Newsletter: Today’s Headlines: A treacherous phase in the pandemic

Nurse Naomi Okonofua at Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital in the Willowbrook area of South L.A.
ICU nurse Naomi Okonofua at work earlier this year at Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital in the Willowbrook area of South Los Angeles.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

With coronavirus cases rising rapidly and ICU capacity dropping, much of California is subject to a stay-at-home order, despite the economic peril.


A Treacherous Phase in the Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed nearly 20,000 Californians and brought a once-booming economy to its knees, has entered a treacherous phase as much of the state began a new stay-at-home order and coronavirus cases soared to unprecedented highs that show no signs of slowing down.


The regional stay-at-home order is the latest attempt to tamp down a surge in coronavirus cases and related hospitalizations that officials fear could overwhelm the local healthcare system. The order is triggered when intensive care unit capacity in a region drops below 15%. By Tuesday, some 33 million Californians will be subject to the new order, representing 84% of the state’s population.

Most likely, things will get worse before they get better. Statewide, average daily cases have jumped sixfold since early October, hospitalizations have quadrupled since late October, and average daily deaths have nearly tripled in just the last month.

In Los Angeles County, the Department of Public Health reported more than 10,500 new cases on Sunday. Hospitalizations for COVID-19 neared 3,000, and it is believed that number could rise dramatically in the next few weeks as the full toll of the Thanksgiving holiday comes into view.

The stay-at-home rules, announced by Gov. Gavin Newsom last week, are less stringent than those imposed in the spring, but they face strong opposition from restaurant owners and others who say they are being unfairly targeted. Thousands of restaurants, hair salons and other businesses must close or dramatically curtail operations due to the order. Retailers have already been devastated by earlier lockdowns, and many say they are not sure they cannot survive another one.

Here’s a closer look at how the order works and what activities it limits — and the latest on canceling or changing holiday travel plans.

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

The Taliban Regains Ground

Nineteen years after the U.S. invaded Afghanistan to punish Osama bin Laden for the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, the 4,500 remaining American troops are rushing to the exits as the Taliban is regaining ground across much of the country.


“Every day we make a plan for fighting,” Rafiullah Haqqani, 24, a Taliban commander from Sangsar who leads 20 fighters, said in an interview. “Every day we try to capture more area.”

Since the Trump administration and the Taliban signed a deal in February promising Americans’ complete withdrawal by next spring, the U.S. has halted almost all combat operations, freeing the insurgents to step up attacks against Afghan government troops. President Trump accelerated the U.S. pullout last month, ordering a drawdown to 2,500 troops by next month, when President-elect Joe Biden takes office.

Afghanistan is far from the only immediate foreign policy challenge Biden faces, and it won’t be a matter of simply picking up where he and President Obama left off — especially with China and Iran.

Another Key Biden Nominee

Biden has selected California Atty. General Xavier Becerra to be the next Health and Human Services secretary, a historic choice that would make the former Los Angeles congressman the first Latino to hold the office, according to sources familiar with the decision.

As attorney general, Becerra has been one of the most important defenders of the Affordable Care Act, a landmark law he helped shepherd through the House, as the Trump administration and conservative states have tried to persuade federal courts to repeal it. Becerra also has carved out an increasingly important role confronting healthcare costs.

If Becerra is confirmed, it would mean another vacancy for Newsom to fill, in addition to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ U.S. Senate seat.

More Politics

— Trump’s false claim that he beat Biden in last month’s election and won in Georgia drew sharp rebukes from the state’s top officials after he held a grievance-filled rally there, less than a month before runoff elections will determine control of the U.S. Senate.

— California certified its presidential election Friday and appointed 55 electors pledged to vote for Biden, officially handing him the electoral college majority needed to win the White House.

— Trump tweeted that his lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, who has waged an often-eccentric legal crusade to try to overturn the election, has tested positive for the coronavirus.


— Think things are bad now? For people on the verge of losing their housing or who are already homeless, it’s about to get worse, columnist Erika D. Smith writes.

— We’ve quit ringing the bells each night, but frontline workers are still risking their lives, as columnist Steve Lopez shows.

— When stay-at-home orders began in March, L.A. enjoyed a 21-day stretch of smog-free days, but this year will go down as one of Southern California’s smoggiest in decades. Here’s why.

— L.A.’s storied Magic Castle has been shaken by allegations of sexual misconduct and racism.


In 1940, the 251st Coast Artillery was made up of 1,200 National Guardsmen from the San Diego, Long Beach and San Pedro areas. As the U.S. expanded its military presence, the unit was transferred to Hawaii.

The 251st, an antiaircraft unit, saw action at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, and was credited with destroying at least two attacking Japanese planes. During World War II, the regiment served in Fiji, Bougainville and the Philippines.

The image below was taken on Oct. 31, 1940, as 750 men from the 251st boarded the luxury liner Washington for Hawaii.

A father hugs his young son
Oct. 31, 1940: Private John G. Winbury gives a hug to his son Robert Austin Winbury, 2, as he prepares to sail to Hawaii with the California 251st Coast Artillery, National Guard.
(Robert Jakobsen / Los Angeles Times)

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— Los Angeles police clashed with protesters outside Mayor Eric Garcetti‘s official residence, leading to one arrest and a skirmish with baton-wielding officers that several elected officials later denounced as police brutality and a violation of demonstrators’ free speech rights.

— The San Diego County district attorney is investigating inmates in local jails and state prison for possibly committing as much as $5 million in unemployment benefits fraud, part of an emerging statewide scandal.

— The wind-driven Bond fire in Silverado Canyon in Orange County was sparked by a house fire, authorities said. It was 50% contained Sunday, with some residents still under evacuation orders.

— Nearly everything about the 89th annual Virgen de Guadalupe procession and Mass at the San Gabriel Mission was different this year: a historic change of format and venue, a scant crowd, masks and social distancing.

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— The Federal Archives and Record Center in Seattle has long been a treasure trove for anybody interested in the history of the Pacific Northwest or Alaska. The Trump administration’s plan to sell it has created a bipartisan furor.

— The COVID-19 pandemic is preventing Pearl Harbor survivors from attending an annual ceremony. Instead, they’re staying at home to remember a “date which will live in infamy.”

— A report by a National Academy of Sciences committee has found that “directed” microwave radiation is the likely cause of illnesses among American diplomats in Cuba and China.

— Last year, Ethiopia‘s prime minister won the Nobel Peace Prize. This year, he went to war.


Bryan Cranston is back with Showtime’s “Your Honor.” He hasn’t fully recovered from COVID-19, but he knows how lucky he is.

— Film critic Justin Chang says Frances McDormand is at her finest in “Nomadland,” a sublime ode to American wanderlust.

“Godmothered” on Disney+ celebrates a world of more inclusive happily ever afters.

— The Museum of Latin American Art is selling dozens of works from its collection, raising the specter of serious financial stress at the Long Beach institution.


— With the pandemic upending in-person fashion shows and traditional sartorial marketing, fashion designers want to get into the video game world in a big way.

— Is the Volkswagen ID.4 the car that makes electrics go mainstream?


— Quarterback Jared Goff’s turnover-free performance helped lift the Rams over Cardinals, while the Chargers suffered their biggest defeat in franchise history in a 45-0 loss to the Patriots.

— Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka is taking the grandmaster path to team building, columnist Helene Elliott writes.

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— The new L.A. County Board of Supervisors must keep pushing forward on equity and justice, The Times’ editorial board writes.

— Why do so many people want to believe the election was stolen? Two professors outline their theory.


— In Hawaii, a state agency has repeatedly allowed homeowners to use tactics that protect property while speeding up the loss of beaches. (Honolulu Star-Advertiser and ProPublica)

— Many corporate leaders say they are taking a gentler approach to performance evaluations as the pandemic wears on. (Wall Street Journal)


The Santa Monica Sears store, designed by architect Rowland Crawford in the late Art Deco style called Streamline Moderne, opened in 1947 to great fanfare. Ever since, it’s been a local landmark. After the store closed in 2017, developers spent more than two years and $50 million giving it a makeover to turn it into a chic office building for creative types. But the pandemic has thrown a wrench into the works.

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