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Essential California Week in Review: Parties over

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, August 8.

Here’s a look at the top stories of the last week:

How many infections? A breakdown in the electronic collection of coronavirus test data is hampering California’s pandemic response. Technical problems with the electronic system for gathering and analyzing infection rates could be resulting in significant undercounts of infections across the state, and the steep drop Newsom announced this week may not be accurate. The breakdown has left California increasingly in the dark about how the virus is spreading.

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The troubles at EDD. Ancient technology. Bureaucratic red tape. Scant training. These are some of the problems workers at the overwhelmed Employment Development Department blame for the backlog of nearly 1 million unpaid unemployment claims. As out-of-work Californians struggle even to get answers, lawmakers are demanding Gov. Gavin Newsom immediately begin paying the benefits.

“The kids are going stir-crazy.” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti warned this week that he will shut off party houses’ water and power, following a string of mansion parties in the Hollywood Hills that threatens to spread the virus further. Some have proven deadly in other ways too, including one this week that ended in a fatal shooting.

One day in L.A.'s pandemic. The Times sent reporters across the city to capture one day in the life of the pandemic — from the flower mart, which in a normal wedding season might have been bustling at 4 a.m., to Lake View Terrace, one of the county’s hardest-hit communities, to Santa Monica, where a painting instructor has learned to teach by video.

What the “SWAT Mafia” does. Last month, an LAPD whistleblower accused the elite unit of creating a “culture of violence” that glorifies deadly force, and its commanders of ignoring the problems when he flagged them. Now, he’s detailed the kinds of incidents he reported — like the killing of a homeless man from a sniper in a helicopter.

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The future of school. Beyond L.A., some California elementary schools may be able to reopen for in-person classes under a strict waiver system, but the rules have prompted concerns about gaps in education inequities. L.A. County won’t consider any waivers due to high COVID-19 rates. And under a tentative deal between the district and the teachers union, the LAUSD school day will involve a structured schedule, mandatory attendance taking and fewer hours. On Friday, the state also issued long-awaited reopening guidance to colleges and universities, including strict limits on in-person classes and restrictions on dorm and campus life.

Secret societies and a possible party. L.A. County has paid out roughly $55 million in settlements in cases in which sheriff’s deputies have been alleged to belong to secret societies, records obtained by The Times show, illustrating how entrenched the subculture is. Critics say the groups use violent, intimidating tactics similar to street gangs. Meanwhile, questions arose this week about a private party that may have been thrown for LASD personnel at a Hollywood bar.

Battling the Apple fire. As firefighters gain ground, most evacuation orders have now been lifted. The blaze, sparked last week by a car malfunction near Cherry Valley, has burned tens of thousands of acres of mountain and forest land in areas that have not seen fire in years, providing the fuel for explosive growth. Track it and other wildfires in our interactive map.

Manhattan Beach’s reckoning. More than a century ago, Black beachgoers turned a small corner of Manhattan Beach into a popular resort. Then their white neighbors ran them away, first with Ku Klux Klan terror and then with government seizures. “This is our legacy, this beach,” said the descendant of one family of Black pioneers. “It has haunted my family for ages.”

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Bass for vice president? California is taking a starring role in Joe Biden’s running-mate search, with Sen. Kamala Harris and now Rep. Karen Bass both on the shortlist. The relatively low-profile Los Angeles congresswoman catapulted onto that list thanks largely to her pragmatism and unassuming style, but for the Biden campaign, she also carries risk.

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1. They defied health rules for a storybook San Francisco wedding. The virus didn’t spare them. San Francisco Chronicle

2. A wild party at Mulholland Drive mansion, a deadly shooting and fears of COVID-19 spread. Los Angeles Times

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3. The rise of the resistocrats: How wealthy scions are flocking to the left. Town & Country

4. Lady Red Couture, “mother hen” of a drag scene, dies at 43. New York Times

5. How to evaluate COVID-19 news without freaking out. Scientific American

ICYMI, here are this week’s great reads

Sweatpants forever: How the fashion industry collapsed. New York Times

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The making of a molotov cocktail: How two young lawyers came to face possible 45-years-to-life prison sentences during a summer of unrest. New York Magazine

“Can you bless our quarantine room?” In a city scarred by the coronavirus, a priest revives a nervous parish. Los Angeles Times

Poem of the week: “Any fool can get into an ocean … ” by Jack Spicer. Poetry Foundation

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. (And a giant thanks to the legendary Diya Chacko for all her help on the Saturday edition.)


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