Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, March 7.
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Here’s a look at the top stories of the last week:
A virus spreads... The number of coronavirus cases continues to grow. Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency to help state agencies prepare after California saw its first death, that of a Placer County man who had developed COVID-19 after returning from a cruise to Mexico. Current passengers on the ship remained under quarantine Friday, and more than 20 tested positive. A Sunnyvale man who had also been on the ship has also died, though it’s not clear whether his death is linked to COVID-19.
...and so does panic. “It’s kind of spooky” in L.A.’s normally vibrant Chinatown, where visitors have vanished, and officials are decrying anti-Asian bigotry and misinformation that is spreading amid the outbreak. Meanwhile, crowds are flocking to Walmarts and Costcos, creating long lines and leaving empty shelves.
[To our readers: Sign up for Coronavirus Today, a new special edition of the Los Angeles Times’ Health and Science newsletter that will help you understand more about COVID-19.]
Counting continues in state and local races. With California’s plethora of voting options, many election results are slow to come. Incumbent L.A. County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey had an early lead but still might face a major November clash. The race to replace Katie Hill in Congress appears headed to a runoff. And votes are still being counted, but Proposition 13 appears to be the first failure of a state school bond measure in 25 years.
Long lines, angry officials. L.A. County’s rollout of its long-awaited voting system was marred by reports of broken machines and wait times of three hours or longer. California’s chief elections officer lashed out and demanded changes.
Cover-up exposed. After Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others died in a helicopter crash, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department quietly ordered deputies to destroy scene photos they were accused of showing off. Sheriff Alex Villanueva acknowledged the order Monday, while an attorney for Vanessa Bryant requested an internal affairs investigation.
A trial unfolds. The L.A. murder trial of Robert Durst, the New York real estate heir, has begun, with more than 100 witnesses, dozens of hours of video and reams of documents assembled. He’s accused of killing his close friend Susan Berman in her Benedict Canyon home in 2000 to prevent her from incriminating him in his wife’s disappearance. A 2015 HBO documentary on Durst was widely watched, but the 12 jurors weighing his case are the audience who matters now.
Pour out some Two Buck Chuck. Marketing whiz and retail visionary Joe Coulombe, the founder of Trader Joe’s, died after a long illness at age 89. Here’s how he built a local grocery that became a national institution.
The long legacy of L.A.’s oil wells. Most of Los Angeles’ profitable oil is gone. What remains is a costly legacy: nearly 1,000 wells across the city, in rich and poor neighborhoods, left to the state to clean, according to a first-of-its-kind analysis of state records by The Times and the Center for Public Integrity.
DM to Mmmm. Meet the social media-native restaurants where a delicious meal is just a message away.
This week’s most popular stories in Essential California
1. Here’s where coronavirus cases have been reported in California. Los Angeles Times
2. Questions you should ask before canceling a trip because of coronavirus fears. Los Angeles Times
3. California’s Democratic primary: How did your neighborhood vote? Los Angeles Times
4. The complete list of L.A. Times endorsements in the March 3 California primary. Los Angeles Times
5. Here’s where to find your best California spring break — without the crowds. Los Angeles Times
ICYMI, here are this week’s great reads
The strange terror of watching coronavirus empty the streets of Rome: “Three nights ago, going to a friend’s house for dinner at 8 p.m., we walked through the Piazza Navona, the most beautiful square in the world, and were completely alone.” The New Yorker
Did the Grand Princess cruise ship at the center of a coronavirus outbreak mismanage the emergency? Current and former passengers describe confusion and missteps in this account by my colleague Anita Chabria. Los Angeles Times
Who got America to the moon? An unlikely collaboration of Jewish and former Nazi scientists and engineers. Los Angeles Times
Will the millennial aesthetic ever end? “If you simultaneously can’t afford any frills and can’t afford any failure, you end up with millennial design: crowd-pleasing, risk-averse, calling just enough attention to itself to make it clear that you tried.” The Cut
Poem of the week: “Notes from the Other Side” by Jane Kenyon. Poets.org
Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes. (And a giant thanks to the legendary Diya Chacko for all her help on the Saturday edition.)