California Reaches More Reopening Milestones
Wednesday: The state is reopening, but some regions aren’t moving as quickly as others. Also: A bear hits the recall campaign trail.,
Not long ago, it seemed almost unfathomable that coronavirus cases in Los Angeles would soon be low enough to warrant lifting some of the nation’s toughest pandemic rules. Restaurants were ordered to close their outdoor operations. Hospitals were overwhelmed. Even driving to the grocery store was deemed risky.
But on Tuesday, Los Angeles County reached the threshold for the state’s least restrictive “yellow tier,” a milestone that solidified an epic turnaround. Starting on Thursday, Los Angeles County officials said, bars will be able to reopen indoors at limited capacity. Gyms and museums will be allowed to welcome more patrons.
In San Francisco, which also met the yellow-tier threshold, California tourism officials on Tuesday described the state as open for business.
“You can safely go out in public again,” Eleni Kounalakis, California’s lieutenant governor, said in a virtual news conference, speaking from San Francisco’s Moscone Center. “We all need a little weekend getaway.”
But other parts of the state, including Sacramento and counties on the northern end of the San Joaquin Valley, such as Merced and Madera, remained in the much more restrictive red tier because of higher case rates.
The contrast shows the state in the midst of yet another period of fraught transition, hurtling toward what officials have promised will be a full reopening on June 15 — even as vaccinations have slowed.
Ana Padilla, the executive director of the University of California, Merced’s Community and Labor Center, said that the Central Valley had consistently been one of California’s hardest-hit regions, and that employees in certain industries that are more highly concentrated in inland California, including the state’s agricultural heartland, have been at much higher risk.
In a recent analysis of state public health data, researchers from the center found that during the first 10 months of the pandemic, deaths among Californians aged 18 to 65 increased disproportionately in 10 lower-paid industries, where employees largely must work in person, including food processing, nursing and groceries.
But the largest increase in deaths was among warehouse workers: 334 more warehouse employees died between March and December last year than during the same period in 2019, for an increase of 57 percent, compared with a 25 percent increase in deaths among Californians overall. Next was a 47 percent increase in deaths among agricultural workers.
Now, Padilla noted, counties in the Central Valley have some of the lowest vaccination numbers in the state. Both trends, she said, stem in part from relationships between workers and employers that have frayed over the course of the pandemic.
“Some employers who hosted mass vaccination clinics were the same ones fighting to remove Covid-19 health and safety rules for workers,” Padilla said.
Going forward, she said, it’s important that workers get time off to be vaccinated, and that they get information from trusted sources — which may not be their bosses.
Track coronavirus cases, vaccinations and restrictions across the state.
Read about the impending end of California’s lockdowns, which state officials have set for June 15.
See where in the United States vaccinations have slowed and read about why it’s happening.
Here’s what else to know today
Compiled by Jonathan Wolfe
The Sacramento Bee found discrepancies in the state’s coronavirus death records, which obscure the pandemic’s real toll.
Local groups in Orange County that are helping people get vaccinated are encountering skepticism and barriers to access, The Orange County Register reports.
Covid-19 cases across the state have dropped but are ticking up in Humboldt County, The San Francisco Chronicle reports.
Tens of thousands of students have returned to near-empty classrooms in San Francisco and Los Angeles in what parents are calling “Zoom in a room,” The Wall Street Journal reports.
The state is charging families millions of dollars in interest on past-due child support payments, CalMatters reports.
A study found hundreds of reports of abnormal menstruation from people who had been exposed to tear gas during protests this summer.
A group of Asian-American business leaders are mounting an ambitious plan to challenge anti-Asian discrimination, rewrite school curriculums to reflect the role of Asian-Americans in history and collect data to guide policymakers.
Drone footage shows that great white sharks are more common on California beaches than you might think, The Los Angeles Times reports.
Caitlyn Jenner will speak to Fox News’s Sean Hannity in her first big television appearance since announcing her run for governor, Politico reports. The interview will be broadcast at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.
He described himself as a naturalist. Instead, Richard Parker may be one of the bloodiest poachers in California’s history, The Guardian reports.
Design special report: A family builds a rural-inspired retreat, down to the chickens, in the middle of Los Angeles.
And finally …
Here’s the thing: If you bring a live bear to your campaign event in hopes of attracting attention to yourself and your cause, you must be prepared for said bear to steal the show.
This is, more or less, what happened to John Cox, a Republican businessman campaigning against Gov. Gavin Newsom for the second time. (You may remember he ran against Newsom in 2018 and lost.)
On Tuesday, in Sacramento, Cox made the first stop on what is set to be a three-day bus tour, making the case for himself as a “beast” of an alternative to Newsom, saying the governor was a “pretty boy,” who should be booted from office in a recall election later this year. You can read more about Cox’s message in The Sacramento Bee.
My Sacramento-based colleague Shawn Hubler, however, got the skinny on the bear, who spent much of the news conference ambling around behind a rope and opening its mouth so its trainer, Keith Bauer, could toss in treats — mainly vanilla sandwich cookies and rotisserie chicken from Walmart.
The bear, a Kodiak, is named Tag, and lives north of Los Angeles in the mountain community of Frazier Park. Neither Bauer nor Tag is a native Californian. They’re both from Ohio. Tag, Bauer said, has appeared in productions including the television show “Yellowstone,” starring Kevin Costner, and a Rocket Mortgage commercial starring Tracy Morgan.
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Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, graduated from U.C. Berkeley and has reported all over the state, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles — but she always wants to see more. Follow along here or on Twitter.
California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.