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Essential California: Revealing data about COVID cases in California

People stroll along the Strand in Manhattan Beach
People stroll along the Strand in Manhattan Beach on May 15.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s June 8. I’m Justin Ray.

Do you remember what happened back in November?

California had been successful at managing COVID-19 until that month, when the virus wreaked havoc on the state. Hospitals overflowed with COVID patients, overwhelming already exhausted healthcare workers. Officials were caught off guard by the sudden, rapid spread of the virus, which only got worse as the state entered holiday season.

Fortunately, we’ve come a long way since then, and new numbers indicate that California in particular has done a good job keeping the virus at bay. However, there remains one area where the state is still lacking.

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The good news

California has been able to maintain one of the lowest COVID-19 case rates in America, as my colleagues Rong-Gong Lin II and Luke Money report. According to new data released Monday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the state’s seven-day case rate per 100,000 people was 11 — tying Nebraska for the third-lowest among all states. Only Vermont and South Dakota have lower rates, with 6.9 and 9.2 respectively.

On Sunday, California met the threshold necessary to meet the CDC’s definition of having a low level of community coronavirus transmission. But new data took the state out of the qualification that requires cases over a seven-day period to be under 10 per 100,000 residents and its rate of positive test results to be less than 5%. Despite stepping into the moderate transmission categorization, its seven-day case rate is less than half the nationwide figure of 28.

Meanwhile, five states — Colorado, Wyoming, Florida, Washington and Utah — are considered to have substantial transmission. This means all have seven-day case rates that exceed 50 per 100,000 residents.

The bad news

While the state appears in good shape, we continue to struggle in one specific area. Although around 68% of eligible Californians 12 and older have received at least one shot, only 52.7% are fully vaccinated. That’s a problem because, as The Times has previously reported, 80% of residents need to get vaccinated or have natural immunity for us to achieve herd immunity. Meanwhile, vaccine enthusiasm has fallen, prompting Gov. Gavin Newsom to use flashy measures to boost immunizations.

Newsom has promised a “full reopening” of the state on June 15. What will a reopened L.A. County look like? Here are five things to expect as L.A. County fully reopens.

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

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Here’s how authorities identified the two suspects arrested in the apparent road rage killing of a 6-year-old. Officials said Marcus Anthony Eriz, 24, and Wynne Lee, 23, were taken into custody after Aiden Leos died during the incident last month. Surveillance, investigation and tips all played a role in identifying the suspects, according to a new report from The Times’ Richard Winton, Hayley Smith, Hannah Fry and Leila Miller.

After the shooting, authorities shared an image of a white vehicle of interest. In the following weeks, hundreds of calls and emails came in regarding the case. Officials said they received a tip and worked to enhance an image of the license plate on the vehicle, which led them to identify the couple. Social media may have also helped tie one of the suspects to the crime.

On May 21, the boy’s mother had been traveling on the northbound lanes of the 55 Freeway in Orange. Leos was hit when a round entered through the trunk of the vehicle. The two suspects were taken into custody at their home in Costa Mesa on Sunday. Police also said they believe that a gun recovered from the home was used in the fatal shooting. Both suspects are expected to be charged with murder. They are being held in the Orange County jail on $1-million bail each, and are scheduled to appear in court Tuesday.

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Wynne Lee, left, and Marcus Anthony Eriz
Wynne Lee and Marcus Anthony Eriz were taken into custody at their home in Costa Mesa on Sunday afternoon.
(Orange County District Attorney)

L.A. STORIES

Is it too late for L.A. County Dist. Atty. George Gascón to review some controversial police killings? When he ran for district attorney, Gascón promised to review four police shootings in which his predecessor Jackie Lacey declined to bring charges against officers. But the effort is running into roadblocks. For instance, the statute of limitations to bring manslaughter charges in three of the shootings he previously highlighted has passed. This means that if any are to be reopened, he would face the extremely difficult task of convicting a police officer of murder. Los Angeles Times

Meet an L.A. public transit superfan. Kenny Uong doesn’t work for Metro, but he’s one of its greatest ambassadors. Columnist Nita Lelyveld and staff photographer Francine Orr explain how the 21-year-old became an authority on public transit in Los Angeles. Los Angeles Times

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POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT

Political rock star Katie Porter talks about that controversy involving Michelle Steel. On an episode of our daily podcast, Gustavo Arellano caught up with California Rep. Katie Porter (D -Irvine). Of course, the pair discussed those viral whiteboard lectures during congressional hearings. Porter also addressed the controversy involving comments made by Rep. Michelle Steel (R-Seal Beach) about work the two performed for a resolution condemning hate crimes against Asian Americans: “It was disheartening for me.” Los Angeles Times

Despite the passing of the “Golden State Stimulus,” undocumented people can’t access funds. Many of the undocumented residents of California have not been able to access pandemic relief previously handed out in three rounds of payments. The “Golden State Stimulus” that was approved by the State Legislature and signed into law by Newsom was supposed to provide that support. However, various obstacles have prevented many from accessing these funds. KQED

HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT

A kayaker attempting an epic voyage was rescued. U.S. Coast Guard officials say a kayaker who was attempting a trip from California to Hawaii was rescued about 70 miles from Santa Cruz. Cyril Derreumaux departed May 31 in hopes of reaching Honolulu in 60 to 70 days. Sadly, Derreumaux’s trek was cut short. His kayak nearly capsized and he wasn’t able to adequately use GPS “due to heavy weather,” Coast Guard authorities said. Back in 1987, a solo kayaker completed the trip from California to Hawaii, and it has never been successfully completed since. Sacramento Bee

Tap in. Tap, tap, tap in. California districts won first and second prize at an international tap water tasting contest (which is apparently a thing that exists). The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California won first place at the 31st annual Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting event in West Virginia. Santa Ana took second place. Associated Press

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CRIME AND COURTS

How a coalition galvanizes the conversation about anti-Asian hate incidents. Despite being small, Stop AAPI Hate has become a prominent outlet for the recording of hate incidents against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders nationwide. In March, the group released a study revealing that thousands of Asian Americans have faced racist verbal and physical attacks during the pandemic. A new report from Mallika Seshadri explains how the coalition does the work of collecting, categorizing and reporting incidents. CalMatters

Woman arrested after attack that went viral on social media. A 21-year-old who was captured on security footage attacking a woman outside a Castro Valley apartment has been arrested. Video of the incident went viral on social media. The woman, who had reportedly been delivering packages for Amazon, is no longer working for the company, a spokesperson said. SFGATE

CALIFORNIA CULTURE

After 42 years, the original rainbow flag is coming home to San Francisco. In 1978, San Francisco resident Gilbert Baker stitched a rainbow flag that would end up becoming a global symbol of the LGBTQ community. A piece of the original fabric was unveiled Friday at the GLBT Historical Society. But there’s so much more to the story behind the original flag, including a chance phone call that led to a realization about its location. Los Angeles Times

Gilbert Baker holds the rainbow flag against a pink backdrop
In this photograph by Robert Pruzan, Gilbert Baker holds the rainbow flag in 1989. Baker created the original rainbow flag in 1978, and a piece of the original fabric is being displayed at the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco.
( Robert Pruzan Collection / GLBT Historical Society)

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A 13-year-old wins accolades for a stop-motion short film. Seventh-grader Hailey Johnston of Redondo Beach created a two-minute video explaining “why she matters.” In the video, Johnston becomes a gymnast, runner and superhero. “I really wasn’t expecting to get that far,” Hailey says, “but I’m really excited I did; the feeling was amazing.” Daily Breeze

Also: I received over 200 responses to my first newsletter and the first thing I want to say is thank you so much for all the love and support. I will respond to you all, but while I was receiving warm messages and stories about frogs, I was moving to a new apartment. As you can see, I wasn’t super pumped about the experience.

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CALIFORNIA ALMANAC

Los Angeles: Partly cloudy skies, 72. San Diego: Partly cloudy, 72. San Francisco: Sunny skies with gusty winds, 61. San Jose: Sunny, 72. Fresno: Sunny, 80. Sacramento: Sunny, 75.

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AND FINALLY

Today’s California memory comes from Beth Herman:

We came to California after living in NYC for many years and a brief residency in Austin, Texas. My rescue dog, Sisko, was with us. We liberated him from the shelter in Austin, which was otherwise filled with pit bulls. For some reason Sisko has bright blue eyes. He caught the attention of an artist who owned a large brown lab in the dog park as Sisko flew through the air retrieving a frisbee. I now own an oil painting of a portrait of Sisko. Right next to him in the painting is a Weber kettle, as big as Sisko. For some reason this artist was obsessed with Weber kettles and they appear in every painting he does!

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 to essentialcalifornia@latimes.com.


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