Today’s Headlines: ‘It’s too overwhelming for everyone’

A woman gestures toward a large whiteboard covered in color-coded notes
Continental Funeral Home director Magda Maldonado looks over a board with dozens of names of the dead who have not yet been buried or cremated in East Los Angeles on Dec. 20.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

As COVID-19 patients overwhelm Los Angeles County hospitals, patient care is faltering — and morgues are full.


‘It’s Too Overwhelming for Everyone’

Los Angeles County’s healthcare system is buckling under the surge of COVID-19 patients, with bodies piling up at morgues and medical professionals resorting to increasingly desperate measures.


With hospitals overwhelmed by patients and no outlet valve available, doctors, nurses and paramedics are being forced to make wrenching choices about who gets care and at what level.

“No one would believe this is in the United States,” said Scott Byington, a critical care nurse at St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood. “Everyone is doing what they can do. It’s not that anybody is slacking. It’s just that it’s too overwhelming for everyone.”

Hospital morgues are so full that the National Guard is being called in to help county workers, as corpses are moved into storage at the L.A. County Department of the Medical Examiner-Coroner. The overcrowded crypts at hospitals are a result of private mortuaries running out of space and staff to handle the unprecedented volume of COVID-19 deaths.

The deteriorating conditions come as Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that a new, potentially more contagious variant of the coronavirus identified in the United Kingdom has been found in California, though officials said the findings were expected and should not cause undue alarm.

More Top Coronavirus Headlines

Some healthcare workers are reluctant to get a COVID-19 vaccine. The extent to which they are refusing the vaccine is unclear, but reports of lower-than-expected participation rates are emerging around the country, raising concerns for epidemiologists who say the public health implications could be disastrous.


— Newsom announced a $2-billion package of incentives to encourage a return to in-person classes for California elementary school students as early as mid-February, an effort that could require frequent coronavirus testing for students, teachers and staff.

— For a Times reporter covering the pandemic, the statistics suddenly became tragic, personal losses: family and friends, including the teacher who cared for her infant son, taken by the virus.

The GOP Divide

Despite pressure from President Trump and some fellow Republican senators, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has shut the door on Trump’s push for $2,000 COVID-19 relief checks. McConnell said the money would go to plenty of households that don’t need it. His refusal to act means the additional relief Trump wanted is all but dead.

It’s one last standoff, together with a potential override of Trump’s veto of a sweeping defense bill, that will play out over the president’s final days and deepen the GOP’s divide between Trump-styled populists and those who hold what had been mainstay conservative views.

In another sign of discord, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) said he will object to the certification of the electoral college votes for Joe Biden as president when Congress convenes Jan. 6, despite warnings from GOP leaders that they won’t support such an effort. Historically speaking, no objection has changed the election results. Still, it peels back the curtain on another part of the U.S. electoral process. Here’s how it all works.


Backlash in the D.A.’s Office

When Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. George Gascón was sworn in Dec. 7, he outlined a dramatic set of changes to the nation’s largest prosecutorial office. His decision to forgo sentencing enhancements and gang allegations drew support from the progressive base that elected him to office but incensed some rank-and-file prosecutors.

Now, the union representing L.A. County deputy district attorneys has sued Gascón, alleging that the changes have defied state law and forced prosecutors to violate their oaths of office.

Meanwhile, discussion of a “backdoor offer” extended to a murder defendant is raising tension among new staffers and old in the office.

The Moments That Defined 2020

Kobe Bryant’s death. The first coronavirus lockdown. George Floyd’s death. The orange skies caused by smoke from California’s wildfires.


What was your most indelible memory of 2020? A few weeks ago, Essential California newsletter author Julia Wick asked readers.

The responses “formed a kind of kaleidoscopic year in review. All of the era-defining moments were there but refracted through individual lives.”


— These photos reveal California’s harrowing year, month by month.

— Fourteen clever COVID-19 design solutions from around the world.

— Yes, there was good news in 2020 too — believe it or not.


Is there a better symbol of the new year in Los Angeles than Pasadena’s Rose Parade? The Tournament of Roses began in 1890 as a promotional event for the Pasadena Valley Hunt Club, featuring floats and vehicles blanketed in flowers and greenery.


The event, traditionally held Jan. 1, has changed through the years. The accompanying Rose Bowl football game was introduced in 1902. At one time or another, the event has also included ostrich racing. According to The Times, 1926 was the deadliest iteration of the parade — a grandstand holding 1,000 people collapsed, killing 11 people.

This year’s parade was canceled because of the pandemic but will take the form of a TV special. See more images from the parade’s past here.

Jan. 1, 1915: An ostrich named Cloudburst pulls Virginia Moon in her L.A. Ostrich Farm entry in the Rose Parade.
Jan. 1, 1915: An ostrich named Cloudburst pulls Virginia Moon in her L.A. Ostrich Farm entry in the Rose Parade.
(Los Angeles Times)


— Champagne, confetti and the remote: How to celebrate New Year’s Eve on TV.

— Check out these virtual New Year’s Eve parties, with Steve Aoki, Demi Lovato, TikTok stars and more.

— Thirty-two recipes for celebrating the end of 2020. Yes, there are cocktails.

— Dream — and plan — about where you’ll travel again with these new virtual reality services.


Editor’s note: Due to the holiday, there will be no Today’s Headlines newsletter on Friday. Expect the next edition in your inbox on Monday.


— Dozens of evangelical Christians and activists skirmished in the streets of L.A.’s skid row as evangelical Christian singer Sean Feucht and his followers arrived for a homeless outreach event. Protesters worried the outreach could catalyze a coronavirus superspreader event.

— L.A. activist Marc Ching and his foundation exaggerated tales of animal abuse that helped make Ching a hero in celebrity circles, vets and rescuers say.

Samuel Little, the man authorities say was the most prolific serial killer in U.S. history, with nearly 60 confirmed victims, has died in a California hospital at 80.

— Facing a spike in Fs, school winter break isn’t a vacation for many teachers and students in Los Angeles.

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— The Trump administration is considering restoring Cuba to the list of nations the U.S. accuses of sponsoring terrorism, several people familiar with the effort said. It’s an apparent attempt to muddle Biden’s foreign policy plans while offering a potential boost for Republicans running for the U.S. Senate in Georgia.

— The Census Bureau says it will miss a year-end deadline for handing in numbers used for divvying up congressional seats, a delay that could undermine Trump’s efforts to exclude people in the country illegally from the count.

Britain’s Parliament voted to approve a trade deal with the European Union, paving the way for an orderly break with the bloc that will finally complete the U.K.’s Brexit journey.

Yemen’s newly formed Cabinet escaped an airport explosion that killed 22, a second blast and an attempted bombing in a targeted series of attacks.


Dawn Wells, the former beauty queen who became America’s sweetheart by playing the girl-next-door castaway Mary Ann on the TV series “Gilligan’s Island,” has died of complications from COVID-19. She was 82. Her death leaves a “hole in the collective pop consciousness,” as TV critic Robert Lloyd writes.

— The Writers Guild of America has rejected WME’s latest offer to settle their fight, leaving the Beverly Hills agency the only major talent agency that hasn’t reached a deal with the union.


“Bridgerton” stars Regé-Jean Page and Phoebe Dynevor know they have amazing onscreen chemistry.

— How an $8 part from Walmart makes it safe for choirs to sing again — from their cars.


Amazon Music says it will acquire Wondery, the West Hollywood-based podcast company behind “Dr. Death” and “The Shrink Next Door,” in a deal that will solidify Amazon’s foothold in the fast-growing business.

— In the commercial real-estate realm, a Hollywood office campus has sold for $186 million — a notable deal that shows the resiliency of the entertainment business and the expectation that employers will prefer low-density offices after the pandemic.


LeBron James celebrated his 36th birthday with an NBA milestone no other player has reached — scoring at least 10 points in 1,000 consecutive games — and a Lakers win. In the same game, Becky Hammon became the first women to direct a team in NBA history, taking over the San Antonio Spurs after Gregg Popovich’s ejection in the first half.

— After three graduate transfers announced that they would return for the 2021 season, the UCLA Bruins landed a promising transfer quarterback. It’s quite a haul.


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— Lives are at stake, and anyone who cuts the vaccine line — or allows it to happen — should be called out and punished in a meaningful way, The Times’ editorial board writes.

— Unsurprisingly, Trump’s rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine is an utter fiasco, columnist Michael Hiltzik writes.

— “OK, so I got a few things wrong in 2020,” writes columnist Doyle McManus. Read his annual exercise in humility.


— A hedge fund that owns a big stake in Tribune Publishing Co., the former owner of the Los Angeles Times, is seeking to buy the newspaper chain. Any deal to increase the stake would probably need sign-off from Tribune or a significant portion of shareholders unaffiliated with Alden Global Capital. The second-largest shareholder is Times owner Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong. (Wall Street Journal)

— With the coronavirus, cruise ships became not just an epidemiological nightmare but also a mental-health nightmare for their crew members. Isolated in tiny cabins, sometimes without pay, some struggled, and some took their own lives. (Bloomberg)



Southern California’s mansion market had a historic 2020, led by the ultra-rich likes of Jeff Bezos, David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg. And just before Christmas, Elon Musk unloaded three adjacent Bel-Air homes for a combined $40.9 million.

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