Newsletter: Essential California Week in Review: Relief and hope

Biden speaks at a presidential podium
President Biden gave a prime-time address Thursday from the White House.
(Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)

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

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

New relief. President Biden signed a sweeping $1.9-trillion coronavirus relief package into law Thursday, authorizing a massive infusion of federal aid aimed primarily at working families, including new checks. Los Angeles is set to receive $1.35 billion — money that will help ease a budget crisis.

Timeline shift. After signing the package, Biden spoke to the country in a televised address, promising that all American adults should be able to get at least a first COVID-19 vaccine shot by the end of May. Experts say vaccines for children and teens are not far off.

A vaccine milestone. California has met its initial target of administering more than 2 million vaccinations in the hardest-hit areas, officials said Friday, clearing the way for significant economic reopening — including in Southern California.

Preparing to reopen. L.A. County is set to reopen indoor dining, gyms, museums and more Monday, as the county moves from the most restrictive purple tier to the less strict red tier — but indoor dining remains risky. Orange and San Bernardino counties said they planned to move ahead Sunday. Amador, Colusa, Contra Costa, Mendocino, Mono, Placer, San Benito, Siskiyou, Sonoma and Tuolumne counties will also exit the restrictive purple tier Sunday, the state said.

L.A. schools are on the way. The Los Angeles school board on Thursday unanimously approved a deal with the teachers union that aims to reopen elementary schools in mid-April and middle and high schools in late April or early May. Still, some parents worry it may not be safe yet or that the plan still includes too much online instruction.

State of the state. At his annual address on Tuesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom assured Californians that their deliverance from the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic is within sight. He also made an aggressive effort to rekindle their faith in his ability to lead the state.

Recall likely. Newsom’s critics said they have collected more than 2 million signatures on petitions to force a vote on his recall this year, though state officials must still verify them. The group needs almost 1.5 million valid voter signatures to qualify the recall.

Highly critical report. A new report commissioned by the Los Angeles City Council found that the Los Angeles Police Department mishandled the unrest that erupted after the death of George Floyd last summer.

Special deals. L.A. is home to heavy industry — and more federal deals not to prosecute polluters than anywhere else. Critics say the deals give corporations a pass.

Shocking allegations. In a highly anticipated interview with Oprah Winfrey, Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, shared why they chose to step away from royal life, including a lack of support from the royal family, racism and harassment.


Legal challenge. The publication of private, intimate pictures of former Rep. Katie Hill that drove her to resign from office are the subject of a court case that pits the 1st Amendment against California’s revenge-porn law.

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1. For centuries, Big Sur residents have seen “Dark Watchers” in the mountains. SFGATE

2. Private schools have become truly obscene and indefensible. The Atlantic

3. “We never know how high we are (1176)” by Emily Dickinson.

4. California counties don’t want COVID-19 vaccine efforts run by Blue Shield. Los Angeles Times

5. The March 11, 2020, edition of Essential California: “How we think about the coronavirus.” Los Angeles Times

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ICYMI, here are this week’s great reads

“I’m sorry. Am I making you uncomfortable? I thought we were going steady.” A former statehouse reporter in the Albany press corps writes about how New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo never let her forget she was a woman while she was trying to do her job. The Cut

Parents struggle with a new dilemma: Is it safe to send kids back to school? A sensitive and nuanced piece about a charged issue from my colleague Paloma Esquivel. Los Angeles Times

“We were born to be kissed in the dark.” Yolanda Wisher remembers what it felt like to be held by friends and strangers on dance floors. New York Times

From the archives: In 2004, an intrepid Philadelphia magazine reporter decided to fact-check some of the broad-brush cultural stereotypes employed by columnist David Brooks. The resulting piece is quite fun to read. Philadelphia (h/t to my colleague Seema Mehta)

Poem of the week: “The Changing Light” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

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.)