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Essential California: More vaccine doses coming

A woman with her hands clasped like they are in prayer looking at a medical worker
Miriam De La Torre, an intervention specialist with LAUSD Charter ICEF Public Schools, had tears in her eyes as she thanked registered nurse Justin Steinberg, who administered her first COVID-19 Moderna vaccination shot on Monday in Inglewood.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Wednesday, March 3, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

Let’s start with the good news. More vaccines are coming, and much faster than had been thought.

President Biden said Tuesday that the U.S. would have enough COVID-19 vaccines by the end of May to inoculate every American adult, two months earlier than previously expected.

[Read the story: “Biden says U.S. will have vaccines faster, prioritizes teachers” in the Los Angeles Times]

As my D.C. colleague Chris Megerian reports, the announcement came as Biden administration officials warned that the decline in coronavirus cases appears to be stalling — a broader indication of the same plateauing of cases that Gov. Gavin Newsom warned about Monday in California.

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The faster vaccination timetable was partly enabled by an unlikely partnership between pharmaceutical rivals.

First, some background: Not all drug giants succeeded in the COVID-19 vaccine race — Merck, the nation’s second-largest vaccine-maker, dropped out in January after both its vaccine candidates showed inferior performances in clinical trials. At that point, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines had already been approved for emergency use. Johnson & Johnson joined the field over the weekend, when its vaccine was authorized for inoculations. In an unusual partnership, Merck will now help produce the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in an effort to increase supply more quickly.

But even as our enough-vaccine-for-all-takers future inches closer to fruition, scarcity and equity in the distribution process remain major issues in the near term. As my colleagues Ron Lin and Luke Money report, new data continue to show that areas of Los Angeles County hardest hit by the pandemic have low rates of COVID-19 vaccinations, while more affluent communities that have been relatively spared have much higher vaccination rates.

The Mercury News reported Tuesday that Sutter Health, a major healthcare provider that serves the greater Bay Area and parts of the Central Valley, may have to cancel or postpone as many as 90,000 vaccine appointments because of a supply shortage.

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

A deadly crash near the U.S.-Mexico border: A collision Tuesday morning between a big rig and an SUV carrying more than two dozen people in Imperial County killed at least 13 people and injured several others. A spokesman for the California Highway Patrol’s El Centro office said there were 25 people inside the burgundy 1997 Ford Expedition, which was built to hold no more than eight people. As of Tuesday evening, much still remained unclear about the circumstances of the collision. Los Angeles Times

More parts of California will be allowed to further reopen their economies this week amid both growing optimism as the last coronavirus wave continues to recede, and swirling concern that new variants of the virus threaten to imperil that progress. Indoor dining will be allowed to resume in San Francisco, Silicon Valley and a number of other areas. Los Angeles Times

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

L.A. STORIES

In a rare move, the L.A. City Council voted to override a veto from Mayor Eric Garcetti, then went on to pass a more detailed proposal that seems to hew closer to Garcetti’s vision for how to allocate funds cut from the LAPD to aid communities of color. Los Angeles Times

Some of Hollywood’s most influential showrunners talked to The Times about how they broke into the business, the shifting TV landscape, their writing process and more. Los Angeles Times

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POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT

President Biden withdrew the nomination of longtime Democratic policy advisor and prolific tweeter Neera Tanden to be his budget director, an acknowledgment that she could not win the 50 Senate votes needed to secure confirmation. Los Angeles Times

[See also: “Neera Tanden’s confirmation fight is the first morality play of post-Trump Washington” in the Los Angeles Times]

California is failing many of its workers, according to a new report commissioned by Newsom. California has the highest poverty rate in the country when accounting for the cost of living, 17.2%, according to the report. Since 2012, wages in the state grew by 14% while home prices increased by 68%. Los Angeles Times

CRIME AND COURTS

Hate crimes against Asian Americans rose in L.A. in 2020, mirroring a national trend and causing concern among police and local advocacy organizations. Los Angeles Times

HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT

This year is likely to be critically dry for California, state officials said. Los Angeles Times

CALIFORNIA CULTURE

An Asian American family in Orange County was being harassed. Now their neighbors stand guard in a nightly security detail. Los Angeles Times

A man standing in front of a house with people in the background seated in folding chairs in the driveway behind him
Haijun Si stands in front of his home as neighbors form a nightly security detail to deter teens who have harassed his family by throwing rocks and yelling racial slurs.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Could Steph Curry eventually be the owner of the Warriors’ new WNBA franchise? “I don’t have a specific plan, but I follow a lot of the conversations and some of the ways that former players have approached those opportunities,” Curry said. San Francisco Chronicle

The L.A. Times Book Club will be welcoming Viet Thanh Nguyen on March 10. Here’s what to expect from his new novel “The Committed” — a sequel to his Pulitzer Prize-winning book “The Sympathizer.” Los Angeles Times

Bay Area bakers can’t make Basque cheesecakes fast enough: The ones from Oakland’s Basuku have become one of the biggest hits of the pandemic, and other bakers are following suit. San Francisco Chronicle

A poem to start your Wednesday: “My Heart” by Frank O’Hara. A Poem a Day

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

CALIFORNIA ALMANAC

Los Angeles: will probably rain, 59. San Diego: rain, 61. San Francisco: partly sunny, 55. San Jose: partly sunny, 66. Fresno: cloudy, 66. Sacramento: partly sunny, 70.

AND FINALLY

Today’s California memory comes from Robert Granados:

I was sitting in class at Lincoln High on Oct. 5, 1959, when I was summoned to the boys vice principal’s office. What did I do? Classmates began snickering, guessing I was in hot water. Walking down the hall to the office, I began worrying perhaps something bad happened to mom or dad. In the office, I saw my dad standing beside Mr. Tunney, who said, “Your father has a World Series ticket for you.” Hallelujah! Seated behind the left field screen, I reveled as my Dodgers hero, Gil Hodges, hit the game-winning homer to beat the Chicago White Sox, 5-4.

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.


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