California Sun

Good morning. It's Thursday, Dec. 17.

California is called the epicenter of U.S. Covid crisis.
San Diego halts enforcement of restaurant restrictions.
And a Stanford academic who questions lockdowns.



Nurse Jamey Booker cared for a coronavirus patient at Sharp Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa on Monday.

Mario Tama/Getty Images

California is now the epicenter of America's coronavirus crisis. That's according to an unnerving Washington Post report, which noted that if the state were a country, it would be among the hardest hit in the world, ahead of India, Germany, and Britain. Wednesday brought a new round of daily records, including the most statewide infections and the most deaths. The surge threatens to overwhelm ICU wards that are effectively maxed out in the San Joaquin Valley and L.A. County regions. "The worst is still before us," L.A. County’s health services director said.

This new tool lets you see hospital capacity near you. 👉 N.Y. Times


A Superior Court judge ruled that two San Diego strip clubs could continue operating, saying officials had failed to provide evidence linking the clubs to viral spread. Written in broad language, the decision appeared to apply to restaurants as well. In response, San Diego County, the state's second largest, said it would halt enforcement of restaurant closures. S.D. Union-Tribune | City News Service


John Ioannidis’s views on the coronavirus and shutdowns have drawn sharp reactions.

Melina Mara/The Washington Post

John Ioannidis, a Stanford epidemiologist, is a rigorous academic. So many of his fellow scientists were aghast when he said back in March that the greater risk lay not in the coronavirus, but in overzealous lockdowns. Nine months later, despite withering criticism from colleagues, Ioannidis has not changed his view. The coronavirus is no joke, he said. “But we don’t panic. We don’t destroy our world. We don’t freeze everything.” Washington Post


The city councils in both Long Beach and Los Angeles are moving forward with emergency ordinances requiring grocery stores to raise their workers' wages by $4 or $5 an hour. They're calling it "hero pay" and it would last at least a few months. "When large corporations don't step up to provide hazard pay for grocery workers, we will step in and protect these heroes," Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said. Press-Telegram | L.A. Times


Anti-shutdown protesters gathered in Huntington Beach in May.

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

Over the last two decades, it seemed that a kinder, more diverse Orange County was taking root, wrote L.A. Times columnist and lifetime resident Gustavo Arellano. Then 2020 came, and the old O.C. crazy burst forth again. "Our gift to America this unfathomable year?" Arellano wrote. "A Murderers’ Row of COVID-19 nitwits." L.A. Times


Other coronavirus developments:

The Bay Area's ICU availability fell to 12.9%, triggering stay-home orders in the entire 11-county region until at least Jan. 8. | Mercury News
Citing sovereignty, tribal casinos have continued to operate in Southern California. Gamblers are playing slots, eating indoors, and enjoying live music. Desert Sun | Noozhawk
The actor Kirk Cameron held a Christmas singalong in a Thousand Oaks parking lot in protest against coronavirus restrictions. Video showed hundreds of maskless people gathered shoulder to shoulder. TMZ | CBSLA



The Bay Area, home to more people than most U.S. states.

California's historically robust population growth has ground to its slowest pace in a century, new data showed. Between July 1, 2019, to July 1, 2020, the state added 21,200 people, increasing the population by a paltry 0.05% to 39.78 million people. During that period, more people left the state than moved here, only the 12th time since 1900 that California has had a net migration loss. A.P. | Sacramento Bee

More than a quarter of Californians are "seriously considering" leaving the state, a new poll found. O.C. Register


The Trump administration said Wednesday it was withholding $200 million in health care funding from California over the state's requirement that private insurers cover abortions. A Health and Human Services official said the rule violated health care provider conscience laws. Responding, Gov. Gavin Newsom accused the administration of trying "to score cheap political points." S.F. Chronicle | A.P.


Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez looked on as Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke at the U.S. Capitol last year.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 31-year-old star of the Democrats' left wing, delivered her most direct attack yet on Speaker Nancy Pelosi, saying Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer should no longer lead the Democrats in Congress. Pelosi, 80, has indicated that her next term as speaker will be her last. The Intercept | Politico


Adrienne LaFrance in the Atlantic: "In recent years, as Facebook’s mistakes have compounded and its reputation has tanked, it has become clear that negligence is only part of the problem. No one, not even Mark Zuckerberg, can control the product he made. I’ve come to realize that Facebook is not a media company. It’s a Doomsday Machine."


A jury found a 43-year-old woman guilty of drowning her grandson in a bathtub hours after his birth in her Bakersfield home. Beant Kaur Dhillon, who is Sikh, told police officers she was driven by shame over the pregnancy of her 15-year-old daughter. The 2018 incident rocked Kern County's large Sikh community. Jagsir Singh, the father of the teen mother, committed suicide about four months after the baby's killing. Bakersfield Californian | Bakersfield Now


In the early 1920s, the legend goes, a little girl laid eyes on the General Grant, a towering sequoia in Kings Canyon National Park, and said, “What a lovely Christmas tree that would be.” The idea got all the way to President Calvin Coolidge, who agreed, declaring the sequoia the Nation’s Christmas Tree in 1926. Ever since, a ceremony has been held at the General Grant each December, with carols, prayer, and occasionally snow. It was canceled this year. Instead, a ranger, pictured above, hiked to the tree last weekend and placed a wreath at its foot.



An item in Wednesday's newsletter mischaracterized data on coronavirus hospitalizations in L.A. County. Officials have said that nearly a quarter of hospitalized coronavirus patients are currently in intensive care, not that a quarter of coronavirus patients end up in intensive care.

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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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