Essential California: Inauguration Day is here

Flags are placed on the National Mall, looking toward the Washington Monument
Flags are placed on the National Mall, looking toward the Washington Monument, ahead of the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
(Alex Brandon / Associated Press)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Wednesday, Jan. 20, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

Four years of a presidency unlike any other in American history are coming to a close, but don’t expect the changing of the guard to resemble a return to normalcy.

On Wednesday — 10 months into a pandemic that has taken more than 400,000 American lives and two weeks to the day after a violent, pro-Trump mob laid siege to the U.S. Capitol — President-elect Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th president of the United States alongside Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

As my colleague Sarah D. Wire writes, Wednesday’s swearing-in ceremony “will look like no other thanks to a once-in-a-century pandemic, security fears triggered by the worst raid on the U.S. Capitol since 1814 and a boycott by the sitting U.S. president.”


The usual flag-waving inauguration crowds will be replaced by nearly 25,000 members of the National Guard, who have descended upon Washington to help ensure the safety of the seat of American democracy and the inauguration.

Only about 1,000 members of Congress, governors and their guests — all tested for COVID-19 in the days before being admitted — will be physically present to watch Biden and Harris take the oath of office on the West Front of the Capitol.

The inauguration ceremonies are slated to begin at 9 a.m. Pacific and will be live-streamed.

[See also: “When is the 2021 Biden inauguration? Here’s how to watch the festivities” in the Los Angeles Times]

California’s own Kamala Harris will be making history many times over in her new role. The former California senator will not only be the first woman to be vice president; she’ll also be the first Black person and the first Asian American. Her husband, L.A. lawyer Douglas Emhoff, is also making some history as the first male spouse and first Jewish spouse of a nationally elected leader.

After spending the last five years covering Donald Trump, my D.C. colleague Noah Bierman will be transitioning to the Kamala Harris beat. He’ll be taking the lead on The Times’ new Covering Kamala Harris section, which will focus on all aspects of Harris’ career — her cultural significance, her sometimes shifting political stances and her efforts to build a foreign policy resume.


Noah will also be taking over The Times’ Essential Politics newsletter twice a month for the foreseeable future to write about Harris, so make sure to sign up if you’d like to follow along. (You can read the first guest edition here.)

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

L.A. County seniors can now sign up for vaccine appointments, but waits will be long due to shortages. Officials stressed that they are opening appointments to Angelenos 65 and older out of concern for how dangerous COVID-19 is to them, but they say it will take time to vaccinate all 1.3 million residents in the age group. Eligible residents can sign up for an appointment at the county public health department’s website. A limited number of appointments will be offered each week due to the county’s limited vaccine supply, but officials said the number of appointments will increase with vaccine availability. (Which is to say, if you can’t make an appointment the first time, keep checking back.) Los Angeles Times

[See also: “L.A. County opens 5 vaccine sites, plans to reach 20,000 people daily” in the Los Angeles Times]

California has surpassed 3 million total coronavirus cases — a mind-boggling milestone that arrived amid promising signs that the pandemic has plateaued following a months-long surge, as well as fresh concerns that recently confirmed variants could add more fuel to the viral wildfire. Los Angeles Times

Following an unusually dry November and December, strong winds helped spark numerous wild land blazes in Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties Tuesday, including in areas scorched by last year’s CZU August Lightning Complex fire. Los Angeles Times

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


Southern California Edison shut off power to more than 67,000 customers Tuesday as the utility tried to prevent strong Santa Ana winds from sparking wildfires. Los Angeles Times

Donald Trump faces a new indignity: potential expulsion from SAG-AFTRA. Besides his work on “The Apprentice” reality TV franchise, Trump has a smattering of screen credits dating back to the late 1980s, mainly for appearing as himself in shows like “Sex and the City” and “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.” Los Angeles Times

Support our journalism

Subscribe to the Los Angeles Times.


With hours left in office, President Trump early Wednesday pardoned several dozen individuals including former campaign and White House advisor Stephen K. Bannon, charged with federal fraud and money laundering in an alleged scheme to defraud supporters of the president’s top-priority border wall. Los Angeles Times

After four years of supporting or silently enduring President Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell issued a heated rebuke of the president Tuesday, blaming him for inciting the mob that carried out a deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol in the run-up to Wednesday’s inauguration. Los Angeles Times

Sen. Dianne Feinstein defended GOP senators’ right to object to election results. Feinstein’s view differed from the opinions shared by many of her Democratic colleagues. San Francisco Chronicle


Three Beverly Hills residents — including a doctor — have been arrested in relation to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Gina Bisignano, the owner of a local skincare and eyelash store, wore Chanel boots and a Louis Vuitton sweater to storm the Capitol, according to the Beverly Hills Courier. “I didn’t know we were storming the Capitol. I should have dressed different,” she told the Courier. The other two arrestees were Dr. Simone Gold, a physician who has advocated unproven treatments for COVID-19 such as the use of hydroxychloroquine, and Mark Strand. Los Angeles Times

[See also: “Beverly Hills Salon Owner Recounts Her Actions in D.C. Riot” in the Beverly Hills Courier]

Yes, the Secret Service really did take notice of comedian John Mulaney’s “Saturday Night Live” monologue. The agency said Mulaney made “inappropriate statements” about President Trump during the comedy monologue, according to records obtained by BuzzFeed News. BuzzFeed News


San Francisco’s public health department will run out of COVID-19 vaccine Thursday because the city’s allocation dropped substantially from a week ago and doses that had to be discarded were not replaced, city officials said Tuesday. Los Angeles Times

Californians owe approximately $1 billion in water bills — a crisis that could lead to a wave of families facing water shutoffs once the shutoff moratorium is lifted. Fresno Bee


How Ebony and Jet magazines are aiming for a comeback. The new CEO says, “I want my people back.” Los Angeles Times

Two magazine covers
An Ebony cover in 2010 shows Regina King re-creating an Eartha Kitt cover, and a cover for Jet in 1955 features Dorothy Dandridge. The titles, vital documents of Black and American life for decades, are being revived.

“Tinder, Bumble and OkCupid are entering a new phase of the pandemic.” Vaccine selfies have hit San Francisco’s dating apps. SF Gate

A poem to to start your Wednesday: “Praise Song for the Day” by Elizabeth Alexander.

Free online games

Get our free daily crossword puzzle, sudoku, word search and arcade games in our new game center at


Los Angeles: sunny, 77. San Diego: might rain, 72. San Francisco: sunny, 64. San Jose: sunny, 70. Fresno: sunny, 66. Sacramento: sunny, 64.


Today’s California memory comes from Mark Nicoll-Johnson:

My only kindergarten memory from Reseda’s Lemay Street School in 1956 is of vaccination day. Polio, I think, and something else I cannot recall. Carrying mysterious slips of paper with green checks and/or black X’s, we were lined up and brought to a room where tables were arranged to create a single aisle. On each side of the aisle, white-clad women who must have been nurses awaited us. As I puzzled over the marks on my paper, someone said we were getting one or two shots. I couldn’t figure out how many I was in for. I soon found out.

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.