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Today’s Headlines: Masks on. Masks off. Masks on again at the White House

President Biden holds up a face mask
President Biden holds a mask after landing in Pennsylvania on Wednesday. His administration is recommending masks in areas where COVID-19 is surging.
(Susan Walsh / Associated Press)

Here are the stories you shouldn’t miss today:

TOP STORIES

Masks on. Masks off. Masks on again at the White House

A little more than two months ago, a beaming President Biden stepped into the Rose Garden to announce that vaccinated Americans no longer needed to wear masks indoors. So much progress had been made against the coronavirus, now they could go back to “greeting others with a smile.”

But anyone smiling inside the White House on Wednesday was supposed to do it once again from behind a mask.

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The requirement was back after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said new research showed even vaccinated people could transmit, in rare cases, the more contagious Delta variant. Reporters and photographers wore masks. Members of the press office wore masks. Biden did too — he was photographed with a mask while talking with an opposition leader from Belarus before leaving for a trip to Pennsylvania.

Vaccines remain effective at preventing serious illness from the coronavirus, even when the Delta variant is involved, and the White House is straining to persuade more Americans to get their shots. Just under 70% of adults have received at least one dose of a vaccine, meaning the country has yet to reach the target that Biden hoped to meet by July 4.

Biden plans to announce more steps to spur vaccinations later this week. After speaking to the intelligence community on Tuesday, he said he was considering requiring federal workers and contractors to get inoculated or submit to regular testing.

More politics

— The Senate has cleared the first procedural hurdle toward enacting an expansive proposal to build and repair the nation’s roads, bridges and broadband internet networks. The Senate voted 67 to 32 to open formal debate on the bipartisan infrastructure proposal. The procedural motion, which needed 60 votes, had support from 17 Republicans as well as 48 Democrats and the two independents who caucus with them.

— Republican Jake Ellzey of Texas won a U.S. House seat on Tuesday night over a rival backed by Donald Trump, dealing the former president a defeat in a test of his endorsement power since leaving office. The seat opened up following the death of Ron Wright, who in February became the first member of Congress to die after being diagnosed with COVID-19.

Sign up early for our California Politics newsletter, coming in August, to get the best of The Times’ state politics reporting, including full coverage of the recall election and the latest action in Sacramento.

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California is failing to meet UC admission demand

A troubling undercurrent belies the University of California’s celebratory news that it has admitted the largest and most diverse class ever for fall 2021: There are not enough seats for qualified students at most campuses. This worsening capacity crisis threatens to break the California promise of a UC education for them.

The space crunch is projected to intensify in the coming years just as the state needs more skilled talent, prompting the new UC Board of Regents chair to announce last week that increasing student enrollment would be one of the board’s top priorities. UC admitted 132,353 freshman applicants for this fall, an 11% increase over last year. But it was harder to get in at seven of the nine undergraduate campuses than in the previous year. More than 71,000 freshman applicants were denied admission, including nearly 44,000 Californians, the overwhelming majority of them eligible for UC admission if past trends are a guide.

As the capacity crunch devastates thousands of hard-working students and frustrates their tax-paying parents, the question of how to create more room at both UC and Cal State schools has taken on new urgency. Universities are looking at satellite locations, more online learning, and faster graduation to open more seats, even at campuses with little physical room for more students.

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Campus leaders say they are thrilled by the ever-escalating interest in attending UC but concerned about how to give new students the quality education that previous generations received.

California’s urgent battle to slow coronavirus

With the California coronavirus surge worsening, officials are turning to new rules, a renewed reliance on masks, and even some pointed name-calling in an urgent campaign to boost vaccinations and slow the rapid spread of the Delta variant.

California on Wednesday urged everyone to wear masks indoors while in public, joining a national push to increase protection amid the spike in cases due to the highly contagious Delta variant. But the real goal is to convince those who have not been vaccinated to get their shots, which experts say is vital to reverse the spike.

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There are some early signs of movement among Californians who, to this point, have remained on the fence.

Over the week of July 18 to 24, providers throughout the state-administered an average of just over 64,000 vaccines per day — about 3,100 more daily doses than the week before. At first glance, a 5% increase doesn’t seem that significant. But officials say any uptick is welcome.

Roughly 53% of Californians are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data compiled by The Times. A bigger slice of the state, about 61%, has received at least one vaccine dose to date. Earlier this week, Gov. Gavin Newsom went so far as to compare choosing to remain unvaccinated to drunk driving.

More top coronavirus headlines

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— A Pasadena startup got billions selling COVID-19 tests with clients that included the U.K. government. Then questions about the tests started coming.

— Can employers force workers to get vaccinated? Here’s what we know.

— Despite a resurgence in coronavirus cases, Halloween celebrations are back on the calendar. It seemed like a safe bet, but as the Delta variant spreads, it’s starting to look like a gamble.

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

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FROM THE ARCHIVES

In 1960, then-Vice President Richard Nixon traveled to Whittier to officially launch his campaign after winning the Republican presidential nomination in Chicago the week before.

The next morning’s Los Angeles Times reported that Nixon, who “flew into Los Angeles from Reno, landing at 5:10 p.m., managed to crowd into his busy schedule a planeside reception.”

Nixon would lose to Massachusetts Sen. John F. Kennedy in the presidential race and in his 1962 run for California governor (saying, famously, “you don’t have Nixon to kick around any more”) before winning the presidency in 1968.

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Vice President Richard Nixon and his wife, Pat, are hemmed in by more than 3,000 well-wishers after leaving LAX.
Aug. 2, 1960: Vice President Richard Nixon and his wife, Pat, are hemmed in by more than 3,000 well-wishers after leaving the plane at Los Angeles International Airport.
(Los Angeles Times Archive / UCLA)

CALIFORNIA

— As the race to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom intensifies, his political survival is likely to hinge on one very simple question: Will California Democrats bother to vote in the Sept. 14 special election?

— In Irvine, every detail is intentional — which is why a battle over a military cemetery in the city has consumed nearly a decade, pitting veterans, residents and politicians against one another, with every side asserting support for their preferred location and myriad reasons why the plan hasn’t advanced.

— A controversial new anti-camping law has been billed as a tool that would allow Los Angeles to clean up some long-standing homeless encampments, while also ensuring that the people who live in them find shelter. It would also grant even more power to the City Council. The council gave its final approval on Wednesday.

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— The California Labor Commissioner has fined Bodega Latina Corp., which operates the El Super chain, more than $447,000 for failing to provide COVID sick leave to 95 workers at El Super stores in Los Angeles, Lynwood and Victorville.

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NATION-WORLD

— Fully vaccinated travelers from the United States and much of Europe will be able to enter Britain without quarantining starting next week, U.K. officials said Wednesday — a move welcomed by Britain’s ailing travel industry.

— Amid crushing floods in China, officials are focusing not on climate change, but on control of information about the damage.

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— Millions in Indonesia are coerced and exploited as domestic workers, one of the most common sources of employment for impoverished Indonesian girls and young women. One woman’s case has cast a spotlight on the problem.

— After one of the most improbable electoral victories in recent Latin American political history, a former schoolteacher and left-wing populist has been sworn in as Peru’s new president. He now faces a daunting task: Uniting a deeply polarized nation.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

Tanya Wexler’s clever, nasty little action flick “Jolt,” starring Kate Beckinsale, allows the viewer to indulge in the pleasure of bloody fantasies.

— When it debuted on Aug. 1, 1981, MTV was a business and technology experiment without much downside and without much chance of succeeding. Four rock icons reflect on 40 years of MTV.

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— The sweet and true story of how two stunt doubles got engaged on the set of the CW’s “Kung Fu.”

— Amid mounting public outrage, and harsh criticism from Elton John and Dua Lipa, rapper DaBaby has apologized for his homophobic remarks at Sunday’s Rolling Loud music festival in Miami.

BUSINESS

— For any company on the brink of going public, the final days before its trading debut can feel like a big balancing act. Even by those standards, Robinhood Markets Inc. is walking a uniquely fine line.

— Employees at Activision Blizzard walked off the job Wednesday to protest the company’s response to an explosive lawsuit filed last week alleging pervasive discrimination and harassment against women.

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SPORTS

Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer’s hearing on whether the woman who has accused him of sexual assault should be granted a restraining order has been moved to Aug. 16-18, according to a Los Angeles Superior Court filing.

— Gymnasts and coaches explain how many cope with “the twisties,” which prompted Simone Biles to withdraw from team and all-around competition at the Tokyo Olympics.

Get the latest news from Tokyo with our Olympics live blog and the Sports Report newsletter.

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OPINION

— What Simone Biles’ latest feat at the Tokyo Olympics shows us: Just as remarkable as seeing vulnerability in seemingly invincible Biles is witnessing society’s growth in understanding mental health, writes The Times’ editorial board.

— I wish I could be angry with the unvaccinated. Being Black makes that complicated, writes columnist Erika D. Smith.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— The Corfo Lagoon, a body of water in the Patagonia region, recently took on a bright pink hue that makes it look like a cotton candy lake. But experts warn the distinct coloration is the result of pollution from nearby fish factories that are putting residents at risk. (Mic)

Climate change is making parts of the world too hot and humid for humans to survive. (Washington Post)

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ONLY IN L.A.

Here’s who you might run into at Hot Donna’s Clubhouse: a woman who started selling “girls gays & theys” shirts after being furloughed during the pandemic; a former contestant on a queer reality TV dating show; DJs, singers, drag kings and burlesque performers; old friends, recent L.A. transplants and people who’ll ask you to sit with them if you look lonely; hundreds of people willing to drive to any part of L.A. for an inclusive space.

That’s a sampling of who attended a pop-up fundraiser for Hot Donna’s on a recent, searing Saturday afternoon at Pan Pacific Park.

Technically, Hot Donna’s Clubhouse doesn’t exist yet. It’s an idea, a concept, a hope for an inclusive LGBTQ+ party space shared by hundreds of queer Angelenos but lacking a permanent location. But if — more likely when — it does open in a bricks-and-mortar location, it would immediately transform the LGBTQ+ bar scene in L.A.

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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