Newsletter: Essential California Week in Review: A national state of emergency

Passengers aboard the Grand Princess
Passengers look out from balconies aboard the Grand Princess as it cruises a holding pattern about 25 miles off San Francisco on Sunday, March 8, 2020.
(AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, March 14.

Here’s a look at the top stories of the last week:

An epidemic grows. On Wednesday, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 had become a pandemic, ushering in a new phase of the virus outbreak and sending the stock market plummeting. More and more people have been diagnosed, including actor Tom Hanks, and President Trump declared a national emergency, a move that will let more federal aid flow to states and municipalities.


The state steps in. Gov. Gavin Newsom moved to limit the spread of the virus this week, recommending the cancellation of gatherings of 250 or more people and issuing a sweeping executive order that allows the state to take over hotels, among other actions.

A cruise ship finally docks. After days of uncertainty, the Grand Princess cruise ship arrived at the Port of Oakland this week, and its passengers were allowed to disembark. They remain quarantined after at least 21 tested positive for the virus. Princess Cruises is also suspending all operations for vacation voyages for 60 days.

Will they, or won’t they? School districts across the state weighed whether to cancel classes this week. Among those that ultimately said yes: Los Angeles Unified School District, San Diego Unified School District and several Bay Area districts. Colleges, too. Parents now have the task of figuring out what to do next.

Cancellations on cancellations. From sports to Broadway to theme parks, events and live entertainment are getting postponed or outright cancelled to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Disneyland is closing its doors, apparently for the first time since the 9/11 attacks. Here’s the full list.


[To our readers: Sign up for Coronavirus Today, a special edition of the Los Angeles Times’ Health and Science newsletter that will help you understand more about COVID-19.]

A likely runoff. Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey’s share of the vote from last week’s primary election slipped below 50%, moving her further from the mark she needs to avoid a runoff.

Weinstein sentencing. A judge in New York sentenced Harvey Weinstein to 23 years in prison after he was convicted last month of committing a criminal sexual act and third-degree rape. He still faces charges in Los Angeles.

Kicks for cash. A generation of sneakerheads built their shoe collections instead of savings. Now they’re cashing in when money gets tight. Inside L.A.’s sneaker resale economy.


Staying Cool. Cool, California, has no street lights, and its residents don’t want them. They don’t want a Dollar General or new campsites, either.

Labor and L.A. radio. Spanish-language radio is booming. But DJs at two popular stations say they can barely make rent, and they’ve had enough.

A bombshell arrest. Federal authorities charged former Los Angeles City Councilman Mitch Englander with obstructing a federal investigation into cash, lavish meals, escort services and other gifts that officials say he accepted from a businessman. “It’s like a movie!” say residents of a neighborhood he represented.

Enjoying this newsletter?

Your support helps us deliver the news that matters most. Become a Times subscriber.


1. The dark side of Instagram’s favorite door. Fodor’s Travel

2. How a small candy company became Warren Buffett’s “dream” investment. The Hustle

3. Why the coronavirus outbreak isn’t likely to be a repeat of the 1918 Spanish flu. Los Angeles Times

4. Vegas escorts, cash in envelopes: What we know about the charges against Mitchell Englander. Los Angeles Times


5. As coronavirus spreads, warnings become more urgent for the elderly and frail. Los Angeles Times

ICYMI, here are this week’s great reads

The extraordinary decisions facing Italian doctors: “If you are an overworked nurse battling a novel disease under the most desperate circumstances, and you simply cannot treat everyone, however hard you try, whose life should you save?” The Atlantic

An outspoken Silicon Valley doctor who hasn’t minced words as his region became a hotspot for the virus. “Nobody tells me what to say — nobody,” said Dr. Scott Morrow, the chief health officer for San Mateo County, which includes the headquarters of Facebook and many other big technology companies.New York Times

This story is also about doctors, but it has nothing to do with the coronavirus. There are some doctors who believe that poetry “is the best way to capture the fragility, tenacity and universality of the human experience.” Hundreds of those doctors submit poems to medical journals — many of which devote space to poetry — every year. Los Angeles Times


A dose of pure, popcorn distraction from the archives: Two decades ago, Vanessa Grigoriadis wrote about how a pack of “pretty, perky and remarkably plugged-in” young Manhattan publicists rose to control much of the city’s trendiest nightlife. The story itself is a strange time capsule from a very specific subset of New York City in the late ‘90s — where Lizzie Grubman still reigned supreme and “a traveling circus of twentysomething socialites, bankers, novelists, models [and] actors” filled VIP rooms and the next morning’s party pages. New York Magazine

Poem of the week: “Happiness” by Raymond Carver. The Writer’s Almanac

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.)