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Newsletter: An essential step to stop the coronavirus

Farmworkers weed a tomato field in French Camp, Calif.
Farmworkers weed a tomato field in French Camp, Calif. More than 70% of new COVID-19 cases in the fertile San Joaquin Valley are among Latino workers, but advocates say they lack testing and access to care.
(Max Whittaker / Los Angeles Times)

Experts say a key to stopping the coronavirus’ spread in California is to protect essential workers.

TOP STORIES

An Essential Step to Stop the Coronavirus

Five months into the pandemic, it’s becoming increasingly clear that California is not going to conquer the coronavirus until it dramatically improves safety measures for essential workers at the epicenter of the health crisis.

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From farming communities to urban centers and suburbs, workers in retail, manufacturing, agriculture and logistics are bearing the brunt of COVID-19 outbreaks, and state and local officials are struggling to control the infections even as the outlook in more prosperous communities has improved.

A growing number of officials and health experts say it’s critical now for California to act more aggressively, including pushing for masks and social distancing measures inside workplaces and cracking down much harder on employers who don’t follow the rules.

But that is only part of the problem. Some low-wage workers are reluctant to call in sick because they need the money and are afraid to report safety violations for fear of being fired. To deal with that, the state might need to provide additional disability pay to those who become ill and create a process to aid workers who face retaliation for speaking out.

Experts say there is a potential model for reducing the spread among these workers: the widespread adoption of masks and improved infection-control procedures in nursing homes.

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More Top Coronavirus Headlines

— Los Angeles County public health officials, in a move that could signal tougher enforcement of reporting rules, ordered the closure this week of three food distribution facilities that they say failed to report outbreaks that sickened more than 140 employees.

Imperial County has the highest mortality rate in California — averaging 25.5 deaths per 100,000 people — four times that of L.A. County.

— With the coronavirus continuing to surge in California, officials imposed limits on indoor church services in many areas. Now congregations are moving to beaches, and that has health experts worried, too.

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— California lawmakers are weighing whether to provide the state’s own supplemental unemployment benefit, as the extra $600 per week provided by the federal government expires this month.

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

A Bitter Back-and-Forth

In a five-hour appearance before the House Judiciary Committee, Atty. Gen. William Barr aggressively defended the federal response to violence and protests at the federal courthouse in Portland, Ore., and his decision to intercede in criminal cases involving President Trump’s close associates.

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The affair was intensely partisan, with Republicans defending Barr and Democrats attacking him over a range of issues, including his response to nationwide protests against police violence, his handling of the Russia investigation and his skepticism about the security of voting by mail.

Meanwhile, a senior White House official said the Trump administration has started talks with the Oregon governor’s office and indicated that it would begin to draw down the presence of federal agents if the state stepped up its own enforcement.

Cases Under Review

Hundreds of criminal cases involving three LAPD officers charged earlier this month with falsifying evidence are now under review by prosecutors after corruption allegations sparked questions about whether their past police work could be suspect.

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L.A. County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey said prosecutors are analyzing pending cases to determine if they can move forward on the strength of evidence other than the charged officers’ testimony. Past cases and convictions, including those based on plea deals, could also be revisited.

Lacey’s office is sending letters to more than 750 defendants whose cases listed one or more of the charged officers — Braxton Shaw, Michael Coblentz and Nicolas Martinez — as potential witnesses, urging them or their attorneys to contact her office if they feel the officers’ involvement was prejudicial or merits further review.

‘Watchmen’ Leads the Way

HBO’s “Watchmen,” the reboot of a graphic novel franchise about a ragged group of costumed crime-fighters, turned traditional comic-book tropes and dramatic TV fare on its head when it premiered in October. It began with images re-creating the Tulsa, Okla., race massacre of 1921 and injected hot-button issues such as police brutality against Black people, white supremacy and political corruption into its alternate-universe story line.

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Now, it has made history at the Emmy nominations, becoming the most-nominated show in this year’s contest, with 26 nods. And it was part of a year in which Black narratives and leads were nominated in record numbers, even as Latino performers continued to be vastly underrepresented.

Here’s a look at all the nominations, plus the surprises and some snubs.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

On July 29, 1948, Los Angeles Times photographer Bruce Cox was on assignment when he captured a photograph by mistake.

Doris Mae Normandine was a witness in court proceedings for the divorce of Dr. J. Salem Rubin and Lorraine Rubin. She babysat for the couple. Cox was to take her photo with attorney Werner O. Graf and had set up the shot when a flashbulb from another photographer’s camera exploded. The other photographer, who was said to be from the Los Angeles Examiner, has never been identified. The photo ran in the July 30, 1948, Los Angeles Times.

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Doris Mae Normandine and attorney Werner O. Graf
July 29, 1948: Doris Mae Normandine and attorney Werner O. Graf cringe as a photographer’s flashbulb explodes.
(Bruce Cox / Los Angeles Times)

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CALIFORNIA

— The L.A. County district attorney’s office has refiled charges against former county tax assessor John Noguez, reviving the long-running bribery and public corruption case after an appellate court ordered its dismissal on a technical violation.

— Democrats in the state Legislature have unveiled a new effort to significantly raise tax rates on taxable income of $1 million and higher, an effort they say would provide billions of dollars to improve K-12 schools and a variety of government services vital to the state’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

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— An L.A. City Council race reflects the changing dynamics of local elections: Timing and the eruption of protests have turned it into a progressive showdown.

— It started as an issue with parking on a block in San Diego’s Logan Heights. Now tensions between a largely Latino neighborhood and a Catholic church have spilled over into social media conflicts, threats and calls for police intervention.

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NATION-WORLD

— The Trump administration will deny new applications for so-called “Dreamer” immigrants and cut renewals to one year from two years, despite reversals in court that kept alive the Obama-era program to shield young people from deportation.

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— The Republican National Committee agreed to stop selling coins featuring Ronald Reagan’s likeness to benefit Trump’s reelection campaign after the former president’s foundation asked it to stop.

— A woman’s killing in Jordan was captured on video and shared widely on social media. The footage has ignited a furious debate over not only how the country’s legal system has failed to protect women, but the price of honor killings.

— A Malaysian court pronounced former Prime Minister Najib Razak guilty in his first corruption trial over the multibillion-dollar looting of the 1MDB investment fund.

Harry Harris, the U.S. ambassador to Seoul, has shaved off his mustache, saying it was too uncomfortable to keep while wearing a coronavirus mask during South Korea’s summer. But its appearance was also controversial.

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HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— In a landmark deal that could change the shape of film distribution, AMC Theatres and Universal Pictures have agreed on a pact to release big Hollywood films in the home much sooner than before.

— A New York concert headlined by EDM duo the Chainsmokers is under investigation after footage surfaced of attendees appearing to ignore safety guidelines amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Los Angeles Opera says it’s postponing for an entire year all four productions that had been scheduled for this fall. Officials are projecting losses up to $31 million.

BUSINESS

— A growing number of TikTok stars are leaving the platform for a rival app over concerns about TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, and how it manages user data.

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Remington Outdoor Co. filed for bankruptcy for the second time in two years, with plans to sell the 200-year-old maker of firearms. The company said reduced gun sales prevented it from making money.

SPORTS

— The benches cleared briefly as an argument between Dodgers relief pitcher Joe Kelly and the Houston Astros’ Carlos Correa ensued during the Dodgers’ 5-2 victory.

— Finally, bigger audiences are beginning to notice the WNBA and the Sparks.

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OPINION

Senate Republicans sat for months on coronavirus relief. Their new plan is too little and far too late, The Times’ editorial board writes.

— Found yourself fascinated by birds lately? Here’s why we hunger for a connection to the wild during quarantine.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— Scientists don’t have a perfect grip on COVID-19, but surface transmission from touching doorknobs, mail, food-delivery packages and subway poles seems quite rare. (The Atlantic)

— Why have physicians taken to social media to post pictures of themselves in bikinis? It started with a study purporting to uncover “unprofessionalism” among doctors. (Scientific American)

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ONLY IN L.A.

The Chateau Marmont, a famed hangout for celebrities over the decades that became infamous when John Belushi died in one of its bungalows, will be converted into a members-only hotel over the next year. A spokeswoman for the owner of the 91-year-old building said that, before the pandemic, 70% of guests were repeat customers. Like other hotels, the Chateau Marmont has been hard hit by the pandemic, forcing management to abruptly fire most of its staff in March with no severance pay and only a brief extension of health benefits.

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


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