Newsletter: Essential California Week in Review: Lakers try for No. 17

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James scores between Miami Heat forward Jae Crowder, left, and guard Tyler Herro.
Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James scores between Miami Heat forward Jae Crowder, left, and guard Tyler Herro during the second half in Game 5 of the NBA Finals on Friday.
(John Raoux / Associated Press)

Congratulations on making it through the week, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, Oct. 10.

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

Pursuing another championship. LeBron James scored 40 points, but the Lakers lost Game 5 of the NBA Finals to the Miami Heat on Friday night. The Lakers still lead 3-2 in the best-of-seven series, with Game 6 coming Sunday. The Lakers last won a championship in 2010; if they can pull off one more victory in this series, it would be the franchise’s 17th championship.

Steps back. Los Angeles County on Wednesday reported its highest daily count of coronavirus infections since Aug. 22, highlighting the continued dangers of the virus. Nursing homes in Santa Cruz and Shasta counties are again grappling with severe outbreaks, while Shasta and Tehama counties took steps back on reopening.

Risk despite a cautious approach. From San Diego to Chico, California colleges hoped cautious planning would salvage the school year. But severe outbreaks came anyway, catching officials off guard.

The VP debate. California Sen. Kamala Harris stepped into the highest-profile moment of her political career Wednesday night, facing off against Vice President Mike Pence in the vice presidential debate. The debate was far tamer and more coherent than the Trump-Biden slugfest that preceded it.

High-profile California cases. An intern in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration and another state employee tested positive for the virus this week. Separately, Rep. Salud Carbajal reported he had been sickened in the growing outbreak that stems from the White House.

The White House outbreak. President Trump was discharged from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Monday night, three days after he was hospitalized for COVID-19. The outbreak’s ripple effects continued through the week, with Santa Monica-raised senior aide Stephen Miller testing positive and questions about the president’s condition dominating the national narrative.


Changes don’t go far. California’s new unemployment benefits application system is experiencing long wait times, among other issues, state officials said Wednesday. The new system was created after the previous one struggled with delays and glitches.

Industry in crisis. Movie theaters have been particularly hard hit by the virus economy, with new films and moviegoers in short supply. The parent company of Regal Cinemas announced it would temporarily close operations at all 536 U.S. locations.

Honors for California academics. UCLA professor Andrea Ghez shared the Nobel Prize in physics for her work on black holes. UC Berkeley biochemist Jennifer A. Doudna also shared a Nobel Prize, for chemistry, for her research on the gene-editing tool CRISPR.

A new record. In an already unprecedented fire year, another record has been shattered: The August Complex fire has burned 1 million acres, the first wildfire in California history to have destroyed such a vast swath of land.

Voting begins. For the first time in California history, ballots made their way in the mail this week to every registered California voter — all 21 million of them. Of course, there were hiccups: In L.A. County, 2,100 people received ballots without the option to vote for president.

Switching sides. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Sunday he is switching his endorsement in the L.A. County district attorney’s race and supporting George Gascón.

Can he do that? Newsom received national attention when he promised last month to phase out gas-powered vehicles and called for an end to fracking in California. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that a big part of that pledge is going to be difficult to carry out.

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1. A look at California’s November ballot propositions. Los Angeles Times

2. How out-of-work strippers made their show virtual and are “taking the power back.” Los Angeles Times

3. A hashtag used by the extremist hate group Proud Boys has been taken over by gay men. BuzzFeed News

4. The complete list of L.A. Times’ endorsements in the November election. Los Angeles Times

ICYMI, here are this week’s great reads

Bound by duty and love, some L.A. Armenians are joining the battle lines in their homeland. Los Angeles Times


“They were careless people.” A “Great Gatsby” quote takes on new resonance, with lots of online sharing. New York Times

This story will make you weep: After losing their 6-year-old daughter in the Sandy Hook shooting, can Isaiah Marquez-Greene’s parents bear to let him return to high school during a pandemic? Washington Post

Poem of the week: “Luck in Sarajevo” by Izet Sarajlić, translated from Serbo-Croat by Charles Simic. Poemist

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 Laura Blasey for all her help on the Saturday edition.)