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Today’s Headlines: California COVID-19 cases are worsening, raising fears about a summer surge

A nurse holding a syringe
The number of coronavirus cases in California has significantly worsened this past week, hitting a level not seen since the winter’s Omicron surge.
(Alisha Jucevic / For The Times)

By Elvia Limón

Hello, it’s Monday, May 23, and here are the stories you shouldn’t miss today:

TOP STORIES

Coronavirus cases have significantly worsened in California

The number of coronavirus cases in California has significantly worsened this past week, hitting a level not seen since the winter’s Omicron surge and raising concerns about the possibility of a big jump in infections this summer.

Weekly coronavirus cases roughly doubled across wide swaths of California. Statewide, the increase was 63%, bringing the case rate to 231 for every 100,000 residents. A rate of 100 and above is considered a high rate of transmission.

California officials remain hopeful that a relatively robust effort to get residents to take booster shots plus suggestions to wear masks and get tested frequently can help the state avoid the kind of intense surge those cities have experienced.

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More top coronavirus headlines

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

Kyiv suburbs once under Russian occupation are making a halting return to normality

It is calm these days in the Ukrainian capital and its suburbs. Stricken Russian war machines have largely been cleared from the roads. The dead whose remains littered streets or were buried in makeshift graves have mostly been given proper funerals, often after forensic examinations for possible war crimes. Ukrainian military teams have cleared major thoroughfares of mines, shells and other lethal detritus.

But in towns outside Kyiv — places like Borodyanka, Bucha and Irpin, all northwest of the capital, once the front line of Moscow’s ill-fated offensive — the return to routine remains halting at best. Only a fraction of the pre-war population has come back. Most remain elsewhere in Ukraine or Europe, among the 14 million Ukrainians who have fled their homes, marking Europe’s greatest refugee crisis since World War II.

More on Ukraine

  • Ukraine was once one of the U.S.’s most frequent partners on international adoptions, but the war changed all that. The embattled country has halted all international adoptions as the country copes with the turmoil unleashed on its courts and social services.
  • A Ukrainian court sentenced a 21-year-old Russian soldier to life in prison Monday for killing a Ukrainian civilian, sealing the first guilty conviction for war crimes since Moscow’s invasion three months ago.
  • Thousands of Russians have paid a price for speaking their minds about the nearly three-month invasion of Ukraine. Sanctions have ranged from fines to sentences of five days in jail to years in prison.

L.A. County sheriff candidates ride ‘anyone but Villanueva’ wave

In some ways, the race for Los Angeles County sheriff is shaping up as a test of how many controversies voters will tolerate from incumbent Alex Villanueva. His relationship with county leaders has hit new lows. The jails are in disarray. Allegations of a cover-up and retaliation hang over an incident in which a deputy knelt on the head of a handcuffed inmate.

With less than three weeks before the primary election, Villanueva’s opponents have plenty of ammunition with which to attack and force a runoff. Most of their attacks — in news interviews, debates and political ads — have focused on the sheriff’s fractured relationship with the Board of Supervisors, which oversees the department’s $3.5-billion budget.

But the eight other candidates are struggling to gain name recognition.

More politics

  • President Biden tended to business and security interests as he wrapped up a three-day visit to South Korea.
  • India values its relationship with the United States, but it wants to keep its ties to Russia too.
  • A Bay Area archbishop took the extraordinary step of barring House Speaker Nancy Pelosi from receiving Communion over her support for abortion access.
  • Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford) infuriated Central Valley conservatives when he voted to impeach President Trump. But Trump has been silent on Valadao’s reelection bid.
  • A California Democratic party leader linked to a sprawling corruption investigation of the proposed sale of Anaheim Stadium land announced late Sunday her resignation from state and national party offices.

Sign up for our California Politics newsletter to get the best of The Times’ state politics reporting and the latest action in Sacramento.

The Biden administration races to salvage the Summit of Americas

A brewing boycott over the invitation list to this year’s Summit of the Americas planned for Los Angeles next month has the Biden administration scrambling to avoid an embarrassment that could erode U.S. influence in the region.

The trouble began when the administration decided initially to exclude antidemocratic leaders from Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, drawing the ire of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

The summit comes at a critical time for the administration, which is seeking to counter China’s growing clout in the region, repair relationships damaged during the Trump administration and stem the flow of migrants at the southern U.S. border.

The plastics industry targets Democrats with mailers

The mailers, sent by a group calling itself the Environmental Solutions Coalition, assert without attribution that bans on single-use plastics “will have a devastating impact on working families” by driving up costs for consumers. Unmentioned in the mailings are that plastics manufacturers and other industries are financing the coalition.

The fliers are all aimed at Democrats, largely in Southern California, possibly an attempt to pressure them into derailing the November ballot measure by enacting watered-down legislation the industry can accept.

In the current legislative session, lawmakers are working on a bill designed to reduce plastic waste. If they are unable to draft legislation by June 30, the issue will go straight to voters as a ballot measure.

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OUR MUST-READS FROM THE WEEKEND

‘They’re not trying to die’: How drug checking aims to protect users in a messy market. Overdoses claimed some 107,000 lives last year in the U.S. Public health advocates, researchers and activists want to help people find out what is in their drugs.

‘When is the next one?’: After the Buffalo massacre, Black L.A. residents consider their safety. The Buffalo shooting may hit home for Black people who shop in predominantly Black neighborhoods in other parts of the country because they realize that could’ve been them.

Why swimming pools are getting a break despite unprecedented water restrictions. While most agencies are limiting outdoor watering to one or two days a week, many said the rules governing pools will remain largely unchanged — at least for the time being. That’s left some residents scratching their heads and others complaining of mixed messaging.

CALIFORNIA

California’s schools chief could cruise to a second term, despite criticism. Six candidates have filed to run against state Supt. of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond for a four-year term as the leader of California schools in the June 7 primary. But none have the political advantages — the name recognition, funding or endorsements — of the incumbent.

California oil regulator confirms methane leak at idle oil wells in Bakersfield. The methane leak at the Kern Bluff oil field in northeast Bakersfield was first reported earlier this month, and it’s unclear when it will be fully capped.

San Diego leaders will challenge a state law prohibiting race and gender preferences in contracting. The plan to challenge voter-approved Proposition 209 comes after a disparity study released last summer that showed women and people of color don’t get their fair share of the billions of dollars that San Diego awards in city contracts.

Profanity-laced text messages from San Dieguito school board trustee were read during a board meeting. Trustee Michael Allman’s text messages were read during a contentious and at times chaotic meeting, where audience members interrupted and shouted at one another over whether to keep or fire Supt. Cheryl James-Ward, who was recently placed on leave after making controversial comments about Asian students.

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NATION-WORLD

Seventy-eight thousand pounds of infant formula arrive in U.S.The Biden administration has dubbed the effort “Operation Fly Formula.” The crisis follows the closure of the nation’s largest domestic manufacturing plant in Michigan in February due to safety issues.

Desperately seeking restaurant workers. Times business reporter Samantha Masunaga discusses why the labor shortage is still a big problem for restaurant owners across the country and how they can persuade workers to come back.

The new Pakistani foreign minister seeks better ties with the U.S. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the 33-year-old son of assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, said the Pakistan-U.S. relationship in the past had been “too colored by the events in Afghanistan, of the geopolitical considerations, and it’s time for us to move beyond that to engage in a far broader, deeper and more meaningful relationship.”

On Venezuelan roads, old cars prevail and break down everywhere. Years of hyperinflation obliterated much of the middle class, leaving average monthly salaries at less than $100. That inflation combined with government controls meant to stifle it also meant banks were unwilling or unable to make car loans.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

Tokischa’s team prepares for a scene in her upcoming music video
Tokischa’s team prepares for a scene in her upcoming music video.
(Lisette Poole / For The Times)

‘The more they ban me, the more people want me’: Tokischa’s hardcore rap draws fans and critics. She has become a queer and feminist icon in the male-dominated world of urbano music and clashed with conservatives in the Dominican Republic, who have alternatively sought to censor her music videos.

How Ellen DeGeneres won, and then lost, a generation of viewers. Battered by scandal, “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” ends its 19-year run on Thursday. Its host is no longer the queer celebrity we can all agree on.

Take a tour of ‘Harry’s House’: Harry Styles launches L.A. pop-up shop for his new album. A prime destination for Styles merch and Instagram photo-ops opened in West Hollywood at 805-811N. La Cienega Blvd. Other “Harry’s House” locations are in New York, London, Dallas, Chicago, Toronto, Paris, Berlin and Amsterdam.

BUSINESS

Why free streaming channels like Pluto TV and Tubi have viewers watching commercials again. Free, ad-supported streaming TV services are growing fast and are expected to command significantly more advertising dollars this year.

Company insiders rip Tesla’s stance on safety in a hard-hitting Elon Musk doc. Premiering on FX and Hulu, the 75-minute fright show spotlights the persistent dangers of Tesla’s automated driving technologies, the company’s lax safety culture, Musk’s P.T. Barnum-style marketing hype and the weak-kneed safety regulators who seem not to care.

SPORTS

Marshall seniors Gabriela Aguilar and Rosie Agdaian lead the team's handshake line
Marshall seniors Gabriela Aguilar and Rosie Agdaian lead the team’s handshake line after their final home game.
(Steve Galluzzo / For The Times)

Why winless Marshall High softball team is full of winners. Success in high school sports is a funny thing. Fittingly, at Marshall, it’s found on a scoreboard that doesn’t exist. It can be felt in the hugs of a team that lost so many times on this field yet refuses to leave it when this last home game is finished, lingering together as if celebrating a championship.

With Allen Robinson joining the Rams, they have a different look at receiver. Robinson joins the Rams after four seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars and four with the Chicago Bears. He has eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving three times, earning Pro Bowl recognition in 2015.

Angels to Anaheim: You’re on the clock to approve the stadium sale. Facing community pressure to delay or cancel the Angel Stadium sale amid a corruption investigation into Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu, the Angels gave the Anaheim City Council 25 days to grant final approval to the deal.

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OPINION

California’s economy may seem healthy. But just wait for the next recession. California’s heavy dependency on tax payments from the rich and on the continued strength of the tech economy makes the state highly vulnerable in the event of a significant slowdown — or, worse yet, a full-bore global recession.

Want to shape your bicultural child’s sense of self before society does? Lead them to books. Perhaps the most impactful thing a parent of color can do is encourage their kids to read books. It will help them know themselves and others better.

ONLY IN CALIFORNIA

A new 1,300-foot boardwalk through Northern California’s Grove of Titans will give visitors a chance to see the old-growth redwoods without threatening the forest’s fragile ecosystem. The path will provide year-round access from the newly realigned Mill Creek Trail in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park in Del Norte County.

The location of the grove had been kept secret since the park was established in 1929, but finding it became a popular quest after researchers came across the stand of trees in 1998 and named it the Grove of Titans.

Although the researchers did not disclose its location, adventure enthusiasts began searching for the grove. In 2011, a website posted the GPS coordinates of the Grove of Titans, opening the floodgates to visitors, damaging the forest floor and jeopardizing the shallow roots of the redwoods.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

Frank Sinatra leaves his signature on the cement at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood
Frank Sinatra leaves his signature on the cement at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood in 1965.
(Los Angeles Times)

This month marks 24 years since the self-styled “saloon singer” Frank Sinatra died after a heart attack. He was 82. For more than three generations, his name was synonymous with talent and taste. But a life dedicated to excesses took a toll toward the end.

He frequently forgot the lyrics to songs he had been warbling for 50 years, unable to follow even the giant TelePrompTers that became a part of the performance. Despite those challenges, his fans applauded him to the end and remembered him as he was, a pristine vocalist with a keen ear.

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.


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