Newsletter: Essential California Week in Review: Vaccine vagaries

a syringe is filled from an upside down glass vial
Jacquelyn Zaval prepares a Moderna dose at a San Bernardino County COVID-19 vaccination event Saturday at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, Feb. 6.

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

What went wrong? California for weeks ranked among the slowest states per capita in vaccinating its population, with flawed data collection because of a series of missteps. But the biggest and most persistent problem has been an unpredictable vaccine supply.

Shifting priorities. The decision of how to prioritize immunizations is becoming an increasingly fraught matter, with changing guidance. Some groups have pushed back on the move to an age-based system, among them disabled and chronically ill Californians.

Anti-vaccine action. A group of protesters managed to disrupt operations at Dodger Stadium’s COVID-19 vaccination site last weekend. As officials discuss how to prevent future disruptions, anti-government activists say they’re not done yet.

Case numbers drop, but trauma remains. The numbers of new coronavirus infections and hospitalizations are nosediving in Los Angeles County. But despite the relief, the long-term anguish will likely take a toll on medical workers’ mental health, experts say.

‘Hero pay’ to zero pay. Los Angeles became the largest city in the nation to back a proposal requiring grocery stores to temporarily pay workers an extra $5 an hour. But the pushback was swift: Kroger responded by moving to close two Long Beach stores.

To reopen or stay closed? Intense disputes are brewing in California’s cities over reopening. As L.A. schools affirmed they would remain closed, Los Angeles Councilman Joe Buscaino threatened to sue to force a reopening. Meanwhile, the city of San Francisco did sue its own school district in an attempt to reopen.

Recall effort grows. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s opponents reported raising more than $2.5 million, and Republican rivals are already announcing their intention to run. Meanwhile, Newsom’s approval rating has dropped, and state Democratic lawmakers are growing frustrated with his handling of the pandemic.

Unemployment action. After a pair of scathing audits confirmed that California’s unemployment agency has been plagued by years of mismanagement, state lawmakers on Thursday announced a raft of new bills to speed up the payment of jobless benefits and reduce fraud.

Amazon settlement. The tech giant will pay more than $61.7 million to delivery drivers from whom it withheld customer tips to settle a Federal Trade Commission investigation, nearly two years after the Los Angeles Times first exposed the practice. Separately, Jeff Bezos announced he is stepping down as chief executive.

Welcome to Holly-what? Six people were arrested Monday after scaling steep terrain and altering the iconic Hollywood sign in what they said was a breast cancer awareness stunt. Two influencers who were involved later said it was also a protest against Instagram censorship.

More Rick Jacobs allegations. A former staffer to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti testified that he was repeatedly hugged and given unwanted shoulder massages by the former senior mayoral aide — and witnessed similar treatment of a police officer who is now suing the city. His testimony could bolster that case.

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1. Missing people you didn’t even know that well? The pandemic has erased entire categories of friendship. The Atlantic

2. Two arrests were made in the fatal attack on San Francisco private eye Jack Palladino — who helped solve his own case. San Francisco Chronicle

3. A happy update on a formerly homeless man who asked strangers to take care of his corgi. Los Angeles Times

4. Twenty thousand honey bees took over a tech company’s empty office during lockdown. Quartz

5. “The Holy Longing” by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, translated from German by Robert Bly. Favorite Poem Project

ICYMI, here are this week’s great reads

The guru of Toluca Lake: Acolytes say a Hollywood acting coach became a “false prophet.” The Hollywood Reporter


“My grandma’s survival in America defied all odds. Then COVID stole her from us.” A Guardian reporter remembers his late grandmother, who was raised by nuns after her parents abandoned her as a small child. The Guardian

Workers in L.A.’s courts are dying of COVID-19 as in-person trials continue. The Los Angeles County Superior Court system is still holding in-person hearings, despite the recent deaths of three court employees from COVID-19. Los Angeles Times

Poem of the week: “Vermeer” by Wislawa Szymborska, translated from Polish by Stanisław Barańczak and Clare Cavanagh. Artvilla

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.)