Essential California: Keeping hope alive in 2022

A woman stands under a tree
Helen Cordova, the first person in California to receive the COVID-19 shot, poses for a portrait under an avocado tree.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter — the final one of 2021. I’m Colleen Shalby, filling in for Justin Ray. It’s Dec. 30, and and I’m writing from Los Angeles. One programming note: The newsletter will be back Monday, Jan. 3.

Last December, I stood in a conference room at Kaiser Permanente on Sunset Boulevard and watched as a handful of frontline workers got the first COVID-19 vaccine shots in California. One by one, they were inoculated as a group of masked onlookers, including Gov. Gavin Newsom, witnessed the start of a new chapter in the pandemic’s history.

We know now that the year ahead wasn’t exactly smooth sailing and that 2021 wasn’t devoid of devastation or dismay, despite the hope we held as we entered the new year. But hope was not — and is not — lost.

My colleague Hailey Branson-Potts recently checked in with Helen Cordova — an intensive care unit nurse who was the first person to get a shot in that meeting room and the first person to get the vaccine in California, outside of a trial. She started treating COVID patients in March 2020 and ultimately decided to get the vaccine to set an example for her patients, and her family.


“I remember that hope I felt when I got the vaccine because it was probably the darkest period of the pandemic,” she told Branson-Potts.

The anniversary hasn’t been completely celebratory as cases and hospitalizations rise again, all while vaccine hesitancy lingers for some. But Cordova has remained hopeful that progress will continue. When patients tell her they’re vaccinated, she cheers for them.

Sandra Lindsay, the first person to get the vaccine in the U.S., has also remained optimistic over this past year. Lindsay, who has become an advocate for health equity and a vaccine activist, hopes more people will continue to get the shot in the coming year and that those who have remained hesitant will be encouraged by her story.

“As a Black woman, an immigrant from Jamaica and a proud U.S. citizen, I wanted to be a positive influence in a time of need,” she wrote in an op-ed for USA Today. “It has been a long year, but if some drew inspiration from my spotlighted vaccination to get inoculated themselves, I’d do it all again. It’s a natural extension of my nursing career.”

It’s true that we’re entering the new year with some familiar uncertainty as we weigh the risk of going to New Year’s Eve gatherings, mull over the latest quarantine guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and wonder what the upcoming semester will look like for students. We know that the pandemic may stretch on for a bit longer than we would like. But we also know that we made some strides over the past year in the fight against COVID-19.

In 2022, let’s keep hope alive.

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.


Omicron cases are rising. Officials are urging residents to remain cautious in the coming days. Los Angeles Times


A masked crowd stands together at Staples Center.
A mostly masked crowd watches a game at Staples Center.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Mask up: San Francisco and other Bay Area counties are once again requiring everyone, regardless of vaccination status, to wear masks indoors. San Francisco Chronicle

From the archives. Roughly 76 million Americans fear needles. For those whose vaccine hesitancy stems from that fear, here’s how to overcome it. Los Angeles Times


The Rose Parade is back. COVID-19 cases have disrupted several New Year’s celebrations, but after a one-year hiatus, the parade will go on. Organizers are expecting hundreds of thousands of spectators along Pasadena’s Colorado Boulevard. Los Angeles Times


John Madden. An appreciation from NFL reporter Sam Farmer of the Super Bowl-winning coach, legendary broadcaster, creator of a video-game empire and above all, a regular guy whose greatest gifts were his humor and warmth. Los Angeles Times


Sexual abuse report. A 35-page report details sexual misconduct allegations at the elite Cate School in Carpinteria that go as far back as the 1960s and involve 17 former faculty members. The findings follow an internal investigation that launched more than a year ago. Los Angeles Times

The unentitled. Meet the new generation of students reshaping the face of higher education in California: the children of immigrants and workers who come from families with lower incomes, less parental education and far more racial and ethnic diversity than college applicants of the past. Los Angeles Times

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Child care providers want more benefits. Over the next several years, California will spend hundreds of millions of dollars to increase the number of child care slots by 200,000. But providers have said they need further assistance to keep businesses open. Sacramento Bee


Snow crisis. The Sierra mountain town of Pollock Pines was on its third day without power as snowfall continued to pound the area. SFGate

A soggy end to 2021. With more than 5 inches of rain in December and counting, Los Angeles is expecting more rain through New Year’s Eve. Los Angeles Times

A teenage boy sleds off a snowy jump.
Matthew Eastman, 15, of Forest Falls sleds off a jump he built at the end of his driveway after a winter storm blanketed the San Bernardino Mountains.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

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Los Angeles: rainy, 53. San Diego: rainy, 61. San Francisco: partly cloudy, 49. San Jose: party cloudy, 51. Fresno: partly cloudy, 53. Sacramento: partly cloudy, 51.

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Today’s California memory is from Kenneth M Heiliger:

“As a preteen and teen growing up in Riverside, Lancaster and Palmdale, we would often visit my relatives in Rialto. My aunt would make a big lunch or dinner for all of us, but before the meal was complete, she would send me and my cousins into the avocado grove directly across from her house to fetch her avocados for the meal. It may sound quintessential, but an old man with a cane and a German shepherd would chase us out of the field, but not before we got our loot of avocados. My life of crime ended there, by the way.”

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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