Newsletter: Closing time, again

A locked gate in front of Los Angeles High School on Rimpau Boulevard in Los Angeles
A locked gate in front of Los Angeles High School on Rimpau Boulevard. Austin Beutner, superintendent of the L.A. Unified School District, announced that campuses will not reopen for classes because of the coronavirus outbreak.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Tuesday, July 14, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

Here we go again. On Monday, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that California would be largely closing once more, as coronavirus cases continue to surge and the number of available hospital beds dwindles.

“We’re moving back into a modification mode of our original stay-at-home order,” the governor said, leaning on his oft-used “dimmer switch” metaphor to explain that this wouldn’t be an “on, open economy,” or “off, shutdown” situation but rather a continued toggling of the space in between.

His announcement was two-fold, with sweeping rollbacks of indoor facilities applicable to the entire state and further restrictions ordered for counties on the state’s monitoring list.

[Read the story: “Newsom orders statewide reclosure of indoor dining, limits on church services, salons” in the Los Angeles Times]


Dine-in restaurants, movie theaters, wineries, museums and entertainment centers have been ordered to close all indoor facilities statewide. Bars and breweries will be required to close indoor operations across the state but can serve drinks outdoors if accompanied by food.

The dimmer switch fell a little more heavily on the 29 counties currently on the state monitoring list, which are home to about 80% of California’s population. Those 29 counties have been ordered to shutter gyms, houses of worship, hair salons, personal care services, indoor malls and offices for nonessential workers.

[Read more: “These are the California businesses that must shut down under Newsom’s new coronavirus order” in the Los Angeles Times]

Newsom’s Monday address came on the heels of another piece of difficult news. On Monday morning, Supt. Austin Beutner announced that L.A. Unified will not reopen campuses for the start of the school year in August, and the nation’s second-largest school system will continue with online learning until further notice.

The decision, as education reporter Howard Blume explained in his story, pitted two imperatives against each other: the need to reduce health risks versus the need to return students to classrooms — where, experts say, they will learn more effectively, while also allowing their parents to resume a more routine work schedule, helping to boost a state economy in deep recession.

[Read the story: “L.A. Unified will not reopen campuses for start of school year amid coronavirus spike” in the Los Angeles Times]

The path that L.A. Unified leaders — and educational leaders across the country, more broadly speaking — have been forced to navigate is nothing short of a minefield. There are, to put it simply, no good options.

Potentially irreparable health and life consequences for entire school communities loom on all sides, as educators weigh long-term learning losses, the varied services that schools provide beyond the classroom, child-care quagmires and often inadequate home learning environments alongside the immediate need to protect students and employees from the spread of the coronavirus.

Calling it a crisis would be an “understatement,” Beutner said.

Other California school districts are continuing to determine whether to return to classrooms after summer break, with varying decisions seen thus far across the state. San Diego Unified, the second-largest school district in the state, announced Monday morning that it, too, would be online-only for the start of the semester.

But Orange County education leaders took a very different tack from their neighbors to the south and north. The county Board of Education voted 4 to 1 Monday evening to approve recommendations for reopening schools in the fall that do not include the mandatory use of masks for students or increased social distancing in classrooms amid a surge in coronavirus cases.

Despite their recommendations, the board did leave reopening plans up to individual school districts in the county. Still, the recommendations — which were compiled by an 11-member outside panel they appointed — have stirred controversy among parents and teachers in Orange County.

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

The view from inside hospitals as the coronavirus surge hits: For months, California hospitals avoided the dreaded surge in COVID-19 patients that threatened to overwhelm wards and stretch thin staff and supplies. But now, with hospitalizations in the state at an all-time high, some doctors and nurses say the nightmare has arrived. Los Angeles Times

A body found in Lake Piru is that of “Glee” actress Naya Rivera, who disappeared five days ago during a boat outing with her young son, authorities said Monday. Los Angeles Times


The corruption case against L.A. City Councilman Jose Huizar now involves his 80-year-old mother. Federal prosecutors have alleged, without mentioning her by name, that the embattled councilman’s mother helped her son launder bribe money he received between 2014 and 2017. Los Angeles Times

Seven “must-try” takeout upstarts claim their place in L.A.’s dining universe. Some of L.A.’s finest takeout options aren’t coming from established restaurants. A growing takeout subculture has emerged during quarantine, led by chefs and other industry professionals who have been laid off from their kitchen jobs or whose catering gigs have dried up. Los Angeles Times

A Windsor Hills pizza from Brandoni Pepperoni
A Windsor Hills pizza from Brandoni Pepperoni, a pickup-only upstart in West Hollywood. Proprietor Brandon Gray runs the kitchen for Royce Burke’s takeout restaurant Secret Lasagna by day and bakes his Brandoni Pepperoni pies after his shifts.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

A moldy jam scandal explodes on social media. Sqirl, Virgil Village’s wildly popular purveyor of jam-topped ricotta toast and other stylized comfort foods, faced allegations of moldy jam and food safety issues as former employees spoke out. The jam discourse became so heated that “Sqirl” briefly trended nationally on Twitter. Los Angeles Times

First gentrification, now a pandemic. Can Highland Park’s fabled music scene survive? Los Angeles Times

The Lakers are learning that life in the NBA bubble isn’t just Cancun Coladas and pool parties. The Lakers were among the last of the 22 teams to arrive in Orlando and are just beginning to explore what bubble life will mean. Los Angeles Times

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Rep. Devin Nunes’ setback in his Twitter lawsuit has driven a big fundraising haul for his Democratic opponent. The Fresno Democrat, Phil Arballo, hauled in $65,000 in the three days after a Virginia judge last month ruled against Nunes in the Republican’s lawsuit against Twitter. It’s a notable haul for the first-time candidate, although Nunes has still raised far more than Arballo. Fresno Bee


California’s three public systems of higher education have put their collective force into a legal fight to stop federal immigration authorities from banning international students from the U.S. if they take only online courses this fall, as an urgent deadline approaches Wednesday. Los Angeles Times


Last year’s Ridgecrest earthquakes may have increased the chance of a large earthquake on the San Andreas fault, according to a new study. Perhaps it’s a good time to finally get that earthquake kit together? Los Angeles Times


Black and Latinx women in California have lost work at three times the rate of white men during the pandemic. “This is really amplifying existing inequalities, especially racial and ethnic inequities,” said Alissa Anderson, a senior budget analyst at the California Budget & Policy Center and the author of the unemployment report. Mercury News

This hidden Salton Sea birder oasis burned in the Niland fire. But its owner vows to rebuild. Desert Sun

Looking to get away from it all? These seven California RV parks are good for beginners. Los Angeles Times

A poem to start your Tuesday: “It’s Hard to Keep a Clean Shirt Clean” by June Jordan. Poetry Foundation

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Los Angeles: sunny, 80. San Diego: partly sunny, 75. San Francisco: partly sunny, 67. San Jose: partly sunny, 82. Fresno: sunny, 98. Sacramento: sunny, 91. More weather is here.


Today’s California memory comes from Barbara Davis Epstein:

It was 1952, and being a teenager in Santa Monica was heaven. We all took the Pico bus down to Muscle Beach, right next to Santa Monica Pier, every day about noon when the clouds would burn away. The scent of frying hamburgers and fries drifted over the sand, past the weightlifters and gymnasts, to our blankets, as Rosemary Clooney sang “Come On-a My House” with the sound of the surf. Heaven.

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.