Essential California: The shifting L.A. landscape for COVID-19

Masked visitors to Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles.
Visitors to Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles this week are mostly masked.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Friday, July 30. I’m Michael Finnegan.

The communities driving Los Angeles County’s latest surge in coronavirus cases might surprise you: Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, the Hollywood Hills, Studio City and Venice.

Young adults are the ones causing the most spread of the virus this time around, and some outbreaks have occurred at bars and restaurants, according to Barbara Ferrer, the county’s public health director.

In previous surges, the hardest-hit neighborhoods were lower income and more densely populated: East L.A., South L.A., the northeast San Fernando Valley. Essential workers were getting COVID-19 on the job and spreading it at home.


My colleague Luke Money surveys the shifting landscape of coronavirus infection in Southern California. More than 53% of the county’s residents are vaccinated. It’s now those who remain unvaccinated who face the biggest threat of serious illness and death, health officials say.

“This is turning into the pandemic of the unvaccinated,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, Ferrer’s counterpart in San Diego County.

Even with “breakthrough” infections of the vaccinated with the highly contagious Delta variant, those who are unvaccinated remain far more vulnerable. Out of the 504 people who died from COVID-19 from April 1 to June 30 in L.A. County, 96% were either unvaccinated or had not completed their inoculation regimen, Money reports.

The disturbing resurgence led the Los Angeles Unified School District to announce Thursday that it will require all students and district employees returning to in-person activities to undergo “baseline and ongoing weekly COVID-testing,” regardless of vaccination status, my colleague Howard Blume reports.

In San Francisco, where coronavirus cases are also on the rise again, Mayor London Breed said the city was considering an indoor mask mandate for everyone, regardless of vaccination status — like the one in L.A. County. Breed said those choosing not to be vaccinated were affecting the economy and health of everyone else, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Mask mandates, regardless of vaccination status, are also coming to Disneyland, Universal Studios Hollywood and other theme parks, according to The Times’ Hugo Martín. Disneyland’s face-covering rule takes effect Friday for all guests 2 years old and older while indoors.

Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland
Visitors pass through Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland in May. Starting Friday, masks will be required indoors at the park, regardless of vaccination status.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

The growing COVID-19 threat has led public and private employers nationwide to start limiting the ability of the unvaccinated to infect their co-workers, a crackdown that was applauded by The Times’ editorial board, an opinion outlet that is separate from the newsroom.

“Hooray,” the editorial said. “It’s time the stubbornly unvaccinated are held to account for their part in the resurgence of COVID-19.”

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

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The Dixie fire, still raging in Northern California, has destroyed dozens of structures. Even as crews struggle to douse the flames, the fire has burned down 40 structures and threatens nearly 11,000 more, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. It covers an area larger than New York City, and it’s now the 13th largest wildfire in the state’s recorded history, Hayley Smith reports. Los Angeles Times

The shortage of seats for qualified students at most University of California campuses has worsened. UC admitted 132,353 freshman applicants for this fall, an 11% increase over last year. But more than 71,000 were denied admission, including nearly 44,000 Californians, the overwhelming majority of them apparently eligible if there had been space. Admission rates for California applicants fell from a systemwide average of 70.5% last year to 65.7%. In 1995, it was 83.5%. Los Angeles Times


Black and Latino firefighters in Los Angeles are calling for a federal investigation of allegedly widespread racial bias in the city’s Fire Department. Leaders of Los Bomberos and the Stentorians, groups of Latino and Black firefighters respectively, demanded the inquiry by the U.S. attorney’s office following a report this week by The Times’ Paul Pringle on allegations that a high-ranking white official got preferential treatment after he was reported to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs while on duty at LAFD headquarters. In a letter to acting U.S. Atty. Tracy Wilkison, Assistant Chief Patrick Butler, the president of Los Bomberos, said the case of Chief Deputy Fred Mathis “is just one of many examples that we have come to know, which demonstrates a pattern and practice of corruption and potential violations of civil rights.” Los Angeles Times

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The Sept. 14 special election on the proposed recall of Gov. Gavin Newsom is less than seven weeks away. Many Californians are not looking forward to it. In fact, 69% of the state’s likely voters say the election is a waste of money, a new Public Policy Institute of California survey found. California voters still enjoy having the power to boot their elected officials in recalls; they just don’t think this one is a good idea, Mark Baldassare, the institute’s president and chief executive, writes of the poll’s findings. Baldassare said Newsom was well positioned to survive the vote with his strong public approval ratings, especially among the Democrats who dominate California. But as Julia Wick and Phil Willon reported, the big question is whether Democrats will bother to vote. Los Angeles Times

California Gov. Gavin Newsom
California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at a news conference in Sacramento on Feb. 27.
(Associated Press)

“One giant French kiss wrapped in money”: That’s how a San Luis Obispo County supervisor described what he thought he deserved from a marijuana businessman after he fought to kill a proposed ban on outdoor cannabis grows. Helios “Bobby” Dayspring, 35, who owns marijuana farms and dispensaries up and down the Central Coast, has agreed to plead guilty to bribery and filing a false tax return as part of an ongoing corruption investigation. The supervisor who texted Dayspring about expecting the “French kiss” payoff was reportedly Adam Hill, who has died. Dayspring admitted paying $32,000 to the late supervisor, who was unnamed in the plea agreement. Los Angeles Times

A California politician who pleaded guilty to perjury and grand theft will get to serve his one-year sentence at his luxury beachfront condo in Kauai. Joe Canciamilla, a former state lawmaker from Contra Costa County who admitted misspending $260,000 in campaign funds on a vacation in Asia, restaurant meals, airfare and other personal expenses, will be confined to his 1,714-foot condo with a 200-square-foot porch on Poipu Beach. He applied for home detention instead of jail time, and it was granted because of coronavirus transmission among inmates. San Francisco Chronicle


NBA player Jaxson Hayes was arrested by Los Angeles police after an altercation with officers responding to a call about a domestic dispute in Woodland Hills, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. The 21-year-old center for the New Orleans Pelicans shoved an officer and was tased by officers twice, police said. Video from officers’ body-worn cameras captured the incident and showed Hayes repeatedly trying to enter a home where the domestic dispute had occurred, despite commands from officers that he remain outside, according to the police. Hayes could not be reached for comment. Los Angeles Times

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An updated take on the 1965 Watts uprising, a watershed event in L.A. history, is essential reading, writes author Andrew Lewis. New Yorker writer Jelani Cobb and UC Berkeley historian Matthew Guariglia have edited “The Essential Kerner Commission Report,” a concise version of the historic examination of the six days of civil unrest that left 34 people dead and large swaths of South L.A. in ruins. In a review, Lewis, the author of “The Shadows of Youth: The Remarkable Journey of the Civil Rights Generation,” calls the book “an extremely important, even necessary, read.” Los Angeles Times

Want a different travel experience? Stay in an Airstream at one of these retro-cool trailer parks. In Joshua Tree, Ojai, Buellton, Ventura and other California locales, you can get a blast from the past when you book a vacation at a trailer park resort that features vintage-chic travel trailers. They feature refurbished campers from the 1950s to the ‘70s and new-but-look-vintage trailers, many built by Airstream, maker of the “silver bullet” travel trailers popular in the 1950s. Los Angeles Times

Airstream trailer at Launch Pointe Lake Elsinore.
The new Launch Pointe Lake Elsinore has vintage Airstream trailers for rent.
(Rosemary McClure)

Flamenco dancing, the L.A. Art Show and “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown”: 13 Best Bets for Your Weekend. On the hunt for things to do on this midsummer weekend? “Forever Flamenco,” a showcase for flamenco artists dancing outdoors, is at the Fountain in East Hollywood. The long-running L.A. Art Show returns to the L.A. Convention Center downtown. And the musical based on the “Peanuts” comic strip will be performed at Sierra Madre Memorial Park. Here are the details for each event, along with 10 other ideas for the weekend: Los Angeles Times

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Los Angeles: partly cloudy, 82. San Diego: partly cloudy, 77. San Francisco: partly cloudy, 64. San Jose: sunny, 84. Fresno: sunny, 106. Sacramento: partly cloudy, 102.


Today’s California memory is from Thomas D. Penberthy:

In 1957, my parents drove us kids cross-country from Buffalo, N.Y., to sunny California, our first “travel vacation.” I was 9 years old. We visited Disneyland. I wore the obligatory mouse ears. I desperately looked for Annette Funicello. No luck. But later, while strolling and sightseeing in Hollywood, I saw Jack Benny standing on a street corner. I even got his autograph!

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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