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Today’s Headlines: California braces for winter COVID surge as cases continue to rise

Arriving travelers walk past a sign directing them to get a free COVID-19 Rapid Test
Arriving travelers walk through Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport this month.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Hello, it’s Monday, Dec. 20, and here are the stories you shouldn’t miss today:

TOP STORIES

COVID-19 cases continue to rise in L.A. County

Los Angeles County health officials reported 3,512 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, more than double the number of cases recorded just a few days before. California recorded 49 cases of the Omicron variant as of Wednesday, with 38 of those in L.A. County. That’s much lower than the 184,700 identified cases of the Delta variant, which remains the state’s dominant strain.

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Health officials expect the number of Omicron cases to rise, as the variant is believed to be more contagious than Delta and better at evading immunity generated by vaccines or previous infections. Experts say vaccines still offer protection against severe illness and death caused by Omicron.

Although there are early indications that Omicron might cause less severe illness than other variants, health officials say hospitals could be overwhelmed if enough people are infected. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the county’s leading infectious disease expert, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that “the real problem” for hospitals is the number of eligible people who have not yet been vaccinated.

More top coronavirus headlines

Stay up to date on variant developments, case counts and vaccine news with Coronavirus Today.

L.A. accuses LAPD academy gun store of negligence

The city of Los Angeles has accused the Los Angeles Police Revolver and Athletic Club, a nonprofit organization and gun store located within the Los Angeles Police Academy, of negligence in its operations and breach of contract. The claims, made in multiple court cases in the last week, are the latest twists in a widening scandal involving stolen firearms landing in the hands of LAPD officers.

The city’s claims were made as part of an effort to deflect responsibility in a handful of lawsuits filed by LAPD officers who were caught up in the scandal and now claim their reputations were unjustly tarnished due to the collective negligence of the gun store, the city and the LAPD.

Sen. Manchin says he’s a no on Biden’s social spending plan

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III appeared to pull the plug on the centerpiece of President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda, saying Sunday that he cannot support the House-passed version of his party’s massive social spending package.

The $1.75-trillion package would extend child tax credits and provide new subsidies for child care, preschool and elder care. The proposal also included $555 billion to combat climate change — the lion’s share of Biden’s plan to curb carbon emissions as part of an uncertain global effort to avert a catastrophic further rise in the planet’s temperature.

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The young are at the forefront of a perilous global migration surge

This year saw surging numbers of migrants crashing borders. COVID-19 lockdowns eased against a backdrop of worsening “push factors” — including armed conflict, climate change and a global wealth gap that widened as pandemic-triggered recessions exacerbated inequality.

The young are at the forefront. Many migrants hail from regions with predominantly youthful populations, median ages typically in the low 20s, well below those in Western Europe and the United States.

A record of almost 150,000 unaccompanied minors, more than 75% from Central America, were detained along the U.S.-Mexico border in fiscal 2021, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. And almost 80% of more than 5.5 million first-time asylum seekers in Europe since 2014 were 34 or younger.

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OUR MUST-READS FROM THE WEEKEND

Alaska’s Kodiak Archipelago.
Part of Alaska’s Kodiak Archipelago seen during a helicopter survey of wildlife. Researchers are concerned by unexplained deaths among species including gray whales.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

Climate change is wreaking havoc in the Arctic and beyond. A team from The Times traveled to Alaska and spoke with dozens of scientists to better understand these dramatic changes. Their findings suggest that this vast, near-polar ecosystem is undergoing an irreversible transition.

Inside look at how pieces of cowhide are transformed into NBA game balls. Every leather ball used in the NBA in the past two decades has begun its life as a hairless hide inspected on Horween Leather Co.'s ground floor, a visual examination that begins a world-traveling journey almost entirely behind the scenes.

The economy and COVID drove Latino voters toward Trump in 2020. Overall, Latinos disapproved of former President Donald Trump, and majorities opposed several of his policies, including expanded deportations and, especially, family separations. But some of Trump’s policies garnered strong approval among Latinos.

CALIFORNIA

Police continue to search for Drakeo the Ruler’s killer. The fatal stabbing of Drakeo the Ruler backstage during a concert at Exposition Park that brought together some of the biggest names in rap music left fans stunned. The rapper’s death came as his career was gaining acclaim, with many fans and music critics calling him an innovative and creative lyricist.

More than $300 million to combat California crime. On Friday, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a package of grants for police agencies and prosecutors to crack down on organized crime rings. But state lawmakers will first need to approve the plan in June.

Avoid parking tickets in L.A. The city has stepped up parking enforcement and tickets have nearly returned to pre-pandemic levels. Street sweeping ticketing and expired parking meters are among the most common reasons for the tickets.

Gavin Newsom’s struggle with dyslexia as he governs California. His staff knows to give him space for at least two hours as he circles and underlines reports. Newsom says the painstaking system helps him retain information. It’s a bit of a security blanket for a governor who said he didn’t feel smart until age 35.

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NATION-WORLD

Leftist lawmaker wins polarized election in Chile. Congressman Gabriel Boric, 35, will become the youngest president in the country’s history and face a divided congress that will force him to negotiate with the right-wing opposition as he attempts to implement a sweeping agenda.

Their families fled Vietnam. Now they’re helping Afghan refugees in America. A new pilot program by the Biden administration would create “sponsor circles” to help Afghan refugees resettle, supplementing the efforts of resettlement agencies. Among the sponsor circles is Viets for Afghans, a grass-roots group founded by Vietnamese refugees and the children of refugees after the fall of Kabul on Aug. 15.

Mayors in the Philippines plead for aid. Typhoon Rai, the strongest to batter the country this year, rampaged through central island provinces on Thursday and Friday, bringing the overall fatalities so far to 146. The government said about 780,000 people were affected, including more than 300,000 residents who had to evacuate their homes.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

The Duggars built a wholesome reality TV empire on TLC. Now it’s in ruins. Josh, the eldest of 19 children, was the golden boy. Now, he’s a convicted sex offender. But the problems with the Duggars — and TLC more broadly — didn’t begin or end with Josh.

‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ obliterates a pandemic box office record. Sony and Marvel’s successful release comes as the rapidly spreading Omicron coronavirus variant has started to dampen other domestic entertainment and sports events.

BUSINESS

One-hour side hustles. With the spending season in full swing, you’re probably wondering if you have enough time to earn extra money. Here are six one-hour side hustles that can help you, including editing a resume and walking a few dogs.

Supply shortages and emboldened workers have changed the economy. The global economy hadn’t experienced anything like this for decades. Maybe ever.

SPORTS

Lakers coach Frank Vogel enters the NBA’s COVID protocols. Assistant coach David Fizdale will be the team’s acting head coach. The Lakers have placed eight players in the NBA’s protocols this week alone, with Russell Westbrook quickly exiting them after a series of negative tests.

The USC men’s basketball season is on hold amid a COVID-19 outbreak on the team. Meanwhile, UCLA has canceled each of its last three games, including a matchup with North Carolina, as it deals with COVID-19 issues. UCLA coach Mick Cronin was among those forced to isolate amid an outbreak within the program.

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OPINION

Volunteering with L.A.'s homeless can mean becoming a de facto caseworker. Case managers are underpaid and chronically overburdened, and turnover is so rapid that many unhoused people have never met their case managers.

What it means to live in a society where the fringe becomes the center. With enough commitment, you can force the most mainstream of institutions to contend with your claims, no matter how disconnected from reality.

2021 IN REVIEW

What the age of COVID taught us about architecture in 2021. The party tent is symbolic of all the other improvised architectures that have arisen during the pandemic. They may not be around for the long haul, but party tents have qualities worth integrating into the hardscape of our cities, writes columnist Carolina A. Miranda.

The 13 best TV shows of 2021. The medium produced an impressive number of first-rate programs in 2021, bearing no mark of the straitened circumstances under which they were produced, writes television critic Robert Lloyd. His favorites list includes Hulu’s “Only Murders in the Building” and HBO’s “Painting With John.”

ONLY IN L.A.

You often hear that L.A. is a lonely city. Some people think this is a transplant-only phenomenon, but there’s no denying that the city’s sheer size, its busy nature and its car culture are all conducive to loneliness.

Of course, the city is deeply connected in many ways. There are thriving communities to be found, and it’s not all soulless sprawl. Angelenos who spend the majority of their time alone can attest to the bittersweet benefits of rolling solo: While the city can trigger loneliness, it also feels special to experience alone.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

Christmas shopping crowd
Christmas shopping crowd at 6th and Broadway in Los Angeles in 1926.
(Los Angeles Times)

Just days before Christmas in 1926, shoppers flocked to 6th and Broadway in Los Angeles to buy last-minute gifts. According to The Times, it was reported that daily sales reached $40 million during that holiday season.

We appreciate that you took the time to read Today’s Headlines! Comments or ideas? Feel free to drop us a note at headlines@latimes.com. — Elvia Limón


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