scores of all time, has died. He was 91.

— Actor Nick Cordero, who appeared in the Broadway productions “Rock of Ages,” “Waitress,” “Bullets Over Broadway” and “A Bronx Tale: The Musical,” has died at 41 after a long and difficult battle with COVID-19.

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Pop Smoke’s new album was supposed to herald a new era of New York rap. Instead, after the rapper was shot and killed in February, it can’t do much more than hint at what his life and career should have been.

— The film version of “Hamilton” is on Disney+. Here’s how showstopper Renée Elise Goldsberry nailed the song “Satisfied.”

— Why is the “Unsolved Mysteries” theme song so creepy? We asked the experts.

BUSINESS

— With continued surges in the coronavirus, San Diego’s hospitality industry could soon be facing an indoor dining ban.

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RV rentals are red hot. Here’s how you could put your RV or camping gear to work by renting them out.

SPORTS

— If the NBA can pull off a restart, these three young stars will get their chance at the spotlight.

— The focus for the Dodgers and the Angels on their first day of training is on safety, not the World Series.

Free online games

Get our free daily crossword puzzle, sudoku, word search and arcade games in our new game center at latimes.com/games.

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OPINION

— With Nov. 3 looming, Trump is more dangerous than ever, The Times editorial board writes. America, don’t let your guard down.

— Should a former Black church in Venice be turned into a mansion for a white family?

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— How six health specialists, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, deal with COVID-19 risks in their everyday lives. (Washington Post)

South Korea’s trust in the U.S. has been badly shaken by Trump. (Foreign Affairs)

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ONLY IN L.A.

For nearly three years, a mural of Jonathan Park’s face adorned a wall outside Catalina Liquor in Koreatown, his home and the neighborhood he’s become inseparably tied to as the rapper Dumbfoundead. The artwork was the backdrop to Park’s 2016 “Murals” music video. But when Park learned taggers had scrawled over the mural last summer, he did not lament. It was time for a new beginning.

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


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