Newsletter: Essential California Week in Review: The federal mask order is struck down, but it’s complicated

People, some wearing masks, stand in line with luggage
Passengers wait at Los Angeles International Airport on Tuesday. Airports and airlines dropped their mask requirements after a Florida federal judge voided the Biden administration’s mask mandate for planes, trains and buses, but L.A. County will keep its mandate in place for public transit and indoor transportation hubs.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, April 23.

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

Mask mandate is struck down, but it’s not a done deal. A federal judge in Florida on Monday voided the national mask mandate for planes, trains and buses, prompting some California transit systems to impose their own and sparking anxiety among immunocompromised people. The Justice Department is filing an appeal. Days later, an L.A. County order went into effect requiring travelers to mask up on public transit or in indoor transportation hubs such as airports.

A surge in first-time users at food banks. Food banks across the state are seeing an influx of new faces with spikes in the cost of groceries and gas. The issue is twofold, as food bank administrators grapple with their own higher costs for food and gas.

L.A. teacher shortage hits poor kids hardest. With less than two months left in the school year, many of Los Angeles Unified’s highest-need campuses remain significantly understaffed, forcing personnel who hold teaching credentials back into the classroom.

A gold rush in the deep sea raises questions. An authority charged with protecting the seabed is pushing to set up rules that would allow mining for minerals that can be used to make electric car batteries, despite calls for more research.

Bullets and ‘less lethal’ rounds at same time, with deadly results. A Times review found at least eight shootings in the past two years in which LAPD officers simultaneously fired handguns and weapons such as projectile launchers or Tasers. The approach gave the “less lethal” options little or no time to work and resulted in five deaths.

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L.A. says it can’t take care of its most vulnerable. The county isn’t buying it. A dispute has exposed a growing wedge between the city and county that threatens to undo years of cooperation between the massive bureaucracies at a time when homelessness continues to spiral out of control.

The quest to save Cantonese in a world dominated by Mandarin. Despite efforts to save Cantonese at Stanford, the language remains under threat. Globally, Cantonese is being swamped by Mandarin — and the two languages are as different as Spanish is from French.

Cinematographer dies in sand dune accident. USC says student filmmakers appeared to have flouted school safety policies in conducting a shoot where a 29-year-old student cinematographer from Chapman University was killed in Imperial Valley.

Sherri Papini pleads guilty to faking her own kidnapping. Five years after she claimed she was dumped on the side of a Northern California highway in chains by her kidnappers, Papini formally admitted in federal court Monday that she faked the whole scheme.

Jacqueline Avant’s killer is sentenced. A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge on Tuesday sentenced the man convicted in the murder of Avant, a well-known philanthropist, to more than 150 years to life in prison, saying he shot the 81-year-old in the back.

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ICYMI, here are this week’s great reads

What’s next for P-22, L.A.’s favorite wild bachelor? After a decade of the kind of celebrity that most humans never attain, P-22 is living on borrowed time. Mountain lions in the wild don’t typically survive beyond 12 years, and he is thought to be 12 or 13. P-22’s eventual death is a painful thought for the community of scientists, advocates and armchair enthusiasts that has studied and protected him.

The Times Festival of Books is finally here. Setting out to map L.A.’s literary geography, The Times surveyed 49 writers to find out about their favorite bookstores, writing nooks, neighborhoods and authors. Their responses constitute their own map of the city, in which buildings and landscapes find their way into essays, fiction and poetry.

How long COVID upended the life of an L.A. teen. After contracting COVID-19, 13-year-old Ami Korn missed much of eighth grade, and he continues to endure long COVID — a phenomenon in which symptoms persist for weeks or months. Scientists are still working to understand why some patients suffer long COVID and to gauge how commonly it occurs.

Food fight over olive oil sparks larger debate about the California brand. A new state law punishes those who improperly use the California name to peddle olive oil from elsewhere. The movement that led to it triggered one of the biggest food fights in California since Napa vintners got the state to ban charlatans from marketing their wines with the region’s name. And it has implications extending far beyond the scenic olive groves of Northern California.

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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