Essential California Week in Review: Here’s where L.A. County is seeing COVID outbreaks this summer

Students form lines as they assemble for the first day of school
Fourth-grade students form lines as they assemble for the first day of school at Lenicia B. Weemes Elementary School. There were 27 new COVID-19 outbreak investigations at L.A. County schools and other educational settings.
(Al Seib / For The Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, Sept. 2.

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

Here’s where L.A. County is seeing COVID outbreaks this summer. Higher rates of coronavirus transmission are leading to more COVID-19 outbreaks in Los Angeles County, with nursing homes, schools and worksites reporting increases in recent weeks.

Mark Ridley-Thomas was sentenced to 42 months in prison. A federal judge sentenced the once towering figure in Los Angeles politics, marking a devastating final chapter to his long career as a local power broker and advocate for civil rights and racial equity.


Records show California prisons are reporting U.S. citizens to ICE, ACLU says. California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation staff routinely assume people in their custody are deportable immigrants — even when their own records indicate they are U.S. citizens or immigrants who should not be deported.

Column: Five years after his wife was killed by a foul ball at Dodger Stadium, Erwin Goldbloom still mourns. Five years later, the 90-year-old serenades his late wife’s spirit with a nightly love song while pondering a web of endless cruelty. Of the 53,528 people at Dodger Stadium that night, why did the ball find her?

The best places to eat and drink in L.A. right now, according to our food writers. This month’s dining hit list includes a vintage-inspired diner in downtown L.A., a sarcastic scoop shop in Echo Park, new sushi and BBQ vendors in Grand Central Market, a long-awaited pizzeria in Culver City and much more.

Photo of the week

A woman holds a plant while posing for a portrait
Marissa Engoy holds a Maranta leuconeura while posing for a portrait in her shop, Good Morning, Cactus, in Lomita, Calif. Engoy also holds succulent and cacti wreath-making workshops for the community.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

After her miscarriage, caring for succulents was a gift during a ‘dark season.’ “I never really cared about plants before, but suddenly I cared about these ones with all my heart,” says Marissa Engoy, 42. “I needed them to survive.”

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Nordstrom closes San Francisco store on grim note amid naked mannequins and empty display cases. The store’s closing has prompted yet another round of hand-wringing about the future of downtown San Francisco.

Erika Girardi, Secret Service and American Express engaged in a corrupt conspiracy, a lawsuit claims. Christopher Psaila accuses Erika Girardi and her estranged husband of having “weaponized the Secret Service to maliciously prosecute” him in 2017 to secure a $787,000 refund from American Express at a time when the Girardi family was “in desperate financial straits.”

S.F. is aiming for zero traffic deaths. A 4-year-old killed in a crosswalk shows how far it has to go. San Francisco, like Los Angeles, has spent the better part of a decade making changes as part of an ambitious pledge to reduce traffic-related deaths to zero. Neither city is close to achieving that goal.

California’s COVID comeback intensifies, but officials say there’s no cause for alarm. “These higher rates of transmission, while they’re not a cause for alarm, they do translate to more outbreaks in L.A. County, across schools, work sites and healthcare facilities,” L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said.

Everything you need to prepare for Beyoncé’s arrival at SoFi Stadium. We’re here to help you shimmer like a disco ball during Labor Day weekend, whether you have a ticket to SoFi Stadium or you’re ready to light up a Renaissance-themed dance party.

A jury awards $30 million to the mother of a boy killed by an ex-LAUSD employee. The jury said the school district was negligent in hiring, retaining and supervising Tyler D’Shaun Martin Brand, an after-school coach who killed 6-year-old Dayvon Taylor the day after Christmas in 2019.


A secluded Northern California waterfall is the latest victim of viral fame and crushing crowds. Stewards of America’s public lands dub it the “Instagram effect”: A vista gets geotagged on social media and the resulting influx of selfie-seeking visitors can become overwhelming.

No high school calculus, chemistry, physics class? Caltech has a new admission work-around. In a groundbreaking step, the campus announced that it will drop admission requirements for calculus, physics and chemistry courses for students who don’t have access to them and offer alternative paths to prove mastery of the material.

‘Wall Street Whiz Kid’ charged with running financial scams out of L.A. bars and luxury apartments. Approximately 140 people, including the man’s grandmother, invested more than $15 million with him. Despite convincing marks that his firm’s clientele included Bill Cosby and members of the Rockefeller family, David Bloom was not a financial advisor, and he didn’t invest in anything but his own comforts.

Why did California officials drop two mountain lions in the desert and leave them to die? After two mountain lions who were transplanted to the Mojave Desert died of starvation, California wildlife officials have revised their relocation policy.

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ICYMI, here are this week’s great reads

A man wearing a blue Dodgers t-shirt poses for a photo
RJ Peete, a Dodgers clubhouse attendant, who is autistic, prepares the bullpen before every game at Dodger Stadium. RJ has flourished with support from his family and the Dodgers. His father, Rodney Peete, was a USC and NFL quarterback for many years, and his mother, Holly Robinson Peete, is an actress and activist in raising awareness of autism.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

RJ Peete isn’t just a clubhouse attendant with autism. He’s a central part of the Dodgers family. Driving. Employment. Conversation. Hugging. Verbally expressing love. A doctor told RJ’s parents upon his diagnosis with autism at age 3 that he’d do none of that his entire life. Now he’s living his dream with the Dodgers.

The weird and wonderful life of L.A.’s most bizarre celebrity photographer. For six decades, John Verzi collected about 25,000 autographs and took more than 12,000 pictures of everyone from Audrey Hepburn and Brigitte Bardot to Jimi Hendrix and Alice Cooper. Then he disappeared.

How pilots in tiny planes are saving dogs from death. Amelia Air’s volunteer pilots fly unwanted dogs from kill shelters in rural areas to urban rescue centers, where they have better chances of finding forever homes.

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