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Today’s Headlines: California’s vaccine plan

A worker holds a vial of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in front of her face
A worker holds a bottle of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, as the mass public vaccination program gets underway at Southmead Hospital in Bristol, England, on Tuesday.
(Graeme Robertson / Associated Press)

Here’s how officials in California plan to handle the first wave of COVID-19 vaccinations.

TOP STORIES

California’s Vaccine Plan

As COVID-19 deaths in California and the U.S. hit record highs, some experts say the beginning of the end of the pandemic is within sight thanks to the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines.

U.S. approval is expected this week, and possibly as soon as today, for the first candidate, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Britain and Canada have already approved it.

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That means California could soon begin its historic and complex rollout of millions of immunizations. Though the exact timing is unclear, the state’s first shipment of vaccines will include 327,000 doses — supplying 327,000 people with their first dose — and is expected to reach hospitals between Saturday and Tuesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom said.

The vaccine requires two shots administered 21 days apart to reach the 95% effectiveness established in clinical trials. By the end of the year, California expects to have given the first dose of the vaccine to 2.16 million people who are in the group that’s first in line — healthcare workers as well as residents of long-term care facilities. Follow-up doses will come in further shipments.

A second vaccine, created by the pharmaceutical company Moderna in partnership with the National Institutes of Health, could be approved by the FDA within a week of the Pfizer vaccine.

More Top Coronavirus Headlines

— Can you be infected with the coronavirus after five minutes from 20 feet away? Yes, a new study of indoor viral spread finds. The research raises concerns that six feet may not be a safe enough distance — and underscores how South Korea’s meticulous and often invasive contact tracing has helped researchers closely track how the virus moves through populations.

— Some Americans continue to be unsure about lining up for a vaccine, but Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn isn’t one of them: “I have 100% confidence.”

— Arguments over mask requirements and other restrictions have turned ugly in recent days as the deadly coronavirus surge across the U.S. engulfs small and medium-size cities that once seemed at a safe remove from the outbreak.

— Following outcry from parents and some legislators, California has reversed course on closing playgrounds to contain a surge in coronavirus cases.

Break Up Facebook?

It’s not often the Federal Trade Commission and 46 states including California, as well as Guam and the District of Columbia, can agree on something. But in groundbreaking antitrust lawsuits, they accuse Facebook of engaging in monopolistic practices to snuff out rivals and stifle competition.

Federal regulators are seeking to break the company, which includes Instagram and WhatsApp, into pieces. A separate multistate lawsuit accuses the Menlo Park, Calif.-based tech giant of anti-competitive conduct and of abusing its position as the market leader to mine consumer data and rake in advertising dollars.

“Years after the FTC cleared our acquisitions, the government now wants a do-over with no regard for the impact that precedent would have on the broader business community or the people who choose our products every day,” Facebook said in a statement.

The breadth of the bipartisan coalition bringing forward the suits suggests this fight will continue past President Trump’s last day in office and well into President-elect Joe Biden’s administration.

Cheating Death

A legion of mostly older Americans is being targeted for audacious, widespread fraud in the end-of-life industry that’s meant to provide comforting care in their final days, a Los Angeles Times investigation found.

Many are unwitting recruits by unscrupulous providers who bill Medicare for hospice services and equipment for “terminally ill” patients who aren’t dying.

Intense competition for new patients — who generate $154 to $1,432 a day each in Medicare payments — has spawned a cottage industry of illegal practices, including kickbacks to crooked doctors and recruiters who zero in on prospective patients at retirement homes and other venues, The Times found.

Nowhere has that growth been more explosive, and its harmful side effects more evident, than in Los Angeles County.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

Before the Los Angeles River got its bed of concrete, it was the place to be for prospectors in Southern California.

They found not only gold but also iron, silver, copper, brass and lead. Writer Don Ashbaugh covered the rush in the Dec. 12, 1938, edition of the Los Angeles Times.

He described “a couple of score of hard-working men down there with shovels, screens and sluice boxes making themselves a comfortable living.” Some prospectors said they turned to panning for precious metals when their acting careers didn’t go as planned.

A man pans for gold in a river in a black-and-white photo
Dec. 11, 1938: Guy Ritter examines materials panned from the Los Angeles River.
(Los Angeles Times Archive / UCLA)

CALIFORNIA

— The owner was a willing seller, and Los Angeles County an eager buyer. But plans to buy a motel and turn it into housing for homeless people hit a snag when the county learned management was locking out residents who had lived there for months or even years, forcing some into homelessness.

— As legal cannabis businesses struggle to compete with the illicit market, a state panel that advises regulators has recommended loosening some restrictions to give licensed pot shops a better shot.

— Six days before its application deadline, the Cal State system says all 23 campuses will reopen next fall after more than a year of virtual instruction. The early announcement is aimed at helping students plan and decide whether to apply.

— A 29-year-old political activist who was shot in the face with a police projectile at a protest this year is suing the LAPD to stop its use of such weapons to quell demonstrations.

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NATION-WORLD

— The House of Representatives passed a one-week spending bill designed to avert a government shutdown and buy time for more talks on a stalled COVID-19 relief package.

— The Justice Department’s investigation scrutinizing Hunter Biden’s taxes has been examining some of his Chinese business dealings, among other financial transactions, a person familiar with the matter told the Associated Press.

— With spending in Georgia’s twin Senate runoffs rocketing toward record levels, Republicans appear to be gaining a significant advantage on the state’s airwaves as heavy spending by outside groups finances a flood of mostly negative ads.

— Joe Biden made two key domestic policy picks, selecting Ohio Rep. Marcia L. Fudge as his Housing and Urban Development secretary and former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to reprise that role in his administration, according to five people familiar with the decisions.

— Thousands of protesters converged on Armenia’s parliament building to push for the prime minister to resign over his handling of the fighting with Azerbaijan.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— From homegrown jazz to raw hip-hop recorded from prison, these 10 albums from this year highlight L.A.’s creative spirit in a hardscrabble time for musicians.

— The Spanish flu of 1918 helped spur the creation of the Hollywood studio system. Now, Hollywood is experiencing another massive disruption as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Crown” star Josh O’Connor thinks the British culture minister’s proposal that the Netflix series get a “fiction” disclaimer is “a bit of a low blow,” he told The Times on our new podcast “The Envelope.” (Get our Envelope newsletter for the latest on awards season, plus highlights from each new episode.)

— The minimalist composer and musician Harold Budd, whom collaborator Brian Eno once described as being “a great abstract painter trapped in the body of a musician,” has died of complications from COVID-19. He was 84.

BUSINESS

— The Trump administration plans to hold the first oil lease sale in California in eight years, part of a last-minute rush to auction off as much federal land as possible before Biden is sworn in.

— UCLA economists have issued an optimistic forecast, predicting the U.S. economy will experience “a gloomy COVID winter and an exuberant vaccine spring,” followed by a roaring ’20s.

SPORTS

— Has quarterback Jared Goff grown since losing in the Super Bowl in 2019? The Rams could find out in a rematch with the Patriots tonight.

— The Lancaster JetHawks are no more. The lone minor league baseball team in L.A. County is one of dozens of affiliate teams eliminated by Major League Baseball.

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OPINION

— Trump has succeeded magnificently at building a personality cult of the kind that generations of authoritarian leaders have used to maintain their popularity, writes Ruth Ben-Ghiat, the author of “Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present.”

— Goodbye to Betsy DeVos, who survived by accomplishing almost nothing as secretary of Education, The Times’ editorial board writes.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— Trump’s efforts to overturn the election continue: In a late-night call, he warned Georgia Atty. Gen. Chris Carr not to rally other GOP officials against a long-shot Texas lawsuit seeking to toss out the state’s election results, according to several people with direct knowledge of the conversation. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

— Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s missteps raise a painful age question. (The New Yorker)

ONLY IN L.A.

You probably don’t know Kathleen Gosnell Seiler, but if you’re a longtime reader of The Times, you know her work. As a copy editor, she rarely had her name in print. But for 23 years, she used her blue pen to perfect the newspaper’s signature stories, including those that won the Pulitzer Prize for spot news coverage of the 1994 Northridge earthquake. As she worked on the Pulitzer entry, her daughter, Jessie, made a fort under her mother’s desk at The Times’ headquarters. Gosnell died last week at age 75. She’ll always be remembered for her work in making the 1995 Times style and usage guide more equitable, her moxie in standing up to big egos, and her devotion as a mother.

Comments or ideas? Email us at headlines@latimes.com.


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