California Sun

Good morning. It's Friday, July 17.

A crucial two weeks in California's coronavirus crisis.
Affluent families embrace do-it-yourself schools.
And the slow-motion dance of Yolo County's sunflowers.



Edgar Gomez got a haircut at George's Barber Shop in San Pedro on Tuesday.

Ashley Landis/A.P.

Another daily infection record in Los Angeles County. Numbers moving in the wrong direction in the Bay Area. Military doctors called in to reinforce overwhelmed hospitals.

Thursday brought another round of dismaying reports on California's coronavirus crisis. Now officials are waiting anxiously to see whether alarms raised in late June result in improved numbers over the next two weeks. “It’s kind of in everybody’s hands right now,” L.A. County's top health official said. L.A. Times


Families of means have been resorting to do-it-yourself education for their children, highlighting the disparity in how school closures affect rich and poor families. In Los Angeles, five families spent $22,500 to create what they are calling a “micro-school” for their preschool-age kids, with a makeshift classroom and a contracted teacher who comes three days a week. Bloomberg

Gov. Gavin Newsom is expected to make an announcement today on the reopening of classrooms in the fall. ABC7


Workers cleaned up a San Francisco backyard as part of an anti-plague campaign, circa 1907.

U.S. National Library of Medicine

On this week's California Sun Podcast, host Jeff Schechtman talks with David Randall, the author of "Black Death at the Golden Gate," about the effort to save San Francisco and the nation from the bubonic plague. The racism and human folly of our response then has echoes in our current pandemic. California Sun Podcast


Other odds and ends:

Gym owners in San Diego and Riverside have stayed open despite orders to close, calling it a matter of survival. One makes patrons sign a "Covid waiver" before entering. NBC LA | KGTV
California's largest oil driller filed for bankruptcy protection as the petroleum industry contends with steep declines in demand brought on by the pandemic. Desert Sun | Bakersfield Californian
"It's all fake, dude. Come on." A pair of comics ventured into Huntington Beach with a box of free masks for whoever would take one. The responses are dismaying. YouTube (~5:20 mins)



UCLA students gathered to hear Julian Castro speak on March 4, 2019.

For the first time, Latinos represent the largest group of freshmen admitted into the University of California this fall. Latinos account for 36% of incoming freshmen. Asians make up 35%, whites 21%, and Black students 5%. "The incoming class will be one of our most talented and diverse yet, and UC is proud to invite them to join us," said UC President Janet Napolitano. EdSource | Sacramento Bee


As a USC undergrad, a Qatari prince lived a life of luxury — exotic sports cars, accommodations in the Beverly Wilshire, a Lakers suite. But it's unclear if he got much of an education. Reporters looked into the prince's degree and found that he was showered with special treatment by USC and allowed to blow off classes for “security reasons.” Then he was handed a master's degree for a period in which he never set foot on campus. L.A. Times


Buildings were engulfed by flames during the Kincade fire near Geyserville on Oct. 24, 2019.

Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images

CalFire investigators concluded that PG&E electrical lines sparked the largest blaze in Sonoma County history in 2019. The Kincade fire swept across 120 square miles, destroying 374 homes and other buildings and forcing nearly 100,000 people to flee. The case was referred to Sonoma prosecutors for possible criminal charges. Press Democrat | S.F. Chronicle


After four days of firefighting, the Navy announced that the blaze aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard in San Diego is finally out. At one point, the amphibious assault ship became so waterlogged that it began to tilt, forcing firefighters to evacuate the ship and pier. Whether it can be salvaged is an open question. If not, it would be among the largest Navy ships ever lost. Stars and Stripes | S.D. Union-Tribune


"Twitter's security holes are now the nation's problem."

Twitter faced intense pressure to explain how hackers were able to commandeer the accounts of some of America's most powerful leaders. The FBI opened an investigation, while lawmakers raised the specter of a thwarted presidential election. “Let’s imagine that at 4 p.m. on Election Day, Barack Obama’s Twitter account sends revised polling locations to 20,000 Black voters in Florida,” Rep. Jim Himes said. Politico | Washington Post


California archive


Children rushed into Disneyland on July 17, 1955.

Loomis Dean/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty

On this day in 1955, Disneyland opened its Anaheim park to a select group of invitees in what was supposed to be a press preview. Instead, more than 20,000 people showed up, many holding counterfeit tickets, overwhelming the park. Within several weeks, more than 1 million people had visited. Here's a great collection of 25 photos from Disneyland's opening day 👉 The Atlantic


California wonders


Sunflowers in Dixon this month.

Fun fact: Young sunflowers turn throughout the day, facing east at dawn and slowly tracking the sun across the sky. At night they turn back east and start the cycle again. The slow-motion dance is in full swing right now in the sunflower fields that carpet Yolo County, where the plants delight in the Sacramento Valley's hot, dry summers. (Here's a map that plots the area's sunflower fields.)

Below, some recent photos captured around Yolo County.


In case you missed it


The granite spires of Castle Crags rise from the forest just off I-5 in Shasta County.

Larry Zhou

Five items that got big views over the past week:

Castle Crags. Phantom Falls. Red Rock Canyon. Leading outdoor experts gave their recommendations for not-to-be-missed destinations across the Golden State. California Sun
"I’m an epidemiologist and a dad. Here’s why I think schools should reopen." Vox
"They don't believe in COVID." Here's a crowd-sourced map showing businesses that do and do not enforce mask rules. The Mask Map
Here's a great little film about a shark research group that's been sending drones up and down the Southern California coast looking for sharks. There are a lot. Scientific American (~4 mins)
For years, Sqirl has been a darling of Los Angeles dining. Now it's facing a crisis over food handling practices after an image surfaced showing a tub of Sqirl jam covered in mold. Eater Los Angeles

Help make the Sun strong

If you enjoy the newsletter, please consider sharing it with somone in your life who might also.

Thanks for reading!

The California Sun is written by Mike McPhate, a former California correspondent for the New York Times.

The Sun is built by Marquee on Proof.

Consider becoming a member.

Please tell us how we can make the newsletter better. Email

California Sun masthead
The California Sun, PO Box 6868, Los Osos, CA 93412
Wake up to must-read news from around the Golden State delivered to your inbox each morning.