Newsletter: Pandemic disparities run deep

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Friday, July 17. I’m Esmeralda Bermudez, filling in for Julia Wick, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

California marked grim milestones for new coronavirus cases this week, and the next two weeks are shaping up to be critical.


As the pandemic wears on, we’re learning just how much the virus is disproportionately hitting communities of color. In Los Angeles, Latino and Black students have suffered deep disparities in online learning, a new report shows.

More than 50,000 Black and Latino middle and high school students in the L.A. Unified School District did not regularly participate in the school system’s main platform for virtual classrooms after campuses closed in March. The report didn’t explain why certain groups had lower rates of participation, but past surveys have shown that many families of color and low-income families lacked computers and internet access.

The pandemic has also taken a unique toll on working-class Latino and Black families, whose members disproportionately work as essential front-line workers, frequently in low-paying jobs. Latinos make up nearly 39% of the state’s population but 55% of its COVID-19 cases.

A Los Angeles Times analysis of statewide data found that for every 100,000 Latino residents, 767 have tested positive. Black residents have also been hit particularly hard: For every 100,000 Black residents, 396 have tested positive. By comparison, 261 of every 100,000 white residents have confirmed infections.

This has led to growing calls for California to do more to protect essential workers, and for employers need to make workplaces safer.

Rafael Saaverdra and daughter Gianna, 5, next to a framed picture of daughter, Gizzelle, 16.
Rafael Saaverdra with his daughter Gianna, 5, and a framed picture of his oldest daughter, Gizzelle, 16, in Alhambra. Saaverdra handles shipping containers from overseas and says his worst fear is infecting his two girls with COVID-19.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Luis Chavarria and his brother are truck drivers based out of facilities in Compton and the Inland Empire. When his brother got COVID-19, Chavarria kept working — there were bills to pay and food to buy.

“We do the best we can to protect ourselves, but there is a big fear. It feels like a dark shadow,” the 42-year-old said. “These companies need to keep their eyes out. These companies have so many resources and it feels like they’ve left us in the cold here during the pandemic.”

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

Californians turn against each other amid the second coronavirus shutdown. Over the course of the pandemic, Californians have focused their anger at the governor and other politicians and health officials. Now, they are turning on each other. Los Angeles Times

For the first time in history, Latinos are the largest group of Californians admitted to the University of California. Latinos slightly eclipsed Asian Americans for the first time, making up 36% of the 79,953 California students offered admission. Los Angeles Times

Will children spread COVID-19 if they go back to school? Will the virus jump to classmates, who could then fuel its spread throughout the student body? Scientists don’t have definitive answers to questions like these — and they probably won’t for quite a while. Los Angeles Times


L.A.’s independent bookstores reckon with diversity (or the lack of it). Across L.A., a thriving ecosystem of independent bookstores is engaged in conversations about inclusiveness in bookselling. Los Angeles Times

At age 60 and paralyzed, she tried to row across the Pacific. Angela Madsen had overcome much in life, so she and friends thought she could row solo from Los Angeles to Hawaii. Los Angeles Times

Junípero Serra statues to come down in Ventura. It was decided a bronze statue of the controversial California missionary — who has come under recent and intense scrutiny statewide — would be hauled away from in front of Ventura City Hall. Los Angeles Times

How L.A.'s freeways contribute to inequality and the city’s racial divide. The significance of freeways in Los Angeles extends much further than being stuck to bumper to bumper. L.A. Taco

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Despite a Supreme Court ruling, the Trump administration rejects new “Dreamer” applications. President Trump is venturing onto shaky legal ground as officials reject new applications, sidestepping a Supreme Court ruling reinstating DACA. Los Angeles Times


Tenants are keeping up rent payments during the pandemic, but a wave of evictions could loom. Without a blanket eviction prohibition, tenants will have to navigate protections that vary by city, with many requiring those who fall behind on rent to go to court to remain in their homes. Los Angeles Times

Out of work in the pandemic, a young bread maker kept on baking — and launched his own business. Jyan Isaac Horwitz began to bake naturally fermented sourdough bread out of his family’s kitchen in Venice, selling loaves to friends and neighbors. Los Angeles Times


Congress edges toward deal to extend federal unemployment subsidy in coronavirus bill. After initial resistance from some Republicans, Congress is closer to an agreement to extend at least some of the $600-a-week federal unemployment insurance subsidy to help American workers hurt by the coronavirus crisis. Los Angeles Times

LGBTQ candidates run for office in record numbers in the U.S. A record 850 LGBTQ people are running for office this year, including several candidates with strong chances of entering Congress. Associated Press


Charges have been dismissed against social workers linked to Gabriel Fernandez’s killing. Four social workers had been accused of failing to protect the 8-year-old Palmdale boy who was tortured and killed by his mother and her boyfriend. Los Angeles Times

A West Hollywood man was sentenced in a $6-million art fraud scheme. Authorities say he tried to sell phonies of paintings by such artists as Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat and other modern masters and has been sentenced to five years in federal prison. Associated Press

Former West Sacramento police chief says he was pushed out for seeking reforms. Now he’s suing. Sacramento Bee


As if the pandemic weren’t enough, 2020 might be the hottest year ever. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates 2020 has a 36% chance of becoming the hottest year on record. Los Angeles Times

32 stranded chimpanzees need permanent new homes. The chimpanzees are stranded in the shuttered Wildlife Waystation in the Angeles National Forest. Their fates depend on raising the funds needed to build new homes. Los Angeles Times

Charts show how coronavirus-positive test rates have roller-coastered in Bay Area counties. As California shutters many reopened businesses in the counties on its coronavirus watch list, one crucial metric guiding health officials’ decisions is the positive test rate. San Francisco Chronicle

Rite Aid opens 38 coronavirus testing sites in L.A., Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties. The no-cost testing will be available by appointment for people 18 years or older, regardless of whether the person is experiencing symptoms. Orange County Register


“What’s Next” looms large in the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s posters for its 2019-20 season. Music and Artistic Director Gustavo Dudamel and L.A. Phil Chief Executive Chad Smith lay out a plan amid COVID-19. Los Angeles Times

Last year’s movies failed to include enough queer people of color. After analyzing the 118 films released in 2019 by the eight major studios, GLAAD found that the percentage of LGBTQ characters of color dropped dramatically for the second year running. Los Angeles Times

How Kendrick Lamar, Marvin Gaye and “Black genius” inspired a jazz/hip-hop supergroup. In a year rent with despair over the COVID-19 and a long-overdue reckoning with America failing its Black citizens, Dinner Party’s self-titled debut arrived as a balm. Los Angeles Times

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Los Angeles: partly sunny, 81. San Diego: partly cloudy, 77. San Francisco: partly sunny, 69. San Jose: partly sunny, 83. Fresno: sunny, 100. Sacramento: sunny, 88. More weather is here.


Today’s California memory comes from Col. Dan Petkunas:

The year was 1965, and I was 17. I was in a TWA window seat as the pilot circled LAX. Peering down into heavy brownish smog, I remember thinking I’d never voluntarily live down there and breathe that stuff. Then my uncle drove me 50 miles in his convertible to eat at a new hamburger joint called Tommies. Lots of other fun, too, and after two weeks I didn’t want to leave.

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.