Newsletter: Essential California Week in Review: Masks, sports trades and anti-camping rules

Shoppers in masks
Visitors to Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles were mostly masked this week.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Saturday, July 31.

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

Masks are back as coronavirus cases rise again. Health officials are urging even fully vaccinated Californians to resume wearing masks as the Delta variant spreads and vaccinations sputter. The situation has frustrated state officials; Gov. Gavin Newsom compared choosing to remain unvaccinated to drunk driving.

Vaccine requirements tighten. California state and healthcare employees will soon be required to show proof they’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19. L.A. has made a similar requirement and will require city employees to show proof or undergo weekly testing.

Voters are split. Polling shows that Californians who say they expect to vote in the September recall election are almost evenly divided over whether to remove Newsom from office. Conservative talk radio host Larry Elder leads the race among the governor’s opponents.

The Beltway comes to L.A. Blockbuster deals in two sports are bringing two big stars to L.A.: the NBA’s Russell Westbrook and MLB’s Max Scherzer. Westbrook reportedly decided to come to the Laker Show after a dinner with LeBron James and Anthony Davis at which the three agreed to combine efforts to bring another championship to L.A. Scherzer’s move to the Dodgers adds another starting pitcher to a rotation hit hard by Clayton Kershaw’s injuries and Trevor Bauer’s suspension.

More sewage seepage. More than two weeks after spilling 17 million gallons of raw sewage into Santa Monica Bay, the damaged Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant is still struggling to clean wastewater. L.A. sanitation officials confirmed that the facility has violated multiple state and federal water pollution limits since the initial July 11 and 12 discharges.

Ed Buck convicted. The longtime fixture of West Hollywood politics was convicted Tuesday of charges that he supplied the methamphetamine that killed two men during “party and play” encounters at his apartment. Buck’s Black victims said they fought to be believed.

A strong warning. As the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. prepares to vote on proposed new bylaws, the organization was pressed by its crisis PR consultant to “consider what will happen if you do not pass the bylaws.”

Anti-camping ordinance. The Los Angeles City Council gave final approval on Wednesday to an ordinance outlawing camping around parks, libraries and other facilities, over objections from critics who said it would punish people for living on the streets.

The Black Widow sues. Scarlett Johansson, who stars in the new Marvel movie “Black Widow,” sued Disney this week, accusing the company of breaching its contract by premiering the movie on Disney+ and in theaters at the same time. Johansson, whose compensation is partly based on box office earnings, is the most recent actor to raise concerns about simultaneous release strategies that have taken hold during the pandemic.


Enjoying this newsletter?

Your support helps us deliver the news that matters most. Become a Times subscriber.

1. Inside the Trevor Bauer disaster and how the Dodgers got here. Los Angeles Times

2. Restaurants are struggling: ‘I’ve been seeing a huge rise in people just forgetting to be human.’ SFGATE

3. Fauci: ‘There’s no way’ the coronavirus was made with U.S. research funds. Here’s why. Los Angeles Times

4. A Huntington Beach restaurant is seeking unvaccinated diners in a rebuff of COVID precautions. Los Angeles Times

5. Vaccinated people can get ‘breakthrough’ infections. How worried should we be? Los Angeles Times

Free online games

Get our free daily crossword puzzle, sudoku, word search and arcade games in our game center at

ICYMI, here are this week’s great reads

An unwanted reminder of racism. The massive Rose Bowl Flea Market in Pasadena boasts more than 2,000 vendors and 20,000 visitors every second Sunday of the month. It’s also where Times reporter Makeda Easter found mammy dolls, grotesque caricatures and other racist, anti-Black memorabilia among the booths.

The Olympics are NBC’s worst nightmare. With shocking upsets, unexpected exits, a 16-hour time difference and a thicket of broadcast, cable and streaming options, the most tumultuous Olympics in years are starting to catch up with NBC. Our TV writers gathered for a roundtable discussion this week to dig into why the Toyko Olympics have been so painful to take in or easy to ignore, and whether the whole thing is fixable.

The UC system’s admission crisis. UC has admitted the largest and most diverse class ever. But there are not enough seats for qualified students at most campuses, a worsening crisis that threatens to break the California promise of a UC education for them. As the capacity crunch disappoints thousands of hard-working students and frustrates their tax-paying parents, the question of how to create more room at both UC and Cal State schools has taken on new urgency.

Today’s week-in-review newsletter was curated by Laura Blasey and Samantha Melbourneweaver. Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints and ideas to