Essential California Week in Review: Shifting timelines

Alma Villanueva, left, and Gigi Wilcox   protest
Alma Villanueva, left, and Gigi Wilcox stage a caravan protest in downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday.
(Christina House/Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, April 25.

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

A new pandemic timeline. The earliest known COVID-19 death in the U.S. was in the Bay Area in early February — which means the virus was spreading at least a month earlier than previously thought. The new information holds important keys to understanding the first cases.

Wider spread. New data also suggest the virus has spread much further than previously thought. Early results from the first large-scale study found that 4.1% of adults in L.A. County — hundreds of thousands of people — have developed antibodies, a number that far outpaces confirmed cases.

Pushing to reopen. Some cities and counties say new infections are dropping and want to begin reopening some businesses, parks and beaches. San Luis Obispo and Ventura counties and a group of cities in Stanislaus County have offered proposals and asked for state permission to loosen restrictions.

Protests. Small bands of protesters gathered outside statehouses and government buildings to demand stay-at-home restrictions be lifted, amid a spate of demonstrations organized by conservative groups. The protests have attracted people with a wide variety of motivations, from right-wing advocates to anti-vaccine activists.

A second wave. California has been successful in bending the coronavirus curve. But experts say there is no celebrating yet, and that unless we’re vigilant, we could face a second wave. And it could be worse than the first.

Newsom says no. Gov. Gavin Newsrom resisted the calls to lift restrictions, saying it was too soon to do so. Last week, he unveiled six goals that must be met before the state restrictions could be loosened.

Some progress. Among those metrics is improved testing, and Newsom said California had reached new testing capabilities. The expansion includes more testing equipment and centers that will help provide health officials with the data they need to track the virus.

A test of policy. Southern California’s first heat wave of the year brought scorching temperatures and a test of public health policies. Officials worry that beach breezes and outdoor spaces will beckon to house-bound residents.

Budget woes. First money problems came for businesses. Now they come for cities’ budgets, L.A.’s among them. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti unveiled a $10.5-billion budget with cuts across an array of agencies and nearly 16,000 workers furloughed.

Expenses rise. Amid already-tight budgets, the state is spending more to secure protective equipment like masks. A Times review found middlemen, short supplies and high demand have pushed prices to as much as $12.74 per mask, and taxpayers are on the hook.

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1. Hemingway was once quarantined with his wife ... and mistress. Town & Country

2. Dude, you ever wonder, like, why people celebrate pot on 4/20? Los Angeles Times

3. Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve live stream. California Department of Parks and Recreation

4. What’s open and closed this weekend: Beaches, parks and trails in Southern California. Los Angeles Times

5. Inland wildflowers flourish, offering respite amid coronavirus crisis. Riverside Press-Enterprise

ICYMI, here are this week’s great reads

This story is beautiful and it will also make you cry: New York chef Gabrielle Hamilton writes about the grim work of laying off her staff and abruptly closing Prune, the tiny but acclaimed East Village restaurant she opened more than two decades ago. As she reflects on the history of the restaurant, which opened when both the city and the food world were very different places, she also contends with the post-coronavirus future, and whether it will still have a place for small restaurants like hers. New York Times


In the midst of a brutal pandemic, we’re still faced with the climate crisis. Writer Rosecrans Baldwin embeds with the doomsday experts and government agents preparing for the day our planet finally falls apart. GQ

How do we craft the narratives that will define a pandemic? My colleague Tom Curwen — who writes with the precision of a doctor, the wisdom of a rabbi and the economical beauty of a poet — looks to the wreckage of history to try to understand how humans will make sense of this story too. Los Angeles Times

In early March, COVID-19 upended the television industry. This story offers a play-by-play of the week when all production abruptly shut down, in the words of the crew members and showrunners who lived it. Vanity Fair

A dose of pure distraction from the archives: A deliciously fun (and often funny) profile of “The Bachelor” host Chris Harrison, published back when we were all still young in January 2015. GQ

Poem of the week: “Musée des Beaux Arts” by W.H. Auden. Emory College

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 Laura Blasey for all her help on the Saturday edition.)