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Newsletter: California tops the U.S. in coronavirus cases

The COVID-19 testing site at the Forum parking lot in Inglewood
Stephenson Arturo Avilio waits for cars to arrive so he can make sure people have registered at the COVID-19 testing site at the Forum parking lot in Inglewood on Monday.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Thursday, July 23, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

Another day, another grim milestone reached or record surpassed.

As of Wednesday, California officially has the most confirmed coronavirus infections of any state in the nation, surpassing New York as as an ongoing rise in the number of infections pushed the Golden State’s overall case count past 413,000.

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[Read the story: “California has most COVID-19 cases in U.S., surpassing New York, as spike continues” in the Los Angeles Times]

Shortly after noon Wednesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom said that 12,807 new coronavirus infections had been reported in the state during the past 24 hours — a new record high. The sustained surge in cases comes as coronavirus-related hospitalizations have continued to hit or approach record-breaking levels in the state.

So does California’s case count mean the state is now the hardest hit in the nation? It’s a bit more complicated than that.

California’s population also has to be taken into account. California’s population dwarfs that of most other states; it even exceeds that of Texas, the nation’s second-most populous state, by more than 10 million. “We’re a state the size of 21 states combined,” Newsom explained during Wednesday’s briefing. “So it’s not surprising now in some respects, as we began to reopen key sectors of our economy, people continue to mix and people continue to come in close contact with others that may have contracted this disease, that our numbers will start to go up in total.”

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He also emphasized that, despite having the highest number of cases, California did not have the highest per capita infection rates in the country. Deaths also must be taken into account when measuring the virus’ impact. And despite California surpassing New York in case numbers, New York’s death toll has been roughly three times that of California.

Still, Newsom called the milestone “a sober reminder” of the need to take things seriously. The governor said officials are redoubling efforts to secure protective gear and are preparing to expand the number of available hospital beds to handle a surge in patients.

Globally, the number of cases worldwide topped 15 million Wednesday.

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

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CSU undergrads must take an ethnic studies or social justice class starting in 2023: In the first major change to general education across its system in decades, all 430,000 undergraduates attending Cal State universities must take an ethnic studies or social justice course, a requirement approved by CSU trustees Wednesday after a fierce debate that left some longtime social activists in the awkward position of voting “no.” The measure was opposed by some faculty and students who argued it was too broad and developed without appropriate consultation with ethnic studies faculty. Los Angeles Times

L.A. STORIES

Roughly four decades ago, this street was renamed for an L.A. city councilman’s kid. Now, residents of the tiny Hermon neighborhood of northeast L.A. want the name changed back. Eastsider L.A.

How to participate in government through emails and calls: Have you ever wondered how to most effectively contact your elected officials about an issue you care about? Or whom to even contact? A local activist breaks down the process in actionable and easy-to-understand terms in this very practical guide. L.A. Pays Attention

All the cool kids are ordering food through Instagram. As restaurant workers transition to social media to sell their specialties, these are some of the accounts you should be following. (Consider this a companion piece to Times restaurant critic Bill Addison’s recent roundup of must-try upstarts in the L.A. dining universe, most of which are also doing business through Instagram, or at least hawking their wares there.) Eater LA

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The Dodgers and Mookie Betts agreed to a historic 12-year, $365-million contract extension. His is the second-largest deal in Major League Baseball history. Los Angeles Times

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POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT

Is President Trump stretching the law to deploy federal police power in cities? Supreme Court reporter David G. Savage lays out the legal analysis. Los Angeles Times

Congress passes a sprawling plan to boost conservation and national parks. A bipartisan bill that would spend nearly $3 billion on conservation projects, outdoor recreation and maintenance of national parks and other public lands is on its way to the president’s desk after winning final legislative approval. Los Angeles Times

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Protesters gathered early Wednesday night near the home of Sacramento’s city manager for a planned “sit-in/die-in” to demand his removal from his post over their claims that he has allowed rogue police officers to remain on the job. Sacramento Bee

CRIME AND COURTS

The Santa Clara County district attorney will no longer pursue the death penalty in any cases prosecuted by the office. The announcement came as part of a wide-ranging reform plan to address racial equity disparities in prosecutions unveiled by Santa Clara D.A. Jeff Rosen. Mercury News

A conservative group that has fought California’s stay-at-home orders is suing Newsom over his school-closure mandate for counties with high rates of COVID-19. The Center for American Liberty is headed by attorney and Republican Party official Harmeet Dhillon and has sued Newsom multiple times for actions he’s taken during the pandemic. Los Angeles Times

HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Firefighters continued working to halt the spread of several large forest fires in Northern California. Unstable weather brought the risk of gusty winds, thunderstorms and lightning strikes that could start new blazes. Redding Record Searchlight

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The terror behind bars: Incarcerated and recently released individuals describe the situation inside California prisons as the coronavirus raged. Los Angeles Times

Many Latino workers fear getting tested for COVID-19. A San Francisco program aims to change that. Los Angeles Times

CALIFORNIA CULTURE

The Sierra Club calls out the racism of John Muir: Muir helped form the National Park Service and influenced generations with his passionate calls to protect and revere nature. But on Wednesday, the Sierra Club — which Muir co-founded — acknowledged a darker part of his history. Los Angeles Times

Theodore Roosevelt and American conservationist John Muir on Glacier Point in Yosemite
President Theodore Roosevelt with conservationist John Muir at Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park in 1903.
(MPI / Getty Images)
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Parents are rushing to hire tutors and create learning pods. But not everyone has options. Los Angeles Times

[See also: “The latest in school segregation: Private pandemic ‘pods’” in the New York Times opinion section]

As the pandemic worsens, Silicon Valley’s rich are just getting richer. People like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Steve Ballmer have added tens of billions of dollars to their net worths since the beginning of the calendar year, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Recode

San Francisco’s “Fruit Jesus” rises again. After the amply bearded (hence the nickname) San Franciscan’s one-man fruit delivery operation bottomed out under stay-at-home orders, he pivoted from office clients to residential deliveries. SF Gate

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Is this the time for a vacation in Baja? Absolutely not, says California’s governor, backed by legions of local and state health officials. Yes, say scores of Mexican hoteliers and travel industry workers. Los Angeles Times

A poem to start your Thursday: “You, Therefore” by Reginald Shepherd. Poetry Foundation

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, 71. San Francisco: partly sunny, 66. San Jose: partly sunny, 80. Fresno: sunny, 94. Sacramento: sunny, 91. More weather is here.

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AND FINALLY

Today’s California memory comes from Cheryl Larkin:

1950: As a little girl living on Van Nuys Boulevard in San Fernando, I would wait by the gate, watching for my grandpa to come walking home from work from the bus stop. I remember the unobstructed view of land across the two-lane street and the birds singing in the olive tree grove next door. Out of the Dust Bowl he came and worked at Lockheed, a life I’m sure he never imagined. He could neither read nor write, but loved and supported his family. I can see him coming, anxiously awaiting the sweet treat he would always bring me in a little white bag.

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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