Essential California: Supermarkets hit hard by latest wave

People protesting outside a supermarket, including someone dressed as the Grinch
Linda Nguyen dressed as the Grinch while demonstrating alongside other members of United Food & Commercial Workers Local 770 outside Food 4 Less in Palmdale, where there have been 22 confirmed coronavirus cases in the past two weeks.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Monday, Dec. 21, and here’s a quick look at the week ahead:

Monday is the winter solstice. It will be the darkest day of 2020, literally speaking, with the sun setting at 4:48 p.m. in Los Angeles. But every day after that will be a little longer and a little brighter, with a few more seconds of daylight. (This is not a metaphor.)

The 2020-21 NBA season begins Tuesday, with the Golden State Warriors playing the Brooklyn Nets, and the L.A. Clippers facing off against the L.A. Lakers.

Thursday is Christmas Eve. Celebrations will be drastically reshaped by the pandemic, like everything else this year. In Vatican City, Pope Francis will celebrate Midnight Mass several hours early so the very limited audience can make it home by Italy’s 10 p.m. coronavirus curfew. Here in California, most congregations will be live-streaming their services or holding small, socially distant ones outdoors.


[See also: “Where to find (mostly virtual) church services in L.A. this Christmas Eve” in the Los Angeles Times]

Friday is Christmas Day.

[See also: “How to celebrate the holidays alone without feeling completely depressed” in the Los Angeles Times]

Kwanzaa begins Saturday.

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

Supermarkets have been hit hard by the unprecedented surge of the coronavirus in Los Angeles County, further straining an essential service that needs to remain open despite the stay-at-home order. Outbreaks are increasing at an alarming rate across industries, officials say — an unavoidable consequence of so many people falling sick in the region. But those at grocery stores and other essential retailers pose a unique challenge for officials attempting to reduce coronavirus transmission, as well as for county residents trying to pare down their activities to only what is necessary. Los Angeles Times

[See also: “With coronavirus spreading in L.A. County supermarkets, here are some tips for shopping safely” in the Los Angeles Times]


Congressional leaders agreed Sunday on a nearly $900-billion economic aid package to extend federal unemployment payments and forgivable loans for small businesses, and to give direct cash payments to many Americans. The bipartisan deal crafted by the top four congressional leaders must be passed by the House and Senate and signed by President Trump to become law. The final text of the aid package was expected to become available Sunday evening or Monday morning. Los Angeles Times

What was your most indelible memory of 2020? Tell us about a moment, image or interaction that sticks in your head, and we’ll share some of the responses in an end-of-the-year newsletter. Los Angeles Times

Note: Some of the sites we link to may limit the number of stories you can access without subscribing.


L.A. County outlines wrenching moves to ration healthcare if the COVID-19 hospital crisis worsens: A document obtained by The Times outlining how to allocate resources in a crisis situation was recently circulated among doctors at the four hospitals run by Los Angeles County. Los Angeles Times

Santa Monica politics have been upended by the pandemic, George Floyd protests and economic woes: In the last year, the liberal city has dealt with a series of dramas culminating in a profound shift in power that is likely to reshape it. Los Angeles Times

Support L.A. restaurants while scoring last-minute holiday gifts? Here’s a rundown of some of the best L.A. restaurant merch to pick up for those on your list. Eater L.A.

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Republicans won back half the California House seats they lost in 2018. All of the GOP gains came in districts that Biden won: the 39th and 48th congressional districts in Orange County, the 25th in Ventura and Los Angeles counties and the 21st in the Central Valley. Millions of dollars poured into each campaign, placing several of them in the ranks of the most expensive House races in the country. Los Angeles Times


Did an influencer mom fabricate a tale of attempted kidnapping? After a Sonoma mom’s Instagram videos accusing a couple of trying to kidnap her children outside a craft store went viral, police investigated and found no evidence of wrongdoing. The couple, who are Latino, accused the influencer mom, who is white, of targeting them based on their race. Petaluma Argus-Courier


People 75 and older and essential workers should be next in line for a COVID-19 vaccine, a panel says: A federal advisory panel put people over 75 and workers including firefighters, teachers and grocery employees next in line for COVID-19 shots, as a second vaccine began rolling out Sunday to hospitals. Los Angeles Times

Despite pervasive virus spread, few farmworkers isolate in California’s free COVID-19 hotel rooms. Many fear that the program could open them up to job loss, deportation or problems with citizenship or residency cases. Salinas Californian

Overdose deaths far outpace COVID-19 deaths in San Francisco. A record 621 people have died of drug overdoses in San Francisco this year, a staggering number that far outpaces the 173 deaths from COVID-19 the city has seen thus far. Associated Press


A Santa costume-wearing paraglider was rescued after getting tangled in power lines. The man, who was not injured, was delivering candy canes to children in the Sacramento County neighborhood. Sacramento Bee

A fire truck below a Santa tangled in power lines
Santa should maybe stick to his sleigh.
(CHP North Sacramento)

Hundreds of thousands of Californians dropped out of the workforce in November, as businesses sharply curtailed the pace of hiring — trends that economists suggest are growing ever more dire. Women, many of whom have taken leave to care for children and elderly family members, account for roughly two-thirds of the drop in the labor force. Los Angeles Times

Apple temporarily closed its California stores as virus cases mount. Customers can still pick up existing orders for the next few days. CNBC

A poem to start your week: “The Snow Is Deep on the Ground” by Kenneth Patchen. Poetry Foundation

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Los Angeles: sunny, 81. San Diego: sunny, 73. San Francisco: sunny, 57. San Jose: sunny, 61. Fresno: partly sunny, 57. Sacramento: sunny, 55. More weather is here.


This week’s birthdays for those who made a mark in California:

Actress and activist Jane Fonda (Dec. 21, 1937), Rep. Zoe Lofgren (Dec. 21, 1947), former L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky (Dec. 21, 1948), filmmaker Lee Daniels (Dec. 24, 1959), Dr. Anthony Fauci (Dec. 24, 1940), former Gov. Gray Davis (Dec. 26, 1942) and L.A. Archbishop Jose Gomez (Dec. 26, 1951).

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.