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Essential California: The mask mandate is back in L.A.

People wearing masks walk in downtown Los Angeles in June 2020.
Masked patrons walk inside Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles last summer. Los Angeles County is reinstating its indoor mask mandate.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Friday, July 16. I’m Marisa Gerber, filling in for Justin Ray.

Masks will be the law of the land in Los Angeles — again.

At the grocery store a couple of weeks ago, I looked up from my cart in the produce section and noticed something I hadn’t seen in a long time: strangers’ chins. A lot of them.

For a while after the indoor-mask requirement was lifted, most people I saw still came inside wearing some type of face covering. But with each week, it seemed, more and more people were dropping the masks.

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Starting Saturday, that will no longer be an option.

With coronavirus cases among unvaccinated people rising to distressing levels, L.A. County health officials will again require all residents, regardless of their vaccination status, to wear a mask in indoor public spaces. The mandate will go into effect late Saturday night.

Although overall case counts remain relatively low compared with earlier in the pandemic, there has been a sizable increase in cases and hospitalizations in L.A. County. Similar jumps have also happened in Orange, San Diego and San Bernardino counties.

Given the upward trend, and the presence of the highly infectious Delta variant, local health officials said they couldn’t wait to act — and that more extreme steps might be necessary down the road.

“Anything is on the table if things continue to get worse,” said Dr. Muntu Davis, L.A. county’s health officer.

Here is the latest on the pandemic:

— The University of California told students they must be vaccinated for class. Los Angeles Times

— U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona spoke to The Times about how education inequities widened during the pandemic. Los Angeles Times

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— Should these 12 lawmakers be forced to say whether they’ve been vaccinated? Los Angeles Times

— L.A. officials tell residents, especially those who aren’t unvaccinated, to reconsider travel plans to Nevada and Florida. Los Angeles Times

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

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

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HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Has California’s first “mega-fire” of the year arrived? The Sugar fire in Plumas is nearing the 100,000-acre milestone. Los Angeles Times

San Diego County is launching a climate plan designed to cut net carbon emissions to zero by 2035. San Diego Union-Tribune

Will the El Segundo blue butterfly survive? After decades of habitat destruction, these butterflies the size of a thumbnail remain on the federal list of endangered species. Los Angeles Magazine

He dreamed of building a refuge for free spirits, so he bought cheap property and gathered random supplies — a 1946 UPS truck, a huge shipment of doors, a Zamboni. Then, the wildfire arrived. Los Angeles Times

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CRIME AND COURTS

Federal authorities filed criminal charges against a Napa doctor, who they say was selling fake COVID-19 vaccination cards and pellets she allegedly told patients would give them immunity. San Francisco Chronicle

Orange County authorities say they cracked a cold case using DNA technology to pinpoint the man who killed a nursing student in Garden Grove in 1976. Orange County Register

When you type “private autopsy Los Angeles” into the search bar, one of the first results that pops up is 1-800-Autopsy. A look inside the unregulated industry of for-profit forensic examinations. New York Times Magazine

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L.A. STORIES

The swimming ban at Dockweiler and El Segundo beaches was lifted after two days of water-quality testing following a massive sewage spill. Los Angeles Times

A beachgoer sunbathes near a sign warning people to stay out of the water at Dockweiler State Beach.
A woman sunbathes near a sign warning people to stay out of the water at Dockweiler State Beach after a 17-million-gallon sewage spill.
(Christina House/Los Angeles Times)

No love for Pasadena? Industry insiders say the city has earned a reputation as one of the harder places to film in the region. Los Angeles Daily News

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CALIFORNIA CULTURE

A tale of wine, the ocean, branding and bureaucracy. Almost too many California buzzwords to be real, but it’s true. Los Angeles Times

Outdoor dinning “parklets” that popped up in San Francisco early in the pandemic will remain a permanent feature. Eater SF

Street vendors in Ontario are raising money for their friend, a Guatemalan immigrant, who was hit by a driver who authorities say was driving under the influence. LA Taco

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CALIFORNIA ALMANAC

Los Angeles: Sunny, 81. San Diego: Partly cloudy, 75. San Francisco: Partly cloudy, 64. San Jose: Partly cloudy, 75. Fresno: Sunny, 100 . Sacramento: Partly cloudy, 91.

AND FINALLY

Today’s California memory is from Stephanie Williams:

I grew up riding horses. We kept our two pintos in a fenced field not far from Miramar Naval Air Station in San Diego County (Miramar Helicopter Base). From the back of the property, we’d cross the railroad tracks and ride down a hill to a little community where a friend kept her horse. From the front, we’d ride lots of open land with occasional dry gullies and small clumps of shade trees where we’d take a break and let the horses munch dried grass. Some of my best memories of my dad include these rides together.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

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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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