Essential California: ‘This isn’t a blip’ — another L.A. coronavirus surge

Two people, as photographed through a vendor's balloon.
Critobal Moreno, 16, left; his mother Marivel Moreno, 50; and sister Paloma Moreno, 24, are framed within a vendor’s balloons while visiting the Santa Monica Pier in Santa Monica on Monday.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Tuesday, Nov. 10, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

“This isn’t a blip any longer,” L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer told Angelenos on Monday, as she relayed numbers showing an alarming increase in coronavirus cases in the county.

“This isn’t, ‘Oh, you know, we had one bad weekend. And, you know, we’re now getting back under control,’” L.A.'s top health officer continued. “This is now a surge in our cases.”

After a steady and sustained rise in cases throughout the past month, Los Angeles County is in the midst of another coronavirus surge — albeit one that is not yet as bad as what it weathered over the summer.


[Read the story: “L.A. County declares new coronavirus surge, sparking increased alarms” in the Los Angeles Times]

While “not as steep as what we saw in July,” Ferrer said, “we’re very concerned that the numbers could continue to increase.”

As my colleagues Luke Money and Rong-Gong Lin report, Ferrer said the alarming numbers should be a call for Angelenos to rededicate themselves to the oft-recited protocols for how to stifle transmission: wearing masks in public, maintaining physical distance from those you don’t live with, staying home when you’re sick, regularly washing your hands and avoiding gatherings.

Ferrer also urged Angelenos who spent time over the weekend celebrating or protesting election results to self-quarantine for 14 days and consider getting a coronavirus test if they had been in crowds around people not wearing face coverings.

She said the next two weeks would be crucial, particularly as we move into colder weather and toward the holidays — two things that have raised fears of increased virus transmission. She warned that a failure to take precautions could jeopardize the county’s ability to further reopen businesses and other public spaces.

Gov. Gavin Newsom addressed the broader rise in cases statewide and “sobering” numbers during his briefing Monday, saying people had been letting their guard down. He urged Californians to recommit to caution and reminded them that even with promising developments on the vaccine front, mass distribution is still far from imminent.

[See also: “Coronavirus is again stalking California, but there is still time to prevent a third wave” in the Los Angeles Times]

These California warnings played out against a backdrop of national virus news, as the U.S. surpassed 10 million coronavirus cases and President-elect Joe Biden warned Americans that they are facing “a dark winter” in his first address to the nation since declaring victory. Biden also announced Monday that he had appointed an advisory board of top public health experts to guide his transition team’s COVID-19 planning.

[Read the story: “‘Wear a mask’: Biden urges coronavirus caution as he praises vaccine progress” in the Los Angeles Times]

The president-elect’s remarks came hours after drug giant Pfizer announced promising progress on its COVID-19 vaccine candidate, with the company saying early data suggest the shots may be 90% effective at preventing the disease. The Pfizer announcement marks a deeply encouraging piece of news, but Biden was careful to warn that even if the vaccine is approved, mass availability will still be many months away.

As my colleagues in D.C. report, the president-elect’s remarks and the unveiling of the advisory board “came as the first public act of the Biden-Harris transition, signaling the urgency of the issue and its importance in propelling Biden to the White House.”

The health experts on the 13-member advisory board include three Bay Area doctors and Atul Gawande, a well-known surgeon and New Yorker writer, among others.

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

President Trump’s administration is refusing to cooperate with Biden’s transition team by withholding federal resources that normally flow freely after a campaign ends. The agency that manages the transfer of power, the General Services Administration, said “an ascertainment has not yet been made” that the election is over. The delay has left Biden with only barebones assistance as he prepares to take office amid a global pandemic and a nationwide recession.

Meanwhile, Atty. Gen. William Barr has authorized federal prosecutors across the U.S. to pursue “substantial allegations” of voting irregularities before the 2020 presidential election is certified, despite little evidence of fraud.

Trump also announced his decision to fire Defense Secretary Mark Esper via tweet on Monday. The move raised concerns that Trump may be planning far-reaching military moves in his final weeks in office — and is putting in place new leadership more inclined to go along. Los Angeles Times

San Francisco school board members push a plan for the first students to return to classrooms by Jan. 25, with a possible vote next week. Amid increased pressure to set a timeline for reopening, at least three of the seven school board members are backing a proposal — set to be introduced Tuesday — that could compel public schools to start reopening by Jan. 25. San Francisco Chronicle

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President Trump expanded his support in Beverly Hills, a rare spot of red in blue L.A. County. Los Angeles Times

Is this the world’s cheffiest fried chicken sandwich? Jordan Kahn of Vespertine and Destroyer in Culver City melded minds with Zaiyu Hasegawa of Den restaurant in Japan to brine chicken breasts in ramen broth, season the bread with house-made furikake and add layers of herbs and flowers with a pair of tweezers. Los Angeles Times

A very elaborate-looking fried chicken sandwich
The fried chicken sandwich in question was available only during a two-day event in October — but it may return.
(Vesta Partovi / Los Angeles Times)

Las Virgenes kids are among first in L.A. to return to school: Their small public school system in the Calabasas area became the first in L.A. County to reopen campuses to transitional kindergarten through second grade under county-approved waivers. Los Angeles Times

Facing threat to their survival, theater owners ask “lame duck” Congress for a rescue: The lobby representing theater companies called on Congress to pass a stimulus package that includes $15 billion in relief for independent entertainment venues. Los Angeles Times

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Orange County will conduct a voluntary audit of 2020 presidential election ballots: The risk-limiting audit is not required under California law, the Orange County registrar of voters said, but the procedure is meant to provide “strong statistical evidence” that the outcome of the election is correct. Los Angeles Times

How much was your vote worth in California’s ballot measure battles? A record-breaking amount was spent on state ballot measures this election cycle. For Proposition 22, each “yes” vote penciled out to roughly the cost of an Uber or Lyft to the airport. Mercury News

A Moms 4 Housing activist unseated an incumbent Oakland City Council member. Carroll Fife’s “stunning” upset victory followed a campaign centered on the idea that “housing is a human right” and that public safety should be reimagined. San Francisco Chronicle

Former San Francisco First Lady Kimberly Guilfoyle reportedly left some GOP donors “horrified” by her campaign trail fundraising tactics. Guilfoyle, who used to be married to Gov. Gavin Newsom, allegedly “frequently joked about her sex life and, at one fundraiser, offered a lap dance to the donor who gave the most money,” according to a Politico report. Politico

[Previously: “The ballad of Gavin and Kimberly (and Kamala)” in the Essential California newsletter]

Female candidates across San Diego say they’ve faced harassment and threats. “Black, Latina and Asian women, as well as those who identify as LGBTQ, and other marginalized women often face the worst of the harassment.” Voice of San Diego


A Fresno County supervisor says he may have exposed at least 50 people before testing positive for COVID-19. The supervisor said he didn’t wear a mask when he went to an election watch party with friends after knowingly exhibiting COVID-like symptoms. Your Central Valley


People rallying for Black lives in Lodi and other towns face a “scary and surreal” backlash. Freshly minted organizers pushing for change in rural communities often confront challenges their urban counterparts never encounter. Los Angeles Times

VF Corp., owner of the Costa Mesa-based Vans shoe company, is buying Supreme for $2.1 billion. The cult streetwear label hails from New York, but it helped transform L.A.'s Fairfax Avenue into a streetwear mecca after opening its flagship West Coast store there in the early aughts. Bloomberg

“Carlos, we are so lost without you.” The Hemet community is mourning the death of Carlos Torres, a “local celebrity” and longtime maintenance man at Ramona Bowl amphitheater. Riverside Press-Enterprise

A poem to start your Tuesday: “Today, God” by Starr Davis.

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Los Angeles: sunny, 66. San Diego: sunny, 66. San Francisco: partly sunny, 61. San Jose: partly sunny, 63. Fresno: sunny, 59. Sacramento: sunny, 63. More weather is here.


Today’s California memory comes from Oscar Rios:

I remember picking fruit in Santa Clara County back in 1968 when I was 10 years old. Those were times that seemed so free from the hustle of what is now Silicon Valley. We would wake up early and join our parents picking anything that grew on trees. We enjoyed the outdoors and did not know different. How I miss those days gone by. Now you drive through the county and see huge buildings for businesses that have changed the world. Life was simple back then: no cellphone, internet. We made just enough to buy school clothes. I miss the old times and the prices of school clothing. The 280 and 101 freeways had to be crossed without an overpass. Just a stop sign. I wish to live in those days again. Free from the hustle of progress.

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.