Newsletter: A special election and more in the week ahead

Republican Mike Garcia and Democrat Christy Smith are battling in a competitive special election to represent California's 25th Congressional District.
(Handout; Associated Press)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Monday, May 11, and here’s a quick look at the week ahead:

On Tuesday, voters in California’s 25th Congressional District will elect a new representative in a highly competitive special election. Democratic Assemblywoman Christy Smith will face off against first-time Republican candidate Mike Garcia to fill the seat vacated by Democratic freshman Katie Hill’s resignation. Most of the election will be conducted by mail, with get-out-the-vote efforts limited by social distancing. The 25th District sprawls through suburbs and high desert from Simi Valley, Porter Ranch, Santa Clarita and Palmdale to a portion of Lancaster.

Also Tuesday: The nation’s leading infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, will testify before a Senate committee about the coronavirus response, along with CDC director Robert Redfield and others. All witnesses will testify remotely; Fauci and Redfield are quarantined after contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

On Friday, Oprah Winfrey will deliver an online commencement address to students across the country. The virtual graduation, which will be streamed on Facebook and Instagram, will also include a performance from Miley Cyrus and many other appearances.


On Saturday, LeBron James will host another national virtual graduation ceremony, with an address by former President Obama and others. The show will air simultaneously on ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC.

And a quick programming note: Starting this week, your Friday newsletter will be coming from a rotating cast of my L.A. Times colleagues. Like newspapers across the country, our newsroom has been hit hard by a devastating decline in ad revenue during the pandemic. To stave off layoffs, the journalists at the paper have agreed to a 20% reduction in hours for the next few months, meaning we’ll be working four days a week instead of the usual five. Other reporters will fill in on my weekly furlough day.

I know these are difficult times for everyone, but if you have the means and haven’t already subscribed to the paper, I hope you will consider doing so. Newspapers were already struggling before the pandemic, but the crisis has made the situation more dire.

Support our journalism

Subscribe to the Los Angeles Times.

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

Projections show California coronavirus cases and deaths rising more than expected: California is one of a handful of states where coronavirus cases and deaths are going up more than researchers expected, according to the latest projections in a widely relied-upon model of the COVID-19 outbreak. The model suggests the nationwide fatality count could reach 137,000 by Aug. 4. Los Angeles Times

When “selfish behavior” leads to a cluster of new coronavirus cases: Pasadena officials say they recently traced a cluster of at least five coronavirus cases to a birthday party held after the city issued stay-at-home orders. “One person showed up to the party exhibiting symptoms and joking she may have the virus,” Lisa Derderian, spokeswoman for the city of Pasadena, said in an email. “The aftermath affected several others who became seriously ill because of one person’s negligent and selfish behavior.” Los Angeles Times


“We want to study you.” For black Angelenos, the coronavirus triggers fear of another Tuskegee. Seeds of mistrust were sowed almost a century ago in a rural corner of Alabama where, for four decades, medical researchers used hundreds of black men as guinea pigs in a government study now known as the Tuskegee experiment. Los Angeles Times


L.A. County beaches are likely to reopen Wednesday or Thursday. Expect a range of restrictions, including closed parking lots, piers and boardwalks. Los Angeles Times

His Ahmaud Arbery portrait went viral. How an L.A. artist finds power in art. Los Angeles Times

Coronavirus testing has come to skid row. But what happens when infected patients disappear? Los Angeles Times


In the coronavirus crisis, Gov. Gavin Newsom uses social media to raise awareness of the pandemic — and his profile. Though they might seem to be impromptu missives fired off at all hours of the day, Newsom’s tweets and other social media posts are part of a well-oiled machine, written and at times meticulously planned by staff and paid political advisors. Los Angeles Times


Bay Area cities face a grim financial outlook amid budget slashing. Here’s what cities are planning to cut. San Francisco Chronicle


Nearly 70% of inmates have tested positive for coronavirus at Lompoc federal prison, making it the largest federal penitentiary outbreak in the nation. Los Angeles Times


Preparing for the mental health effects of the coronavirus on kids: More children are likely to experience toxic stress during the pandemic, which could lead to devastating effects in the future. Los Angeles Times

California faces a perilous fire season as the coronavirus threatens firefighters. “Realizing that wildfire smoke will steadily impair a firefighter’s immune system, and that traditional base camps can magnify the risk of infection, federal, state and county officials are urging a blitzkrieg approach to wildfires that will rely heavily on the use of aircraft.” Los Angeles Times


Panicked over “murder hornets,” people are killing native bees we desperately need. Bees pollinate approximately 75% of the fruits, nuts and vegetables grown in the United States. Los Angeles Times


Cleanup on aisle everywhere: A day in the life of supermarket workers during the coronavirus. Los Angeles Times

Vons checker cashier Miyoshi Lampkin, who has worked at Vons for 40 years, cleans and sanitizes her checkout lane.
Checker and cashier Miyoshi Lampkin, who has worked at Vons for 40 years, cleans and sanitizes her checkout lane.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Elon Musk threatened to move Tesla headquarters to Nevada or Texas over the shutdown. Like many of Musk’s dramatic updates, the threat to “immediately” move the company’s headquarters out of California was issued via tweet. Los Angeles Times


Santa Barbara sea urchins are prized by high-end restaurants. With many of those restaurants temporarily shuttered, the delicacies are now being sold to home cooks. LAist

Small towns across the Sierra fear tourists will bring the coronavirus with them: The Sierra Nevada towns that dot Alpine County have no hospital. Nor do they have a single doctor’s office or clinic. Los Angeles Times

The coronavirus exposed California’s weaknesses like never before. Use this survey to tell us us: What needs to change after the pandemic? Los Angeles Times

“Older does not equal expendable.” Columnist Nita Lelyveld on why we all need to act in a way that protects our elders from coronavirus. Los Angeles Times



Eight Bay Area restaurants that are nailing takeout. From old-school, red sauce Italian food in San Francisco’s Sunset District to a multicourse family-style Palestinian feast in Emeryville. San Francisco Chronicle

Watch the virtual curtains rise from your living room: A curated guide to theater available online, from “Acquanetta” to the Wooster Group, with stops at Shakespeare and “Fun Home.” New York Times

Cook with the pros. Our food team has launched a new cooking newsletter. Check out the first edition. Los Angeles Times

A bagpiper’s nightly coronavirus serenade sounds a mournful yet hopeful note in a Santa Monica park. Los Angeles Times


A poem to start your week: “One Art” by Elizabeth Bishop. Poetry Foundation

Free online games

Get our free daily crossword puzzle, sudoku, word search and arcade games in our new game center at


Los Angeles: partly sunny, 73. San Diego: partly sunny, 69. San Francisco: rain, 66. San Jose: sunny, 73. Fresno: partly sunny, 87. Sacramento: rain, 76. More weather is here.


This week’s birthdays for those who made a mark in California:


Director George Lucas (May 14, 1944), Rep. Jackie Speier (May 14, 1950), L.A. City Atty. Mike Feuer (May 14, 1958), Rep. Mimi Walters (May 14, 1962) and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (May 14, 1984).

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

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.