March 26, 2020

The Cheesecake Factory has notified its landlords that it will not be able to make any rent payments in April, Eater Los Angeles reports.

In a letter dated March 18, Cheesecake Factory Chairman and CEO David Overton said he was "asking for your patience, and frankly, your help." Because of the coronavirus pandemic, several Cheesecake Factories have had to close or can only serve takeout and delivery, and as such the "severe decrease in restaurant traffic has severely decreased our cash flow and inflicted a tremendous financial blow to our business," Overton said. The company hopes to "resume our rent payments as soon as reasonably possible" but "cannot predict the extent or the duration of the current crisis."

The first Cheesecake Factory opened in 1972 in Beverly Hills; today, there are 294 locations in the United States and Canada. The company, which employs 38,000 people, has had to temporarily close 27 restaurants because of the coronavirus pandemic. A Cheesecake Factory representative told Eater Los Angeles the company has "very strong, longstanding relationships with our landlords. We are certain that with their partnership, we will be able to work together to weather this storm in the appropriate manner." Catherine Garcia

4:26 a.m.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert on President Trump's coronavirus task force, told CNN on Tuesday that with more than three-quarters of the U.S. on some sort of lockdown, "we're starting to see glimmers that that is actually having some dampening effect" on the spread of COVID-19. "We are continuing to see things go up," he added at a White House briefing. But "the mitigation is actually working and will work."

Not everyone loves living in isolation at home, but Samuel L. Jackson offered some reasons for people to do it anyway. Jackson, who narrated the audiobook of Adam Mansbach's hit non-children's book Go the F--k to Sleep a few years ago, read the topical follow-up, Stay the F--k at Home, for Tuesday's Jimmy Kimmel Live. He may have thrown in some extra profanity, and you can skip to the (safe for work) reading at the 6:10 mark.

Fellow curmudgeon Larry David addressed "the idiots out there" who are "going out" and "socializing too close, it's not good." Look, he said, "you're hurting old people like me — well, not me, I have nothing to do with you, I'll never see you — but let's say other old people who may be your relatives. Who the hell knows?" He suggested people watch TV.

Those of us who can have been "doing this staying-in thing for about two weeks," James Corden said on Tuesday's Late Late Show. "And some of you might be at the point where you're feeling a bit bored" and tempted to go out and socialize, but "please, just keep staying in — I promise you, it's worth it." He explained how you could quickly infect 59,000 people if you go out, and visualized that exponential transmission with dominoes.

"There are a lot of helpful PSAs out there right now on how to handle this current coronavirus crisis," Conan O'Brien said Tuesday. His contribution involved how far apart you need to stand from someone to correctly social-distance. Still, "here's what I'm having difficulty with," he told sidekick Andy Ritchter over video-chat. "I can kind of tell what day it is because we have to make this show, but other than that, without that to hang on to, I would have no idea what day it is."

The Daily Show cast also struggled to discern what day it was — and they were shocked it was still March. Watch below. Peter Weber

2:17 a.m.

A lot of countries around the world are grappling with the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. The U.S. has a special challenge, though: Unlike most developed nations, health insurance is mostly tied to jobs. As millions of Americans suddenly lose their employment, several Democratic-leaning states have reopened their Affordable Care Act marketplaces to let people affected by the pandemic sign up for health coverage. Health insurers expected a similar announcement Friday from the Trump administration, which oversees ACA enrollment in about two-thirds of states, Politico reports, but the White House had rejected the proposal.

A White House official told Politico Tuesday evening that after considering a reopening for a special enrollment period, the administration is instead "exploring other options." Americans who lose their job can opt for COBRA coverage for up to 18 months, an especially expensive option, and lower-income people in the states that expanded Medicaid under the ACA can get coverage under that federal program. The ACA also allows enrollment under certain circumstances outside the normal registration window.

But reopening the enrollment window during the COVID-19 outbreak had support from both the health insurance industry and Democrats. President Trump "confirmed last week he was seriously considering a special enrollment period, but he also doubled down on his support of a lawsuit by Republican states that could destroy the entire Affordable Care Act, along with coverage for the 20 million people insured through the law," Politico notes. "It wasn't immediately clear why the Trump administration decided against the special enrollment period." Peter Weber

2:01 a.m.

A 6.5 magnitude earthquake rocked southern Idaho on Tuesday evening, the most powerful temblor to strike the state in decades.

The quake was centered 19 miles northwest of Stanley and roughly 78 miles northeast of Boise, the U.S. Geological Survey said. It hit at around 5:52 p.m., and was felt across seven states. About 30 minutes later, there was a 4.6 magnitude aftershock. There have been no reports of injuries or major structural damage.

Lee Liberty, a geophysics professor at Boise State University, told the Idaho Press that there is a pattern of large earthquakes striking in the area every 20 years or so. The biggest quake in Idaho history was the 6.9-magnitude Borah Peak earthquake in 1983, which left two people dead. Catherine Garcia

1:37 a.m.

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates says there is "no question the United States missed the opportunity to get ahead of the novel coronavirus," and there are three steps that must be taken now in order to soften the blow to the economy and slow the number of deaths.

In an op-ed for The Washington Post published Tuesday, Gates said there has to be "a consistent nationwide approach to shutting down." In some states, restaurants are still serving diners and beaches are open, which is a "recipe for disaster," Gates said. "Because people can travel freely across state lines, so can the virus. The country's leaders need to be clear: Shutdown anywhere means shutdown everywhere." It could take at least 10 weeks to get the number of COVID-19 coronavirus cases down, he said, and until then, "no one can continue business as usual or relax the shutdown."

The federal government also needs to do more testing, with the results aggregated "so we can quickly identify potential volunteers for clinical trials and know with confidence when it's time to return to normal," Gates said. Health care workers and first responders should have priority, followed by "highly symptomatic people who are at most risk of becoming seriously ill and those who are likely to have been exposed."

There has to be a "data-based approach to developing treatments and a vaccine," Gates said, and politicians need to stay quiet and stop spreading rumors about both. Once there is a safe and effective vaccine, billions of doses will need to be manufactured, he said, and facilities where they will be made can be built now. The country has "a long way to go," Gates said, but he still believes "if we make the right decisions now, informed by science, data, and the experience of medical professionals, we can save lives and get the country back to work." Catherine Garcia

12:53 a.m.

President Trump met Sunday with his top coronavirus medical advisers, Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx, and agreed to extend his administration's national guidelines on maintaining social distancing to April 30, not Trump's preferred date of April 12. Fauci and Birx showed Trump charts forecasting about two million Americans dying without social distancing versus 100,000 to 240,000 if the measures were kept in place. Trump announced the April 30 date that evening, and his daily briefings since have reflected these somber projections, culminating in Tuesday evening's stark, thematically consistent press conference.

"We made it very clear to him that if we pulled back on what we were doing and didn't extend them, there would be more avoidable suffering and avoidable death," Fauci told CNN on Monday. "It was a pretty clear decision on his part."

"Ultimately, Mr. Trump was convinced by the numbers and reports about refrigerator trucks being used to hold the bodies of people who have died of the virus at Elmhurst Hospital in New York City," The Wall Street Journal reports, citing Trump aides. Trump's economic advisers had also come to see a continued lockdown as doable, "and recent polling showed many Americans rejecting the idea that stay-at-home guidelines should be lifted quickly."

In fact, Trump had already made up his mind to drop the Easter date by Sunday's meeting with Fauci and Birx, Jonathan Swan reports at Axios. "Scenes out of New York, including bleak hospital images played on Fox News, struck a nerve" with Trump, and while Fauci and Birx's "stats left a dramatic impression on Trump," the "New York scenes on TV had personalized the situation" and "it was a very short meeting." Trump repeatedly pointed to the makeshift morgue trucks at Elmhurst Hospital, in his native Queens, at Tuesday's briefing.

There are risks in challenging Trump with epidemiological data, but Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984, "has forged an unusual, and at times seemingly precarious, relationship" with the president, and he "has so far retained his leverage with Mr. Trump in an administration where critics of the president rarely last long," the Journal reports. Read more about Fauci's magic formula at The Wall Street Journal. Peter Weber

12:32 a.m.

Annette Barranco knew her grandparents were looking forward to seeing her all dressed for prom, so when the dance was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, she decided to turn their front lawn into a runway.

Barranco is a senior at Beaumont High School in Beaumont, California, and while she was sad when her prom and graduation were both scrapped, she said she understands it is for the greater good. She had already picked out a sparkly blue prom dress, and didn't want it to stay hidden in her closet, so she put it on, fixed her hair, and headed over to her grandparents' front lawn.

Barranco's grandmother was shocked when she looked out the window and saw her granddaughter walking outside, wearing her beautiful gown. Barranco modeled the dress as her enthralled grandparents watching safely from inside their living room. When her grandmother first saw Barranco, her eyes filled with tears, and "it was emotionally really nice to see her reaction," Barranco told ABC Los Angeles. Catherine Garcia

March 31, 2020

Walmart announced on Tuesday it will soon start checking workers' temperatures when they report for their shifts and will make masks and gloves available for their use.

"We know not only our associates, but our customers as well will be more comforted by the fact that they have access to the more general medical mask," Walmart executive vice president Dan Bartlett said.

Bartlett said gloves and masks will be sent to warehouses and stores that request them within the next few weeks; with more than 1.4 million associates, it's likely that 7 million masks will be needed every week. Stores have already installed plexiglass shields around cash registers, and will start making announcements reminding shoppers to stay six feet away from each other.

Retail workers at stores like Walmart have to show up for work during the coronavirus pandemic, as they are considered essential. Many are worried about exposure to the coronavirus, and are afraid they might bring it home to their families. Lily, a Walmart employee in New Mexico who lives with her elderly parents, told NPR she doesn't "know how to weigh the responsibility of going to work with the responsibility of making sure that my parents are safe. I'm scared that, going every day to work, I am putting them in danger." Catherine Garcia

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