Newsletter: The reopening seesaw

Demetria Christ carries her groceries after shopping at FIGat7th
Demetria Christ carries her groceries after shopping at FIGat7th, an open-air mall downtown.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Wednesday, July 22, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

Could Los Angeles become the biggest U.S. city to impose a second stay-at-home order? That’s the possibility my colleagues Dakota Smith and Ron Lin explore in a story set against a backdrop of surging coronavirus cases and hospitalizations that have shown few signs of slowing.

[Read the story: “L.A. may become the biggest U.S. city with a second stay-home order” in the Los Angeles Times]

The statewide pendulum began swinging back toward closures three weeks ago, when Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered seven counties including Los Angeles to immediately close bars; that order was expanded to include indoor dining in 19 counties a few days later. Newsom expanded the shutdown last week, ordering all bars and indoor dining at restaurants statewide to close, with further indoor businesses ordered shuttered in most of the state.


If new orders do follow, Angelenos can’t say they weren’t given potential notice: Mayor Eric Garcetti has been warning for two weeks that the city is on the brink of returning to some type of stay-at-home order. But he has yet to pull the trigger on the decision, which would invariably deal another devastating blow to the city’s already battered economy.

The will-we-or-won’t-we uncertainty can’t last forever, though. Speaking on Sunday, the mayor said that a decision will probably come in the next week or two, as officials determine whether restrictions imposed in late June and July slowed the rapid community spread of the virus in Los Angeles.

Few, if any, big cities in the U.S. have imposed a second stay-at-home order after reopening, which is part of why Garcetti’s frequent warnings have often triggered national headlines.

While speaking on Sunday, Garcetti also said that he thought Los Angeles had opened too quickly, telling CNN that “mayors often have no control what opens up and doesn’t — that’s either at a state or county level.”

But as Dakota and Ron note in their story, local leaders like Garcetti are permitted to issue closure and stay-at-home restrictions that are stricter than those issued by the county or state, just not rules that are more lenient. Several lifetimes ago in mid-March, Garcetti actually did just that — the city issued its stay-at-home order on March 19, while county officials had stopped short of such an order at the time. But Newsom issued his historic statewide stay-at-home order later that same day, making the distinction between the county and city orders less of an issue (or a discussion point).

Still, it would be naive to pretend that the jurisdictional geography doesn’t present very real challenges to the mayor’s next steps. Los Angeles is but one of the 88 cities within its eponymous county, to say nothing of the more than a hundred unincorporated areas that dot the county landscape. There are also several Los Angeles County cities, like West Hollywood and Beverly Hills, that exist like islands within the broader borders of the city of Los Angeles. To put it simply, a second stay-at-home order for the city of Los Angeles that isn’t executed in coordination with the county would be a recipe for something between confusion and chaos. (Remember the ever-shifting patchwork curfews of early June?)

As Los Angeles contemplates a potential return to life under coronavirus lockdown, my colleague Nabil Bulos offers a dispatch from the British city of Leicester. Leicester, which is northeast of Birmingham, has been the first city in Britain to have its coronavirus lockdown reimposed since the country’s gradual emergence from its long confinement.

[Read the story: “‘It feels cruel’: A British city goes back under lockdown, but its neighbors don’t” in the Los Angeles Times]

Nabil details how the new restrictions have come as a bitter blow to many residents, particularly as they watch many of their fellow Brits reclaim some of the normalcy they crave.

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

California has surpassed 400,000 overall cases, with a number that is edging toward overtaking the 408,000 total infections that have been reported by the New York health department. The state is also reporting worsening death tolls. The seven-day average of coronavirus-related deaths has been hovering between 91 and 99 each day since July 10, the worst it has been since the pandemic began. Los Angeles Times

President Trump tries a new move to restrict immigrants in the census: On Tuesday, Trump directed his administration to exclude immigrants who are in the country illegally when calculating congressional representation, a decision that critics describe as unconstitutional and will probably face a swift court challenge. The administration already attempted to include a question about citizenship on the census form in a move that was ultimately rejected by the Supreme Court in 2019.

The president’s directive, which would adopt a practice never before used in U.S. history, faces several major hurdles — legal, logistical and political. If successfully carried out, however, it could have far-reaching effects by reducing the political clout of states with significant numbers of immigrants, including California and Texas. It could also shift power toward whiter, more rural areas of states at the expense of more diverse cities. Los Angeles Times


The LAPD promised to curb violence on protesters for two decades, but has yet to deliver. The LAPD is being sued for violence against protesters — again. The department committed to policy changes after incidents in 2000 and 2007. Los Angeles Times

What it was like for Guerrilla Tacos to reopen its dining room just hours before the state-mandated closure was announced. “At 4 p.m., we close our dining room. After a month of planning, it was open for five hours. We’re back to where we were before May 29, but now with less funds, too much inventory, and the dashed hopes of 45 people.” Eater

 Gretel Diaz, left, hands over a no-contact to-go order for a customer at Guerrilla Tacos
Gretel Diaz, left, hands over a no-contact to-go order for a customer at Guerrilla Tacos in Los Angeles in May.
(Dania Maxwell/Los Angeles Times)

After a 12-year break, women’s professional soccer is coming back to Southern California. The franchise, which is using Angel City as its tentative nickname, has a star-studded majority-woman ownership group that includes actresses Natalie Portman, Eva Longoria and Uzo Aduba, soccer stars Mia Hamm and Abby Wambach and tennis icon Serena Williams. They plan to bring the team to the market for the 2022 season. Los Angeles Times

Remembering Zapotec patriarch and L.A. father Filiberto “Beto” Gonzalez, who died of the coronavirus in June. Gonzalez was a lifelong basketball enthusiast, the “fit tio that brought fruits and vegetables to family gatherings” and a father of seven. In an admirable move that may be a first for L.A. media, indie publication L.A. Taco published a second version of Gonzalez’s obituary in Zapotec, the indigenous language that Gonzalez grew up speaking in Oaxaca. L.A. Taco editor Javier Cabral told me over the phone that the Zapotec version of the obituary came about after obituary writer Areli Morales told him that some of Gonzalez’s friends and family had been unable to read the original version in English. Because the Zapotec languages have many regional variations, the publication worked with the indigenous women-led organization CIELO to find a translator who was from the same region in Oaxaca as Gonzalez to ensure that the translation was accessible to his community and extended family. L.A. Taco

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With the GOP now on board, another coronavirus stimulus check is likely. But for how much? Senate Republicans on Tuesday said they would include a new round of coronavirus stimulus payments in the upcoming pandemic relief bill, dramatically increasingly the likelihood that more checks will go out to help Americans combat the economic effects of the COVID-19 outbreak. Democrats had previously endorsed the idea. Los Angeles Times

Presidential candidate Joe Biden proposed a $775-billion overhaul of the nation’s caregiving system, efforts that he argued will create 3 million jobs while freeing up millions of people — largely women and people of color — to enter the workforce. Los Angeles Times

A group of people vandalized Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf’s home early Tuesday morning, spray-painting graffiti and setting off fireworks in the street before dawn, according to neighbors. San Francisco Chronicle


Was the suspect in an attack on a federal judge’s family behind a California lawyer’s slaying? The FBI is investigating whether the slaying of a well-known men’s rights attorney in the mountains of San Bernardino County earlier this month is connected to the shooting of a federal judge’s son and husband in New Jersey, according to law enforcement sources familiar with the inquiry. Los Angeles Times

A Mariposa woman allegedly pretended to have cancer for years in an elaborate donation scam. She was arrested Thursday at Fresno Yosemite International Airport. Sierra Star


The Lassen Wolf Pack, believed to be the only known wolf family remaining in California, gave birth to a new litter of pups. The litter has at least eight pups, bringing the pack’s total to 14 members. Redding Record Searchlight

California will kill 3.2 million trout to stop the outbreak of a bacterial infection that’s threatening hatcheries. The trout, which are used to stock waterways for recreational fishing, are in two hatcheries in the Owens Valley in the eastern Sierra and one hatchery in the Mojave Desert city of Victorville, northeast of Los Angeles. Associated Press

Sweltering heat is not new to the Inland Empire’s homeless population. But the threat of the coronavirus is. Los Angeles Times


When John Lewis cosplayed at San Diego Comic-Con as his younger self: Like many at Comic-Con, the late congressman scoured thrift shops to find the right clothing and accessories to represent a superhero of sorts. But in Lewis’ case, the inspiration was personal rather than fictional. Dressed up as his much younger self, he marched a group of children across the San Diego Convention Center, much as he led hundreds across the Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma a half-century before. New York Times

“This revolution has to be accessible.” Deaf protesters want to join the movement for Black lives, and pro bono interpreters are stepping up. San Gabriel Valley Tribune

Two octogenarian sisters keep this Napa trail clean during their almost daily walks. If you’ve ever walked Napa’s River Trail, chances are you’ve seen Carol Frommelt and Gail Randol and their trash grabber sticks. Napa Valley Register

The rise of outdoor schooling? A K-8 school in Marin is adding an all-off-campus, nature-based micro-school track for the 2020-21 school year. Marin Independent Journal

A woman allegedly peed on the floor of a Sacramento-area Verizon store after being asked to leave for refusing to wear a mask. “This is an extremely odd incident,” a Roseville Police spokesperson with a seeming flair for understatement said in a statement. SF Gate

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Los Angeles: partly sunny, 78. San Diego: partly sunny, 71. San Francisco: partly sunny, 66. San Jose: partly sunny, 80. Fresno: sunny, 97. Sacramento: partly cloudy, 87. More weather is here.


Today’s California memory comes from Chuck Strangward:

We had worked in Yellowstone for the summer, but broke our contracts early to explore the West. Camped in Half Moon Bay for a week, squatting in a craggy nook on the beach, driving into the city each day. For our final supper we picnicked on the sand — rotisserie chicken, deli slaw, cheesecake — and watched the sun set over the Pacific. For years I’ve tried and failed to describe that sunset to my wife. Some have Paris, but California has always been my moveable feast.

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.