|Mornin’ y’all! Welcome to the Essential California newsletter. I’m Erin B. Logan, filling in for Julia Wick. Today is Thursday, Feb. 25. I’m writing from Snellville, Ga., beside my sassy dog, Kacey.
We’re so close to the weekend! Let’s get into the tea you need to know today.
The reopening of L.A. Unified schools is contingent on full staff vaccinations. This could delay the return of elementary students to early April, at best.
[Read the story: “L.A. school reopening contingent on full staff vaccinations, making for uncertain date”]
Los Angeles schools Supt. Austin Beutner earlier this week made clear the timeline for students returning was uncertain, saying a best-case scenario would be elementary students going back in early April. At a school board meeting, he discussed no timeline for the return of middle and high schoolers in the nation’s second-largest school system.
The uncertainty hinges on the need for a full period for employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Beutner said access is crucial for all 25,000 employees and that with sufficient doses, the district and its partners could provide inoculations for 10,000 people per day starting next week.
Though reopening was not before the board for a vote, members voiced no objections to Beutner’s characterization of the situation.
A board member did ask it be made clear the district was not at fault for any delay in vaccinations and that the allocation of doses depends on county and state officials.
California regulations do not stipulate vaccines as a precondition for teachers to return to the classroom. President Biden and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said campuses can be operated safely without vaccinated employees — provided that safety measures are strictly followed.
That’s also the position of Gov. Gavin Newsom, who said a vaccine requirement would probably end hopes for in-person schooling this spring in many places.
And now, here’s what’s happening across California:
About 40% of California’s corrections system inmates have been vaccinated. The figure was praised by prison advocates who say only a fraction of the state’s vaccine is needed to protect the most vulnerable from COVID-19. Los Angeles Times
The L.A. City Council voted to require larger grocery stores and drug stores to boost the pay of their workers for 120 days. Similar mandates have passed in Seattle, Oakland, San Jose, Long Beach and for unincorporated Los Angeles County, with legislators arguing that grocery store workers are risking their health to stock the shelves during the pandemic and deserve compensation. Opponents to “hazard pay” say retailers can’t absorb the additional cost. Los Angeles Times
Berkeley also passed a hazard pay bill for some grocery store workers: The City Council unanimously passed an ordinance that will temporarily raise the pay of workers at large grocery stores by $5 per hour. Mercury News
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The pandemic is driving parents to put older kids in day care. Providers had to adapt. Preschool and day-care workers across the state say they have spent months managing ad hoc classrooms of older students while simultaneously caring for infants, toddlers and preschoolers. Experts say it’s yet another example of how the pandemic has taxed the already overburdened early care and education system in California. Los Angeles Times
With schools still closed for in-person classes, more kindergarten students like Ray, left and Emmy Lou, seen above at Kigala Preschool in Santa Monica, are attending day care. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Tiger Woods is recovering after surgery on his leg, foot and ankle: The golf star was injured in a rollover on the Palos Verdes Peninsula on Tuesday. An L.A. County Sheriff’s deputy said Woods probably owes his life to his seat belt and airbags and did not seem to know how bad his injuries were just after the crash. Sheriff Alex Villanueva called it “purely an accident” and said no charges are being contemplated. Los Angeles Times
California’s vaccine code system is designed for cheating, columnist Erika D. Smith argues. Julia Wick, queen of this newsletter, previously reported vaccine access codes for hard-hit Black, Latino communities were improperly used in other areas. Smith argues that “creating secret access codes — even moving to individual codes — will do little to eliminate racial disparities when the intended recipients lack internet access and are scared of technology.” Los Angeles Times
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IMMIGRATION AND THE BORDER
President Biden lifted a freeze on green cards issued by his predecessor during the pandemic that lawyers said was blocking most legal immigration to the United States. Associated Press
A federal judge indefinitely banned the Biden administration from enforcing a 100-day moratorium on most deportations. The injunction indefinitely extended by a Trump-appointed judge was sought by Texas, which argued the moratorium violated federal law and risked imposing additional costs on the state. Associated Press
POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT
Republicans and Democrats immediately squared off Wednesday at Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra’s pivotal confirmation hearing. Both sides pointed to the COVID-19 crisis as the reason he is or is not the right choice to lead the nation’s health agency. Becerra emerged from a Tuesday hearing relatively unscathed, leading many to predict that his confirmation by the full Senate, which would require 51 votes, is likely. Los Angeles Times
Biden orders a review of critical U.S. supply chains: Senior White House officials said Biden plans to sign an executive order mandating a review of where the United States obtains semiconductors, rare earth minerals, large-capacity batteries and pharmaceutical ingredients. The review is an acknowledgment that the United States has been too reliant on China for critical manufacturing. Los Angeles Times
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CRIME AND COURTS
In San Francisco, a man lay dead under a bush in a grassy median on a busy street for half a day: A woman spotted the man from her apartment and assumed he was homeless and taking a nap. After calling the police, it was clear he had been dead for at least 11 hours. San Francisco Chronicle
The U.S. Supreme Court seems divided on the case of a motorist pursued by the California Highway Patrol into his home: After being followed home by an officer, a Sonoma County man was given a citation for driving under the influence. The primary question is whether police may pursue people into their homes or apartments to question them about a minor crime. The officer who followed the man’s car onto his residential street said he had reason to question the driver for a “noise infraction.” Justices sounded mostly skeptical of imposing a limitation on police as they pursue suspects, particularly those who do not stop. Los Angeles Times
HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Scientists are increasingly concerned about another potential COVID-19 strain that could create a “nightmare scenario:” New research strongly suggests the coronavirus strain now dominant in California not only spreads more readily than its predecessors but also has the ability to evade antibodies generated by COVID-19 vaccines or prior infection. It’s also associated with more-severe illness and death. The threat could produce what Dr. Charles Chiu, an infectious disease researcher and physician at UC San Francisco, calls a “nightmare scenario” in the Golden State. Los Angeles Times
California tops 50,000 COVID-19 deaths. The count comes as daily coronavirus cases and COVID-19 deaths have dropped considerably in recent weeks, although some scientists remain concerned about the potential spread of mutant variants. Los Angeles Times
A federal analysis found Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine protects against COVID-19: Food and Drug Administration’s scientists confirmed the vaccine is about 66% effective at preventing moderate to severe COVID-19 and about 85% effective at preventing the most serious cases. The agency also said the company’s shot — one that could help speed the vaccination campaign by requiring just one dose instead of two — is safe to use. Associated Press
Fry’s Electronics will permanently close after 36 years. The company had been getting hammered by online competition and has now found it impossible to operate during the pandemic. The chain’s first store was in Sunnyvale and largely concentrated on the West Coast but had 31 stores in nine states. Associated Press
Disney California Adventure park plans to reopen mid-March at limited capacity. The park had been closed nearly one year after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the closure of theme parks statewide. Ticketed visitors will be able to stroll through the park and purchase food, drinks and merchandise. Los Angeles Times
Girl Scout cookie season is here. Which cookie slaps hardest? Our food columnist incorrectly ranked Samoas as the top cookie. Tagalongs and Trefoils are clearly superior. Don’t click the link if you prefer not to get angry. Los Angeles Times
A relatable TikTok to start your Thursday right: If you opened the cookie link, you must cleanse your spirit with this short video about a dad and the dog he didn’t want. TikTok
Los Angeles: sunny, 73. San Diego: sunny, 71. San Francisco: sunny, 60. San Jose: partly sunny, 68. Fresno: sunny, 66. Sacramento: sunny, 68.
Today’s California memory comes from Viswanathan Maruthur:
Circa 2012. My first visit to the Golden State. One of the fond wishes was to see and cross the Golden Gate Bridge at S.F. Excited, we crossed the beauty to the other end and then parked ourselves to the right for the mandatory photo session. The sun was setting and with darkness engulfing the horizon, it was time to leave. But the Google map in the phone started ‘misbehaving’ — giving wrong or convoluted directions. Guess the app was yet to acquire the sophistication it has now! Had a harrowing time reaching back home. Thus the golden memories of the architectural wonder got hued with some adventure too.
If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)
Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints, ideas and pictures of your pets to Erin B. Logan. Follow her on Twitter @erinblogan for hot takes and for photos of her dog Kacey.