California Sun

Good morning. It's Wednesday, Jan. 5.

New figures show California coronavirus numbers exploding.
Regulators impose new water restrictions with $500 fines.
And N.Y. Times calls Los Angeles the country’s sushi capital.



On Monday, highly vaccinated Marin County reported a spike in coronavirus hospitalizations that rivaled the surge of last winter. But a closer inspection revealed that 42% involved patients who tested positive after arriving at the hospital for other reasons. Some health experts now say the milder symptoms of Omicron demand that we revise our method for counting hospitalizations. "What we are going to see is a seeming surge in hospitalizations tied to community transmission that doesn’t signify an actual increase in severe Covid illness," said Dr. Matt Willis, Marin County's health officer. SFGATE

In Los Angeles County, roughly two-thirds of patients who tested positive at four county-run hospitals were admitted for something other than the coronavirus. L.A. Times

In Berkeley, where infections have skyrocketed, hospital statistics only include patients who arrived because of Covid-19. The number over the past month: "At least three." Berkeleyside


Nurse Akiko Gordon worked at Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital in Los Angeles last Friday.

Francine Orr/L.A. Times via Getty Images

Other coronavirus developments:

New data from the holiday weekend pushed California's coronavirus figures into record territory. The statewide average of new infections surged to more than 50,000, eclipsing the sky-high case counts seen during last winter’s wave. L.A. Times | Mercury News
In San Francisco, about 830 people are now testing positive on average each day, more than double last winter’s peak. Yet Mayor London Breed said the city would shut nothing down. "This is not 2020,” she said. S.F. Examiner
A wave of sick medical staff is causing gridlock at hospitals across San Diego County. Nearly 15% of the Scripps Health system's workforce was out on unscheduled time off as of Tuesday. The system's CEO called it a crisis. S.D. Union-Tribune

California coronavirus tracker. 👉




State regulators on Tuesday imposed new water restrictions, including penalties of up to $500 for violations, as a stubborn drought continues to grip California despite recent rains. Under the yearlong prohibitions, residents are barred from wasteful practices such as cleaning sidewalks with drinkable water or washing cars without an automatic shut-off nozzle. Sean Maguire, a member of the state water board, called the measures "practical everyday things that we all can be doing." L.A. Times | Sacramento Bee


Downtown Shoshone.

Angel DiBilio

Shoshone, population 31, was once a Death Valley mining community. It could have easily devolved into ghost-town status, getting slowly consumed by the desert. But a Smith College graduate named Susan Sorrells has transformed Shoshone into a place of ecologically conscious living on the border between civilization and wilderness. In a profile that dubbed her "the Queen of the desert," the New Yorker wrote: "She deserves to be on anyone’s shortlist of the most interesting people in California."


High Country News picked 10 articles that represent the best journalism on the American West in 2021. Among its choices was a thoughtful essay by Rebecca Solnit on "John Muir in Native America." She wrote: "Some of the places [Muir] admired so enthusiastically looked like gardens because they were gardens, the plants in them encouraged, the forests managed by the areas' Native people. Had he been able to recognize and convey that, the history of the American environmental movement might have been different." Sierra Magazine


Northern California


Nevada City was illuminated only by gas lamps after the power went out on Dec. 27.

Elias Funez/The Union via A.P.

Nearly 20,000 residents in the snowbound northern Sierra endured their ninth straight day without electricity Tuesday as PG&E crews struggled to reach damaged equipment after a powerful storm last week. In Nevada County alone, more than 300 power poles were snapped or toppled, the company said. “It looks like a war zone out there — trees are down everywhere, power lines are down everywhere,” said Dustin Bremmer, a market owner in Nevada City. “I’ve never seen anything like it.” S.F. Chronicle | KCRA


State investigators concluded that last year's Dixie fire, the second largest in state history, was sparked by a tree falling into a Pacific Gas & Electric power line, Cal Fire said Tuesday. Ignited on July 13 in the forested Feather River Canyon, the blaze spread for three months and destroyed more than 1,300 homes and other buildings. The findings add to a raft of legal and financial problems for PG&E, a convicted felon that critics say has placed profits before safety. A.P. | N.Y. Times


For more than six generations, one family has owned 1,668 acres of pastureland at the mouth of Smith River near the Oregon border. It's now up for sale, setting off a collision between conservationists, locals, and regulators over its fate. The native people who lived for centuries along the coast before being driven away have also joined the fray with a bold plea to be reunited with the land. They are running up against what some call green colonialism. L.A. Times


The California hills are looking brilliant green after our rainy December.

A Bay Area paramotor enthusiast captured some fantastic views during a flight over the hills of Altamont Pass on Sunday. YouTube (~2 mins)


Klete Keller, center in teal mask, gestured as rioters fought with police at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images

The L.A. Times interviewed more than 30 friends, teammates, and associates of Klete Keller, the USC graduate and Olympic swimming gold medalist who joined the U.S. Capitol invasion on Jan. 6. They portrayed a man jolted by a harsh transition from athletic superstardom to real life: divorced, unable to hold a job, estranged from his children. During the pandemic, one friend said, the swimmer once known for his laid-back, affable personality entered a social media wormhole. “I think that he got to a darker and darker place within that sort of vacuum,” he said.


For the first time, a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier deployed this week under the command of a female skipper. Capt. Amy Bauernschmidt, the commanding officer of the San Diego-based USS Abraham Lincoln, said she was humbled to be entrusted with the care of the sailors. “This is an amazing day,” she said. After graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1994, Bauernschmidt flew with a helicopter squadron known as the “Wolfpack” in San Diego. S.D. Union-Tribune | CBS 8


A nigiri box from Sushi Kaneyoshi.

"Los Angeles remains this country’s glorious sushi capital."

So declared the food critic Tejal Rao in the N.Y. Times on Tuesday. Rao celebrated the sheer variety, skill, and creativity of the city's many sushi restaurants. Nothing beats sitting at the sushi counter, but chefs have also adapted their work for takeout and Rao nominated the most luxurious boxes on offer: those crafted by Yoshiyuki Inoue at Sushi Kaneyoshi.


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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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