California Sun

Good morning. It's Tuesday, Jan. 11.

Sonoma County reimposes prohibition on large gatherings.
Gavin Newsom proposes more health care for undocumented.
And the best winter campgrounds in the California desert.



Sonoma County announced a ban on large gatherings — more than 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors — making it the first in the Bay Area to reimpose crowd limits in response to the Omicron surge. Officials set the restrictions to last for a month and urged people to upgrade to surgical masks and stay home as much as possible. "While we may be done with Covid, Covid is not done with us,” said Dr. Sundari Mase, the county’s health officer. Press Democrat | NBC Bay Area


People waited to get tested for Covid-19 in San Francisco on Monday.

David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Dr. Jeanne Noble, UC San Francisco's director of Covid response, said 70% of the coronavirus patients at UCSF hospitals had arrived for other medical reasons. The situation at the hospitals is dire because of staffing shortages, she said — not because of severe illness: "The crisis we are suffering in the Bay Area is largely driven by disruptive Covid policies that encourage asymptomatic testing and subsequent quarantines." SFGATE


Other coronavirus developments:

California's Covid positivity rate surged into record territory Monday, with 22% of tests now showing infection. That's well above the record of 17.1% set last winter. S.F. Chronicle | SFist
The Bay Area school district Hayward Unified switched to remote learning for at least a week, rejecting appeals from the county and state to keep classrooms open. It could cost the district $2.5 million a day for lost in-person instruction. KTVU | S.F. Chronicle
The L.A. Times published a defense of "mocking anti-vaxxers’ Covid deaths" by the Pulitzer-winning columnist Michael Hiltzik. It was widely condemned online: "Despicable." "Sick stuff." "I'm speechless. And not in a good way."



California would become the first state to pay the health care expenses of all of its low-income adults, regardless of immigration status, under a proposal unveiled by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday. The plan, a Democratic priority for years, is included in the governor's record $286 billion spending blueprint for the coming fiscal year. “For those of us who have worked on this campaign a long time, this has been a long time coming," said Sarah Dar at the California Immigrant Policy Center, "but it’s still incredible.” L.A. Times | Fresno Bee

Other budget priorities outlined by Newsom: Covid-19, climate change, wildfires, homelessness, and public safety. KQED | A.P.


Huron, in Fresno County, is one of the state’s poorest cities.

Eric Paul Zamora/Fresno Bee via Getty Images

Huron is perhaps the greenest migrant farmworker community in the country. Frustrated by a lack of reliable public transportation, the isolated Central Valley town amassed a fleet of nine electric cars that shuttle residents all over Fresno County free of charge. There are already 30 charging ports in town. The program is now being held up as a model for low-income communities left behind by the electric car revolution. L.A. Times


Northern California


Campaigns to recall progressive figures in San Francisco are being powered by tech industry employees, founders, and investors who used to shrug off local politics. Many of those pushing for the recall of three school board members and District Attorney Chesa Boudin consider themselves left-leaning. “Everyone I know is just mad — deeply, deeply mad,” said Zach Coelius, a venture capitalist. He added: “We can’t seem to build anything. We can’t seem to fix anything. And we can’t seem to have a city that can operate on a basic level.” NBC News


The closed Great Highway in San Francisco during the pandemic.

Joseph Caruso/Alamy

During the pandemic, San Francisco closed a 2-mile stretch of stretch of road flanking Ocean Beach, transforming it into a promenade for pedestrians and cyclists. Whether to reopen the Great Highway to cars became an acrimonious battle, with city leaders ultimately deciding to reintroduce vehicle traffic Monday through Friday. On Monday, the N.Y. Times included the reimagined thoroughfare in a feature on "52 places for a changed world."


Court documents revealed that Google responded to rising worker activism in 2018 with a secret campaign aimed at convincing workers, in the words of a top executive, "that unions suck." The initiative, dubbed "Project Vivian," included commissioning a "respected voice" to publish an op-ed warning tech workers against unionizing. Meredith Whittaker, a former Google walkout organizer, called the campaign "odious and gross." Vice | WIRED


The town of Susanville is fighting the closure of one of its prisons, a major employer.

Gary Coronado/L.A. Times via Getty Images

In Susanville, nestled along the Susan River in remote northeast California, there are nearly as many people living inside the town’s two state prisons — roughly 7,000 people — as outside. But after new sentencing laws reduced prison populations, the state moved to shutter one of the facilities. Susanville has responded with defiance, mounting a legal fight to halt the closure. “People have pegged us as this white community that just wants to keep incarceration going,” said Kerri Cobb, a local resident. “This industry was given to us and we embraced it.” N.Y. Times


Southern California


Robert Durst faced the jurors during his murder trial at Inglewood Courthouse on May 18, 2021.

Al Seib-Pool/Getty Images

Robert Durst died as a prisoner in Stockton on Monday. The New York real estate scion was accused of several murders, but dodged justice for nearly four decades before telling on himself during the making of a 2015 HBO documentary series. In September, a jury found him guilty of killing a confidante to stop her from cooperating with authorities looking into the 1982 disappearance of his first wife. Durst's death was attributed to natural causes. He was 78. A.P. | N.Y. Times


Two Los Angeles police officers were fired after they ignored an active robbery to instead hunt creatures in the mobile game Pokémon Go, court records showed. On April 15, 2017, Louis Lozano and Eric Mitchell were discussing Pokémon when a call came in about a robbery at the Crenshaw Mall. Lozano said, “Ah, screw it," the filings said. The pair then drove around for the next 20 minutes hunting a Snorlax and Togetic, Pokémon creatures that appear in physical surroundings via augmented reality. The men lost a legal challenge to their firings on Friday. L.A. Times | Ars Technica

While outrageous, the case had some great footnotes. 👇


Hole In The Wall campground in Mojave National Preserve.

Cultura RM

To become truly immersed in the California desert, drive 140 miles east of Los Angeles and hang a left into the wilderness at the heart of the Mojave Desert. There, a campground called Hole In The Wall sits beneath the some of darkest skies of the Mojave National Preserve, shielded from the lights of Las Vegas and Los Angeles, with surrounding trails that wind along wide-open desert vistas and sculptured volcanic walls. For those reasons, the desert environmentalist Chris Clarke named Hole In The Wall one of the nine best winter campgrounds in the California desert. KCET | Outdoor Project


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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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