Good morning. It’s Tuesday, July 18.
- Coronavirus hospitalizations fall to record lows.
- Secession fever grips residents in El Dorado County.
- And Silicon Valley money men praise Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
According to the latest state figures, the average number of coronavirus hospitalizations statewide has fallen to fewer than 800 per day, the lowest of the pandemic. Deaths have fallen to an average of six a day. During the winter surge of 2020-2021, there were more than 700 deaths per day. Dr. Errol Ozdalga recently finished a 14-day stretch on Stanford Hospital’s general medicine floor, a place once overwhelmed by Covid-19 cases. Just one patient had the virus, he said: “I can’t remember the last time I saw someone purely admitted for Covid.” Mercury News | NBC Bay Area
- In-N-Out Burger said it would ban many of its workers from wearing masks, citing the importance of “smiles.” L.A. Times | S.F. Chronicle
In California, each Assembly member represents roughly 495,000 residents, and each state senator represents nearly a million. No other state has fewer legislators per capita. One consequence, writes Eric Ting, is that many Californians feel so disenfranchised that they attend marathon town halls on the topic of secession. At a gathering this month in rural El Dorado County, attendees pledged allegiance to the “American civil flag“; wore shirts that read “Save the children” and “We ride at dawn”; and declared that they are fed up with living under “tyranny.” SFGATE
Dispatches from the heat wave:
- “It’s like standing in front of an open oven.” After an afternoon high of 128 degrees on Sunday, Death Valley cooled slowly, remaining 120 degrees after midnight. It was Earth’s highest temperature ever observed so late at night, a weather historian said. @extremetemps | Yale Climate Connections
- A 24-year-old mountain biker died Saturday after he and three other riders spent hours trying to help a group of dehydrated hikers they encountered in a wilderness area 45 miles east of San Diego, officials said. The high that day was 106 degrees. S.D. Union-Tribune | NBC San Diego
- After a slight cooling trend this week, temperatures are expected to rise again this weekend, forecasters said Monday. @NWSBayArea | Fox Weather
☝️ Meet the tarantula hawk wasp, a sadistic killer that is especially active in California during summer. The female, about 2 inches long and colored purplish-black with a flash of orange, hunts tarantulas several times her own size. She pierces her prey with one of the most painful venoms in the animal kingdom, paralyzing it, then drags the victim into a burrow and embeds one of her eggs in its abdomen. Over a span of weeks, the newborn emerges and eats the tarantula alive, taking care to save the vital organs for last. “It’s kind of like refrigerating your meat,” said Allan Cabrero, an entomologist. Bay Nature
“Robert F. Kennedy Jr. says childhood vaccines are linked to autism and that the Central Intelligence Agency killed his uncle. He has wondered out loud whether Wi-Fi exposure leads to cancer. Some of tech’s big stars are praising his campaign for president.”
Among those stars: Jack Dorsey, Chamath Palihapitiya, David Sacks, and Mark Gorton. Wall Street Journal
Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price announced Monday that she planned to file charges against her most prominent political critic, Butch Ford, a former prosecutor in Price’s office who has accused her of being unethical and soft on crime. Price said Ford interfered in a prosecution by providing confidential information to the lawyer of a police officer who killed a man. Ford’s lawyer called the complaint “bogus and retaliatory in the extreme.” Mercury News | KTVU
- Price discussed her approach in an interview Sunday: “Any time we can divert someone from the criminal justice system, that is a goal because the criminal justice system has been shown to be racially biased.” KPIX
Golden Gate Fields, Northern California’s only horse-racing track, is permanently closing down at the end of this year’s season, the track’s owner said on Sunday. Opened in 1941, the storied track straddling Berkeley and Albany has been in a fragile financial state for years, a racing official said. The owner, The Stronach Group, plans to move horses to Santa Anita Park in Southern California. The loss of horse racing is the latest blow to a sports region already reeling from the loss of the Raiders and likely the Athletics. A.P. | L.A. Times
In San Francisco, art is all around. There are the dazzling murals of the Mission District, the flying books of Chinatown, and Andy Goldsworthy’s ephemeral arrangements at the Presidio. Then there is the fellow pictured above. The lumpy head by Swiss sculptor Ugo Rondinone was installed along with two others outside a Mission Street tower in 2008 under a city mandate that new buildings must include a public space of some sort. Unlike the typical practice in corporate art, they were not chosen to be ignored. One critic described the work as a “toothed and wicked thumb.”
It’s a major relief to water managers and farmers when Shasta Lake, California’s largest reservoir, is full. It’s also just much prettier. Right now, according to local reports, the water is bluer, the marinas are bustling, and the water temperature is hovering around a pleasant 80 degrees. The local photographer Cory Poole shared the view above.
- Pro tip: There’s a hidden natural waterpark near the lake’s shore where you can slide down smooth rocks into emerald swimming holes. 👉 Active NorCal
Rep. Katie Porter, of Orange County, has won legions of fans with her dry-erase-board takedowns of big banks. But before she joined Congress she was a consultant for Ocwen Financial Corporation, a large mortgage loan servicing provider that faced multibillion-dollar fines and penalties for deceiving homeowners. The corporate gig was quietly erased from her online resume around the start of her first campaign for office in 2017. When approached by reporter Christopher Cadelago, Porter declined to answer questions. Politico
- A recent poll showed Porter leading the race to replace Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Sacramento Bee
When floodwaters rushed into homes in the rural community of Pond in Kern County last March, it destroyed everything from the knees down. Residents hoping to rebuild said elected officials were little help and FEMA offered grants so small they hardly cover the cost of building materials. But volunteers have rallied in a big way. Last weekend, the neighborhood was buzzing with activity as members from the local chapter of a carpenters union installed drywall, cabinets, and doors. “They could have been anywhere in the world today, but they decided to get up, put their boots on and come do some volunteer work,” said Jorge Torres, a union leader. Bakersfield Californian
“They know that they snapped and they deeply regret it. They are just asking the world to understand why.”
Erik and Lyle Menendez killed their parents with shotguns in their Beverly Hills mansion on Aug. 20, 1989. That’s not in dispute. But defense attorneys argued that the brothers acted only after years of violent physical and sexual abuse at the hands of their father. In the trial that led to their murder convictions in 1996, those allegations were restricted. But 27 years later, attorneys want the court to take another look at the case because of new evidence that they say supports their claims. L.A. Times
An earlier version of this newsletter mangled the wording in an item about tarantula hawk wasps. Tarantula hawk larvae eat paralyzed tarantulas, not wasps.
Thanks for reading!
The California Sun is written by Mike McPhate, a former California correspondent for the New York Times.
Make a one-time contribution to the California Sun.
Give a subscription as a gift.
Forward this email to a friend.
The California Sun, PO Box 6868, Los Osos, CA 93412
Wake up to must-read news from around the Golden State delivered to your inbox each morning.