|Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Tuesday, April 13, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.
As of Monday, California had a coronavirus test positivity rate of 1.5% — the lowest in the nation, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom.
As cases and hospitalizations swell in other parts of the nation, fears about seeing similar rising numbers in the state remain. But in a new story, my colleague Ron Lin writes about one factor that might be helping California evade a dreaded fourth wave: the presence of the California variant.
As Lin reports, the California variant — also known as the West Coast variant (B.1.427/B.1.429) — might be helping to keep the U.K. variant in check in the state.
[Read the story: “Are herd immunity and the California coronavirus variant preventing a West Coast spring surge?” in the Los Angeles Times]
The California and U.K. variants are believed to be more transmissible than the conventional coronavirus strains, but the California variant is only believed to be 20% more transmissible, whereas the U.K variant is thought to be 50% more transmissible.
The U.K. variant also is likely to result in more severe illness and, as a result, a greater chance of death. As Lin reports, the U.K. variant does account for a substantial portion of new cases in California, but it doesn’t appear to be driving the state’s overall epidemic curve, as it has done in other places.
Some experts had thought the U.K. variant would crowd out the California variant. But UC San Francisco epidemiologist Dr. George Rutherford told Lin that, somewhat counterintuitively, the California variant may be somehow keeping the U.K. variant at bay.
Rutherford said he couldn’t fully explain it, but, “for whatever reason, they seem to be pushing it out of the way.” As Lin reports, relatively high rates of immunity may also be helping the state.
And now, here’s what’s happening across California and the nation:
L.A. nears landmark homelessness settlement: The Los Angeles City Council appears to be heading toward a settlement of a federal lawsuit by agreeing to provide new housing or shelter for thousands of homeless people, while being able to use anticamping laws to clear anyone remaining on the streets.
The new beds would be spread across the city, based on the number of homeless people estimated to be living in each City Council district in 2020, and could require every council member to find locations for hundreds of new beds. But agreement does not appear to be imminent, and the talks between the city and lawyers for a group of business owners and residents who filed the lawsuit last year could still break down. Los Angeles Times
Protests were held around the nation in response to the fatal police shooting of a Black man in a Minneapolis suburb. Twenty-year-old Daunte Wright was shot and killed during a traffic stop. The shooting ignited tensions in the Minneapolis area with protesters — yet again — taking to the streets for racial justice, while the trial of an officer charged with murdering George Floyd continues in Minneapolis. Los Angeles Times
Federal health officials are urging a pause in the use of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine after reports of six serious blood clots. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has scheduled an emergency meeting for Wednesday. Los Angeles Times
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Pacific and ArcLight theaters will not reopen: In a stunning blow to moviegoers, cinema chain Pacific Theatres and ArcLight Cinemas announced that it will not reopen its locations, which include the beloved ArcLight Hollywood theater and Pacific Cinerama Dome on Sunset Boulevard. Los Angeles Times
A quiet and empty Cinerama Dome of the ArcLight Cinemas, on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, on March 20, 2020. (Jay L. Clendenin/Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times)
LAUSD officials will consider a plan to extend the next school year by adding one week at the start in August and another week in January after winter break to address learning loss and trauma suffered by students during the yearlong pandemic-forced school closures. Los Angeles Times
“The pastry revolution will be Instagrammed.” The pandemic has been a boon for Instagram pop-up bakeries, with many clustered in L.A. Eater
[See also: “In the pop-up community, every day is a scramble for chefs. Sometimes, tech is the answer” in the Los Angeles Times]
Harvey Weinstein has been indicted on 11 counts of sexual assault in Los Angeles County and could be extradited here to answer those charges later this month, attorneys said. Los Angeles Times
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POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT
A former East Bay police chief is President Biden’s pick to head U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Chris Magnus, who is now the police chief of Tucson, Ariz., previously oversaw Richmond’s force. Mercury News
San Diego’s mayor proposes police reforms: Mayor Todd Gloria announced a package of public safety reforms that he said are aimed at addressing disparities in policing and increasing transparency and accountability for the city’s police department. San Diego Union-Tribune
COPS, CRIME AND COURTS
Authorities received repeated warnings in months before three young siblings were killed: Despite repeated conversations with the children’s father and family and a court order from a Tulare County judge that restricted the mother’s custody, social workers opted to keep the children with their mother, according to records and interviews. Los Angeles Times
A former Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy was sentenced to seven years in federal prison: The deputy orchestrated a fake drug raid to steal more than half a ton of marijuana and $600,000 in cash from a downtown warehouse in 2018. Los Angeles Times
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What to know about Ramadan and vaccines: Getting vaccinated does not constitute breaking your Ramadan fast, Islamic Center of Southern California spokesperson Omar Ricci says. Los Angeles TimesHEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT
UC explains admissions decisions in a record application year of much heartbreak and some joy: More than 200,000 students were vying for about 46,000 spots for a freshman seat at a University of California campus in a year of record-shattering applications. Los Angeles Times
Meanwhile, California community college enrollment plummeted during the pandemic, putting some campuses at risk. Los Angeles Times
Salesforce will reopen its San Francisco headquarters in mid-May, starting with employees who have been vaccinated. The tech company is the city’s largest private employer. San Francisco Chronicle
A break-in at a Sacramento Chinese American organization left major damage to the building and members deeply shaken. Sacramento Bee
A poem to start your Tuesday: “Hysterical Strength” by Nicole Sealey. Poets.org
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Los Angeles: AM clouds, 66. San Diego: overcast, 63. San Francisco: afternoon wind, 61. San Jose: sunny, 66. Fresno: sunny, 81. Sacramento: sunny, 79.
Today’s California memory comes from JohnMichael O’Connor:
In 1957 my parents and I moved to a home near Industrial and La Cienega in Inglewood. Across La Cienega, from Florence to La Tijera, was a large open field with a small creek running through it. My buddies and I played there often. In the summer, the section closest to Florence was planted in corn, which we picked and ate raw near harvest. It was an oasis in the middle of a large city which provided endless hours of adventure to many school-age kids. After a few years it became I-405. They paved our paradise and put up an eternal traffic jam.
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 unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes.