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Newsletter: The surge and the dimmer switch

Visitors stream into and out of Eaton Canyon Natural Area Park on Sunday, May 24.
Visitors crowded Eaton Canyon Natural Area in Pasadena on May 24. Signs and park volunteers reminded them to wear masks.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Wednesday, July 1, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

California recorded a new grim milestone on Tuesday, as the state passed 6,000 coronavirus-related deaths. More than half of those deaths have been in Los Angeles County.

[See also: “The pandemic’s toll: Lives lost in California” in the Los Angeles Times]

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The record-shattering number of new cases recorded Monday — more than 8,000 — marked the the third time in eight days that the state had broken a record of new daily cases.

In a strange reversal of fortunes, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday that anyone traveling to his state from California will be asked to self-quarantine for 14 days. Cuomo’s incoming-traveler self-quarantine order also applies to visitors from 15 other states that have seen recent spikes.

The pandemic coursed brutally through New York City and state earlier in the year, with the city emerging as a global hot spot of the outbreak in the spring. But while New York’s total death toll still far outpaces that of California, the coronavirus now appears to be largely under control there. On Sunday, Cuomo announced that New York had its lowest single-day death toll since March 15, while hospitalizations also continued to drop. The percentage of COVID-19 tests that came back positive Tuesday in New York was just 1%, an amount that has shrunk even as the state has tested tens of thousands more people since the spring. In California, the average rate of positive cases has grown to 5.6% in the last two weeks, with a sharper jump of 5.9% over seven days.

(For reference, the population of New York City is a bit more than twice that of Los Angeles, while California’s total population is roughly double that of New York state.)

As my colleague Colleen Shalby writes, health officials have attributed the surging California numbers to a combination of events: the further reopening of many businesses, mass protests over the death of George Floyd and clusters of private gatherings.

The state is closely monitoring 19 counties for surges in cases — which recently have skewed toward younger residents — and hospitalizations, which still largely affect older residents and those with underlying health conditions.

As balmy weather and summer barbecues beckon, the July 4 weekend is shaping up to be a crucial test for whether California residents can reduce risky behavior and slow the outbreak. Los Angeles County will close beaches over the holiday weekend, as will Ventura County.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said he planned to announce new restrictions Wednesday and toggle back the “dimmer switch” on reopening ahead of the holiday weekend, telling Californians, “If you’re not going to stay home, and you’re not going to wear masks in public, we have to enforce, and we will.”

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[Read the story: “California planning more restrictions to avoid July 4 coronavirus disaster” in the Los Angeles Times]

The governor warned that changes would include restrictions on indoor gatherings, but he did not provide details. Newsom said family gatherings had been one of the “areas of biggest concern.”

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

The Los Angeles Board of Education has approved an immediate 35% cut to its school police force, a reduction of $25 million, in response to weeks of protests by student activists and community groups who had called for the elimination of the department. Los Angeles Times

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Protests over police brutality and criminal justice reform intensify the race for L.A. district attorney. The battle between Jackie Lacey and George Gascón is already being affected by the fallout of national calls to change American policing, as a number of powerful politicians are being pressured to rescind their support of Lacey in favor of her more reform-minded challenger. Los Angeles Times

L.A. STORIES

Prolific comedy legend Carl Reiner is dead at 98. Reiner created “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and directed hit films such as “Oh, God!” and “The Jerk.” Los Angeles Times

Carl Reiner photographed at his Beverly Hills home in September 2009.
Carl Reiner, the legendary writer, director and actor, photographed in 2009 at his Beverly Hills home.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences opened its doors to 819 new members on Tuesday. It also announced that it has surpassed its goal, set in early 2016 in the wake of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, of doubling the number of women and people from underrepresented ethnic/racial communities in the group by 2020. The new class of members includes Awkwafina, Olivia Wilde, Lakeith Stanfield and Cynthia Erivo. Los Angeles Times

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Behind Steve Bing’s sudden, tragic end: Confidantes of the Hollywood financier, who died by suicide June 22, reflect on the real estate heir’s complicated life. The Hollywood Reporter

“Our club has become a laughingstock.” After an internal dust-up involving at least one fiery letter from a former board member, Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli are no longer members of the tony Bel-Air Country Club. Their resignation from the power club “came amid a battle among members about how to handle the high-profile pair” after they pleaded guilty to charges of fraud in the college admissions scandal. Page Six

The Lakers resume mandatory training Wednesday, unsure which players will be able to work out because of ongoing testing for the coronavirus. Los Angeles Times

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POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT

Gov. Newsom is working to release more than 3,500 prisoners who are close to finishing their sentences as COVID-19 tears through California’s correctional system, including an outbreak that has infected nearly a third of inmates at San Quentin State Prison. Los Angeles Times

“Rep. Katie Porter of Irvine is quickly becoming a power broker in the House of Representatives.” Despite being a freshman Democrat in an Orange County flip district that still leans slightly red, Porter is confident enough in her reelection chances that she has announced the launch of her own “leadership PAC,” a political action committee that lets her raise and spend money separate from her own campaign fund, including for progressive candidates other than herself. Orange County Register

Fresno’s City Council president announced Monday that his young son tested positive for COVID-19, prompting this week’s council meeting to revert to a virtual gathering, while the president quarantines and awaits his own test results. Fresno Bee

CRIME AND COURTS

A judge has temporarily blocked publication of a tell-all book by President Trump’s niece. The book, scheduled to be published July 28, was written by Mary Trump, daughter of Fred Trump Jr., the president’s elder brother, who died in 1981. Los Angeles Times

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HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Remember the Aliso Canyon disaster? SoCalGas just tried to delay safety tests. The company cited the COVID-19 pandemic, but state officials denied the request. Los Angeles Times

CALIFORNIA CULTURE

The current hottest reservation in San Francisco? A timed donation slot at St. Anthony’s in the Tenderloin, where one can pull up to the socially distanced curbside drop-off area and unload gently used clothing and other essentials. About 60 appointment times are released every Monday and typically “sell out” within two hours. SFGate

Fresno’s Black Lives Matter movement has lost a leader, educator and “mother figure.” West Fresno community activist Maria Else died last week of “natural medical complications.” Fresno Bee

A 25-year-old man who was shot by San Diego police over the weekend has died. The shooting of Leonardo Ibarra, who police say aimed a gun before they opened fire, has drawn intense scrutiny amid local and national protests decrying police brutality and racial injustice. Los Angeles Times

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There won’t be a Minor League Baseball season in 2020. The announcement was tough news for fans who were hoping to catch a Modesto Nuts game at John Thurman Field this year. Modesto Bee

A poem to start your Wednesday: “Basic Needs” by Vanessa Jimenez Gabb.The Slowdown

Free online games

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

CALIFORNIA ALMANAC

Los Angeles: partly sunny, 76. San Diego: partly sunny, 69. San Francisco: partly sunny, 64. San Jose: sunny, 80. Fresno: sunny, 98. Sacramento: sunny, 93. More weather is here.

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AND FINALLY

Today’s California memory comes from Frank L. Tobe:

Before the Beverly Center was conceived, there was a small amusement park on the corner of La Cienega and Beverly boulevards with a merry-go-round, horse rides for kids (like me) and a wonderful hamburger stand: Dave’s Taxi Burger. An oblong onion roll with mustard, relish and a similarly oblong, really good-smelling hamburger. My father took me for lunch there most Saturdays, and we both loved it. I never knew why it was called a Taxi Burger. I asked Dave if that was his last name.... It wasn’t. Anyone know why?

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.


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