L.A. STORIES -Essential California: 8.12.2021- Newsom orders vaccinations or regular tests for school employees

Today’s Headlines

We apologize for an error in the earlier send of today’s headlines, which were actually yesterday’s headlines. Here are the updated headlines.

Here are the stories you shouldn’t miss today:


Gov. Newsom orders school employees to get vaccinated or be tested regularly

California school employees must be vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to a weekly test proving they are not infected with the coronavirus under an order announced Wednesday by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

“We think this is the right thing to do,” Newsom said, “and we think this is a sustainable way to keeping our schools open and to address the No. 1 anxiety that parents like myself have for young children — and that is knowing that the schools are doing everything in their power to keep our kids safe.”

Newsom had already announced a similar policy for employees of state agencies and an absolute mandate, with limited religious and medical exceptions, for state healthcare workers.

A strong statewide vaccine effort for school employees is expected to be welcome news for many of the groups representing those workers. The California Teachers Assn. has said 90% or more of its members have reported they are already vaccinated against COVID-19, and the union pushed hard for early access over the winter to doses of the vaccine.

Los Angeles Unified, the state’s largest school system, has gone further than the state policy in terms of requiring testing. Whereas the state requires only the unvaccinated submit to regular testing, L.A. Unified requires weekly testing of all students and employees, whether or not they are vaccinated.

Officials took this step because of evidence indicating that vaccinated people can catch and transmit the highly contagious Delta variant. The L.A. Unified testing plan will require collecting and processing about 100,000 tests per day.

More politics

— The Senate has approved an approximately $1-trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill and the framework for a separate $3.5-trillion measure that Democrats plan to pass on their own. It has laid the groundwork for a busy, consequential fall in Washington. Here’s what you need to know.

— President Biden’s nomination for the State Department, Department of Homeland Security and elsewhere, sat stalled for months in Senate committees, where a few Republican lawmakers blocked approval. Democrats and administration officials are furious, saying the failure to adequately staff the government has harmed American diplomacy abroad, national security at home and other areas of governance.

— The speaker of the Texas House of Representatives signed civil arrest warrants for 52 absent Democrats late Tuesday, setting in motion the potential roundup of lawmakers who have avoided the Texas Capitol in order to stymie a vote on a GOP elections bill that they say would harm minorities.

— Kathy Hochul, a western New York Democrat unfamiliar to many people in the state even after six years as its lieutenant governor, was set to begin reintroducing herself to the public Wednesday as she prepared to take the reins after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced he would resign from office.

Sign up early for our California Politics newsletter, coming in August, to get the best of The Times’ state politics reporting, including full coverage of the recall election and the latest action in Sacramento.

L.A. water recycling imperiled after beach sewage spill

Problems at a Los Angeles sewage treatment plant that caused a massive spill into Santa Monica Bay last month have severely reduced the region’s water recycling ability, forcing officials to divert millions of gallons of clean drinking water at a time of worsening drought conditions, The Times has learned.

Even as California Gov. Gavin Newsom urges a voluntary 15% reduction in water usage, the Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant‘s inability to fully treat sewage has forced local officials to divert drinking water to uses usually served by recycled water. Among those is an effort to protect coastal aquifers from seawater contamination and the irrigation of parks, cemeteries and golf courses across southwest Los Angeles County.

The sudden loss of millions of gallons of recycled water has alarmed experts and raised new questions about the plant’s ability to function in a warming climate.

Even though a month has passed since the Hyperion incident, sanitation officials have been unable to determine the cause of a sudden and unexpected deluge of sewage, which triggered a massive failure of eight huge bar screens — each 22 feet tall and 9 feet wide — that rake the incoming sewage and remove materials such as plastics, paper and other objects.

The breakdown resulted in sewage flooding about half of the plant, which sits on about 145 acres in Playa del Rey, across from Dockweiler Beach.

L.A. moves toward vaccine requirement for indoor spaces

Los Angeles took a step Wednesday toward requiring people to have at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine before venturing into indoor restaurants, bars, gyms, shops, movie theaters and other venues.

The City Council voted 13-0 to direct city attorneys to draft the law, though much of the plan remains to be worked out, including precisely where it would apply and how the new rules would be enforced.

Once the ordinance is drafted, it goes back to the City Council for final approval.

“You not being vaccinated actually impacts the health of everyone else,” said Council President Nury Martinez, “so [the] argument that you have the right to not access the vaccine or get vaccinated just doesn’t work anymore.”

The proposal was announced last week by Martinez and Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, who argued that it would protect people in public places as COVID-19 cases surged.

Although characterizing the move as an effort to protect general public health, O’Farrell said it was “not a vaccine mandate.”

Business and restaurant industry groups have shown openness to the idea.

Jot Condie, president and CEO of the California Restaurant Assn., said in a statement that “if asking patrons for proof of vaccination in indoor public spaces can help us all avoid more shutdowns, massive layoffs, and operating limits, then we will do everything we reasonably can to assist” the effort.

More top coronavirus headlines

— Despite a significant surge in both coronavirus cases and hospitalizations this summer, California so far has managed to avoid the sky-high infection rates and increasingly overcrowded hospitals some other states are now experiencing. Experts say California’s better-than-average vaccination rates and newly implemented mandatory mask policies in parts of the state have helped prevent a more grim situation.

— The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday urged all pregnant women to get the COVID-19 vaccine as hospitals in hot spots around the U.S. saw disturbing numbers of unvaccinated mothers-to-be seriously ill with the virus.

— The rate at which coronavirus tests are coming back positive has fallen in the last week in Los Angeles County but is expected to rise further in Orange County. In Los Angeles County, the so-called positivity rate is 4.4%; the previous week the positive test rate was 6.6%. But in Orange County, the test positivity rate was 8.3%, the same as it was a day before. And the positivity rate is rising in the neediest areas of the county, where the rate is now 8.6%.

For more, sign up for Coronavirus Today, a special edition of The Times’ Health and Science newsletter.

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On Aug. 14, 1943, Frank Sinatra performed at the Hollywood Bowl before a sold-out crowd of 10,000. The opening act by the Los Angeles Philharmonic included selections “Bumble Bee” and “Night on Bald Mountain” from the Disney movie “Fantasia.”

Then at 10 p.m., Sinatra appeared onstage. His selections included “Dancing in the Dark,” “You’ll Never Know,” and “The Song Is You.”

Aug. 14, 1943: Frank Sinatra performing at the Hollywood Bowl. (Los Angeles Times)


— Days before the academic year starts, a well-funded hiring spree for Los Angeles schools is falling short of its goal to provide unprecedented and critical mental health and academic support as a shortage of teachers and other professionals collides with pandemic recovery goals.

— The second-largest wildfire in California history now also ranks among the state’s most destructive. More than half of the 1,000 structures destroyed by the massive Dixie fire were homes, the latest incident report shows.

— Local vendors who hawk tacos, hot dogs and other bites on Los Angeles sidewalks celebrated when politicians declared they were bringing them out of the shadows and would start permitting them to do business legally. But L.A.’s push to legalize sidewalk vending has run into a persistently stubborn obstacle: the quest for legal carts.

— A former college instructor linked to a rash of arson fires has been arrested and charged with igniting a blaze on federal forest land, not far from the site of the massive Dixie fire in Northern California.

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— Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has announced a statewide indoor mask requirement due to the spike in coronavirus hospitalizations and cases, warning that the state’s healthcare system could be overwhelmed.

— Since Friday, the Taliban has overrun bastions of government control, snatching more than a quarter of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals on its way to controlling an estimated 65% of the country. On Wednesday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani raced to the country’s north to rally a defense of besieged Mazar-i-Sharif, the country’s fourth-largest city. Here’s a look at the situation.

— People in the Pacific Northwest braced for another major, multi-day heat wave starting Wednesday, just over a month after record-shattering temperatures of up to 116 degrees contributed to the deaths of hundreds of the region’s most vulnerable people.

— Doctors in Florida say they’re seeing many more coronavirus infections among children just as students begin to return to classrooms. About 20 COVID-positive children sought treatment at the South Florida hospital’s emergency department in June.


— MTV’s highest-rated program, “The Challenge,” which debuted in 1998 as a crossover between “The Real World” and “Road Rules,” is entering its 37th season; its 500th episode will air during “The Challenge: Spies, Lies and Allies,” premiering Wednesday. The show has shot in 27 countries and this season’s competitors represent 10 nations.

— Looks like it’s Double Jeopardy! time for Mike Richards and Mayim Bialik, who have been named as host of the syndicated “Jeopardy!” program and host of its prime-time shows and spinoffs, respectively.

— Of course, Jennifer Aniston and David Schwimmer are not dating, no matter how hard a British gossip magazine and super-fans on social media are trying to make that manifest.

— MTV is closing out hot girl summer 2021 with plenty of Video Music Award nominations for rap sensation Megan Thee Stallion and pop musician Justin Bieber. See who else landed nods.


— The highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus has darkened the outlook for Southwest Airlines, one of the largest carriers in the U.S., which says that it no longer expects to turn a profit in the third quarter as infections spread.

— Supermodel Cindy Crawford just sold a stylish house in Beverly Hills, unloading a remodeled Midcentury built in the 1950s for $13.5 million. That’s $1.875 million more than Crawford and her husband, businessman Rande Gerber, paid for the place in 2017.


Russell Westbrook treated his first Lakers news conference Tuesday at Staples Center like he has treated virtually every NBA game since he joined the league 13 tumultuous years ago. He was all over the place, says columnist Bill Plaschke. Will his attitude be conducive to a championship or collapse? Plaschke doesn’t know, but he is concerned.

Trea Turner extended his right leg and dropped to his left hip just outside the batter’s box. The Dodgers second baseman casually reached out his left hand to touch home plate as he slid by, then rotated 180 degrees as he rose back onto his feet. It was so smooth that it inspired Dodgers to quote BTS.

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— There was plenty of skepticism of police in 2019, but nowhere near as much as there is today, in the wake of last year’s police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, an angry summer of sometimes-violent protests, and the murder conviction and sentencing this year of ex-Officer Derek Chauvin. Would Salvador Sanchez be in the clear today if the attorney general review had taken place in 2019?

— Over the last few decades, evangelicals’ deep-seated distrust of society’s experts has merged with the increasingly nihilistic themes of the far right, creating a toxic disdain for science in general and public health in particular. How can understanding the long history of anti-expertise help us overcome this deadly impasse?


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— In roughly 40 states, counties and cities — including New York and Puerto Rico — not a single cent of federal rental assistance has made it out the door. (HuffPost)

— How Lil Nas X is revolutionizing hip-hop as an empowered gay star. (Variety)


It’s no secret that Los Angeles is the perennial home of the brightest stars and glitziest productions, but the hottest summer show will be happening in the dark sky above. In late summer, the Hollywood spotlight shifts to a celestial premiere: the annual Perseid meteor shower.

You can expect to see up to 60 meteors per hour nightly. The stream of cosmic debris will peak midnight to 6 a.m. between Wednesday and Friday. Your best chance for a private screening? Find a dark spot far from L.A.’s light pollution and plan on staying up in the wee hours. (We skipped the deserts because they’re just too hot at this time of year.)

The Perseids meteor shower occurs every year when the Earth passes through the cloud of debris left by Comet Swift-Tuttle, and appear to radiate from the constellation Perseus in the northeastern sky. (Dan Kitwood / Getty Images)

Today’s newsletter was curated by Daric L. Cottingham and Seth Liss. Comments or ideas? Email us at [email protected].


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