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Newsletter: Some hospitals feel the strain

A nurse wearing protective gear screens a pregnant patient in the OB triage tent at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center
Nurse Janil Wise, left, screens patient Sarah Bodle, who is pregnant and was exposed to a person with COVID-19, in the obstetrics triage tent at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

With coronavirus hospitalizations in California at a record high, doctors and nurses at some hospitals say they feel overwhelmed.

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Some Hospitals Feel the Strain

For months, California hospitals avoided the dreaded surge in coronavirus patients that threatened to overwhelm wards and stretch thin staff and supplies. But now, with coronavirus hospitalizations in the state at an all-time high, doctors and nurses at some hospitals say the nightmare for them has arrived, even if projections suggest the hospital system as a whole will be able to handle the demand.

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Hospitals up and down the state report that their beds are filling up fast, staffers are tiring, and medications such as remdesivir are running low. The surge has hit California unevenly, with some facilities reporting their numbers staying flat in recent weeks, while others have risen sharply.

The months since March allowed hospitals time to prepare for such a surge. Doctors learned more about how to treat COVID-19 patients, hospital administrators obtained more protective gear, and staffers know more about how the coronavirus is transmitted and how to protect themselves. But some nurses say they are receiving inadequate protective gear and they fear falling ill.

And many healthcare workers say they feel frustrated by seeing people leave their homes without masks and not taking the virus seriously. The dire consequences of their actions, they note, are playing out on their hospital wards.

More Top Coronavirus Headlines

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— Scientists have devised a way to use the antibody-rich blood plasma of COVID-19 survivors for an injection that they say could inoculate people against the virus for months. But federal officials have rejected requests to discuss the proposal, and pharmaceutical companies — even acknowledging the likely efficacy of the plan — have declined to design or manufacture the shots, according to a Times investigation.

— In the early days of the outbreak, California found itself unprepared, overwhelmed and constantly lagging in testing, a Times investigation has found. Those early failures left the state far behind in the fight against the coronavirus, and it has struggled to keep up — even as cases surge today. Over the weekend, the death toll in the state rose above 7,000.

— Education Secretary Betsy DeVos claimed on “Fox News Sunday” that “nothing in the data” suggest children being in school is “in any way dangerous” — an assertion challenged by a top public health official on the same program. She also repeated a threat to cut funding to schools that don’t fully resume in-person learning.

President Trump wore a mask during a visit to a military hospital. Despite health officials urging the use of facial coverings to stop the spread of a disease that has killed more than 134,000 people in the U.S., it was the first time Trump has been seen in public wearing one. But will it help change the minds of those who refuse to wear one?

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President Trump wears a mask during a visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., on Saturday.
(Patrick Semansky / Associated Press)

Florida shattered the national record for a state’s largest single-day increase in positive cases with more than 15,000.

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

Freeing Roger Stone

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Trump had long hinted that he would grant clemency to his longtime confident Roger Stone, the political dirty trickster who was found guilty last year of seven felony counts, including witness tampering and lying to Congress during the Russia investigation. On Friday night, he did it: commuting Stone’s sentence days before Stone was supposed to report to prison to start serving 40 months behind bars. Unlike a pardon, a sentence commutation does not erase the conviction.

The decision prompted outrage among Democrats and a few Republicans in Washington, and it marks the latest effort by Trump and his administration to undo the work of former Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who successfully prosecuted several members of the president’s inner circle as part of his investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

It also prompted the famously tight-lipped Mueller to break his silence. “Stone was prosecuted and convicted because he committed federal crimes. He remains a convicted felon, and rightly so,” Mueller wrote in a Washington Post op-ed that marked his most ardent defense of his two-year probe and his first public remarks since he testified to Congress last July.

Arrested Over a Blank Sheet of Paper

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Less than two weeks under a new national security law enacted by Beijing, Hong Kong residents already feel a curtain of control falling over a city that for so long had been a brash and defiant home to intellectuals, capitalists, artists and pro-democracy activists.

Mass protests consumed the semiautonomous former British colony much of last year. Now the central Chinese government is imposing its will to stop what it calls “secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces.”

Suddenly, words and even the imagined intent behind them have become crimes. Hundreds of people have been arrested for unlawful assembly since the law came into effect, some charged with violations including carrying items bearing protest slogans and Bible verses. The word “conscience” printed on a sticker can get you into trouble. Even holding up blank white sheets of paper can result in arrest.

OUR MUST-READS FROM THE WEEKEND

— These 10 Californians lost work to the coronavirus. Here’s how they’re hustling to get by.

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— They worked in the U.S. on visas, but the coronavirus and Trump’s new order split apart these families from India.

— A Black woman sat on the grass outside an L.A. church. The cold welcome she recorded speaks volumes.

— Incoming UC President Michael V. Drake talks hip-hop, civil rights and climate change.

— Film producer Steve Bing’s death by suicide shook the worlds of entertainment, Democratic politics and social activism.

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FROM THE ARCHIVES

How did a statue of a seated Abraham Lincoln end up along the Los Angeles River flood channel in Studio City? It wasn’t the work of “Radical Left anarchists.” Instead, this part of a replica of the Lincoln Memorial was among the cast-off movie props from the backlot of the Republic Pictures film studio. The photo below appeared in the Los Angeles Times on July 16, 1956.

July 1956: Part of a replica of the Lincoln Memorial overlooks the L.A. River in Studio City.
(Los Angeles Times Archive / UCLA)

CALIFORNIA

— Investigators are continuing to search for the cause of a fire that erupted at the San Gabriel Mission and destroyed the roof and much of the interior of the 215-year-old church building. The destruction resonated for a wide range of reasons.

— An L.A. police officer charged last week with falsifying records and obstructing justice in the LAPD’s gang-framing scandal was allowed to work in an elite division even though questions were raised about his credibility five years ago, according to records reviewed by The Times.

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— A three-alarm fire aboard the amphibious assault ship Bonhomme Richard injured sailors and civilians as multiple agencies responded to the blaze at Naval Base San Diego.

— Authorities continued to search for the body of actress Naya Rivera, who is believed to have drowned while boating with her young son on Lake Piru in Ventura County.

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NATION-WORLD

— A federal appeals court has ruled that the first federal execution in nearly two decades can proceed as scheduled Monday in Indiana.

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Iran says a misaligned missile battery, miscommunication between troops and commanders, and a decision to fire without authorization led to its Revolutionary Guard shooting down a Ukrainian jetliner in January, killing all 176 people aboard.

— The survivors of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s 1995 Srebrenica massacre remembered the victims of Europe’s only acknowledged genocide since World War II and warned of the perpetrators’ persistent refusal to fully acknowledge their responsibility.

— An airport construction site 30 miles north of Mexico City has yielded an immense cache of bones from one of prehistory’s most storied creatures — the mammoth, extinct kin of the modern-day elephant.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— Actress Kelly Preston, whose credits included the films “Twins” and “Jerry Maguire,” died Sunday, her husband, John Travolta, said. She was 57.

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— Drive-ins are doing brisk business, but indoor theaters are struggling to open because of the coronavirus and to draw audiences because of a lack of new Hollywood films. That could threaten their very existence.

— With “Hamilton” now a movie, an old debate reignites about who tells its story.

— Have you seen the film “Palm Springs” and wondered about the ending? Here’s an explanation.

BUSINESS

— Authorities say a coronavirus outbreak has struck Los Angeles Apparel, with more than 300 infections and four virus-related deaths among the manufacturer’s workers.

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— Hedge fund Chatham Asset Management plans to buy newspaper publisher McClatchy out of bankruptcy, ending 163 years of family control.

SPORTS

LeBron James is in Orlando, Fla., for the attempt to pull off an NBA season. He has a message, and it won’t be on the back of his jersey.

Francisco Herrera has been a Dodgers clubhouse attendant, but in scrimmages these days he’s playing left field. Known as Chico, he’s been the man.

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

— Is the California dream finished? The authors of a new report on the middle class say power and money are increasingly concentrated and upward mobility is constrained, while shocking levels of poverty persist.

— Filmmaker Stanley Nelson on why we need Black filmmakers to tell the story of 2020.

Cancel culture is as American as apple pie, writes Erin B. Logan.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— The White House is seeking to discredit Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading infectious disease expert, as he raises alarm about the coronavirus’ spread. (NBC News)

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— Trump says a privately funded border wall was meant to make him look bad. The funders are Trump supporters and the builder got $1.7 billion in wall contracts from his administration. (Texas Tribune)

ONLY IN L.A.

Ron Finley, the self-proclaimed Gangsta Gardener, has been famous for years. But his new online MasterClass in gardening rolled out in April, when a national craze for gardening, and then outrage over police violence and systemic racism, brought a whole new audience to the pulpit where Finley has been preaching for a decade. His message? Empowerment through growing our own food. “We’ve got to make [gardening] sexy, as sexy as cigarettes, weed, alcohol and McDonald’s,” he says from his West Adams home.

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


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