Essential California Week in Review: Stripping away the mask mandates

A woman and a baby eat from takeout containers in a food hall
Chloe Goddard and her son, Noah, eat lunch at Grand Central Market on Tuesday. “I probably will continue to wear the mask because I feel safer,” Goddard said. “Mainly for his safety.”
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, March 5.

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

L.A. County lifted its indoor masking mandate. The mandate was lifted Friday after the county officially entered the “low” category among the coronavirus community levels set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Here’s the CDC map showing which counties fall in the lowest category, indicated in green.) Even with the changes, state and L.A. County officials are “strongly recommending” mask use in indoor public settings. Meanwhile, as of March 12, masks will no longer be required indoors at California schools and childcare facilities.

Flush California still takes child support from low-income families. California generally requires families enrolled in the state’s public assistance program to open a child support case so that the government can later “recover” the cost from the noncustodial parent — usually the father — as a sort of reimbursement to itself for that cash aid. Gov. Gavin Newsom is trying to chip away at the policy but stops short of giving families on public assistance full access to their child support payments without state intervention.

In the market for a lifeboat? The city of Long Beach is kicking off a $5-million repair project for the Queen Mary by selling the historic ship’s lifeboats. The plan is to fix up the Queen Mary and reopen it to the public.


California State University officials are launching an independent investigation into Fresno State. At issue is how the school’s administrators handled sexual harassment complaints against a former campus vice president. Cal State Chancellor Joseph I. Castro stepped down last month following reports that, as president of Fresno State in 2020, he quietly authorized a $260,000 payout and retirement package for Frank Lamas, who was the subject of complaints of bullying, intimidation and sexual harassment.

“The race is wide open.” A new L.A. mayoral poll reveals that Rep. Karen Bass may not have the commanding lead that some thought. The poll shows City Councilman Kevin de León is a close second. Our new newsletter, L.A. on the Record, has the latest analysis of the mayor’s race and loads of other info.

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John Eastman, who was a key legal advisor to President Trump, is at the center of an ethics probe. The State Bar of California is investigating whether the Orange County attorney violated laws while advising Trump on how he could overturn his election defeat in 2020.

UC Berkeley will cut the number of its out-of-state students. The university — scrambling to meet a court-ordered enrollment cap for the coming academic year — will boost the number of Californians admitted and significantly reduce out-of-state and international students this fall. The campus plans to enroll about 5,370 first-year California students both in-person and online, up about 500 over 2021. That’s around 90% of all freshmen, compared with 70% last year.

New legislation looks to expand abortion access as other states move to restrict it. The bill would allow nurse practitioners to more easily work independently of a doctor and perform abortions.

A man shot four people, including his three young daughters, in a Sacramento County church. The shooter, 39, then turned the gun on himself. Court records chronicle allegations of domestic abuse and warnings from the children’s mother that David Mora was violent. He also had an altercation with law enforcement before the shooting.

A Beverly Hills store used safe deposit boxes to launder drug money. Under a plea deal, U.S. Private Vaults Inc. admitted it recruited drug traffickers as customers and used the illicit proceeds to run the business. It also said people at the company sold cocaine, arranged drug deals at the store and instructed customers how to structure cash transactions to dodge currency reporting requirements. Under the deal, criminal charges will not be filed against company owners.

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ICYMI, here are this week’s great reads

A man’s death exposed a Hollywood drug delivery business that worked like a food delivery app. Mirela Todorova is accused of using Venmo, PayPal and other payment platforms to collect more than $733,000 from customers in her last year of dealing, officials say. Among alleged victims was Ray Mascolo, whose November 2020 death in Beverly Hills spurred a federal investigation that uncovered a drug delivery service both lucrative and tech-driven. Todorova and many others left a long trail of evidence on smartphones, laptops and the servers of Apple, T-Mobile and AT&T, court records show.

Wildfire survivors say FEMA did little to help them. The Federal Emergency Management Agency made funds available to California for costs related to last year’s Caldor fire but didn’t approve a request to provide individual assistance, which would have directly helped uninsured or underinsured residents pay for temporary housing or rebuilding. The move has perplexed state officials and added to criticism that FEMA’s assistance programs are geared more toward Eastern and Midwestern disasters.

Standing 5-foot-2, Imelda took a stand in front of one truck with a bright green cab. Its chrome grill towered above her. The Times’ Thomas Curwen tells how, for nearly two years, a daily convoy of 18-wheelers has turned a once-quiet Wilmington street, a little less than half a mile long, into a loud and dusty truck route from dawn to well past dusk. A series of decisions, made independently and over time by federal and state agencies, city departments and private businesses, is responsible for upending life on Drumm Avenue. And residents have had it.

Today’s week-in-review newsletter was curated by Amy Hubbard. 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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