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President Trump and Coronavirus Task Force Response Coordinator Deborah Birx lays out their plan to reopen the United States in three phases.

USA TODAY

Food workers are now guaranteed sick leave, Gov. Gavin Newsom said on the heels of the deadliest day yet for the Golden State. And plasma may help combat the pandemic, and one of its biggest cheerleaders is a woman widowed by COVID-19. Plus, love remains all around us, and we find it in the most unique ways, as these stories may remind us. 

It’s Arlene Martínez, with news for Thursday. 

But first, what will a post-coronavirus world look like? “The world remade by COVID-19” report explores four scenarios.

In California brings you stories and information from newsrooms across the USA TODAY Network and beyond to keep you safe and informed. Subscribe today for free delivery right to your inbox. 

Prediction: The worst drought in 1,200 years

A warning buoy sits on the dry, cracked bed of Lake Mendocino on Feb. 4, 2014, near Ukiah, Calif. Megadroughts could plague much of the USA because of climate change, according to a study. (Photo: Rich Pedroncelli, AP)

Fueled in part by human-caused climate change, a “megadrought” appears to be emerging in the western U.S., a study published Thursday suggests. 

In fact, the nearly-20-year drought is almost as bad or worse than any in the past 1,200 years, scientists say. 

Megadroughts – defined as intense droughts that last for decades or longer – once plagued the Desert Southwest. Thanks to global warming, an especially fierce one appears to be coming back.

“We now have enough observations of current drought and tree-ring records of past drought to say that we’re on the same trajectory as the worst prehistoric droughts,” said study lead author A. Park Williams, a bioclimatologist at Columbia University, in a statement. 

The study covers an area stretching across nine U.S. states from Oregon and Montana down through California, New Mexico and part of northern Mexico.

Bribes, ventilators + other headlines

Los Angeles City Hall building is illuminated blue in downtown Los Angeles on April 9, 2020. (Photo: Damian Dovarganes, AP)

A developer wanted easy approval for a 20-story residential tower in downtown L.A., so the company arranged for an elected official to get a $500,000 bribe. Court documents didn’t name the city council member, but the L.A. Times figured it out.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk says the company delivered 100 ventilators in Los Angeles County. Uh, we didn’t get them, L.A. officials say.

After 100 people tested positive for the coronavirus in San Francisco’s largest homeless shelter, fissures emerged between the mayor and other elected officials when it comes to how to best handle the vulnerable population. 

Immigrant groups are suing to get ICE to stop posing as police officers, arguing such acts violate Fourth Amendment protections against “unreasonable search and seizures.” 

‘You are not disposable’

Casa Mendoza server Selenia Mendez gives a customer their take out food inside the restaurant in La Quinta, Calif., on April 10, 2020. Casa Mendoza has been in business in the La Quinta cove for six years.  (Photo: Taya Gray/The Desert Sun)

Food sector workers — from farmers to delivery drivers — will now be granted at least two weeks of paid sick leave, Gov. Gavin Newsom said during his daily briefing on Thursday.

“The people who grow our food, the people who pick our food, who pack our food, deliver our food, cook, serve and sell our food,” Newsom said, will be granted the supplemental pay if they contract COVID-19 or if quarantine orders inhibit them from going to work. The move, he said, will ensure these workers are supported and the state’s food supply chain stays safe. 

“You are not disposable,” he said. “You are essential and you are valued.”

Newsom also announced that even as the curve is flattening, Wednesday marked the state’s most deadly day since the crisis began — 69 people passed away in 24 hours.

“We are not out of the woods,” he said.

What else we’re talking about

The Columbus Junction Tyson Foods plant in Iowa has closed after 186 tested positive for the new coronavirus. The facility is one of the nation’s major pork processing plants. (Photo: Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen)

“Queer Eye,” “Parks and Rec,” “Schitt’s Creek”and seven other shows to watch while we’re quarantined.

Here are 5 waysto feel more in control of your life in a time of pandemic.

Repairing a quilt, stargazing and more about what sheltering in place looks like for this Redding reporter. Her colleague stuffed her freezer with smoothies and she doesn’t even like fruit. 

No prom, no graduation, weeks inside with parents and siblings: This isn’t what Palm Desert high schoolers had in mind for senior year. So their fellow students are working to help lift their spirits.

Where’s the meat, you’re wondering?Closed. But there’s so much milk.

Speaking of food, for the most part, it’s been plentifuland for that, we have large-scale farming operations and farmworkers to thank. “Some say the coronavirus crisis changes everything. It should change our complacent and sometimes hostile attitudes about agriculture.” (Opinion)

He got COVID-19 early, recovered, then gave plasma to help someone else

Dwight Everett, the first Ventura County resident to test positive for COVID-19, shows the plasma he donated in an effort to help critically ill patients. (Photo: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/VITALANT)

Dwight Everett was the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Ventura County. Once he recovered, he donated plasma with the hope of helping others battling the virus.

The transfusions carry the promise of treatment — health officials see the virus-fighting antibodies in a recovered patient’s blood as a possible way to help a current patient fight back. It’s an approach used successfully in past outbreaks.

The recipient was Ron Shirley, 80, who with his wife in retirement fostered 13 children and adopted four others. 

Shirley died, but his wife of 30 years, Zoe Shirley, hopes others who recovered keep donating. “…You can be a donor and you can save someone’s life.”

All you need is love

The audience listens to host Megan Finnerty at the Arizona Storytellers Project’s “Growing Up” event at the Madison Center for the Performing Arts in Phoenix on March 10, 2020. (Photo: Jeremiah Toller/Special for The Republic)

I had the chance to go to The Moth in Los Angeles a few months ago, a StorySLAM event. That’s where people put their name into a hat based on a theme — the night was “Camp”  — and 10 share a story in five minutes or less. 

I loved the stories. At The Moth and other events, people brave crowds and the stage to share stores from the hearts. Here at the USA TODAY Network, we’re super proud of our own, the Storytellers Project, which started in 2011. 

In two dozen of our newsrooms, our coaches work with community members to share their stories on stage. Live events, including ours, continue to be canceled, but the stories we’ve heard are worth sharing again.

Each Thursday, I’m featuring a playlist of some of our favorites. Week 5 focuses on love, in all forms. Enjoy.

Ryan Moon tells his story during the Des Moines Register Storytellers Project at Hoyt Sherman Place on Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019, in Des Moines.  (Photo: Brian Powers/The Register)

Love across the aisle

A young, idealistic Democrat, Ryan Moon assumes his love would have to share all his values. When Ryan gets his dream job of working at the State Capitol, he finds himself falling in love with a hard-working Republican who has a prominent conservative father. Is their love strong enough to withstand her work making conservative policy and his work undoing it?

VIDEO:Watch as Ryan shares his story on stage in Des Moines, Iowa.

Adam and Raquel Gonzales at the Arizona Storytellers: Romance – or Not at the Changing Hands Bookstore in Phoenix on Feb. 8, 2018. (Photo: Carlos Salcedo/The Republic)

Recovered memory recovers love

Adam Gonzales wakes up suffering total amnesia and doesn’t remember moving to Arizona, marrying his wife, blending their families and raising their three kids together. So Raquel, his wife, decides to start dating him — right there in the hospital. For months, she courts him and tries to convince him to stay in the marriage. Adam wants a divorce thinking his family is better off without him. But one morning, he wakes up and remembers a Thanksgiving from three years earlier. 

AUDIO: Listen to both Adan and Raquel tell their heartbreaking and triumphant story.

Missy Keast talks about how she met her husband during Arizona Storytellers Project presents Outdoor Adventures at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix on Thursday, Sep 28, 2017. (Photo: Jeremiah Toller)

Good communication is everything

It’s a crowded night at a bar in Tempe, Arizona, when Missy Keast spots a cute guy. She grabs a notepad from a waitress and starts writing a note because she’s deaf. They hit it off and agree to go on a hike. As they prepare for it, she teaches him that deaf people toss a pebble at the feet of their hiking partners to draw their attention to beautiful things on the trail. But her date is a goof and he tosses a whole rock right past her head. She sticks around anyway. Listen to what happens next.

AUDIO:Listen as Missy shares her story.

Vince Malouf and Megan Finnerty tell their tale during “Arizona Storytellers: Romance or Not” at the Scottsdale Center for Performing Arts on Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019. (Photo: Jeremiah Toller/Special for the Republic)

Because there’s someone for everyone

Vincent Malouf is new to Phoenix, and gets on Tinder to try to meet people. He mentions in his profile that he writes a perfume blog. Megan Finnerty gets on Tinder after a particularly shallow breakup. When she reads Vince’s profile, she messages him and mentions a very special and obscure perfume she had picked up in Paris. A year later, he moves in, and so does his perfume fridge.

AUDIO:Listen to Megan and Vince’s charming love story.

Lindsey Braun tells her story during the Des Moines Register Storytellers Project at Hoyt Sherman Place on Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019, in Des Moines.  (Photo: Brian Powers/The Register)

At the intersection of professional + personal, can love survive?

Dating is hard for a young female pastor in rural America. Men in small towns know everything about Lindsey Braun, and so do the church ladies. When Lindsey moves to the city, options open for her dating life. A slew of dates leads to The One, but it turns out he’s the son of a dedicated congregant. Lindsey must decide if she’s willing to open her personal life to her congregation.

VIDEO:Watch Lindsey as she share her hilarious story on stage.

Dani Ausen of Des Moines shares her story about the moment she realized that she was bisexual during Des Moines Storyteller’s project at the Des Moines Playhouse on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018. (Photo: Bryon Houlgrave/The Register)

Sometimes love comes from playing games

Dani Ausen is a 30-something woman living in Des Moines, Iowa, and planning her wedding, when one day a game of D&D changes her life. A twist in the game leads Dani to realize that she has feelings for another player, a woman named Cat. This leads her to acknowledge that she always has been attracted to women, but suppressed her feelings. 

STORY AND VIDEO:Read a transcript of Dani’s story and watch her share it on stage.

Want more stories?

In California is a roundup of news from across USA TODAY Network newsrooms. Also contributing: Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Riverside Press-Enterprise.

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