Newsletter: Essential California Week in Review: Pandemic policy shakeup

A line of people at the Balboa Sports Complex in Encino arrives for COVID-19 vaccinations.
A line of people at the Balboa Sports Complex in Encino arrives for COVID-19 vaccinations. Many of them would wait for hours to get a shot.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, Jan. 30.

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

Stay-at-home rollback. Under pressure and facing spiking jobless rates, Gov. Gavin Newsom lifted regional coronavirus stay-at-home orders statewide Monday. The change lets restaurants and businesses in many counties reopen — bringing potential economic reward but also risk, even as hospitals avoid catastrophe. On Friday, outdoor dining returned to L.A. County.

Vaccine distribution shakeup. As California struggles to vaccinate its residents, state officials made two key changes: revising eligibility requirements to focus on age instead of occupation and appointing Blue Shield of California to oversee the distribution of doses to healthcare providers.

Confusion reigns. The weeks of confusion have created significant challenges, including growing racial inequities in L.A. and crowds of “vaccine chasers,” who form unofficial standby lines in hopes of getting an expiring dose. And those who do get a shot have struggled to secure an appointment for a second dose.

“Horrifying” Latino deaths. The COVID-19 death toll among Los Angeles County Latinos is reaching frightening levels — 40 deaths daily per 100,000 Latino residents — that the county’s top health officials have called “frankly horrifying,” prompting new calls for the government to do more to help essential workers and people living in dense, overcrowded conditions.

Eviction moratorium extended. Californians facing financial hardship because of the COVID-19 pandemic will be protected from eviction through June as long as they pay part of their rent, under emergency legislation signed by Newsom on Friday.

Coachella is canceled, again. The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and the country music festival Stagecoach, scheduled for three consecutive weekends in April in Indio, have been canceled because of the pandemic. Originally slated for April 2020, they were among the first festivals canceled in the outbreak’s early days, then were rescheduled for October and then April.

A somber anniversary. As fans remembered NBA legend Kobe Bryant, the first anniversary of the helicopter crash that killed him, his daughter Gianna and seven other people focused new attention on significant flaws in federal aviation regulation.

Scathing unemployment audits. Poor planning and ineffective management left California’s unemployment agency unprepared for the COVID-19 pandemic, and the agency failed to address problems in its system that were known for nearly a decade, a state audit found Tuesday. Officials also failed for months to heed warnings of widespread claims fraud.

A stormy week for the West Coast. An enormous atmospheric river stalled over Monterey County on Wednesday, triggering mudslides and evacuations in Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties, and swung south on Thursday. On Friday, heavy rain kept pounding Southern California, causing road closures and mudslides — particularly near burn scars from last year’s wildfires.

Exposing misconduct at Burger Records. The Times interviewed nearly two dozen women who detailed a broader culture of sexual abuse in Southern California’s underground music world that has remained largely in the shadows.

QAnon and far-right ties. Newsom has become a target of a grassroots effort to recall him from office that is beginning to look like a political threat. But a Times investigation found that recall campaign leaders allied with radical and extreme elements to help collect those signatures.

CBS shakeup. ViacomCBS suspended the two powerful heads of its TV station group amid widening allegations that the pair cultivated an environment hostile to female and Black journalists. A Times review had found that many employees questioned the company’s commitment to cleaning up its culture.

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1. Like quite a few other Californians, a man picked up and moved to Texas. He hated it so much, he moved back. Houston Chronicle

2. L.A. poet Amanda Gorman and L.A.-raised second daughter Ella Emhoff both signed major modeling contracts after the inauguration. Los Angeles Times

3. Meet Amanda Gorman’s mentors: The teachers who nurtured the inauguration poet. Los Angeles Times

4. The names of presidents, conquistadors, authors and even current U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein will be removed from 44 San Francisco school sites. San Francisco Chronicle

5. “The Snow Man” by Wallace Stevens. Poetry Foundation

ICYMI, here are this week’s great reads

An American tragedy: When coronavirus invaded their tiny apartment, the Zubia children desperately tried to protect their dad. Los Angeles Times


“The San Francisco School District’s renaming debacle has been a historic travesty.” Students are often told not to cite Wikipedia, but apparently the San Francisco school renaming committee missed that day of class. A spreadsheet showing their research for renaming schools was riddled with Wikipedia citations and filled with “embarrassing, avoidable, and credibility-destroying errors.” Mission Local

Death in a crosswalk: The killing of a 4-year-old girl by a driver making a left turn illustrates L.A.’s failure to stop traffic violence. LAist

Poem of the week: “First Snow, Kerhonkson” by Diane di Prima. 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.)