Essential California: UC and CSU systems plan to mandate vaccinations

A woman types on her cellphone as she waits in line
Kristine Ko, right, of West Los Angeles waits for her vaccine shot with other people at Cal State L.A. on April 9. The UC and Cal State systems announced that they plan to require COVID-19 vaccinations for students and staff in the fall.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Friday, April 23, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

As colleges and universities across the country prepare to welcome a growing number of students back to campus in the fall, schools have been wrestling with the question of whether to mandate COVID-19 vaccines. Several dozen colleges — by no means a majority — have already announced they will require vaccination for fall enrollment.

That landscape shifted dramatically Thursday when the University of California and California State University announced Thursday that they intend to require COVID-19 vaccinations for all students, faculty and staff on campus properties. The proposed policy would go into effect once the Food and Drug Administration gives formal approval to the vaccines.

[Read the story: “California’s massive UC and Cal State systems plan to require COVID-19 vaccinations this fall” in the Los Angeles Times]


As my colleagues Nina Agrawal, Teresa Watanabe and Colleen Shalby report, the directive is the largest of its kind in U.S. higher education, affecting more than 1 million members of the two public university systems. As with other mandatory shots for measles, mumps, rubella and chicken pox, the COVID-19 directive would allow for students or employees to seek an exemption based on medical or religious grounds.

Because of questions over the legality of requiring vaccines before they have been formally approved by the FDA, the timing of the mandate will depend on when at least one of the vaccines receives formal FDA approval. (The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are currently being distributed under emergency-use authorization and the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine remains on pause.)

The two system leaders said they were making the announcement now to give students, families and employees ample time to plan their vaccinations before the fall terms begin.

Stanford, a private university, separately announced Thursday that they plan to require all undergraduate, graduate and professional students coming to campus this fall to be vaccinated for COVID-19, with allowances for medical or religious exemptions.

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

Skid row is skeptical of a judge’s order to sweep homeless people into shelters: As my colleague Gale Holland reports, U.S. District Judge David O. Carter’s order to Los Angeles officials to sweep homeless people off skid row into shelters or housing is grounded in his conviction that a wrongheaded focus on creating permanent housing has perpetuated racism, spread encampments and caused the avoidable deaths of Black people.


But the complexities of the lives of homeless people on skid row suggest that shelters may be, at best, an incomplete and unwelcome solution to the homelessness that has persisted in the 50-block district downtown for more than 50 years. Los Angeles Times

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A rising actor, fake HBO deals and one of Hollywood’s most audacious Ponzi schemes: Actor Zachary Horwitz collected $690 million from investors for movie deals authorities say were fictitious. Los Angeles Times (This story is a Times subscriber exclusive.)

How does the Getty battle bugs? Squirrel-hair dusters and dental picks, for starters. As if COVID-19 shutdowns and the financial fallout weren’t enough, a noticeable uptick in unwanted pests, including insects and rodents, afflicted museums globally during the pandemic. Los Angeles Times

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The Transportation Department announced it was withdrawing part of a Trump-era rule that blocked states from setting their own tough car pollution standards, reversing actions by the Trump administration that weakened California’s ability to fight climate change. Los Angeles Times

The U.S. Senate passes a bill targeting hate crimes against Asian Americans: In a rare, if fleeting, moment of bipartisanship on Capitol Hill, senators approved the bill 94 to 1. The bill now goes to the Democratic-controlled House. (And because I know you’re wondering, the sole “nay” vote came from Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, who said it was “too broad.”) Los Angeles Times

Rob Bonta is confirmed as California attorney general — the first Filipino American to fill the role. The state Legislature confirmed the Democratic assemblyman to fill the vacancy created when Xavier Becerra left to become U.S. Health and Human Services secretary. Los Angeles Times

A man stands outside smiling in a suit
Rob Bonta will be sworn in as state attorney general on Friday. Known as a criminal justice reform advocate, he told his colleagues in hearings this week that he would hold law enforcement accountable for excessive force and other misconduct.
(Alexis Cuarezma / For The Times)


Former Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford pleaded guilty to a single count of perjury, ending a years-long probe of a pay-to-play scandal in the high desert city. Los Angeles Times

“Crazy Bernie” furniture store owner is charged with felony medical fraud by the Fresno County D.A.: The Fresno icon famous for appearing in TV commercials for his namesake furniture store in a crown and cape is accused of taking more than $23,000 in medical benefits from the state. Fresno Bee


Drought alarm bells in the Central Valley: “Thousands of wells that bring water to San Joaquin Valley homes are at risk of drying up this summer, leaving families without running water for drinking, cleaning and bathing.” Fresno Bee


How the men of Bloom Homie are redefining masculinity, one Instagram post at a time. It all started at an open mike night at Cruzita’s Deli in Huntington Park about four years ago. Los Angeles Times

Gerald Haslam, author who chronicled life in rural California, dies at 84. Haslam’s writing celebrated the triumphs of the Central Valley — and did not sugarcoat its shortcomings. Los Angeles Times

Hair donation charities overwhelmed as people finally cut their pandemic hair. The donation boom came as salons reopened. Washington Post

A poem to start your Friday: “My California” by Lee Herrick.

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Los Angeles: gray, but with the potential for an unexpected shift toward sunshine in the late afternoon, 66. San Diego: languorous clouds, 64. San Francisco: a meandering journey (clouds/sun/wind) with no clear plot, 57. San Jose: partly sunny, 70. Fresno: mainly sunny, 82. Sacramento: somewhat sunny, 79.


Today’s California memory comes from Steve Hall:

In 1962, I attended a small school in Oak View in Ventura County. Our class was a combined fifth and sixth grade. When “How the West Was Won” was playing at the Cinerama Dome, we each paid $1 and took a school bus, with bag lunches, down to Los Angeles to see the movie. That was one of my first trips to the Los Angeles area, and I was smitten. We weren’t able to sightsee, but Sunset Boulevard was a forever memory, not to mention watching that movie on the huge Cinerama screen!

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.