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Newsletter: Inside California’s coronavirus surge

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How did California end up surpassing New York in coronavirus cases?

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Inside California’s Coronavirus Surge

California recorded some of the first COVID-19 cases in the United States and the country’s first known death. It responded with the nation’s initial stay-at-home order. Now, it claims another dubious distinction: more confirmed coronavirus cases than any other state.

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California passed New York for that record Wednesday morning, reaching more than 409,000 cases and eclipsing New York’s 408,886, according to the Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins University.

California is No. 1 in part because it is the most populous state, but also because millions of residents have been unwilling, or unable, to practice the social distancing and mask-wearing that public health experts say are the best measures to keep SARS-CoV-2 somewhat in check.

“I think we started to exit shelter-in-place sometime around Memorial Day both emotionally and physically. And we are paying the price for that,” said Nicholas Jewell, a biostatistics authority at UC Berkeley. “It’s like we should be tip-toeing out on the ice. What we did, instead, was all run out on the ice, some not too cautiously. And a lot of people fell through the ice.”

Though it passed New York in the total number afflicted, California has tallied just over 8,000 deaths from COVID-19, less than a third the death toll in New York.

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As in other states, some of California’s biggest outbreaks have been in elder care facilities, prisons and meatpacking plants. But the disease has spread to places without such confined spaces, such as Mono County, where restaurant workers have been among the most commonly afflicted.

More Top Coronavirus Headlines

— California Gov. Gavin Newsom said officials are redoubling efforts to secure protective gear and are preparing to expand the number of available hospital beds to handle a surge in patients.

— A conservative group that has fought California’s stay-at-home orders is suing Newsom over his school-closure mandate for counties with high rates of COVID-19.

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— The U.S. has signed a $1.95-billion deal with Pfizer for the December delivery of the first 100 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine the pharmaceutical giant is working to develop. Officials said the vaccine “would, of course, have to be safe and effective,” as well as FDA approved.

— The predictions were dire: Coronavirus lockdowns would put millions of Americans out of work, stripping them of their health insurance and pushing them into Medicaid, the health insurance program for low-income people. But July is almost over and that hasn’t happened yet in California.

— What happens to the U.S. economy if the $600 federal unemployment benefit ends? As lockdowns return, lawmakers are trying to predict the future.

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

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Trump’s Push Into Cities

President Trump, claiming that “bloodshed” has hit U.S. cities during weeks of protests over police violence, said that he will deploy a “surge of federal law enforcement” to Chicago and Albuquerque, describing them as “American communities plagued by violent crime.”

Trump claimed “hundreds” of federal agents from five agencies would be deployed to Chicago, following the deployment earlier this month of officers to Portland, Ore. He also announced $61 million in Justice Department grants to hire additional police officers.

City officials and Democratic leaders denounced Trump’s move, saying that he was conflating two entirely different issues — a rise in homicides in some cities, including Chicago, and protests in others, such as Portland, where the state of Oregon is seeking in court to limit agents — and laying the groundwork for a militarized federal response that would not help either situation.

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The escalation marks the continuation of a political strategy by the president, whose low marks from voters for his response to the coronavirus crisis have him on track to lose his bid for reelection, according to numerous polls. As that has happened, he has sought to reorient his campaign around a “law and order” message.

But while federal incursions into cities are an attention-grabbing if constitutionally dubious extension of federal power, they fit into Trump’s overall strategy of using warnings of violence and barely concealed racial code words in an effort to appeal to white voters.

Reckoning With the Past and Present

As U.S. companies, politicians and institutions seek to atone for a history of systemic racism, the environmental movement is also grappling with a past built on white supremacy and a glaring lack of diversity in its current rank and file.

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On Wednesday morning, the Sierra Club‘s executive director wrote about the organization’s problematic history — from cofounder John Muir‘s racist statements about Black and Indigenous people, to its affiliation with the eugenics movement, and its current, predominantly white membership and sentimentality.

“Willful ignorance is what allows some people to shut their eyes to the reality that the wild places we love are also the ancestral homelands of Native peoples, forced off their lands in the decades or centuries before they became national parks,” the executive director wrote. It is this ignorance, he said, that “allows them to overlook, too, the fact that only people insulated from systemic racism and brutality can afford to focus solely on preserving wilderness.”

It’s not the first time the legacy of Muir — the father of the national park system — has come under scrutiny.

Memories of ‘Barrio Baseball’

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At long last, the Major League Baseball season will get underway today, including a game in Los Angeles between the Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants. But for some, opening day is a reminder of the city’s baseball history before the Dodgers moved to L.A.

In the years after World War II, a loose affiliation of amateur and semiprofessional teams played nearly every weekend throughout Southern California and Northern Mexico. Nowhere were those games bigger than in East L.A., which was transitioning from being the second-largest Jewish community west of Chicago to the single-largest concentration of Mexican Americans in the country — and not part of the minor league action of the era.

The emerging Latino neighborhoods of East L.A. and Boyle Heights, made up of native-born Chicanos and Mexican-born immigrants, were split by language and culture and needed something to unify them. That was baseball.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

In July 1986, protesters conducted a series of demonstrations against the proposed sale of two parcels of land: 31 acres of a 164-acre Veterans Administration hospital property on Sepulveda and 80 acres of a 442-acre VA complex adjoining Westwood. The proposed sale was part of a national asset sale aimed at reducing the federal deficit.

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On July 23, World War II veteran Emmet Burke, 72, Korean War vet Charles Alderson, 52, and World War I vet Jack Coopersmith, 94, joined the protests, as captured by a Times photographer.

Congress ultimately blocked the sale.

Veterans
July 23, 1986: World War II veteran Emmet Burke, left, joins Korean War vet Charles Alderson, center, and World War I vet Jack Coopersmith during a protest against the sale of Veterans Administration land in West Los Angeles. The sale was later blocked.
( Thomas Kelsey / Los Angeles Times )

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CALIFORNIA

— State geologists have concluded there is strong evidence that an earthquake fault runs along the site of a skyscraper development slated for Hollywood, records obtained by The Times show.

— In the first major change to general education across its system in decades, all 430,000 undergraduates attending Cal State universities must take an ethnic studies or social justice course, starting in the 2023-24 academic year.

— California GOP leaders will consider ousting two state party members who are leaders of an anti-Trump group supporting the presidential candidacy of Democrat Joe Biden, according to interviews.

— With most schools closed for the foreseeable future, families with financial resources are rushing to hire tutors and teachers to augment distance learning. But not everyone can afford to.

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NATION-WORLD

— The U.S. has abruptly ordered China to close its consulate in Houston in what Beijing warned was “an outrageous and unjustified move which will sabotage China-U.S. relations” and prompt it to retaliate.

— A bipartisan bill that would spend nearly $3 billion on conservation projects, outdoor recreation and maintenance of national parks and other public lands is on its way to Trump’s desk after winning final legislative approval.

— Police in Bolivia’s major cities have recovered the bodies of hundreds of suspected victims of the coronavirus from homes, vehicles and, in some instances, the streets.

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— The Tokyo Olympics might not be held next summer unless there is a vaccine or other medical advancement regarding the coronavirus, a Japanese official said.

Polar bears could be extinct by the end of the century, according to a new study.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— When COVID-19 forced theaters to close abruptly, Pasadena Playhouse had two choices: Go into hibernation to save money, or chart a new path. They picked a new direction, and the result is a digital streaming platform launching this fall for live and live-captured performances.

— The Fullerton indie music label Burger Records has dissolved after multiple accusations of sexual misconduct and abuse against its staff and bands signed to the imprint.

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— Chinese artist Ai Weiwei on activism in the U.S., his art response to COVID-19 and a secret Wuhan film.

— In Riverside, a lauded R&B revivalist is turning his attention to Chicano “souldies.”

BUSINESS

Tesla stock is on a vertical trip into outer space. What’s driving it? A market gone mad in uncertain times.

— Actor-director Clint Eastwood is taking aim at two companies that he says have used his name to promote CBD products without his consent. He isn’t the only celebrity fighting misleading ads.

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SPORTS

The Dodgers have given Mookie Betts a 12-year, $365-million contract extension. Columnist Bill Plaschke says Betts’ leadership and value are what made the team willing to do so.

— The Clippers’ plans for a billion-dollar arena complex have moved closer to reality after Inglewood’s City Council voted unanimously to approve the environmental impact report for the project.

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OPINION

— Exactly who is in charge of the COVID-19 pandemic response in Los Angeles? There’s a coronavirus leadership crisis, The Times’ editorial board writes.

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— In an op-ed, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Adam B. Schiff call for a 9/11 Commission on the coronavirus crisis.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— How a potential treatment for the coronavirus turned up in a scientist’s freezer. (The New Yorker)

— The state of absentee voting across the United States. (Washington Post)

ONLY IN CALIFORNIA

In Redwood City, a resident got permission to paint his own Black Lives Matter sign across the pavement near Courthouse Square on the Fourth of July. The city even provided him a bucket of yellow paint. Two weeks later, city crews power-washed the 17-foot artwork away during the dead of night. Officials said they removed the piece to prevent “driver confusion and traffic accidents.” But some folks think it might have to do with a woman requesting permission to paint “MAGA 2020" next to the BLM sign.

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


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