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Newsletter: Today: The perils of pandemic parenting

A 2-year-old tries to climb into a swing
A 2-year-old tries to climb into a swing before her nanny reminds her that the playground is closed at Glen Anderson Park in Redondo Beach.
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, parents have faced tough choices — and things are not getting any easier.

TOP STORIES

The Perils of Pandemic Parenting

Amid anxieties over online learning and a dangerous surge in coronavirus cases, Los Angeles Unified School District parents are being asked in a new survey to make a crucial decision: Will you send your child back to school when campuses reopen?

The timing — as health authorities describe dark scenarios about the weeks ahead — is unavoidable. L.A. Unified, like districts throughout California, must brace for the worst: the possibility of another hard shutdown of campuses. But they must also simultaneously prepare for the complex task of fully reopening campuses that have been closed for 10 months, as classes take place mainly via distance learning.

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For many, online learning is painful — although there are people trying to make the experience better in countless small ways.

The survey, which must be returned by Sunday, is expected to provide the first comprehensive data on where the parents of some 465,000 students stand. They’re being asked on a personal level to weigh the same issues confounding health experts, educators and political leaders: How safe are schools? What are the risks? What’s best for my child?

In the meantime, many parents are angry about Los Angeles County having closed outdoor public playgrounds this week as part of a new set of coronavirus restrictions. To many parents confused by an array of official dictates — playgrounds and in-person schooling are closed, but malls are open for business and packed with shoppers — a line in the sandbox has been crossed.

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More Top Coronavirus Headlines

— The number of Californians hospitalized with the coronavirus surged to a record high for a fourth straight day — soaring above 8,000 amid continued concerns that a sustained rise in patients may eventually swamp the state’s healthcare system.

— A judge ordered L.A. County public health officials to show scientific evidence justifying the outdoor dining ban imposed last week, and the Beverly Hills City Council called on the county to repeal the ban.

— Mayor Eric Garcetti said the city of L.A. will offer a one-time $800 stipend to employees who work in food service industries, including restaurants, breweries and food stands.

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— The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has shortened the recommended length of quarantine for anyone exposed to a person infected with the coronavirus — 10 days, instead of 14.

— Confused about the city of L.A.'s modified stay-at-home order issued Wednesday night? It mirrors L.A. County rules that went into effect Monday.

The Chaos Continues

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President Trump is spending his final weeks in the White House much like he spent his first: spreading chaos.

He has threatened to veto the annual defense spending bill, which includes pay raises for troops and other essential funding, unless Congress includes an unrelated provision to punish social media companies that he claims are biased against him. He’s planning a string of pardons, even as newly unsealed court records reveal that federal authorities are investigating an alleged cash-for-pardons bribery scheme. He’s refusing to back down from his faltering attempts to overturn Joe Biden’s election victory, and reportedly considering firing his attorney general for not backing him up.

But the Republican Party needs Trump to boost turnout in the two Georgia runoff elections for the U.S. Senate, and Trump is heading there for a rally this weekend — even though his unsubstantiated rants about election fraud and his attacks on GOP leaders in the state, which he lost to Biden, have made it more difficult for Republicans to secure victory.

Indeed, Trump’s rhetoric has driven a wedge within the GOP, and it could presage the party’s future.

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More Politics

— Democratic leaders have swung behind a bipartisan COVID-19 relief effort, cutting their demands for a $2-trillion-plus measure by more than half in hopes of breaking a months-long logjam.

— Democrat Mark Kelly was sworn in as Arizona’s newest U.S. senator, narrowing Republican control of the chamber and underscoring his state’s shift from red to blue.

— The House Oversight Committee will subpoena Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross unless his department hands over internal documents detailing delays and issues with data related to the 2020 census, the committee chairwoman warned in a letter.

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An Infant’s Death in Altadena

When a newborn was discovered dead at an Altadena apartment in 2017, it at first seemed to be a tragic case of sudden infant death syndrome.

The case turned out to be much more complicated, and the search for the truth plunged investigators from the L.A. County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau into a murky world of young addicts and small-time drug dealers with a disgraced multimillionaire at the center: Dr. Carmen Puliafito, the former dean of USC’s Keck School of Medicine, who said he had done nothing wrong.

In the end, authorities wrestled with one question: Was what happened to the baby a crime?

FROM THE ARCHIVES

Long before it became a picnic area — and long before there was the 110 Freeway cutting it off from the rest of Elysian Park — there was the Buena Vista Reservoir. This body of water, built in 1868 and 1869 and enlarged in the 1880s, was the “granddaddy of all downtown reservoirs,” as The Times put it in the Dec. 3, 1955, edition of the Know Your City photography series. But it would be drained and abandoned a year later. See another perspective on its waters here.

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Nov. 28, 1955: Buena Vista Reservoir in Elysian Park.
(John Malmin / Los Angeles Times)

CALIFORNIA

— L.A. Police Chief Michel Moore said city officials are “seriously contemplating” layoffs of police officers as part of the effort to close a projected budget deficit.

— L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva has authorized his deputies to conceal their names while policing protests and other civil disturbances.

— As COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to surge, ambulances in San Bernardino County are no longer responding to every sick person who calls 911.

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— San Francisco is poised to become the largest U.S. city to ban smoking in apartments and condominiums, with one notable exception to the rule: cannabis.

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NATION-WORLD

— National lawmakers have introduced a joint resolution aimed at striking language from the U.S. Constitution that enshrines a form of slavery in America’s foundational documents. The resolution would amend the 13th Amendment’s ban on chattel enslavement to expressly prohibit involuntary servitude as a punishment for a crime.

— Will “vaccine nationalism” rear its head? With its first-in-the-world approval of a stringently tested COVID-19 vaccine, Britain may be a test case.

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South Korea is forging ahead with its annual high-stakes, nationwide college entrance exam, despite unease over rising coronavirus infection rates.

Eddie Benton-Banai, who helped found the American Indian Movement organization partly in response to alleged police brutality against Indigenous people, has died at 89.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— What to make of the Netflix biographical drama “Selena: The Series”? TV critic Lorraine Ali says it neither captures nor honors the memory of this remarkable performer. (For more about the singer’s legacy, sign up now to receive today’s edition of the Latinx Files newsletter.)

— The Sundance Film Festival has unveiled what its first largely virtual edition will look like in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s how it will work.

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— The largest book publishing convention in the U.S., BookExpo, will not be held in 2021 — and organizers say it will not be back in its current form at all.

— HGTV, the Food Network, Animal Planet and more are getting their own streaming service called Discovery+, launching Jan. 4.

BUSINESS

— What to do about America’s student debt burden? Columnist Michael Hiltzik makes the case for canceling it.

Porsche’s plan for the future of its iconic 911 sports cars: carbon-neutral “synthetic” gasoline that could fuel any car’s gas engine.

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SPORTS

LeBron James has agreed to an $85-million, two-year contract extension with the Lakers. The deal could hint as to what Anthony Davis plans to do with the Lakers.

Rafer Johnson, the Olympic gold medal-winning decathlete who helped bring the Olympics to Los Angeles and disarm Robert F. Kennedy’s assassin, died at his home in Sherman Oaks at 86.

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OPINION

— Trump’s lawyers are abusing the courts and deserve to be sanctioned, writes legal columnist Harry Litman.

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— With job loss disproportionately affecting women during the pandemic, men need to step up to make sure gender equality in the workplace isn’t set back a generation, professors W. Brad Johnson and David G. Smith write.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— This mochi business in Japan is 1,020 years old. It knows a lot about surviving crises. (New York Times)

— It’s still mostly a mystery why many of those with COVID-19 lose their sense of smell, but some answers are emerging. (Scientific American)

ONLY IN CALIFORNIA

Usually this time of year at Bill and Elaine Gilfillen’s hilltop San Marcos home, there are more than 100,000 twinkling holiday lights and more than 100 illuminated lawn, tree and roof sculptures. Bill, after all, retains the unofficial title as northern San Diego County’s “Mr. Christmas.” But this year, there is but a small sign announcing the show known as Christmas on Knob Hill has gone dark for the first time in 33 years. “We did this for the good of the community, to keep people from grouping together in the front yard,” Elaine said. “I didn’t want to be the mask police out there every night and didn’t want anyone touching Bill. By next year we’ll be able to do it again, since we’ll have the vaccine to help us.”

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