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Today’s Headlines: Biden’s pandemic-economy game plan

Kamala Harris and Joe Biden
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and President-elect Joe Biden wave to supporters on Saturday in Wilmington, Del.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

President-elect Joe Biden’s approach to the coronavirus crisis is to confront it head-on with strong federal guidelines and policy.

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Biden’s Pandemic-Economy Game Plan

Among the many policy differences between President-elect Joe Biden and President Trump, one of the biggest is how to address the coronavirus crisis.

For most of the pandemic, Trump’s main strategy has been to ignore and downplay risk, with minimal or no federal coordination. He even turned mask-wearing into a political act, arguing that it would hurt the broader economy.

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Come Jan. 20, Biden is planning to take a starkly different approach backed by scientists and economists: The more you frankly acknowledge and confront the crisis, the better it will be for the economy. By urging and sometimes even requiring mask wearing, testing and social distancing — backed by strong federal guidelines and policy — Biden expects that fewer people get will sick and U.S. growth will more quickly recover.

Experts say such an approach will give people the confidence and tools they need to safely go back to working, shopping and other activities, while also lowering the risk of virus transmission. Increasing use of masks by as little as 15% could prevent the need for lockdowns and reduce associated losses by up to $1 trillion, or about 5% of the American economy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, citing research from Goldman Sachs.

The CDC, which had been largely sidelined by Trump, also released detailed scientific evidence that wearing cloth masks protects wearers as well as those around them. Previously, masks had been described as chiefly benefiting others, not the wearer.

But ... (There’s Always a ‘But’)

How quickly and assertively Biden will be able to implement his policy plans on the coronavirus and myriad other issues remains to be seen.

In the short term, there is Trump’s refusal to concede and his administration’s delay of the formal transition process, which means Biden has not yet been allowed to read the ultra-secret daily brief of the nation’s most sensitive intelligence. Since Biden won the election, Trump has spent days in the White House feverishly tweeting baseless claims of election fraud, watching television and telephoning allies.

One administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Trump is so focused on his future that “he could care less, or even less than before,” about the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed more than 242,000 Americans.

In the longer terms, there’s the question of which party will control the U.S. Senate. The answer to that comes down to how residents of Georgia vote in two runoff elections on Jan. 5. At issue are the Senate seats now held by Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, who face off against Democrats Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock, respectively, because none of them got more than 50% of the vote on election day, as Georgia law requires.

With the results of other Senate races now set, Republicans have 50 seats to Democrats’ 48. If Democrats were to win the two Georgia seats, they would seize control of the Senate, because the resulting tie would be broken by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

How Latino Support for Trump Grew

Even the organizers were shocked by the turnout for a July “Trump train” parade in McAllen, Texas, in the Rio Grande Valley, home to some of the country’s highest concentrations of Latinos and long unfriendly territory for Republicans.

But the rallies signaled what was to come in the election, where Trump, who has routinely disparaged Mexicans, strengthened his 2016 support among Mexican Americans in the region, writes Molly Hennessy-Fiske, The Times’ Houston bureau chief. Key to Trump’s unlikely success were his defense of the oil industry and law enforcement — two kinds of jobs that buoy whole families — and local concerns the Democratic Party was moving too far to the left, interviews with voters and officials suggest.

That Mexican Americans in South Texas — or Cuban Americans in Miami, for that matter — didn’t monolithically vote for Biden shouldn’t come as a surprise, writes Fidel Martinez, author of The Times’ new Latinx Files newsletter. Some voters he spoke with expressed frustration and exhaustion at the scrutiny, saying they felt taken for granted by national Democrats. As one from McAllen put it: “You’re not from here, you don’t know us.” (Sign up for the newsletter here.)

More About the Election

— After a rush of thinly concealed relief over Trump’s failure to win reelection, major European allies of the United States are putting aside euphoria and coming to terms with some hard realities about the relationship going forward.

— If Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti leaves for a possible position in Biden’s administration — as there is widespread speculation he might — the mayor would exit the city at a moment of profound crisis.

A Cautionary Tale

Coronavirus infections in California are racing upward at a level not seen since the summer, with the state surpassing 1 million cases on Thursday, and health officials are warning that dire action must be taken to stop the spread of the illness.

If you want to know why officials are so nervous about how much worse the COVID-19 pandemic could get as the holiday season unfolds, look no further than a single wedding reception in rural Maine. Only 55 people attended the Aug. 7 reception. But one of those guests arrived with a coronavirus infection. Over the next 38 days, the virus spread to 176 other people. Seven of them died.

None of the people who lost their lives had attended the party.

More Top Coronavirus Headlines

— Comet tails and a Trojan horse: One small Brooklyn laboratory’s hunt for a COVID-19 vaccine.

— Developers of Sputnik V, Russia’s experimental COVID-19 vaccine, say that early, interim data from a large trial suggest that the shot appears to be 92% effective, but experts have raised questions about the claim.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

The flights of the space shuttle Columbia were closely watched by the public. Landings drew hundreds of thousands of spectators that clogged traffic for as long as 10 hours.

By November 1981, officials at Edwards Air Force Base had learned to anticipate crowds. On Nov. 14, the shuttle landed after cutting its flight short due to a fuel-cell problem. The spectators that arrived found clear spaces and staff directing traffic, The Times reported.

But there was still plenty of room for a celebration: Onlookers met the shuttle with “blaring horns and upraised cans of beer.”

Spectators excitedly fix their eyes on the space shuttle Columbia as it circles to land at Edwards Air Force Base.
Nov. 14, 1981: Spectators excitedly fix their eyes on the space shuttle Columbia as it circles to land at Edwards Air Force Base.
(Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times)

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YOUR WEEKEND

— Looking for a new place to live? Here’s a complete guide to rental housing in Southern California.

— For Thanksgiving 2020, throw tradition out the window with these recipes.

— If you’re looking for a takeout dinner instead, we’ve got you covered too. Just remember to observe the holiday safely.

— The “Elf on a Shelf” drive-through and seven other IRL things to do in L.A. this weekend.

CALIFORNIA

— The pilot of a small plane was killed after crashing onto a suburban street near Whiteman Airport in Pacoima, setting cars on fire.

— Calls to ban a group of books in Burbank schools has drawn the attention of free-speech organizations across the country and sparked debate over how to teach antiracism.

— Voters approved Proposition 14, which means California’s stem cell agency will receive an infusion of $5.5 billion in new research funding.

Bigfoot’s been found! Or at least a beloved statue of him that went missing from a museum in Felton.

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NATION-WORLD

— Three civil rights groups filed a lawsuit challenging Trump’s executive order that prohibits federal agencies, contractors and grant recipients from offering certain diversity training that the president deems “anti-American.”

— A Justice Department report has found that former Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, as a top federal prosecutor in Florida, exercised poor judgment in dealing with an investigation into financier Jeffrey Epstein. But it also says that Acosta did not engage in professional misconduct.

— Thousands gathered in Armenia’s capital to protest the terms of a cease-fire agreement that gave territorial concessions to Azerbaijan in the long-running conflict over the separatist territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.

— The European Union has unveiled its first-ever strategy for improving the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, nonbinary, intersex and queer people.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— Disney’s gamble on streaming has paid off in a big way. With nearly 74 million subscribers, Disney+ has been a bright spot during the pandemic.

— The Baltimore Museum of Art’s goal was commendable: to pay its lowest-paid employees a living wage. But the questionable ways it tried to achieve that goal have understandably unleashed controversy, culture columnist Carolina A. Miranda writes.

— Biden won the election, but competent leadership doesn’t make for good comedy, writes television critic Lorraine Ali. “Saturday Night Live” is struggling to adapt.

Selena Gomez as Silvia Vasquez-Lavado? The pop singer and actress has been cast in a biopic about the first out gay woman to climb the Seven Summits — with approval from Vasquez-Lavado herself.

BUSINESS

— In a move to expand its reach with Christian audiences, Sony Pictures is buying a streaming service launched by the makers of the “God’s Not Dead” film franchise.

Working from home (or someplace else) is here to stay, even after the pandemic. So how will it change our workplaces?

— Ford’s new commercial van isn’t the flashiest new electric vehicle on the market. But its launch in some ways could prove more important to Ford’s zero-emissions strategy and perhaps to broader public acceptance of EVs.

SPORTS

— Defending Masters champion Tiger Woods had his best start at Augusta, but Paul Casey leads the tourney so far.

— The Angels have chosen baseball executive Perry Minasian as their new general manager. His task won’t be easy.

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OPINION

— L.A. County Dist. Atty.-elect George Gascón’s pledge not to seek the death penalty is welcome yet overdue progress toward ending a barbaric practice most of the world has left behind, The Times’ editorial board writes.

— Columnist Virginia Heffernan asks: Is it a coup, or just Trump smashing more norms?

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— Scientists long dreamed about the possibilities of mRNA vaccines. Now, the technology is on the brink of government approval. Its path there, paved with eureka moments in the lab and an unprecedented flow of biotech cash, began three decades ago with an obscure scientist who refused to quit. (STAT News / Boston Globe)

Cigarette sales have been declining for years. Smokers have worse COVID-19 outcomes. So why is the pandemic driving some people back to old vices? (Vox)

ONLY IN L.A.

Mozart’s magic ... drive-in? On Saturday, Pacific Opera Project will become the second opera company in Southern California to stage a drive-in production when it opens “Covid fan Tutte” in the parking lot of a Camarillo church. Based on Mozart’s “Così fan Tutte,” the opera unfolds on a Southern California golf resort where two women are spending their quarantine. And it’s not to be confused with Esa-Pekka Salonen’s completely different production of “Covid fan Tutte” for Finnish National Opera.

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


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