Newsletter: Essential California Week in Review: Going through phases

The Mission Tiki Drive-In Theatre in Montclair during a socially distant showing of “Knives Out,” with Don Johnson on the screen.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, May 9.

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

Reopening begins. Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that some retail stores across the state could reopen with modifications as early as Friday, May 8 — part of the four-stage plan he laid out last week to gradually transition back to some kind of normal.


Beach drama recedes. Days after Newsom ordered all Orange County beaches to close, state officials on Monday allowed two cities to begin reopening them. Others followed, and beachgoers rejoiced. Now, most of the county’s beaches are open. Here are their hours.

A slow recovery. Before residents and business owners get too excited, the state and experts say California’s reopening will start slow and depend on the community. One expert says it may not be complete for a year or longer. Many counties are also far from meeting public health benchmarks.

New restrictions. Even as some rules have been rolled back, others have been added. Los Angeles County’s transit network will require all passengers to wear masks. LAX has introduced a similar requirement.

Tensions remain. Some communities want to reopen more quickly. Rural Sutter and Yuba counties let businesses reopen early after a similar decision was made in Modoc County in California’s northeastern corner, drawing condemnation from Newsom. Some residents still aren’t happy, though they are a narrow, and disproportionately white, group.


Industry by industry. How likely a business is to reopen and its chances of survival depend on what kind of business it is. Movie theaters and retail may have a harder time, restaurants an easier one. And Disney? Well, a lot of questions remain.

Some may not reopen at all. Beloved chain Souplantation is closing all of its restaurants permanently, a casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic that is likely to be the death knell for all self-serve eateries. Our editorial pages editor recalled its comforts for him as an L.A. newcomer.

Deficit deepens. In the wake of the pandemic, California’s government faces a $54.3-billion budget deficit through next summer, the largest projected fiscal hole in state history. And the state has still committed to spend more than $3.7 billion on no-bid contracts, desperate for masks and other equipment.

The return of drive-ins. L.A.’s drive-throughs and drive-ins are offering people a renewed sense of normalcy, and their popularity is once again growing, from doughnuts to movies to church.


Beating in Boyle Heights. Footage of a Los Angeles police officer repeatedly punching a man during an arrest in Boyle Heights in late April has stoked outrage and prompted the launch of an internal review of the incident.

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1. Auburn rancher moves herd of sheep to new field for grazing. Sacramento Bee

2. Wait, how many ‘SNL’ cast members fled to Los Angeles? Vulture


3. These California businesses can reopen this week, and these can’t. Los Angeles Times

4. The changes we hope are permanent once the pandemic is over. Los Angeles Times

5. Introducing Boiling Point, a newsletter on climate change, environment and energy. Los Angeles Times

ICYMI, here are this week’s great reads

“I tried hypnosis to deal with my pandemic anxiety, and then things got much weirder.” A wonderful and strange piece from Anna Merlan. Vice


Can’t decipher Trump-speak? Meet Margaret, the computer bot. Los Angeles Times

New York’s patron saint of PPE went $600,000 in debt to outfit workers — and hospitals keep turning her down. “The only way to get workers what they needed, she decided, was to buy and distribute it herself. And she knew she could because she’d done it before.” Washington Post

Some distraction from the archives: In July 2003, Gourmet magazine sent David Foster Wallace to “the enormous, pungent and extremely well-marketed” Maine Lobster Festival. Foster Wallace’s resulting essay, “Consider the Lobster,” is one of the all-time greats. Don’t skip the footnotes. Gourmet

Poem of the week: “Earl” by Louis Jenkins. 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 Laura Blasey for all her help on the Saturday edition.)