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Newsletter: Florida’s state of confusion

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gives an update on the state’s response to the coronavirus crisis during a news conference in Orlando on July 10.
(Joe Burbank / Associated Press)

As the coronavirus surges in the U.S., Florida now has a dubious distinction — and not much of a response from the state government.

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Florida’s State of Confusion

Florida is now the U.S. epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the last week, it reported more than 80,000 new cases, well ahead of California and Texas, two much larger states that are also struggling to contain the virus.

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Yet in much of Florida, the response to the crisis has been little more than a shrug. Disney World has reopened, restaurants and shopping malls are crowded, and Gov. Ron DeSantis has invited four professional sports leagues and the Republican National Convention.

Over the last month, Florida has seen its caseload jump from fewer than 90,000 to more than 350,000. The death toll has climbed from 3,104 to 4,982, the eighth highest in the country. At least 54 hospitals across Florida have reported that their intensive care wards are full. One person in Florida is dying of COVID-19 about every 14 minutes now.

DeSantis has blamed the failure to contain the virus on the media, Latino day laborers, expanded testing, young people and parties, among other things. On Wednesday, he said delayed test results were the problem. Yet even as the numbers surged, DeSantis pledged not to impose new shelter-in-place rules, began pushing for schools to reopen and refused calls to issue a statewide order mandating face coverings in public.

“It’s, it’s … I don’t even know how to describe it,” said Carl Hiaasen, the award-winning crime writer.

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More Top Coronavirus Headlines

— Active-duty U.S. Air Force doctors, nurses and other medical providers are being sent to work in California hospitals to assist with a steep rise in coronavirus cases that has strained some healthcare systems.

— L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said the city reopened too quickly and again warned that he is close to imposing some type of new stay-at-home order.

— In L.A. County, Pacific Islanders suffer the highest infection rate of any racial or ethnic group, more than 2,500 per 100,000 residents.

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— Officials say 15 children in L.A. County have been found to have a rare but serious and potentially deadly inflammatory syndrome believed to be associated with the coronavirus.

— Members of Congress return to Washington today to take on the next coronavirus relief package.

— The director of the National Institutes of Health said it’s “bizarre” that mask-wearing has become a partisan issue in the U.S., and the “divide between different political perspectives” is making it harder to curb the coronavirus.

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

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‘I’m Not Losing’

As he did in 2016, President Trump has refused again to promise that he will accept the results of November’s presidential election. “I have to see,” he told Chris Wallace in an interview on Fox News. “I’m not going to just say ‘yes.’ I’m not going to say ‘no,’ and I didn’t last time either.”

Trump’s presumptive opponent, Joe Biden, often shrugs off the president’s broadsides. But Biden aides offered an acerbic response to Trump’s suggestion he might not leave office willingly if voters reject him: “The American people will decide this election. And the United States government is perfectly capable of escorting trespassers out of the White House.”

Public opinion polls show that Trump’s standing with voters has plummeted over his handling of the worsening coronavirus outbreak. “I’m not losing, because those are fake polls,” the president said.

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During the interview, Trump boasted inaccurately that the U.S. had the “best” coronavirus mortality rate; denigrated the government’s top infectious-disease specialist, Dr. Anthony Fauci; and with nearly 140,000 Americans dead from COVID-19, said, “I’ll be right eventually. I will be right eventually. You know I said, ‘It’s going to disappear.’ I’ll say it again. ... It’s going to disappear. And I’ll be right.”

A Legacy of ‘Good Trouble’

The death of civil rights icon John Lewis at age 80 on Friday has prompted an outpouring of tributes, a combination of mournful praise by figures who had known him for decades and by a younger generation of Black people — and calls to action as the nation faces a fresh reckoning with persistent racism a half-century after his pioneering protests for Black equality.

Lewis made an early mark as a young leader of the 1960s civil rights struggle, helping to lead the 1963 March on Washington, suffering wounds from a police beating in Selma, Ala., in 1965, and enduring dozens of arrests. He called it engaging in “good trouble, necessary trouble” — a phrase that he would repeat for decades, including while serving as a House of Representatives member from Georgia from 1987 to his death. His last appearance was at a Washington protest in early June after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.

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“Lewis wasn’t just about helping Black people relax the pain,” writes columnist LZ Granderson. “He was also about ending the hurt. This is why he was such a huge proponent of voting, which he often referred to as our greatest weapon.”

Looking to Change Its Reputation

UC Berkeley is known for its top academic rankings and history of progressive activism, but it has another reputation: It’s long been known as having the worst campus climate for Black students in the University of California system.

That prompted campus officials to make what they describe as their most concerted effort ever to improve diversity and combat anti-Blackness and racism, including changes to admissions, increased financial aid, expanded student support and new communal spaces.

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The efforts are paying off. Last week, Berkeley announced it had accepted the largest number of Black students in three decades, accounting for 5% of the admitted California freshmen class. The figure is close to mirroring the proportion of California high school graduates who are Black, 5.3%, but it’s too early to know how many students will actually enroll.

The Girl at the Train Station

Sitting on a suitcase in L.A.'s Union Station, waiting to be hauled off to Manzanar with her mom, the 2-year-old girl was the very picture of uncertainty. Ahead lay years behind barbed wire fencing in the Owens Valley along with thousands of other people of Japanese descent, as America was pulled into World War II.

The photograph is hard to miss in the visitors center at the Manzanar National Historic Site and seems to prompt the same questions from visitors: Who was this child? What happened to her?

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Here is the story of Yuki Okinaga Hayakawa Llewellyn, who would go on to marry, have a son, become a college dean, write a cookbook and much more. She died in March at age 80.

OUR MUST-READS FROM THE WEEKEND

Gasping, afraid, alone. Columnist Steve Lopez goes into what it’s like to die a COVID-19 death.

— California Gov. Gavin Newsom began reopening businesses before meeting his own benchmarks for testing and contact tracing.

St. Paul’s First Lutheran Church in North Hollywood seeks healing after a “violent and racist” trauma.

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— She was known as a “top shot.” Now an L.A. cop is at the center of a deadly shooting.

— A New York writer asked L.A. Twitter where she should live. It didn’t go well.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

On this date in 1969, the United States put a person on the moon for the first time, inspiring wonder and amazement in many who witnessed the historic event. Last year, on the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, we asked our readers what memories stuck with them.

“I rarely watched TV with my parents, but that night I sat in the den with both my parents and held my breath, along with the world, as Apollo 11 began the descent to the moon’s surface,” begins one.

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“It was a very exciting day, not only because of the moon landing. My younger sister and I were thrilled by the unexpected birth of three baby guinea pigs,” begins another.

Read them all here.

The Apollo 11 moon landing
In this July 20, 1969, image made from television, Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong, right, trudges across the surface of the moon. Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin is seen closer to the craft.
(NASA )

CALIFORNIA

— The antiracism movement in L.A. County is moving from protest marches to the halls of power. On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors is slated to begin debate over a proposal aimed at strengthening county efforts to address racial inequality.

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Cannabis farmers in the town of Anza say they want to go legit, but the raids keep coming.

— The longtime San Diego battle between beachgoers and the neighborhoods where they park has risen to a new level this summer in La Jolla Shores, where someone illegally painted red a 150-foot stretch of curb.

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NATION-WORLD

— Undeterred by civil rights lawsuits and pleas from local officials to stand down, federal agents in camouflage continued their crackdown against demonstrators in Portland, Ore. But a woman wearing nothing but a black face mask and a stocking cap delivered a striking protest before the dozen heavily armed agents she confronted left.

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— A gunman shot and killed the 20-year-old son of a federal judge in New Jersey and shot and injured her husband at the family home, the state’s chief district judge said.

Roger Stone, a political operative whose 40-month prison sentence was commuted by his longtime friend Trump, used the words “arguing with this Negro” on the air while verbally sparring with Morris O’Kelly, an L.A.-based Black radio host. Stone then said he had not.

— A Jerusalem court decided that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial will resume in earnest in January. Netanyahu also faces widespread anger over his government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

“Indian Matchmaking,” Netflix’s eye-opening look at arranged marriage could perhaps become your next reality TV obsession.

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— The Silver Lake indie music club the Satellite will return to its restaurant roots because the coronavirus has put live music performances on hold.

— Rapper Kanye West, in his first event since declaring himself a presidential candidate, ranted against Harriet Tubman, saying the Underground Railroad conductor “never actually freed the slaves, she just had them work for other white people.”

BUSINESS

— Many Black Americans were already facing a housing crisis. Then the pandemic made things worse.

— The White House is considering putting TikTok on a list that would effectively prevent Americans from using the popular video app, as one option to prevent China from obtaining users’ personal data.

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SPORTS

Major League Baseball is set to come back this week. Broadcasters will call games they see only on TV. Vin Scully and Ronald Reagan called games they could not see at all.

— Pro sports leagues are scoring rapid COVID test results in Florida, while others wait days or more than a week.

Free online games

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

OPINION

— “As a restaurant server, I’m risking my life to serve you during the pandemic. Please remember that.”

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L.A. Unified’s new challenge: getting students to show up for online classes.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— Navy veteran Chris David of Portland, Ore., said he wanted to talk to federal officers about their oath. Instead, he was struck repeatedly by their batons — and stood there like a rock. (Portland Tribune)

— Broadcast ratings for nearly all of NPR‘s radio shows collapsed in major markets this spring, as the pandemic kept many Americans from commuting to work and school. (NPR)

ONLY IN L.A.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had a long career playing basketball in L.A., but it wasn’t until he retired and began a second career as a writer that he “learned how one area — Central Avenue — played a vital role in shaping both African American history and American popular culture. It was a revelation — and an inspiration.” Let him be your guide to the history of L.A.'s jazz oasis.

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


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