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Today’s Headlines: L.A. County’s indoor mask mandate returns

Masked patrons walk past a lobby display for Marvel Studios' "Black Widow."
Masked patrons walk past a display for Marvel Studios’ “Black Widow” in the lobby of El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood last week. Los Angeles County is reinstating its indoor mask mandate.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Here are the stories you shouldn’t miss today:

TOP STORIES

L.A. County indoor mask mandate returns

One month ago, Los Angeles County and the rest of California celebrated a long-awaited reopening, marking the tremendous progress made in the battle against COVID-19 by lifting virtually all restrictions on businesses and other public spaces.

Now, the coronavirus is resurgent, and the nation’s most populous county is scrambling to beat back the latest charge of a pandemic.

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Starting Saturday night, residents will again be required to wear masks in indoor public spaces, regardless of their vaccination status.

L.A. County’s rise in community transmission has accelerated dramatically since California fully reopened June 15. For the weeklong period that ended that day, the county averaged 173 new coronavirus cases a day. For the seven-day period that ended Wednesday, the county’s average was 1,077 new cases a day. On Thursday, 1,537 additional cases were reported.

Dr. Muntu Davis, the county’s health officer, emphasized that the increase in cases is overwhelmingly taking place among those who are not fully vaccinated for COVID-19. Data show that those who have completed their inoculation course remain well protected — including against the Delta variant, which is believed to be twice as transmissible as the conventional coronavirus strains.

The new order, which comes a little more than two weeks after the county recommended the same protocols as a precaution, will go into effect at 11:59 p.m. Saturday — and Davis said it will be similar to the masking requirements that were in place before the June 15 reopening.

The order will continue to allow indoor restaurant dining, although people will need to keep their masks on when they’re not eating or drinking.

UC mandates COVID-19 vaccinations

The University of California announced that COVID-19 vaccinations will be required before the fall term begins for all students, faculty and others, becoming the nation’s largest public university system to mandate the vaccines even though they don’t have full federal approval.

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As the highly contagious Delta variant spreads amid lower vaccination rates among younger people, unvaccinated students without approved exemptions will be barred from in-person classes, events and campus facilities, including housing — and not all classes will be offered online, a UC memo outlining the mandate said. Physical distancing and mask wearing are expected to continue.

Narrow exemptions and exceptions will be allowed based on medical, religious and disability grounds, along with deferrals due to pregnancy. Proof of vaccination or requests for exemptions must be submitted no later than two weeks before the first day of fall instruction. UC Berkeley and UC Merced will begin the fall semester in August, while the other campuses are on quarter systems and will start in September.

UC officials say they believe they have the right to impose a mandate, but legal questions remain.

More top coronavirus headlines

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— Millions of California workers must disclose their COVID-19 vaccination status. But state lawmakers don’t, allowing them to deflect questions.

— Are the COVID-19 surge and Delta variant putting California’s reopening at risk? What we know.

The chief of the World Health Organizations says WHO was “premature” to rule out a lab leak theory for the coronavirus and is asking China to be more transparent as scientists search for the coronavirus’ origins.

For more, sign up for Coronavirus Today, a special edition of The Times’ Health and Science newsletter.

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Caitlyn Jenner’s historic run struggles

When Caitlyn Jenner launched her bid for governor in late April, the Olympic Gold medal-winning decathlete and reality television star’s website had just two options: “Shop” and “Donate.”

The gubernatorial candidate wouldn’t stake out her first policy position until a week later when a camera-wielding paparazzo in the parking lot of an upscale Malibu strip mall asked Jenner for her opinion on legislation in various states that would ban transgender girls from playing girls’ sports in school.

The most prominent transgender candidate in American political history paused to shepherd her dog into her Cadillac Escalade, turned back to the camera and said she opposed “biological boys who are trans competing in girls’ sports in school.” Jenner’s position put her in diametric opposition to LGBTQ advocacy groups around the country, who have been battling a record number of anti-trans bills pushed by conservatives in more than 30 states.

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Other Jenner proposals have also drawn ire, including a recent suggestion that people experiencing homelessness be relocated to “big open fields.” Ashlee Marie Preston, a transgender activist and writer who was formerly homeless, said Jenner’s comments on homelessness and former President Trump’s border wall felt like “dog whistle slogans that completely go against everything that Californians stand for.” Veteran GOP strategist Mike Madrid characterized Jenner’s candidacy as “more Gary Coleman than Arnold Schwarzenegger,” saying the campaign appeared to lack any obvious strategy or rationale.

Jenner appears undaunted by the poll numbers or critiques. “Far too often those in media and others have tried to put me into this box they feel represents all Republicans,” Jenner wrote in an emailed statement. “In reality, we are a diverse party, especially in California.”

More politics

— The Biden administration is significantly expanding its offensive against corruption and other “root causes” of illegal immigration from Central America, but its new tactics are far from guaranteed to work.

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Angela Merkel’s farewell visit to the White House was shadowed Thursday by pressing issues as well as goodwill, as she prepared to sit down with President Biden to discuss differences over a significant Russian pipeline and national views on China as a rising global power.

ICE may finally get a Senate-confirmed director after more than four years without one. Senators probed Texas Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, Biden’s nominee to lead U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, at his confirmation hearing.

— For Jason Roe, a veteran California strategist, truth-telling ends his brief leadership of the Michigan GOP, columnist Mark Z. Barabak writes. Roe called out Trump’s election lie and fellow Republicans pushed to fire him.

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FROM THE ARCHIVES

An avid shooter, Los Angeles Police Chief James Davis had a nickname: “Two Guns Davis.” During his two terms as LAPD chief, he expanded the police shooting range and increased police firearms training.

On July 18, 1935, Davis displayed confiscated weapons for newspaper photographers. The caption in the next morning’s Los Angeles Times explained:

“A step toward disarmament, at least as far at the underworld is concerned, was taken yesterday as police gathered together more than $2000 worth of weapons, confiscated from lawbreakers, preparatory to dumping the arms into the ocean. Looking on the heap of weapons are, left to right, Policewoman Rehling, Chief of Police Davis and Policewoman Stevens. The chief and Miss Stevens, incidentally, are among the champion gun-welders of the department.”

Chief of Police James Davis and two female officers, all holding confiscated guns
July 18, 1935: Los Angeles Policewoman Mona Rehling, left, Chief of Police James Davis and Policewoman Mabel D. Stevens hold confiscated guns.
(Los Angeles Times)

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YOUR WEEKEND

— Pump up the jam. In a city with great produce, it’s like L.A. in a jar. Here’s how to make it yourself with the season’s best fruit.

Houseplants were big during the pandemic. But those new leafy additions may have come with uninvited guests: fungus gnats. Here’s how to get rid of them.

— A kite festival in downtown L.A, a salute to Carole King’s “Tapestry,” Alonzo King dance, Judy Baca art. Your weekend options start here.

Hiker’s handbook: How to handle the 14 most common awkward moments on the trails.

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CALIFORNIA

— San Luis Obispo prosecutors anticipate that dozens of women will testify about the predatory — and at times violent — sexual behavior of Paul Flores, a San Pedro man charged with the murder of Kristin Smart, a 19-year-old college student who vanished 25 years ago and has never been found, according to court papers made public Thursday.

— California’s infamous Proposition 187 denied services to those residing in the country illegally in 1994 — and propelled a generation of Latino activists into office. After Trump, could it happen again?

— An altercation at a Pitchess Detention Center dormitory Thursday afternoon sent seven jail staff and two inmates to the hospital, officials said.

— Another round of the Golden State Stimulus is set to be distributed. Find out if you qualify.

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— A mural with an image of George Floyd and the names of dozens of victims of police killings was smeared with white paint outside Laugh Factory in Hollywood.

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NATION-WORLD

Haiti received its first coronavirus vaccine since the pandemic began, welcoming 500,000 doses as the country battles a sharp surge in cases and deaths.

— A jury has found the gunman who killed five people at a Maryland newspaper criminally responsible, rejecting defense attorneys’ mental illness arguments.

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— More than 110 people have died and dozens more are missing in Germany and Belgium after heavy flooding turned streams and streets into raging torrents.

South Africa’s army has begun deploying 25,000 troops to assist police in quelling the weeklong riots and violence sparked by the imprisonment of former President Jacob Zuma.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— When Julia Haart left the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, she kept her past a secret as she built a new life. Now she’s using Netflix to tell her story.

“Roadrunner” is a powerful tribute to Anthony Bourdainwith one serious misstep, writes film critic Justin Chang.

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— The Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., which is the group behind the Golden Globes, is set to vote on a series of promised new reforms. But infighting and inertia have ruled the process, imperiling the HFPA’s ability to enact systemic change.

Gigi Hadid replaced Chrissy Teigen as narrator of the show “Never Have I Ever.” Here’s what changed.

— Getting fans back in movie theaters is hard. Studios are teaming up with tech companies, influencers and celebrities like Ludacris to bring them back.

BUSINESS

— Every city’s drivers have quirks, posing a challenge to self-driving cars. But what if the vehicles could be tailored to their location? Driverless technology company Argo AI thinks it’s on the verge of solving the complicated problem.

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— For years, California and Florida have been fierce competitors in the battle for tourist dollars. But Florida reopened earlier this year, and the Golden State is now trying to catch up.

SPORTS

Katie Ledecky is the world’s most dominant freestyle swimmer as she heads to the Tokyo Olympics. What fuels her talent — genetics? An iron will? Nature versus nurture? It’s not an easy question to answer.

— The Dodgers and Angels need pitchers. Here are 10 possible trade options for them.

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OPINION

— The incentives in California’s marijuana marketplace are totally out of whack. The state has made it tremendously challenging and expensive to become a legitimate cannabis business, while it’s extraordinarily profitable and relatively low-risk to stay in the black market, writes The Times’ editorial board.

— Biden’s Department of Justice just went AWOL on an issue crucial to core American values. Apparently, the Justice Department has no opinion on whether due process applies to the Guantanamo detainees, Harry Litman writes.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— He searched for his kidnapped son for nearly 24 years. He drove across more than 300,000 miles of China by motorbike. He displayed photos of his 2-year-old boy. This week, Guo Gangtang’s search finally ended. (New York Times)

— It isn’t just “Gossip Girl” — TV has a major colorism problem. (Refinery29)

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— It’s been several weeks since Ben & Jerry’s posted on social media. Here’s how its silence may be tied to the Middle East. (Boston Globe)

ONLY IN CALIFORNIA

At House of Mandi in Anaheim, a young server requires both hands to hoist a platter full of gold. The menu labels it “No. 7,” a hulking tray of rice, chicken and lamb stained in sunset shades of turmeric and saffron.

Sarem Mohamed runs the restaurant with his family. Their modern adaptation of mandi from Yemen might lack the smoldering fragrance of the original method, but the meats emerge uniformly lush and a hint of smokiness threads through the spices. This is a place to slow down. Few customers appear rushed.

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


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