California Sun

Good morning. It's Wednesday, Feb. 17.

An armed patrol roams Oakland's Chinatown after attacks.
Campaign-style ads intensify the school reopening wars.
And the inspiring story of a Warrior with Mexican roots.



The health insurer UnitedHealth has been making huge donations to Gov. Gavin Newsom for years, including more than $130,000 in December. During the pandemic, California turned to the company for a no-bid contract worth up to $177 million. Other subsidiaries got expedited bidding contracts worth $315 million. A CapRadio investigation found that UnitedHealth is one of at least a half-dozen companies that made substantial contributions to Newsom and got no-bid contracts, influential appointments, or other opportunities.


Hung Le and Avery Le, 2, prepared for the Lunar New Year in Westminster last week.

Allen J. Schaben/L.A. Times via Getty Images

Coronavirus numbers in California have continued to move in a hopeful direction. A sampler of changes over the seven-day period that ended Monday:

24% — decline in current Covid-19 hospitalizations, now totaling 9,075, the lowest since Nov. 30.
30% — decline in 14-day average of daily cases, now at 10,092, the lowest since Nov. 22
17% — decline in 14-day average of daily deaths, now at 413, the lowest since Jan. 10
1.4 — percentage point decline in the 14-day average test positivity rate, now at 4.2%, the lowest since Nov. 13

Marin County Public Health

☝️ Marin County released a remarkable chart depicting the dramatic plunge in Covid-19 infections at senior facilities after a campaign of inoculations. Within days of residents receiving their second doses in January, the infection rate dropped tenfold, officials said. “The success in our facilities predicts what we’ll see in the community as a whole,” the county's top health official said. KRON | marinhealth


A few dispatches from the school reopening wars:

The California Teachers Association began running ads this week that say Covid-19 is "still a threat" and call for teacher vaccinations. Critics accused the union of scare-mongering. Politico
Epidemiologist and father: "If educators and their unions don’t embrace the established science, they risk continuing to widen gaps in educational attainment — and losing the support of their many long-time allies, like me." Vox
In Sacramento County, more families are switching to private schools. “He started crying, thinking he has an art class,” the mother of a first grader said. “That was the trigger point.” Sacramento Bee



An aura of fear has gripped Oakland's Chinatown.

Bay Area residents of Asian descent have faced dozens of violent crimes this year. It's gotten so bad that merchants in Oakland's Chinatown have embraced a controversial solution: armed security guards. On Tuesday, a six-person private patrol roamed the neighborhood, clad in black uniforms, tactical vests, and guns in leg holsters. Oakland's police chief isn't happy. S.F. Chronicle | KTVU


"California is now unable to perform even basic functions of civilization, like having reliable electricity."
Sen. Ted Cruz

"California politicians did this, not the heat."
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton

"This is what happens when the Democrats are left in charge."
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick of Texas

Tweets by Texas politicians mocking California's rolling power outages last summer circulated online Tuesday as the Lone Star State faced blackouts that left millions of people without power in freezing weather. Cruz responded after being called out for his tweet. "I got no defense," he tweeted. The Hill

The situation in Texas is dire. Groups to donate to. 👉 ELLE


State Sen. Melissa Melendez said people are being unfairly targeted for their political beliefs.

Rich Pedroncelli/A.P.

A California state senator introduced legislation on Tuesday that would make political affiliation a protected class alongside categories such as race, religion, and gender. State Sen. Melissa Melendez, a Republican, said a climate of intolerance is stifling healthy debate. “Cancel culture and the efforts to silence differing opinions and voices should be a growing concern for all of us,” she said. Sacramento Bee | L.A. Times


The columnist Thomas Friedman argued that Donald Trump’s G.O.P. and the San Francisco school board have the same problem: The lack of any serious threat from a conservative alternative. Imagine if a center-right conservative party embraced diversity, climate change mitigation, and common-sense immigration reform, he wrote. "I guarantee you THAT G.O.P. could mount viable challenges for power again in San Francisco and across California," where voters rejected four liberal ballot initiatives in 2020. N.Y. Times


Protests called for the defunding of school police in Los Angeles on June 23.

Mario Tama/Getty Images

The Los Angeles school board approved a plan on Tuesday that cuts a third of its campus police force, bans the use of pepper spray on students, and shifts funds toward helping Black students. In place of police officers, "climate coaches” will be tasked with promoting a positive school culture. The overhaul builds on momentum from the summer protests over police violence and echoes an earlier move by Oakland, which voted to eliminate its school police force altogether. L.A. Times | N.Y. Times


The founder of a well-known coffee shop in Joshua Tree was fatally shot by sheriff's deputies on Tuesday. Officials said Royce Robertson, 33, got into a heated argument with another motorist, who called 911. When two deputies arrived, officials said Robertson displayed a gun, prompting a volley of gunfire from the deputies. Friends of Robertson said they were stunned. "All of this is just so unlike him," one said. Desert Sun | KESQ


Luther Girado in the Tehachapi Mountains between Los Angeles and Bakersfield.

Jon Hammond/Tehachapi News

Two centuries ago, California was home to as many as 90 Native American languages. Roughly half still survive. This month, another link to California's linguistic past was severed with the death of the last native male speaker of Kawaiisu, or Nuwä, the language of indigenous people of the Tehachapi Mountains. As a child, Luther Girado straddled two worlds, speaking only Kawaiisu at his cabin home along a wooded creek, while learning English at school. In adulthood, he worked as a pipe fitter in Bakersfield. With Girado's passing at 79, his sister Lucille is the very last fluent Kawaiisu speaker. Tehachapi News


Juan Toscano-Anderson has become an inspiration to fans.

Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

Juan Toscano-Anderson, 27, was an unremarkable college basketball player. After graduation six years ago, he didn't even bother to enter his name in the NBA draft. Now he's a starter for the Golden State Warriors. An Oakland native who is the league's first player of Mexican descent in years, he's also one of the most exciting stories in basketball. He can't believe his luck, Toscano-Anderson said. “It’s hard not to get emotional." The Undefeated


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

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