Newsletter: Essential California Week in Review: Omicron arrives in the state

A man wearing a mask walks past a business window with signs about wearing masks
A man in a mask walks past the Strand House, reflecting the setting sun over Manhattan Beach, on Monday.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, Dec. 4.

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

California confirms nation’s first Omicron variant case. The variant’s presence in the Golden State — reported Wednesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — is not unexpected. Still, its arrival comes at what was already shaping up to be a particularly precarious time in California. Los Angeles County reported its first case Thursday, and five cases were confirmed in Alameda County on Friday.

Large-capacity magazine ban upheld. A federal appeals court decided Tuesday to uphold California’s ban on large-capacity ammunition magazines, in a ruling that is likely to lead to the court’s approval of the state’s ban on assault weapons.

From gun theft to LAPD scandal. What started out as an investigation into missing firearms at the gun store at the Los Angeles Police Academy has spiraled, spurring a cascade of allegations of criminal activity, misconduct and corruption on the part of officers and commanders.

Cities try to blunt new duplex law. With California on the verge of allowing multi-unit housing in neighborhoods previously reserved for single-family homes, some cities are rushing to pass restrictions on the new developments. Meanwhile, a majority of Los Angeles County voters back new state laws.

Toxic sites at risk of flooding. A new statewide mapping project finds that the ocean could inundate more than 400 hazardous facilities by the end of the century — exposing nearby residents to dangerous chemicals and polluted water.


Nine charged in shoplifting wave. San Francisco Dist. Atty. Chesa Boudin said Tuesday that he has charged nine people with felonies in a series of shoplifting incidents that included a mass smash-and-grab at Union Square luxury stores.

Anger and frustration over L.A. homelessness crisis. Los Angeles voters want the government to act faster and to focus on shelter for people living in the streets, even if those efforts are short-term and fall short of permanent housing, a new poll of county voters shows. Nearly half of Black voters in Los Angeles County have been homeless, have experienced housing insecurity in the last year or know someone who has.

Crime is up on L.A. trains, buses rises as riders return. In 2021, through September, reports of violent crimes were up 25% from the same time last year and 9% from 2019, according to L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority data. Riders say poor commuters are suffering the most.

A beloved philanthropist and a shocking killing in Beverly Hills. Jacqueline Avant, a Los Angeles philanthropist and wife of legendary music producer Clarence Avant, was shot and killed in her Beverly Hills home early Wednesday, police said. Police said Thursday they had arrested a 29-year-old Los Angeles man.

A ‘no snow’ California could come sooner than you think. A new study led by researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that dwindling snowpack across California and the western United States could shrink dramatically more — or in some cases disappear — before the end of the century, with “potentially catastrophic consequences.”

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ICYMI, here are this week’s great reads

The toll of one man’s mental illness: John Samuel Maurer descended into a vortex of mental illness, caroming from one placement to another, slipping through virtually every institution in a safety net so tattered that not even his accomplished siblings could make it work.

A prolific serial killer has left L.A. detectives chasing ghosts. As Sam Little spilled details of the 93 murders he claimed to have committed across the U.S., the toll in Los Angeles mounted. Authorities remain flummoxed by 16 that allegedly occurred in L.A. County, and detectives are launching a public push for answers.

How hackers game online abuse-reporting systems. The practice of mass reporting has become something of a boogeyman on TikTok, where having a video removed can mean losing a chance to go viral, build a brand or catch the eye of corporate sponsors. It’s an especially frightening prospect because many TikTokers believe that mass reporting is effective even against posts that don’t actually break the rules.

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

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