Essential California Week in Review: New crackdowns

A man passes storefronts in San Francisco. On Friday, five Bay Area counties said they would impose a stay-at-home order
A man passes by boarded up but open storefronts in Union Square on Tuesday in San Francisco. On Friday, five Bay Area counties said they would impose a stay-at-home order rather than wait for the region to pass a state threshold for a regional order.
(Gabrielle Lurie / San Francisco Chronicle )

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, Dec. 5.

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

New crackdowns. A new “regional stay-at-home” order issued by Gov. Gavin Newsom takes effect Saturday. With so many hospitals experiencing a rapid surge of patients with COVID-19 that the new rules are likely to limit activities statewide throughout the holiday season and possibly into the new year. Once local critical care facilities approach capacity, Californians will be asked to comply with strict limits on community outings, travel and in-person shopping that are designed to last for at least 21 days. Los Angeles issued its own modified stay-at-home order Wednesday mirroring county rules, and on Friday, five Bay Area counties said they would impose a stay-at-home order rather than wait for the region to pass the state threshold.

Another pandemic outrage. First there was Newsom’s dinner at the French Laundry. Then there was San Francisco Mayor London Breed’s dinner at the French Laundry. And then there was the shutdown of a coronavirus testing site at Los Angeles’ Union Station for a movie shoot — and the backlash from parents angry that playgrounds must close while malls stay open. The brewing resentment raises the question: Will Californians stomach the new shutdowns?

Moving in the wrong direction. More Californians than ever are now being infected by the coronavirus and hospitalized. Over the last week, the state has averaged 17,007 new cases per day, according to data compiled by The Times, dwarfing even the darkest days of the summertime surge. Statewide, 8,831 people were hospitalized with a confirmed case as of Wednesday — an all-time high and nearly double the number two weeks ago.


The vaccine plan. With Britain now the first country to have approved a COVID-19 vaccine after large-scale clinical trials and with two vaccines expected to get U.S. emergency approval this month, California is developing its own guidelines for prioritizing and allocating vaccine. Newsom said the state is set to receive 327,000 doses of Pfizer’s vaccine when the first 6.4 million doses are shipped; it hasn’t said how many doses of Moderna’s it will initially receive.

Parents’ big decision. Amid the dangerous viral surge, Los Angeles Unified School District parents are being asked in a new survey to make a critical decision: Will you send your child back to school when campuses reopen? The survey, due Sunday, is expected to provide the first comprehensive data on where LAUSD parents stand amid a growing debate over the safety of schools versus the quality of distance learning.

A disproportionate toll. A new lawsuit, meanwhile, accuses the state of failing to provide a free and equal education and discriminating against Black, Latino and low-income students. And a Times data analysis finds that the pandemic is again stalking low-income, working-class, majority-Latino neighborhoods with particular aggressiveness. That’s true in Los Angeles County, where five of the 25 communities with the highest infection rates are in the northeast San Fernando Valley, and in heavily Latino areas statewide.

Hopes for pandemic relief. In Washington, pressure is building on Congress to pass another economic aid package before the end of the year — but despite Democratic and Republican leaders’ hopes for a deal, it’s far from certain one will happen before lawmakers head home for the holidays. In Los Angeles, food service workers will get some relief, at least, in the form of a one-time $800 stipend.

What about wildfire relief? California has received more than $1.3 billion in federal aid to rebuild after the 2017 wine country wildfires, the 2018 Camp fire in Butte County and other disasters from those years. Victims haven’t gotten a cent. The cause: years-long federal and state bureaucratic delays. That’s left renters without permanent housing and homeowners unable to cobble together enough money to rebuild.

More fires, still. First came the winds, then came the fires. The latest round in California’s never-ending fire season began Wednesday night with the Bond fire, which threatened homes and prompted evacuations in Silverado Canyon and a swath of Orange County. Once again, air quality in Southern California plummeted. And with more dry weather in the forecast, there could be more havoc ahead.

“We’ve really lost a legend.” Rafer Johnson was a man “whose legacy was interwoven with Los Angeles’ history, beginning with his performances as a world-class athlete at UCLA and punctuated by the night in 1968 when he helped disarm Robert F. Kennedy’s assassin at the Ambassador Hotel.” Johnson, who helped bring the Olympics to L.A., lighted the Olympic flame and worked with Special Olympics, died at home in Sherman Oaks at 86.


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1. L.A. County adopts further restrictions on public and private gatherings to slow spread of virus. Los Angeles Times

2. The rich kids who want to tear down capitalism. New York Times

3. Homeowners targeted for blocking popular oceanview trail in Laguna Niguel. Orange County Register

4. How Huntington Beach became Angrytown, USA. Los Angeles Times

5. An infant dies, a millionaire doctor calls 911, and a tale emerges of drugs, love and suspected crime. Los Angeles Times


ICYMI, here are this week’s great reads

How James Beard came to embody “American” food: The prolific cookbook author “helped shape the nation’s culinary identity — for better and for worse.” The Atlantic

Rainer Maria Rilke’s “Letters to a Young Poet” has spoken powerfully to generations of readers. But who exactly was Rilke’s young poet correspondent? Lithub

Trapped in Bronxwood: Inside an assisted living facility at the center of New York City’s coronavirus outbreak. The New Republic

Poem of the week: “In the Middle of this Century” by Yehuda Amichai. 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 Laura Blasey for all her help on the Saturday edition.)