Newsletter: Essential California Week in Review: A post-pandemic plan

A line of masked customers in a food hall
Customers wait in line to order food during the lunch hour inside the Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles. California hasn’t relaxed its mask rules just yet.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, May 22.

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

A post-pandemic plan. State officials on Friday unveiled perhaps their most eagerly anticipated pandemic-related guidelines. Come June 15, Californians will wake up to a world where businesses face no capacity constraints, vaccinated people no longer must wear masks and federal travel guidelines apply. But some restrictions will remain. Among them:

Masks stay for now. The state will wait until June 15 to adopt CDC guidelines that vaccinated people can go maskless. Two thirds of California adults have at least one dose, and in L.A. County, a new analysis finds only a 0.03% chance of getting the coronavirus after being vaccinated. Still, many say it’s still too soon to lift mask mandates, including some health officials.

Vaccination lags in some groups. The overall success obscures low rates among Latino men, fueled by misinformation, fear and busy lives. And despite new eligibility and an ambitious LAUSD campaign to reach teens, some young people still believe they don’t need the shots. In L.A. County, more mass vaccination sites are closing as clinics go mobile.

Fire season begins. Evacuation orders in Topanga were lifted this week as firefighters gained the upper hand on the fire in Pacific Palisades, and one man was arrested after an arson investigation — and after a public safety app labeled the wrong man a suspect. Still, it marked an unusually early start to fire season, and it may be intense as fire officials report low staffing.


Budget pushback. Healthcare advocates are pushing back against Gov. Gavin Newsom’s budget plan released last week, saying it follows a dangerous pattern of underfunding local public health agencies.

Past spending promises underwhelm. Amid new proposals, a disappointingly low number of people have applied for $2.6 billion the state approved months ago for renters, as advocates say a slow start, confusion and bureaucratic red tape weighed down the program.

Hamas-Israel tensions spill over. The two forces agreed to a cease-fire. But not before conflict rippled across the globe: Thousands of protesters gathered in Westwood in support of Palestinians. Separately, an L.A. dispute is being investigated as an anti-Semitic hate crime.

Hate crime legislation. Responding to the surge of attacks on Asian Americans, President Biden on Thursday signed bipartisan legislation intended to bolster federal and local investigations into hate crimes.

Fear on the 91. In recent weeks, the freeway has become a crime scene — at the center of nearly 60 incidents in which motorists have been shot at with pellet guns in Orange, Riverside and Los Angeles counties. And on Friday, on the 55 Freeway in Orange, a 6-year-old boy on his way to school was fatally shot in what authorities are calling a road rage incident.

Durst on trial again. Fourteen months after the trial was cut short by the pandemic, Robert Durst is once again facing a Los Angeles County courthouse in Inglewood in the 2000 killing of his friend Susan Berman.

Real Housewives, real anger. As former star lawyer Tom Girardi’s career and reputation unravel amid allegations of fraud, his wife Erika Girardi’s role on “The Real Housewives” has drawn additional scrutiny. For victims, the show’s new season adds to their pain.

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1. California wildfire map. Los Angeles Times

2. Threats, videos and a recall: A California militia fuels civic revolt in a red county. Los Angeles Times

3. Drew Barrymore says she was “gaslit” into believing Woody Allen’s take on allegations. Los Angeles Times

4. You know Angels Flight. But what about L.A.’s other funicular railways? Los Angeles Times


5. An architectural competition imagines density — done in an L.A. way. Los Angeles Times

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ICYMI, here are this week’s great reads

Flamin’ Hot controversy. Richard Montañez’s retelling of how he invented Flamin’ Hot Cheetos is an alluring rags-to-riches tale. But there’s one problem: Those who worked on the product say significant parts of his story aren’t true. Los Angeles Times

For trans Angelenos, the pandemic has brought pitfalls and unexpected positives. Quarantine offered some people a rare opportunity to explore their gender more fully in private, and mask mandates made it easier to walk down the street undisturbed. But the pandemic’s effects have, as ever, been wildly unequal — often disrupting healthcare, and pushing life onto Zoom calls that can heighten gender dysphoria. Read this thoughtful look at trans life during a plague. L.A. Magazine

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