Why California is handling the Delta variant a lot better than Florida and Texas

People in masks
People in masks wait in line at MacArthur Park in Los Angeles last fall.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Thursday, Aug. 12. I’m Justin Ray.

Yesterday, two major events took place in California’s handling of COVID-19: First, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered that school employees must be vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to a weekly test proving they are not infected with the coronavirus. Second, Los Angeles took a step toward requiring people to have at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine before venturing into many kinds of public places.

California’s coronavirus case rate remains below the national average, and significantly lower than that of Florida and Texas. The two get compared to the Golden State because of comparable population sizes. But they are also useful when studying drastically different approaches to COVID-19.

Why are we doing better? Simply put: We have better-than-average vaccination rates and have reimplemented mandatory mask policies in parts of the state.


The numbers are dramatic: As of Wednesday, California reported 141.1 new coronavirus cases for every 100,000 residents over the previous week. This rate is half that of Texas, 297.8; and less than one-fourth that of Florida’s rate of 653.8, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. California’s rate is also less than the national average of 232.1.

But officials have stressed that the Delta variant continues to be a public health threat, and they expect cases to rise further in the coming weeks.

Of the 117 people admitted to Los Angeles County’s public hospitals primarily for COVID-19 between June 15 and Aug. 5, 112 were not fully vaccinated and only five were fully vaccinated, according to Dr. Christina Ghaly, the county’s director of health services.

There are more reasons California is doing so much better than other states. You can read our full story here.

For the record: I want to address a part of yesterday’s newsletter. A few readers emailed about the section that discussed the fee partygoers were charged at the door of a Sunnyvale Airbnb house party. I used the term “girls,” which people rightfully pointed out as problematic. I used it because it was on the original flyer. I should have used quotation marks. I feel terrible, and I apologize that it slipped past me.

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

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PG&E power line suspected in Dixie fire was set to be buried underground in safety move. After Pacific Gas & Electric equipment sparked the massive Camp fire that burned much of Paradise, Calif., the company said it would conduct a safety campaign, which included burying some power lines through NorCal. Among the power lines set to be buried was a 10-mile stretch that may have started this year’s destructive Dixie fire, now the second largest in California history. The situation underscores the rising scrutiny PG&E is facing this summer as a string of huge fires across Northern California have raged amid hot, dry conditions. Los Angeles Times

A building burns
Buildings smolder as the Dixie fire rips through downtown Greenville on Aug. 4.
(AFP/Getty Images)

Subscriber Exclusive: Anthony Barajas and Rylee Goodrich were on their first date when they were shot at a Corona movie theater. Grieving family and friends, along with Barajas’ nearly 1 million TikTok followers, are left wondering how three young lives collided in a darkened theater on July 26 and whether something could have been done to prevent the shooting. Los Angeles Times


Thousands of vacancies for L.A. teachers, counselors and nurses remain as school starts. Days before the academic year starts, a well-funded hiring spree for Los Angeles schools is falling short of its goal and a shortage of teachers and other professionals is colliding with pandemic recovery goals. Shortfalls are particularly pronounced in positions serving students most in need of academic and mental health recovery. In all, the district had hoped to hire the equivalent of 4,389 full-time positions that require a professional credential for teaching or a related field. Of these open slots, less than half had been filled as of July 29, the most recent date for which figures are available. Los Angeles Times

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San Francisco city employees send letters over vaccine mandate. Upward of 200 employees of the city and county of San Francisco are asking to be exempted from a number of anti-COVID-19 mandates, including frequent testing and mask wearing. For the last six weeks or so, the employees have handed their supervisors a similar letter. The note lists 41 conditions for the employees to comply with the vaccination mandate. It asks for their “God given and constitutionally secured rights” not be taken away as related to vaccination, testing and mask mandates. KTVU



Santa Barbara surfer dad ‘enlightened by QAnon’ to kill his kids, feds say
A Santa Barbara father suspected of killing his two children in Mexico told the FBI he was a QAnon adherent and had to kill them because they had been infected with serpent DNA and he was saving the world from monsters, according to a criminal complaint filed in Los Angeles federal court Wednesday. Matthew Taylor Coleman, 40, is charged with two counts of foreign murder of a United States national in the slaying of his 2-year-old son and 10-month-old daughter. He is accused of shooting them with a spearfishing gun on Monday in Rosarito. San Diego Union-Tribune

A college professor is suspected in a series of arson fires near the massive Dixie fire has been charged and was ordered held in the Sacramento County Main Jail. Gary Stephen Maynard, 47, has worked at a number of colleges in California, including Santa Clara University and Sonoma State University. Maynard was arrested Saturday following an investigation that began in late July. When questioned by agents, “Maynard denied setting any fires and, at one point, stated that if the agents were going to accuse him of starting fires that he would defend himself in court,” court papers say. Sacramento Bee

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Oakland’s new skating rink is about more than recreation. The UMOJA Skating Rink at Liberation Park has a deep purpose. First opened last Juneteenth, the park is meant to provide physical recreation, but it is also about rejuvenating the neighborhood. “I think this should be in every city,” said David Miles Jr., the owner of San Francisco’s Church of 8 Wheels. “I want to spread skating everywhere I possibly can.” Oaklandside


$10,000 a month?!?!? Murphy-Goode Winery gained a lot of internet attention with its Really Goode Job campaign, which offered a dream position: a yearlong apprenticeship at the winery with a salary of $10,000 a month. Out of a pool of 2,000 candidates, the Healdsburg estate chose two 28-year-olds who had never worked in the wine industry before. But the pair did create wine-focused Instagram accounts during the pandemic. San Francisco Chronicle

Why air conditioning reigns supreme in Southern California. “AC is such a standard of our living standard now that, enswirled as you may be at this moment by that sweet, sweet cool air, you might not even give it a thought — until the power bill comes,” columnist Pat Morrison writes. She explains the history of home air conditioning and its importance to SoCal. Los Angeles Times


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Los Angeles: Overcast, 89. Seems like a lot of places will be overcast. It’s a good time for some great cloudy day music. I’ll name some. Beyonce, “Sandcastles” San Diego: Hot, 82. Joni Mitchell, “Song for Sharon” San Francisco: Overcast, 69. Sarah Mclachlan, “Do What You Have to Do” San Jose: FKA Twigs “mirrored heart” 84. Fresno: 105. James Blake, “Waves No Shores” Sacramento: 99. Washed out, “Face Up,” which I’ve listened to 1,000 times. It gives me Sade vibes.


Today’s California memory is from Lee McElroy:

As a native San Franciscan, my childhood was a dream come true. My BFF’s father was a zookeeper, which gave us access to behind the lines happenings: a hippo’s tooth extraction, bottle feeding of newborn tiger cubs, the birth of Penny the elephant, so named because SF children donated their pennies, and more. A dollar lunch included a hot dog, pink popcorn and a coke. Entrance to the zoo was FREE. The halcyon days of yore...

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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