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Today’s Headlines: Delta variant brings Newsom new challenges

 California Gov. Gavin Newsom
As coronavirus cases rise in California, Gov. Gavin Newsom may be pressured to order mask wearing indoors, a decision that could affect the recall effort against him.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Here are the stories you shouldn’t miss today:

TOP STORIES

Delta variant brings Newsom new challenges

With the spread of COVID-19 on the rise, Gov. Gavin Newsom faces a delicate decision over whether to again impose statewide mask requirements in all indoor public places and risk upsetting Californians just weeks before they decide whether he should be recalled from office.

In Los Angeles County, home to 1 of every 4 Californians, residents are required to wear masks in those settings whether they are vaccinated or not. Last week, seven San Francisco Bay Area counties recommended the use of masks, as did Sacramento and Yolo counties, to help stem the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus. On Monday, six more counties followed with voluntary requests to wear masks.

Though the Newsom administration has thus far deferred to counties, that could change if California continues to see an increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

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This week, the governor has not directly answered questions about whether he would impose a statewide indoor mask mandate, instead dancing around the tricky political topic.“We can end this thing quickly if everybody just went out and got vaccinated. It’s free,” Newsom said Wednesday.

Any decision could prove to be politically volatile for Newsom, given the politicization of COVID-19 vaccinations and restrictions largely driven by Republican leaders, including former President Trump, and conservative media.

Mark DiCamillo, director of polling at UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies, said any restrictions imposed by Newsom would energize Californians who want to oust Newsom from office. That alone would make an impact since the election could hinge on voter turnout, though all recent polls indicate the recall will fail.

More top coronavirus headlines

— A funding surge allowed California school districts to open summer school programs that address pandemic-widened learning gaps. But funding hasn’t been enough to overcome teacher and staffing shortages, the inability of districts to ramp up programs fast enough, and families’ desire for a break amid ongoing safety concerns.

— U.S. life expectancy fell by a year and a half in 2020, the largest one-year decline since World War II, according to report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Much of the decline was attributed to the pandemic.

— Reports of athletes, lawmakers and others getting the coronavirus despite vaccination may sound alarming, but top health experts point to overwhelming evidence that the COVID-19 vaccines are doing exactly what they are supposed to: dramatically reducing severe illness and death.

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

Extreme weather wreaks havoc worldwide

As climate change bears down, extreme weather this summer has flattened rural communities in Germany with floodwaters, triggered deadly mudslides in India and sparked heat waves and fires that can be seen from space in the Western United States and Canada. Floods have also wrought damage in parts of New Zealand, Nigeria and Iran.

Scientists have been warning for years that rising temperatures will make dry conditions for wildfires more common in some parts of the world and, in other places, trap more moisture in the atmosphere, leading to heavier rainfalls during storms.

Those conditions could cause more volatile events like the downpour over London on July 12, when about a month’s worth of rain fell on parts of the British capital, leading to flash floods that paralyzed some streets and forced the partial closure of its Underground rail system.

More unprecedented heat waves also could be in store, like those experienced this month in the Pacific Northwest, where hundreds of people are believed to have died from the extreme temperatures, and Russia’s Siberia, where nearly 200 separate forest fires have choked the region in smoke that has since drifted to Alaska.

Scientists at the United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization said it was virtually impossible for the heat waves in the U.S. and Canada to have occurred without the influence of human-caused climate change. They calculated that rising temperatures caused by greenhouse gas emissions made the heat wave at least 150 times more likely to happen.

What’s at stake in Tokyo

The Summer Olympics are pushing stubbornly ahead despite concerns about surging coronavirus cases in Japan, where only about 20% of residents have been vaccinated. There have been a costly year-long postponement, a series of scandals and constant public grumbling.

Still, Seiko Hashimoto, president of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee, shows no sign of wavering at news conferences held inside the gold-sheathed Tokyo Big Sight tower. “We promised the world to host the Games,” Hashimoto tells the assembled media, insisting that “we have to complete our mission.”

Tokyo 2020 leadership — and the International Olympic Committee — have a reason to remain steadfast. They have a lot riding on the next 17 days.

Billions of dollars in broadcast revenues are at stake, as are political fortunes and a sense of national pride. For good or bad, Tokyo could affect the future of the Olympic movement and, by extension, the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

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FROM THE ARCHIVES

Caesar, born on June 1, 1977, weighed 7 pounds when John Malmin took the image below. His name came from the word “caesarean.”

His mother, Ellie, had killed her previous offspring after birth. To protect Caesar, doctors from Martin Luther King Jr. Hospital and zoo veterinarians operated. This was the first known c-section performed on a gorilla.

Once fully grown, the popular L.A. Zoo gorilla weighed in at 525 pounds. In 2003, he was lent to the Atlanta Zoo for breeding. But on May 4, 2004, Caesar died at 26.

Los Angeles Times writer Carla Hall reported in a May 5, 2004, article: Caesar, a silverback gorilla, lent by the Los Angeles Zoo to Zoo Atlanta for breeding, was found dead Tuesday in his sleeping quarters, weeks after a successful public debut and a series of encounters with young female gorillas, Zoo Atlanta officials said.

Caesar, a gorilla born by caesarean section at the LA Zoo, is burped by animal keeper Ann Harrell
July 22, 1977: Caesar, a gorilla born by caesarean section at the Los Angeles Zoo, is burped by animal keeper Ann Harrell after polishing off a bottle of formula.
(John Malmin / Los Angeles Times)

CALIFORNIA

— School district officials are investigating what went wrong after more than a dozen students and staff from Downey High School were rescued from Mt. Baldy over two days, with two teenagers spending a frigid night on the mountain.

— The Edward Hyatt Powerplant at Lake Oroville, a major California hydroelectric power plant, could soon stop generating power amid worsening drought conditions. The plant has never been forced offline by low lake levels before.

— Two years after the city of Anaheim agreed to sell the property surrounding Angel Stadium to a company led by Angels owner Arte Moreno, the city could be forced to put that deal on hold and put the land on the market.

— As the 87-year-old Queen Mary ages, Long Beach is left without easy solutions for handling the floating hotel and tourist attraction: spend up to $175 million to preserve and maintain over the next 25 years, or up to $190 million to recycle or sink it into the ocean.

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NATION-WORLD

— Senate Republicans blocked Democrats’ attempt to start formal debate on a bipartisan infrastructure plan, arguing that Democrats are rushing the procedural vote before the final bill has been written.

— Restrictions on nonessential travel across the U.S.-Mexico land border will stay in place through at least Aug. 21, the Department of Homeland Security announced. The restrictions on nonessential travel, which include individuals traveling on tourist visas, were first imposed in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and have been extended on a monthly basis ever since.

— After criticism for slow action, the Biden administration is detailing plans to evacuate thousands of Afghans who worked as translators for the United States during its 20-year war in Afghanistan.

President Biden traveled to Ohio to pitch his infrastructure plan. But throughout a prime-time televised town hall, he at times found himself on the defensive about rising numbers of coronavirus cases and his opposition to abandoning the Senate’s filibuster to pass voting rights legislation.

— The United States and Germany have reached a deal that will allow the completion of a controversial Russian gas pipeline to Europe without the imposition of further U.S. sanctions, a senior U.S. official said.

— House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected two Republicans picked by GOP leadership to serve on the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol — prompting House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to threaten a Republican boycott of the investigation.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— Netflix’s new reality series “Sexy Beasts” asks singles to find romance while wearing fantastical, highly detailed animal costumes. Here’s how they made those “ridiculously silly” prosthetics.

— It was supposed to be a unique outdoor performance until a sound crew walked off the job over poor working conditions. What took place at the Williamstown Theatre Festival ended up a case study for all theaters pushing ahead with productions in unconventional settings due to the ongoing pandemic.

Eric Clapton is staying the course with his beliefs about the COVID-19 vaccines: He recently announced he won’t be performing “where there is a discriminated audience present.” That means the guitar hero won’t play concerts in venues that require ticket holders to be vaccinated.

— The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, which opens Sept. 30, announced its inaugural programming. The film kicking off the festivities will be “The Wizard of Oz,” with two screenings on opening day, and with live music performed by the American Youth Symphony in the posh, 1,000-seat spherical theater building by Italian architect Renzo Piano.

BUSINESS

Uber and Lyft drivers joined a strike across California that aimed to push Congress to pass the Protect the Right to Organize Act — proposed federal legislation that would allow contractors to unionize if they chose.

Clubhouse, the popular audio-streaming app accessible only by invitation, just got a lot more inviting. The app is ditching its signature exclusive structure in favor of open access.

SPORTS

— Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen was jeered in his home stadium after failing to hold a one-run lead in a 4-2 loss to the San Francisco Giants, preventing the Dodgers from gaining a share of first place in the National League West.

— The U.S. women’s national soccer team got off to a poor start at the Olympics on Wednesday, losing 3-0 to Sweden, the team that knocked it out of the Rio Olympic Games.

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OPINION

— The fireworks explosion was bad enough. South L.A. residents shouldn’t be left to suffer because of the LAPD’s terrible mistake, writes The Times’ editorial board.

— Democrats talk about a “failed war on drugs,” but it didn’t fail. That’s because it was always about race, writes columnist LZ Granderson.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— Middle-aged millennials: $128,000 in debt, less wealthy than their parents, and caught between generations. (Insider)

— A Missouri legislative committee held a hearing on how educators teach K-12 students about race and racism without hearing from any Black Missourians. (The Kansas City Star)

Black Americans are getting more Botox. They’re letting go of the stigma behind getting work done from past generations and smoothing, filling, and fading with abandon. (Allure)

ONLY IN L.A.

With more than 600 titles in her inventory, Ellin Palmer’s cookbook collection is a time capsule of sorts, representing some of the key volumes of the last 60 years. Until recently, those books have lived mostly in boxes that have overtaken Palmer’s 400-square-foot apartment. In her attempt to unload some of her inventory, she’s become the cookbook queen of the Mar Vista farmers market — a local fixture selling hard-to-find books at low prices and troubleshooting recipes.

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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