Essential California: A tale of two surges

A sign in a median that says "relax ur OK"
A sign of encouragement shines on the Santa Monica Boulevard median in West Hollywood.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Monday, March 1, and here’s a quick look at the week ahead:

Monday is the first day of March. Here we are again, as if we never left.

Voting rights will be back before the high court on Tuesday, with the U.S Supreme Court hearing what the New York Times has described as “its most important election case in almost a decade.”

The Arizona case hinges on a remaining provision of the Voting Rights Act that bars racially discriminatory voting practices. The California-based 9th Circuit Court of Appeals previously struck down the contested Arizona election rules, saying they imposed a “significant disparate burden” on Black, Latino and Native American voters. As the Associated Press explains, a broad Supreme Court ruling on the case would make it harder to fight efforts to restrict voting access in court.

[See also: “The battle over voting restrictions is playing out nationwide. Arizona Republicans are leading the way” in the Los Angeles Times]


Wednesday marks 30 years from the day Rodney King was brutally beaten by LAPD officers. The beating was captured on video, sparking widespread outrage. The violent uprising of April 1992 followed a little more than a year later, when the officers were acquitted.

Oscar nomination voting begins Friday, as Hollywood’s pandemic-addled awards season continues. Academy Award nominees will be announced March 15, ahead of this year’s late April awards ceremony.

Oprah’s much-hyped interview with California’s own Duke and Duchess of Sussex airs Sunday. Like Oprah, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are now Montecito residents.

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

These parts of L.A. barely felt the winter coronavirus surge. Here is why they were spared. My colleagues Matt Stiles and Hayley Smith report that L.A.’s brutal winter surge was really a “tale of two surges.” Many parts of the county were devastated, but in some neighborhoods — such as West Hollywood, Malibu and Playa del Rey — the pandemic’s wrath was barely felt. Los Angeles Times

“Nomadland” and “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” win best picture prizes at the Golden Globes. The virtual ceremony’s usual razzle-dazzle was dimmed by the COVID-19 pandemic, with the usual boozy bonhomie replaced by Zoom glitches. Adding to the sense of somewhat forced cheer, the show followed a week of mounting controversy sparked by a Times investigation into the membership and ethics of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., the 87-member group of international journalists that doles out the awards. Los Angeles Times

A woman accepts an award on a giant video screen while another woman stands on stage in front of the screen
Chloe Zhao accepts the award for director of a motion picture for “Nomadland” via video, as Bryce Dallas Howard stands onstage at the 78th Golden Globe Awards.
(Peter Kramer / NBC)

The U.S. is getting a third vaccine to prevent COVID-19, as the Food and Drug Administration on Saturday cleared a Johnson & Johnson shot that works with just one dose instead of two. Nearly 4 million doses of the newest COVID-19 vaccine were to be shipped Sunday night, and will begin to be delivered to states for injections starting Tuesday. Associated Press

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At least three private schools in Los Angeles County offered their teachers and other staff a way to get COVID-19 vaccinations during a time of limited supplies — one school urging them to use restricted access codes and two others certifying that their staff were responsible for healthcare-related duties. Los Angeles Times

More people will be eligible for the vaccine in L.A. County starting Monday. Teachers and those who work in child care, food and agriculture, and emergency services are now eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccinations in Los Angeles County, though officials warn the pace will be slowed by limited supply. Los Angeles Times

Victims’ rights advocates launch recall effort against newly elected L.A. Dist. Atty. George Gascón: Gascón has vowed sweeping criminal justice reforms at the nation’s largest prosecutor’s office, drawing praise from other progressive prosecutors and criminal justice reformers nationwide but leaving him “at odds with his own staff and many of the local law enforcement officials he must work with to try cases.” Los Angeles Times

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“More people are going to die.” Immigrant detainees wonder when they’ll get vaccinated. Los Angeles Times


As the recall threat grows, Gov. Gavin Newsom shifts his governing style: Facing the real possibility of a recall election in the fall, getting children back to class — and stemming growing frustration among parents — has emerged as a priority for Newsom. Los Angeles Times

Conservatives took aim at California during CPAC. The state and its Democratic governor were a topic of criticism during the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. Tribune News Service


The U.S. Supreme Court tells Santa Clara County it can’t bar in-person worship: The court issued an order Friday in a case brought by a handful of churches. Associated Press


Vaccine rollout for farmworkers is fraught with confusion and bad timing: In the Central Valley, the spring harvest is coming, and the transition to Blue Shield is complicating efforts to vaccinate farmworkers against COVID-19. Los Angeles Times


“Saturday Night Live” spoofed Newsom and other governors with a fake vaccine competition game show. In the late-night comedy show’s opening sketch, Dr. Anthony Fauci, played by Kate McKinnon, introduced Newsom’s character as being “hated by every single person in California except for those 10 people he had dinner with in Napa that one time.” When asked how things were going in California, Newsom, played by Alex Moffat, responded: “Teeth, white. Body, tight. COVID, pretty bad.” Los Angeles Times

Backlash in Fresno as an evangelical church tries to buy the Tower Theatre, a bohemian landmark: In recent weeks, the Tower Theatre’s uncertain fate has escalated tensions, bringing to the fore divisions over religion, LGBTQ rights, arts and the pandemic in this hub of the San Joaquin Valley. Los Angeles Times

Bay Area seniors celebrate COVID vaccine second shot with margaritas and belly dancers: That moment of joy was hard-won — at the retirement community they “have been isolated in their rooms for most of the pandemic, a debilitating situation that has led to soul-crushing loneliness among elderly everywhere.” Mercury News

A poem to start your week: “Munich, Winter 1973 (for Y.S.)” by James Baldwin. Poetry Foundation

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Los Angeles: sunny, 75. San Diego: sunny, 72. San Francisco: sunny, 66. San Jose: sunny, 72. Fresno: sunny, 73. Sacramento: sunny, 72.


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

Entertainer and activist Harry Belafonte (March 1, 1927), Rep. Ami Bera (March 2, 1965), former Rep. Paul Cook (March 3, 1943), state Treasurer Fiona Ma (March 4, 1966), rapper Tyler, the Creator (March 6, 1991) and Rep. Juan Vargas (March 7, 1961)

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.