Essential California Week in Review: Trump on trial (again)

traffic cones litter an empty parking lot
A view of the entrance to Dodger Stadium on Friday, Feb. 12, 2021. The COVID-19 vaccine site was temporarily shut down due to a lack of supply.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, Feb. 13.

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

Trump on trial. After the Senate voted to proceed with former President Trump’s impeachment trial, House impeachment managers presented their arguments with new video from the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, while Trump’s attorneys wrapped up their defense Friday in less than three hours with plenty of falsehoods. Chances of a conviction remain slim.

Vaccine access expands. California is opening up vaccine eligibility to all people 16 and older who are disabled or at high risk from COVID-19 starting next month, officials said Friday. New mass vaccination sites opened in Santa Clara and San Diego County, and in Los Angeles County, officials are discussing expanding vaccine access to teachers.

Shortages persist. Short vaccine supplies are holding back progress in Los Angeles. L.A.’s city-run sites, which were already slated to close for at least two days, had to shut down earlier than expected when they ran out of doses on Thursday.

Racial disparities. Black, Latino and Native American seniors in L.A. County are getting vaccinations at a lower rate than white, Asian American and Pacific Islander seniors. One community clinic that serves 12,000 patients in a hard-hit Latino neighborhood got only 100 doses. Schools, too, are reopening faster in whiter, wealthier districts.

A brighter future. Dr. Anthony Fauci gave an optimistic forecast, saying the United States could see “open season” for vaccine doses in April, when he said “virtually everybody and anybody in any category could start to get vaccinated.” House Democrats on Monday released the first draft text for key pieces of COVID-19 relief legislation.

Lunar New Year. The coronavirus is altering many families’ plans to celebrate the holiday. Some are forgoing traditional cash envelopes for checks and e-cards, while others are skipping gatherings all together.

Chinatown attacks. Oakland police have arrested a man suspected of assaulting three people in a string of brazen, seemingly unprovoked attacks that set the city’s Chinatown on edge and stoked outrage far beyond it.

A housing transformation? In an unprecedented move, Sacramento is on the verge of approving a plan that would make the city the first in California, and one of the first in the country, to end zoning that permits only one single-family home on a property.

Prosecutor power struggle. A national movement helped George Gascón get elected L.A. County district attorney. But his immediate orders set off a power struggle in the office, and a judge barred him from implementing a significant part of his platform Monday. Now Gascón is seeking to hire a special prosecutor to oversee police misconduct investigations.


Conception changes. More than a year after the worst maritime disaster in modern California history, the U.S. Coast Guard said it would enact a sweeping series of rules and other reforms designed to make small passenger vessels safer.

Super Bowl with a touch of L.A. After her acclaimed inauguration performance, Amanda Gorman became the first poet to perform at the game, where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers crushed the Kansas City Chiefs 31-9. And there’s more to come: L.A. will host the 2022 game.

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1. The head of San Francisco’s Board of Education on the decision to rename 44 schools. The New Yorker

2. Comedian Megan Koester details teenage years spent itching to get the hell out of her Central California hometown. Exclusive Content

3. “In Goya’s Greatest Scenes We Seem to See...” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Poetry Foundation

4. “There Are Birds Here” by Jamaal May. Poetry Foundation

5. Wild horses for sale, $1 each, in the northeastern corner of California. KRCR


ICYMI, here are this week’s great reads

Carl Lentz and the trouble at Hillsong: “As the New York head of celebrity-favorite megachurch Hillsong, Lentz achieved his own kind of stardom. When a cheating scandal blew up the pastor’s life, some Hillsong congregants were left to question their relationship with a church that cultivated its own kind of fame — and the double standards that often came with it.” Vanity Fair

Where does Abby Phillip go from here? How the CNN reporter became a breakout election star. Washingtonian

A lone infection may have changed the course of the pandemic. The leading hypothesis about the U.K. variant of the coronavirus is that its origins may lie just in one person, chronically infected for so long that the virus was able to evolve into a new, more infectious, form. Wired

For a crematorium worker, COVID-19’s mounting toll is measured in ashes and anguish. These “last responders” haven’t experienced the relief of seeing COVID-19 patients recover, only families’ sorrow for ones who could not be saved. Los Angeles Times

Poem of the week: “Water Table” by Eliza Griswold. 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.)