California Sun

Good morning. It's Friday, April 17.

How cruise executives kept the party going despite warnings.
Rumblings of dissent emerge in Gold Country over closures.
And bioluminescent waves crash on shores of Newport Beach.



The Grand Princess sat off the coast of San Francisco on March 7.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

"Oh, crap, the ukulele concert is going to be canceled."

On March 4, the Grand Princess notified passengers that the CDC was investigating coronavirus cases in California possibly linked to the ship. That day, passengers took line-dancing classes, played bridge at shared tables, and crowded into a lecture on Clint Eastwood movies. More than 1,500 people on Carnival's cruise ships have since been diagnosed with Covid-19. Dozens have died, and the lawsuits are just beginning. Bloomberg

Gary Young, 66, a people person who struck up conversations with just about everyone.
Scott Blanks, 34, a dental assistant who had a way of making his friends feel special.
Valeria Viveros, 21, a nursing home assistant who didn't have the heart to stay home even as the virus raced through her workplace.

Nearly 1,000 Californians have died from the coronavirus. The L.A. Times told some of their stories. L.A. Times


Deadliest days yet in L.A. County and the Bay Area, a record number of infections in Fresno County, and 51 infections at a Safeway warehouse in Tracy. Here are the latest coronavirus totals, according to tallies by the S.F. Chronicle and N.Y. Times:

Confirmed cases:
667,945 in U.S.
28,088 in California
5,811 in Bay Area
19,233 in Southern California

30,665 in U.S.
971 in California

Cumulative infections and deaths in California:

Sources: California Department of Public Health; SF Chronicle

See trackers of cases in California, the U.S., and worldwide.


Restaurant owner Lorena Zeruche prepared for take-out only in San Francisco on April 1.

Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images

Two weeks and three days from today.

Health officials across the Bay Area are working on plans to relax shelter-in-place rules for 7 million people across the region beginning on May 4. Outdoor activities would likely be first to open up, officials said, but small gatherings could also be allowed. "We may start with gatherings of under 10 people and see how that goes," one health official said. S.F. Chronicle | Santa Cruz Sentinel

And Los Angeles? The county's top health official spoke of easing restrictions "later on in the month of May." L.A. Times


"Honk if you're healthy."

There are rumblings of dissent in Gold Country. On Wednesday, more than 100 people gathered in downtown Sonora, nestled in the foothills east of Stockton, to protest business closures. They argue small towns that haven't been hit hard by the virus shouldn't face the same restrictions as big cities. The surrounding county has reported just two infections. CBS13 | Union Democrat


Lawmakers and staff members kept their distance at a budget hearing in Sacramento on Thursday.

Rich Pedroncelli/A.P.

Prepare for a revenue loss akin to the Great Recession, budget experts told the state Legislature on Thursday in the first legislative hearing since lawmakers left Sacramento to work from home in mid-March. Analysts said the state was expected to blow through its record $17 billion budget surplus, and face deficits of more than twice that much. Sacramento Bee | Bloomberg


Other odds and ends:

Costco became a lifeline during the pandemic. But interviews with more than 100 workers paint a portrait of a company that prioritized its business over their lives. Buzzfeed News
The Washington Post published a deep dive into the Capt. Brett Crozier saga. One new detail: He sent his fateful email not to 20 or 30 people, as the Navy's acting secretary claimed, but three admirals and seven captains. Washington Post
Three newspapers — the Glendale News-Press, the Burbank Leader, and the La Cañada Valley Sun — are folding as publications across the country contend with plummeting ad revenue. L.A. Times



An analysis of tree ring data concluded that California and the West are now in the grip of the worst "megadrought" in more than 1,200 years. According to a group of scientists, that means the three wetter winters since the end of a crushing five-year drought in California have merely been a blip in what is likely a decades-long drought. A major cause, according to the study: man-made global warming. KQED | S.F. Chronicle


"Once you see it, your mind is blown."

The waters off Newport Beach have been shimmering with bioluminescent waves. The phenomenon known as bioluminescence is caused by tiny plankton that emit a bluish light when agitated. The photographer Royce Hutain shared the image above, captured Wednesday night. O.C. Register

Here's a short video clip of one of the waves crashing. YouTube


San Francisco "looks better than it ever has," Carl Nolte said.

On this week's California Sun Podcast, host Jeff Schechtman talks with the veteran San Francisco columnist Carl Nolte. Even as other commentators have disparaged San Francisco as overrun by elitism and homogeneity, Nolte offered an ode to a place of diversity, invention, and otherworldly beauty. The pandemic is now threatening all that, he added. "I just wonder if the city is going to come back the way it was. And I sure miss it." California Sun Podcast

Subscribe on iTunes or Spotify.

California archive


Residents of Chinatown watched a fire burning in San Francisco on April 18, 1906.

Arnold Genthe

"Let us have no more Chinatowns in our cities."
— Oakland Enquirer, April 1906

On Saturday, it will be 114 years since the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Subsequent fires lasted for days and laid waste to most of the burgeoning city, including all of Chinatown.

Chinese laborers had arrived to California in large numbers as part of the 1848 Gold Rush and the western expansion of the railroads. A distinct community rose in the heart of San Francisco with thriving businesses of both legitimate and ill repute.

Anti-Chinese racism was widespread. For San Francisco’s political establishment, which viewed Chinatown as a haven of sin and corruption, the earthquake presented a convenient excuse to expel its roughly 15,000 inhabitants for good.

It didn't fully recognize, however, the economic clout the Chinese enclave had amassed. Many inhabitants owned their properties, and weren't about to be muscled away. They allied with white property owners, who profited handsomely from charging high rents and firmly supported Chinese return.

A view of San Francisco’s rebuilt Chinatown in 1945.

Underwood Archives/Getty Images

Moreover, San Francisco had grown to rely on the tourism and tax revenue that the community generated. Almost as quickly as the anti-Chinatown forces mustered, they disbanded.

The neighborhood's leaders seized upon the blank slate created by the disaster to rebuild with tourists as a primary consideration. Where brick, Italianate architecture once stood, buildings rose with "imitation oriental" designs including Pagoda-style flourishes and dragon motifs. It bore little resemblance to any place in China, but tourism only increased.

Within a few years, Chinatown grew to become a larger force in the city's cultural and political life than ever before.

On the centennial of the 1906 earthquake, the Chinese Historical Society of America created an exhibit with archival photos and firsthand accounts of Chinatown's experience of the disaster. You can see an online version, hosted now at Google Arts & Culture.

● ●

San Francisco’s Chinese quarter, circa 1900.

Arnold Genthe

What was San Francisco's original Chinatown like? The German photographer Arnold Genthe captured hundreds of photos of the vibrant community between 1896 and 1906. Mashable


In case you missed it


A restored still from “A Trip Down Market Street.”

Five items that got big views over the past week:

A YouTuber known for restoring vintage videos "upscaled" a 1906 film of San Francisco to 4K. The result is stunning. YouTube (~14 mins)
Here's a fascinating look at how one man found his calling in one of California's most beautiful and remote places. Outside magazine
The San Francisco comic Alexis Gay created a video parody of how people talk at "every single party in San Francisco." Alexis Gay/Twitter
Many Californians, it turns out, are really into the Civil War. Here is a collection of gorgeous images of the state's Civil War reenactors. California Sun
The Atlantic published a glowing article on Mayor London Breed's response to the coronavirus in San Francisco. That analysis, a local columnist wrote in response, is a "fable." Mission Local

Thanks for reading!

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

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