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Today’s Headlines: The risks and rewards of reopening

California officials lifted regional coronavirus stay-at-home orders across the state on Monday, a change that could allow restaurants and businesses in many counties to reopen outdoor dining and other services.

Reopening brings high risks for California, but also potential economic rewards.

TOP STORIES

The Risks and Rewards of Reopening

California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s abrupt move to lift stay-at-home orders — allowing outdoor dining and other business activities to resume — represents a gamble: that the state can avoid another deadly coronavirus surge in the coming months despite a slow, frustrating rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine and the threat of more contagious strains of the virus taking hold.

After a catastrophic fall-and-winter surge left about 20,000 people dead, California is seeing new cases fall and hospitalizations decline. Much of the progress in hospitalizations can be attributed to residents changing their behavior by avoiding travel, staying at home more and following the rules.

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The question now is whether California can keep cases down even as activities such as outdoor dining, personal care services and travel pick up. Officials in Los Angeles County immediately said they plan to take advantage of the relaxed restrictions, as did those in Orange County and the Bay Area.

Experts said it would not take a lot for the situation to spiral out of control again.

“Everything hinges on the behaviors we adopt. If we adopt behaviors where everyone is masking, everyone is keeping to distancing, that all of the rules the governor has in place are enforced, I think there’s a possibility for us to resume some of these activities,” UC San Francisco epidemiologist Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo said.

More Top Coronavirus Headlines

— California officials said they will be shifting who is prioritized in the next round of COVID-19 inoculations to focus on age rather than specific occupations considered higher risk. Separately, President Biden said he expects widespread availability of vaccines for Americans by spring, with the U.S. “well on our way to herd immunity” by summer.

— Teachers and other staff need vaccinations before Los Angeles schools can reopen for students, says L.A. Unified Supt. Austin Beutner. But the teachers union says it’s not enough — community spread has to come down too.

— Newsom and state legislative leaders have agreed to a proposal to extend through June protections against evictions for California tenants financially harmed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Moderna says its COVID-19 vaccine protects against worrisome emerging variants of the coronavirus, but it’s taking the precaution of testing a possible booster dose against the strain discovered in South Africa.

— Eight more children in L.A. County have contracted an inflammatory condition connected to the coronavirus, bringing the total number of cases to 62, county public health officials announced over the weekend.

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

Dismantling Trump’s Policies

Biden has ended former President Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military, signing an executive order during an Oval Office meeting with new Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III. The Trump policy, put in place in 2017 and effective as of 2019, was itself a reversal of President Obama’s decision to allow openly transgender troops to serve.

The order is among a flurry of executive orders that Biden has issued in his first days as president to dismantle Trump policies that critics have considered discriminatory. He has also overturned a Trump ban on travelers from several predominantly Muslim countries, halted construction of the wall at the U.S.-Mexico border, and launched an initiative to advance racial equity.

In a separate order, Biden directed federal agencies to buy more goods and services from U.S. companies and workers.

More From Washington

— Democrats marched the impeachment case against Trump to the Senate for the start of his historic trial, but Republican senators were easing off their criticism of the former president and shunning calls to convict him over the deadly siege at the U.S. Capitol.

— Voting machine company Dominion Voting Systems is suing Rudolph W. Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, in a $1.3-billion defamation suit, arguing he exploited false election-fraud claims to hawk gold coins, cigars and supplements.

— Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell said he’s dropping a key demand and is ready to move toward a power-sharing agreement after two Democratic senators pledged they won’t vote to do away with the filibuster.

— The Senate approved Biden’s nomination of Janet Yellen to be the nation’s 78th Treasury secretary, making her the first woman to hold the job in the department’s 232-year history.

Mamba Memories

One year ago today, Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others died in a helicopter crash. So much has transpired since then, and so many have perished as the COVID-19 pandemic has raged on. But on this day, columnist Bill Plaschke reflects on how Bryant is still a presence in L.A.

“For many, his spirit floats through this town like our cool evening breeze, coming alive as darkness approaches to inspire, comfort and connect,” Plaschke writes. “For others, that spirit is a nasty Santa Ana wind, enraging with memories of the rape charges, the youthful selfishness, the childish petulance.

“But for all his failings, by the time of his death at age 41, Kobe Bryant had evolved into a loving husband, devoted father, powerful mentor, community leader and grateful superstar.”

FROM THE ARCHIVES

Fifty years ago, Charles Manson and three of his followers were convicted on 27 counts of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder in seven killings, including the slaying of actress Sharon Tate.

It was a major story that led the Jan. 26, 1971, edition of The Times. The jury deliberated for 43 hours before arriving at the verdict. The Times described the case as “perhaps unparalleled in the annals of crime” and later as “the symbolic end of the 1960s and the idealism and naiveté the decade represented.”

The group was ultimately convicted in nine deaths, though questions remain about whether it was involved in more. Manson died in 2017.

The front page of The Times with the headline "Manson verdict: All guilty"
The front page of The Times on Jan. 26, 1971, when Charles Manson and three of his associates were convicted on 27 counts of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder.
(Los Angeles Times)

CALIFORNIA

— The second in a series of winter storms temporarily closed the Grapevine area of the 5 Freeway in Southern California and forced evacuations along the Central Coast.

— Former L.A. City Councilman Mitchell Englander was sentenced to 14 months in prison and fined $15,000 for lying to federal authorities about secret cash payments and a debauched night in Las Vegas.

— In Orange County, Young Adult Court offers a path to clearing felony convictions. The collaborative program for first-time nonviolent felony offenders just graduated three of its first participants.

— Fishermen in California used highly effective gill nets until the state banned them in 1994 to protect other marine life. New research shows that the ban worked: Once-declining harbor porpoises have rebounded.

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NATION-WORLD

Texas has sued the U.S. government for ordering a temporary halt to most deportations of undocumented immigrants. It’s the first major lawsuit challenging Biden’s policies and a likely sign of what’s to come from other Republican-led states.

— The White House said the Treasury Department is taking steps to resume efforts to put 19th century abolitionist leader Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill.

— Relatives of migrants from Guatemala said they believed that 13 of the 19 charred corpses found in a northern Mexico border state could be their loved ones.

— Groups of youths confronted police in Dutch towns and cities, defying the country’s coronavirus curfew and throwing fireworks.

— Allies of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who faces years in prison, called for new protests next weekend to demand his release.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— Disneyland will revamp its Jungle Cruise to make the attraction feel more inclusive and less racially insensitive in its depiction of other cultures.

— By infusing a Harley Quinn brattitude into bubblegum trap songs, Ashnikko has built a devoted following on YouTube and TikTok. She’s aiming for the pop charts next.

Leslie Odom Jr. initially passed on playing Sam Cooke in Regina King’s “One Night in Miami.” Then he gave the part — and the film — a second look.

— After months of pandemic losses, AMC Theaters’ chief executive said in a statement that “any talk of an imminent bankruptcy for AMC is completely off the table” after the company raised new money.

BUSINESS

— After an L.A. Times investigation, ViacomCBS has suspended the two powerful heads of its TV station group, Peter Dunn and David Friend, amid widening allegations that the two cultivated an environment that included bullying female managers and blocking efforts to hire and retain Black journalists.

— With a new year, a new administration and new funding, another round of the federal Paycheck Protection Program has begun. But some business owners are scarred by past failures and wonder if this time will be any different.

— Nexstar Media Group is changing the name of its cable network WGN America to NewsNation, a major step in converting the channel into a full-time TV news operation to compete with CNN, Fox and MSNBC.

SPORTS

LeBron James scored 46 points against his hometown team in the Lakers’ win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Major League Soccer teams are slated to kick off the regular season on April 3, a month later than normal, but the league must still solve substantial problems to make that happen.

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OPINION

— Take L.A.'s lower crime rate with a large dose of skepticism. Just look at the stunning jump in homicides, The Times’ editorial board writes.

— Also from the board: Is Newsom “following the science” on COVID reopening or following the politics?

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— The architecture of mass vaccine distribution is a complicated affair. (Bloomberg CityLab)

— Conservationists say some of the ecological damage from Trump’s border wall could be repaired. (Scientific American)

ONLY IN L.A.

UCLA gymnast Nia Dennis, whose Beyoncé-inspired floor routine went viral last year, has done it again, this time with a dynamic hip-hop routine that went viral less than 24 hours after the Bruins won their season opener. In constructing her newest routine, Dennis tapped into her personal history. Here’s what went into it.

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


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