California Sun

Good morning. It's Monday, Feb. 22.

Some epidemiologists adopt an optimistic tone.
San Francisco pauses school renaming after outcry.
And stunning photos from Yosemite's firefall.



Visitors at the LA Zoo last week.

Valerie MaconN/AFP via Getty Images

With coronavirus infections plunging, some epidemiologists have been adopting a striking tone of optimism. Among the causes for hope: the significant share of people who have acquired some immunity naturally. Dr. George Rutherford, a UCSF epidemiologist, estimated that 50% of Los Angeles County residents have already been infected at some point. “We’re really talking something starting to sound and look like herd immunity," he said, "although that true herd immunity is a ways off.” L.A. Times

A chart here shows what it would take to get to herd immunity by May or even April. 👉 N.Y. Times

Changes in statewide numbers over the first three weeks of February:

51% — decline in Covid-19 hospitalizations, now at 7,313
61% — decline in 14-day average of daily cases, now 7,573
32% — decline in 14-day average of daily deaths, now 369
3.7 — percentage point drop in test positivity rate, now 3.5%

"Mistakes were made."

In a sudden reversal, San Francisco's school board president, Gabriela López, said the board would pause a plan to rename 44 schools and devote its full attention to reopening classrooms. The board faced intense criticism for the timing and shoddy research in the move to eliminate namesakes of figures like Abraham Lincoln and Dianne Feinstein. Next time, López said, historians will be consulted. S.F. Chronicle | S.F. Examiner

Among the 11 largest U.S. metropolitan areas, San Francisco has the lowest coronavirus case rate. Yet its schools are among the last to reopen. S.F. Chronicle


Nearly 40,000 small businesses had closed in the state by September.

Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

If you're part of the "Zoom class," the lockdown may not seem all that bad. You get to work from home; your stock portfolio is healthy. For tens of thousands of small businesses, however, it's a very different story. The owners of a yoga space in San Fernando amassed $70,000 in debt. “We’re trying to pull our families out of poverty,” one said. Nellie Bowles wrote about the anger driving the effort to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom. 👉 N.Y. Times


Intubation represents a terrible crossroads of Covid-19: a life-and-death moment when patients must decide whether to have a tube inserted into their trachea so a machine can breathe for them. "They call it el tubo," wrote the L.A. Times in a powerful front-line story, "and it haunts places like South Los Angeles, the Latino-majority neighborhoods hit harder by COVID-19 than almost anywhere in the U.S."


Other coronavirus developments:

For the first time, L.A. County released detailed data on the vaccine rollout. In wealthy Westside neighborhoods, 25% of residents have gotten the first dose. In South L.A., the figure is only 5%. L.A. Times
Nyjah Huston, a skateboarding star, is among five people Los Angeles prosecutors have accused of throwing parties that were possible superspreader events. A.P.
"We offer our sincerest apology.” All members of a Bay Area school board caught ridiculing parents on a hot mic stepped down. Mercury News | A.P.



A truck pulled a Victorian home through San Francisco on Sunday.

Noah Berger/A.P.

They could have just demolished the 1882 Victorian to make way for a new development in San Francisco. Instead, the owner chose to move the piece of architectural history to a new location, a proposition that took nearly eight years of planning and permits from 15 agencies. Sunday was moving day. The home, hoisted on giant dollies, paraded at 1 mph along a six-block route lined with spectators uttering "oohs" and "aahs." S.F. Chronicle | SFist

Watch a time-lapse of the home's trip. 👉 @karlmondon


A wildlife volunteer was attacked by a leopard while feeding it at a facility in the foothills east of Chico on Saturday. Details were scarce, but the volunteer was said to be hospitalized with injuries to her torso and neck that were not life threatening. PETA denounced the facility as a "sham sanctuary" with a history of "Tiger King–style cub petting." The facility's owner insisted it was not an attack. It was an "incident," she said. Paradise Post | Action News Now


At a rally against anti-Asian violence in Los Angeles, a man held a picture of Vicha Ratanapakdee, who was killed in San Francisco.

Ringo Chiu/AFP via Getty Images

After a series of attacks against elderly Asian Americans across the Bay Area, some are pointing the finger not at white political leaders who have trafficked in xenophobic rhetoric, but at another minority group. "The suspects in some of these attacks were Black men," wrote the Guardian, "and some Asian Americans have responded with stereotypes of their own, blaming supposed anti-Asian sentiment from the Black community for the crimes."


"You can hear me a little bit? Why didn't you answer all the times I spoke to you, then?"

Video of an Oxnard College professor berating a hard-of-hearing student exploded on social media. Now Michael Abram, a tenured biology professor, has been suspended. "The video itself is heartbreaking," said the university president. "No matter what led up to that interaction, there's no justification." Ventura County Star | KABC


Among those who helped on NASA's Perseverance mission was Sergio Valdez, a former student of Jaime Escalante, the hard-driving math teacher depicted in the 1988 film "Stand and Deliver." Valdez's parents immigrated from Mexico and raised their family in East Los Angeles. Now a NASA engineer, Valdez said he's been very lucky. "To have come from a community that," he said, "you rarely think that you can end up in a place like JPL." KABC | The Eastsider


It's firefall season in Yosemite. For a couple of weeks every February, when the angle of the setting sun is just so, Horsetail Fall transforms into a ribbon of cascading reds and oranges down the face of El Capitan.

Here's a nice time-lapse of the show unfolding on Saturday. 👉 @thelightexplorer

And below, a selection of some of the best photos so far this year.

Chao Zhang


5 questions with ...


… Chuck Johnson, an Oakland musician. His new album “The Cinder Grove” combines pedal steel, synthesizers, piano, and strings, with very particular effects modeled on spaces in California (more on that below).

Q. What is one place everyone should visit in California?

A. Grant’s Grove in Kings Canyon. I realize that’s probably a popular choice but it is a truly moving experience to walk among these ancient, enormous trees.

What’s the best podcast you've listened to recently?

There is an excellent new sci-fi podcast called I/O. It’s produced in Oakland and I am totally hooked. The writer, Alee Karim, does an excellent job treating time in a non-linear fashion. And, like the best near-future tech dystopian sci-fi these days, it is set here in the Bay Area and offers a critique of the amorality that comes with the wealth being amassed by the tech industry.

What’s a hidden food gem in your area?

Abura-ya in Oakland. Their take on fried chicken makes me forget I’m from the South.

You’re organizing a dinner party. Which three California figures, dead or alive, do you invite, and why? How would you get the conversation started?

Alice Coltrane, Sasha Shulgin, Akbar Ali Khan. Each of them made it their life’s work to share esoteric and otherwise inaccessible knowledge with whoever sought it out. I would ask them to break the ice with a round of Cards Against Humanity.

For your new album, you modeled some very specific sounds on spaces in California. Can you explain a little about the process, and why you chose these locations?

I think of the new album as a suite of requiems for lost places. To me, places that no longer exist can continue to live with us much like people who have passed. In the 12 years I have lived in Oakland, a wave of gentrification and real estate speculation has swept through the area and displaced large numbers of working-class people and multi-generational families. Another casualty has been the DIY arts and community music venues that flourished when warehouses and other live/work spaces were plentiful and affordable. Now they are basically all gone, and most of those buildings are now luxury condos. The swiftness and violence of that process is similar in my mind to the explosion in wildfires in the past few years that has been driven by drought, climate change, and poor forest management.

Those Oakland community arts spaces (as well as the forests of Northern California) have been a sort of refuge for me since I moved here. As an imperfect way of re-inhabiting those places, I created reverb models using recordings from a couple of the DIY venues where I performed and organized shows, including the one I lived in for a few years. I used a digital signal processing function called convolution, which takes a snapshot of the frequency response and echo of a space which can then be turned into a software audio effect — allowing you to basically run your audio “though” the virtual space. I also happened to have a reverb model of a redwood grove, so I used that when mixing the record as well.

“5 questions with …” is a weekly feature by Finn Cohen, who edits the California Sun. Conversations are sometimes edited for brevity. Someone you’d like to see interviewed? Let him know:


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