|Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, May 23.
Editor’s note: We’ll be off Monday for the holiday; the next edition of the Essential California newsletter will be in your inbox Tuesday morning.
Here’s a look at the top stories of the last week:
Loosening the rules. Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday relaxed the state rules linking coronavirus infection rates to allowed activities — a change that released most parts of the state from the tightest restrictions of his stay-at-home order.
A welcome decision. Following Newsom’s announcement, more than two-thirds of Southern California counties got approval to reopen their economies more quickly. San Diego, Kern, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties were among those cleared to move deeper into Phase 2.
Not far behind. Los Angeles County also saw signs of progress. The transmission rate in the nation’s most populous county, home to 56% of COVID-19 deaths in California, has fallen dramatically and is now in its best position since March.
Another reopening set. Problems loom as most public school districts in California plan to reopen campuses in the fall. The new normal will likely include masks, smaller classes and daily sanitation.
But the funds for it? Funding those changes poses a challenge. The governor’s state budget proposes $19 billion in cuts to schools over the next two years, leaving them with higher costs and less money.
Testing decisions. In another dramatic change to education, the University of California regents unanimously voted Thursday to suspend SAT and ACT testing requirements through 2024 and eliminate them for California students by 2025.
Latinos at risk. In California, many essential workers are Latino, and they’re at heightened risk of contracting the virus as they clean floors, do laundry, serve fast food, pick crops and work in meat plants. Such low-paid jobs keep America running, but they come with a heavy price.
Empty rooms. One program aimed at protecting vulnerable populations has already struggled to find success: California leased 15,000 hotel rooms to help homeless people, but half now sit empty.
Basil for oranges. Angelenos who are strapped for cash have found a creative way to feed themselves: trading homegrown produce and other key items.
Another admissions guilty plea. Actress Lori Loughlin spent 14 months maintaining her innocence in the college admissions scandal. This week, she agreed to plead guilty to fraud and spend two months in federal prison.
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This week’s most popular stories in Essential California
1. So you really want to see your friends? Here’s how to assess the risk. Los Angeles Times
2. It’s the end of the world famous KROQ as we know it. Variety
3. Visit these seven Los Angeles museums — without leaving your sofa. Curbed LA
4. 15 gourmet pantry staples to order now. Town & Country
5. Six feet back from life: A homeless man’s photo essay on life during coronavirus. LAist
ICYMI, here are this week’s great reads
This newspaper has never forgotten the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre — and its fight continues. Los Angeles Times
The making of American money: Writer An Uong has a beautiful essay about childhood days spent rummaging through recycling bins and how income from recycling provided her mother, a Vietnamese immigrant in Los Angeles, with a taste of independence. Hyphen Magazine
“This feels great.” A preview from Georgia of how America might reemerge from the coronavirus: eating, drinking, touching and throwing caution to the wind at an upscale suburban mall. Washington Post
The art collections are real, but the owners are not. The curator behind the eye-popping paintings you see in movies and TV shows like “Succession” and “Mrs. America” explains how she does her job. New York Times
Poem of the week: “How Everything Was in the End Resolved in California” by Charles Foster. Poets.org
Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes. (And a giant thanks to Laura Blasey for all her help on the Saturday edition.)