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Today’s Headlines: California’s finally back to normal, sort of

a lifeguard tower and people at the beach
A lifeguard keeps watch on the crowd of people on Tuesday in Huntington Beach.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

California has lifted coronavirus-related restrictions at most businesses, and Californians fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can go without masks in most settings.

TOP STORIES

Finally Back to Normal, Sort of

It isn’t the first time California has tried to reopen its economy during the COVID-19 pandemic, but nearly all of the restrictions residents have been living with for more than a year have now been lifted. Those include coronavirus-related capacity restrictions and physical distancing requirements; and fully vaccinated residents can now go without face masks in most nonwork situations.

“Today is the day to celebrate the incredible journey we’ve been on over the course of the last 15 months,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday. “It is also a humbling moment ... because it’s been a tough journey for tens of thousands of people that have lost their lives. And we’re mindful this disease is not taking today off; it’s not going to take the summer months off.”

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More than 3.77 million Californians have tested positive for the virus at some point. And nearly 63,000 people have died from COVID-19 statewide.

Still, the excitement was palpable as residents enjoyed their first day of near-normal life in more than a year.

But, some restrictions will remain for large indoor and outdoor venues and events. Organizers of indoor events with more than 5,000 people will be required to verify that attendees are either fully vaccinated or have tested negative within 72 hours of the event’s start time.

The same will be recommended, though not required, for organizers of outdoor events with more than 10,000 attendees. In those instances, venues will have the option of allowing unvaccinated and untested attendees, provided those people wear a mask at all times.

And if you still want to wear a mask, wherever you are, there’s nothing against it.

Scenes from California's reopening day
Scenes from California’s reopening day.
(Los Angeles Times)

More Top Coronavirus Headlines

— A new analysis of blood samples from 24,000 Americans taken early last year is the latest and most extensive study to suggest that the coronavirus popped up in the U.S. in December 2019 — weeks before health officials first recognized cases.

San Francisco will eventually require workers in hospitals, nursing homes and jails to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with limited exceptions.

A ‘Legal Pathway’ to the U.S. for Some

On Tuesday, the Biden administration announced the significant expansion of a program to allow Central American youths into the United States legally, part of its stated goal to increase “legal pathways” for immigration to the U.S.

The expansion could drastically increase the number of Salvadoran, Guatemalan and Honduran children being reunited with family already in the U.S. from several hundred to tens of thousands.

The Central American Minors program, as it is known, focuses on children and youths from the so-called Northern Triangle countries of the region just south of Mexico. The countries that produce most migrants attempting to reach the U.S. border are a priority target for President Biden to improve the immigration system and make it more “humane” and orderly, which he has assigned to Vice President Kamala Harris.

During the Obama administration, the Central American Minors program was established in response to thousands of unaccompanied youths at the southern U.S. border in 2014.

More Politics

— Biden traded the warm welcome of European allies Wednesday for his first sit-down with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a time when relations between Washington and Moscow are arguably at their worst since the Cold War.

— Biden unveiled picks for several high-profile ambassadorial postings, tapping career diplomats steeped in foreign policy experience as well as political allies and aviation hero ”Sully” Sullenberger.

— Prospects for a bipartisan infrastructure bill are growing increasingly dim as Senate Democrats make new calls for Biden to ditch Republicans and pursue a Democrats-only measure that aggressively addresses their priorities, including the climate crisis.

— Fearful of Republicans regaining control of the Senate next year, progressive Democrats are ramping up their calls for Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer to step down from the bench to ensure that Biden’s replacement could be confirmed while the party remained in control.

For more news and analysis, sign up for our Essential Politics newsletter, sent to your inbox three days a week.

Division at the Southern Baptist Convention

On Tuesday, thousands of Southern Baptist Convention members gathered in Nashville to determine the future of the nation’s largest and most influential evangelical Christian denomination by picking a new president.

The SBC was facing a showdown on the direction of the evangelical movement with key battles over racial justice, women’s role and how to handle accusations of sexual abuse within the church.

A moderate establishment wing of Southern Baptists seeks to welcome Black, Latino and Asian congregations into the fold, adopt a moderate approach on social justice issues and tentatively uphold critical race theory. But a growing faction of ultraconservative evangelicals believes Southern Baptists have drifted too far to the left on matters of race and gender.

In the end, Ed Litton, an Alabama pastor who has pushed for racial reconciliation, narrowly beat Mike Stone, a Georgia pastor who has waged a war against “woke” elements in Baptist life and culture. Many pastors have said the SBC has yet to grapple with its long record of racism fully.

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FROM THE ARCHIVES

On June 15, 1996, Ella Fitzgerald, known to jazz lovers throughout the world as the First Lady of Song, died at her Beverly Hills home. She was 78.

The Los Angeles Times reported: “She was surrounded by family and friends as she passed away about 2:30 a.m., said her son Ray Brown, Jr.”

“Shy and never self-assured despite the flawless talent she possessed through a half-century career, Fitzgerald often asked anxiously as she left the stage, ‘Did I do all right?’ ”

“Millions affirmed that she had. She was one of the rare entertainers whose first name was sufficient identity for fans around the world.”

CALIFORNIA

MacKenzie Scott announced donations of $2.7 billion to 286 organizations. More than three dozen of the recipients in Scott’s latest round of giving are California community colleges and universities, arts groups and nonprofits that work for social justice.

Harvey Weinstein will soon be extradited to California to stand trial on charges that he sexually assaulted five women in Los Angeles and Beverly Hills.

— A group of residents living in Los Angeles’ coastal neighborhoods served L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin with a recall notice, making him the second L.A. politician to face such an effort in the last week.

— Former Orange County Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, who lost his congressional seat after 30 years in 2018, has acknowledged that he participated in the march to the Capitol on Jan. 6 but says he did not storm the building along with other Trump supporters.

— “Monster” Kody Scott, a former L.A. gang member who became a bestselling author, was found dead at 57.

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NATION-WORLD

— An argument in a house on Chicago’s South Side early Tuesday escalated into gunfire that left four people dead and four other people injured. This shooting adds to concerns that a spike in U.S. gun violence could continue into summer as coronavirus restrictions ease and more people are free to socialize.

— Hundreds of Israeli ultranationalists, some chanting, “Death to Arabs,” paraded through East Jerusalem in a show of force that threatened to spark renewed violence just weeks after a war with Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip. The march posed a test for Israel’s fragile new government as well as the tenuous truce that ended last month’s 11-day war between Israel and Hamas.

— Lawmakers in Hungary approved legislation that prohibits sharing with minors any content portraying homosexuality or sex reassignment, something supporters said would help fight pedophilia but which human rights groups denounced as anti-LGBTQ discrimination.

— The Senate passed a bill that would make Juneteenth, or June 19th, a federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— A former Walt Disney Imagineering art director on Avengers Campus placed numerous props from his father throughout the new California Adventure land to honor him.

— There is a lot to unpack in the controversy over how Chrissy Teigen has bullied people online over the years. Here’s everything to know so far.

Disney+ has given the green light to a musical, limited-series prequel to its live-action movie “Beauty and the Beast.” It’s slated to begin production next year. The show will star the 2017 film’s Gaston (Luke Evans) and LeFou (Josh Gad).

Stephen Colbert made a euphoric comeback to New York City’s Ed Sullivan Theater, marking the latest late-night TV show to return to the studio with a full live audience since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

BUSINESS

— As Walt Disney Co.-owned Marvel unveils its latest Disney+ series, “Loki,” which premiered last week, the studio’s popular superheroes have teamed with automaker Hyundai in an elaborate campaign to promote the new Tucson and the company’s all-important streaming service.

Matthew Perry’s “mansion in the sky” — a Century City penthouse that spans an entire floor of the high-rise Century Tower — just sold for $21.6 million. That’s Southern California’s priciest condo sale since 2015.

SPORTS

— The Dodgers treated a sellout crowd at Dodger Stadium to a thrilling win over the Phillies, while the Angels fell to the Oakland Athletics, despite Shohei Ohtani’s 18th home run.

MLB pitchers will be ejected and suspended for 10 games for using illegal foreign substances to doctor baseballs in a crackdown by Major League Baseball that will start Monday.

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OPINION

— The Supreme Court shouldn’t take up the Harvard affirmative action case, writes The Times’ editorial board.

Biden should ditch the Cold War-era script with Putin. There is no detente with a mob boss, writes Jonah Goldberg.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

Darnella Frazier was awarded a Special Citation Pulitzer Prize for filming George Floyd’s murder. But deification can be a form of violence — and heroism can be as isolating and dehumanizing as the trauma of racial violence. (Refinery29)

— More than simply a crown, the title of Miss Juneteenth holds deep meaning for young Black women, their families and their communities. It’s an honor deeply connected to the holiday marking the emancipation of their ancestors. (New York Times)

— Thanks to a global pandemic, Simone Biles was forced to spend part of the last year finding some balance in a life that had previously been all about the work. Now, as she prepares for the 2021 Olympics — maybe her last — she is approaching her sport with a new sense of joy. (Glamour)

ONLY IN L.A.

At 31 years old, Nelson ZêPequéno has already found his life’s purpose. “It’s to solve creative problems in only a way that I can uniquely,” said the downtown L.A.-based artist, production designer and founder of the viral Instagram page “blackmenwithgardens.”

ZêPequéno has answered this calling in many ways. On his website, plantsandanime.com — named for two of his most significant interests — he sells colorful T-shirts, the front pockets intricately embroidered with detailed flowers, cactuses and mushrooms. His online shop also features thrifted items such as glass-faced analog clocks and old coffee mugs that he upcycles into unique planters.

Today’s newsletter was curated by Daric L. Cottingham. Comments or ideas? Email us at headlines@latimes.com.


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