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Today’s Headlines: The slow vaccine rollout

Los Angeles Fire Department Capt. Elliot Ibanez receives a COVID-19 vaccination from firefighter-paramedic Anthony Kong
Los Angeles Fire Department Capt. Elliot Ibanez receives a COVID-19 vaccination from firefighter-paramedic Anthony Kong on Dec. 28.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

California’s vaccine rollout has been too slow, Gov. Gavin Newsom says.

TOP STORIES

The Slow Vaccine Rollout

Distribution of COVID-19 vaccine has been slower than anticipated across the United States, and California is no exception.

Only about 35% of the 1.3 million doses that have arrived in the state have been administered so far, a rate Gov. Gavin Newsom acknowledged was “not good enough” as he pledged new funding and efforts aimed at ramping up the rollout.

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During a news conference, Newsom provided no clear answer to questions about the cause of the delay, only promising “a much more aggressive posture” and additional details in the coming days. Separately, Matt Willis, public health officer for Marin County, said the complicated effort has been made more difficult by layers of federal, state and local rules governing the process for healthcare providers to prioritize patients and administer vaccines.

The government’s ability to quickly and effectively distribute vaccines is critical to California’s fight against the virus and a key test for Newsom. Though his original stay-at-home order helped suppress the virus early in the pandemic, the state is now experiencing one of the highest rates of transmission in the country.

In Los Angeles County, the coronavirus crisis is forcing the medical system into increasingly desperate measures, with healthcare providers running low on equipment, ambulance operators being told not to bring patients who have virtually no chance of survival to hospitals, and officials scrambling to ensure they can provide enough lifesaving oxygen for critically ill patients.

More Top Coronavirus Headlines

— In Ukiah, Calif., the compressor on a freezer storing 830 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine stopped working, spurring officials to inject local residents at a furious pace — and providing an unintentional road map for how a mass inoculation program could work.

—An emergency-department clerk working the Christmas shift died of COVID-19 after a San Jose hospital outbreak that may be linked to an inflatable holiday costume a colleague wore to work.

— After urging people to stay home, Mexico’s coronavirus czar took a maskless beach vacation.

Election Day, Again

It’s been 63 days since the Nov. 3 election, and we’re still waiting to see who controls the U.S. Senate and whether President Trump will accept that he lost to President-elect Joe Biden. Those two issues have coalesced in Georgia, where Trump and Biden each held rallies Monday in hopes of swaying the outcome of two runoff elections today for the state’s seats in the U.S. Senate.

Trump, holding the likely final rally of his presidency in rural Dalton, Ga., struggled to articulate the stakes for Republicans while holding on to the fantasy that he will remain in office after Jan. 20. Biden stressed that his ability to follow through on plans for confronting the pandemic hinges on what Georgians decide, and he promised that a $2,000 relief payment would become a reality if both Democratic Senate candidates were to prevail.

Trump’s continuing refusal to admit defeat has driven a wedge between his staunchest loyalists and many Republican Party leaders. Georgia’s election and Wednesday’s debate in Congress over ratifying Biden’s electoral college victory will be early tests of the strengths of the opposing GOP factions and will help define the party’s future path.

Meanwhile, Georgia election officials have emphatically rejected Trump’s call to “find” more votes for him.

More Politics

— Bracing for possible violence, the nation’s capital has mobilized the National Guard ahead of planned protests by Trump’s supporters in connection with the congressional action expected Wednesday to affirm Biden’s election victory.

— Police in the Washington, D.C., have arrested the leader of the Proud Boys, who is accused of burning a Black Lives Matter banner that was torn down from a historic Black church in downtown Washington last month. Police said he was also facing a weapons charges after officers found him with two high-capacity firearm magazines when he was arrested.

California Republicans scored a major victory in November. But analysts say it’s not a sign of a comeback nor enough to avert the party’s “death spiral.”

FROM THE ARCHIVES

For decades, Mr. Blackwell was the go-to source of celebrity fashion commentary.

He was known for the cruelty of his comments, and The Times once referred to him as “Mr. Mean” and “machete-tongued.” And yet he developed a devoted fan base, paving the way for later figures such as Joan Rivers.

Each January, he unveiled a list of the 10 worst-dressed women in the world. In 1968, that list included Broadway singer Carol Channing. He also criticized the fashion choices of Jane Fonda, Julie Andrews, Elizabeth Taylor, Barbra Streisand and Zsa Zsa Gabor.

Despite his reputation, he suggested in interviews with The Times that the real story — the real Mr. Blackwell — was more complicated, saying: “I am a wonderfully veiled caricature of a man I created.”

Mr. Blackwell wears a suit and stands with a woman in a shiny dress and feather boa in front of a grand fireplace.
Jan. 5, 1968: Mr. Blackwell, a onetime actor, model and designer turned celebrity fashion critic, nominates the 10 worst-dressed women in the world for the fashion press.
(Cal Montney / Los Angeles Times)

CALIFORNIA

— The former chair of the Federal Election Commission has filed a “dark money” complaint against a major contributor to the campaign to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom, saying a shell company was used to hide donors’ identities.

— LAPD officers have rejected a plan to raise $10 million to fight layoffs and support candidates in the 2022 elections, dealing a setback to the attempt by the rank-and-file officers’ union to collect $22 per paycheck in an effort to push back against calls to defund the police.

— Phil Ansell, the head of L.A. County’s Homeless Initiative, which has coordinated the response to the homelessness crisis and managed the disbursement of hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer funds, is stepping down.

Lawrence Dorr, a surgeon who led early developments in joint replacement surgery and helped make Los Angeles an international destination for the repair of ailing hips and knees, has died at 79.

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NATION-WORLD

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has issued a new national lockdown for England until at least mid-February to fight the coronavirus, closing schools and nonessential shops; Scotland, which controls its own health policy, is also requiring people to stay home except for essential reasons.

— An admitted conspiracy theorist pharmacist told police he tried to ruin hundreds of doses of COVID-19 vaccine because he believed they would mutate people’s DNA, according to court documents. (Experts say there is no truth to that.) Charges are pending.

France is one of the world’s most vaccine-reluctant countries, with the lowest uptake so far of any developed country to start inoculating its citizens. Blame past scandals, distrust of the government and the lack of a clear official strategy.

Iran said that it has begun enriching uranium up to 20% at an underground nuclear facility amid escalating tensions with the U.S. It’s a short, technical step from weapons-grade levels of 90%.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— A classic Hollywood backlot aesthetic is part of what defines the subversive vision of “Sylvie’s Love,” a romantic drama set in the late 1950s to early 1960s. The cast and crew pushed hard to get it right.

— When Bulgarian actress Maria Bakalova auditioned for “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” in May 2018, she had no idea how wild the ride was going to get.

Amanda Seyfried says she’s never worked as hard in her life as she did in David Fincher’s “Mank,” but working with the director was a “dream.”

For an in-depth look at the entertainment business, sign up for the Wide Shot, a new free newsletter about what’s going on in Hollywood and what it means for the future.

BUSINESS

— Employees of Google and parent company Alphabet have announced the creation of a union, escalating years of confrontation between workers and management.

YouTube has gone from Hollywood pariah to studio partner. Kelly Merryman, the executive who led the change, says it’s taken six years of tireless work.

— When Brian Calle purchased LA Weekly, no one saw it coming. He surprised the media world again when he bought the Village Voice. The question is: why?

SPORTS

— The blown leads, the game mismanagement and the losses finally caught up with Anthony Lynn. The Chargers fired their head coach after failing to make the playoffs again. The team’s talented stars and draft position are just two of five reasons his old job is one of most attractive gigs in the league.

Sandra Scully, the wife of Vin Scully, died of complications from ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. She was 76.

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OPINION

— In Pennsylvania, prominent Republicans are trying to thwart the will of the state’s voters in the presidential election. Blame Trumpism and blind partisanship, writes columnist Doyle McManus.

— The political system more than the legal system must make Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley and Donald Trump pay for trying to hijack democracy, columnist Harry Litman writes.

Homeless Angelenos shouldn’t have to choose between a cold tent and a group shelter during the pandemic, and Los Angeles officials need to offer a safe place, The Times’ editorial board writes.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— On Jan. 4, 2020, STAT News published one of the first ever stories on a cluster of unusual pneumonia cases in China that would turn out to be the coronavirus. The reporter who wrote it revisits the story, with a year’s worth of perspective. (STAT News)

Enchanted Forest, a psychedelic theme park in Oregon, is struggling to survive in the pandemic. (Atlas Obscura)

ONLY IN L.A.

How do you sell fried chicken and hot dogs during a pandemic? L.A. chef and would-be restaurateur Ronnie Muñoz had grand plans for getting a spicy fried-chicken sandwich stand off the ground in 2020, but due to the pandemic, he’s now opening Ronnie’s Kickin’ as a food truck. And while Pink’s Hot Dogs had been open since August, the 81-year-old Hollywood hot dog stand is now closing — temporarily. “I just couldn’t live with myself and my guilt,” said Richard Pink, its co-owner, if “a customer or an employee got sick and they couldn’t get into the hospital.”

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


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