Essential California Week in Review: Another COVID-19 wave arrives in Los Angeles

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Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, Dec. 10.

Here’s a look at the top stories of the last week

Another COVID wave arrives. With coronavirus cases surging and hospitalizations worsening, Los Angeles County is again facing the possibility of a renewed public indoor mask mandate. Some factors that may be at work in the rise include a shorter incubation period for the latest Omicron strain and indoor gatherings.

Household water wells are drying up. Across California, domestic wells are drying up in record numbers due to severe drought and the overpumping of underground aquifers. The crisis has hit rural farming areas particularly hard.

Gov. Gavin Newsom unveils plan to cap refinery profits. Newsom on Monday unveiled an outline of his plan to place a cap on oil refinery profits in California, a proposal he’s asking lawmakers to approve in hopes of reducing future spikes on gasoline prices.

A journey through California’s failed mental health system. The life of a 31-year-old living with schizophrenia illustrates the toll of illness and the challenge of getting severely mentally ill people off the streets.

Chaos erupts after Kevin de León shows up at his first L.A. council meeting since October. The question of when — or if — De León would return following the fallout from a racist leaked audio tape had loomed large at City Hall for nearly two months.

Narcan could be required at California schools. The proposal is part of legislation introduced by Democratic and Republican state lawmakers this week that aims to increase information about the presence of fentanyl on K-12 campuses, which can be fatal and consumed unknowingly when it’s hidden in other drugs.

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Legal weed is failing in a legendary pot-growing region. If any place in California would have been expected to flourish after cannabis was legalized, it was Trinity, in Northern California’s “Emerald Triangle.” But like the boom-and-bust of gold mining and logging before it, the economic promise of cannabis has collapsed.

“Law & Order: SVU” showrunner accused of mistreating staff. More than a dozen individuals described David Graziano variously as a volatile and bullying boss who rage-fired underlings, left staffers in tears and made inappropriate and demeaning comments toward women, support staff and people of color.

California rodeo animals face violent and deadly casualties. A Times review of the reports shows that since 2001 — when a state law went into effect requiring all rodeos to have a veterinarian in attendance or on call — more than 125 animal injuries have been reported.

L.A. City Council votes to reinstate the salary of an indicted member. It’s been more than a year since Mark Ridley-Thomas was suspended from his post while facing federal corruption charges. Ridley-Thomas will receive about $265,000, while an additional $99,500 will go to his legal team.

Proposed state law could force L.A. to establish an independent redistricting commission. State Sen. María Elena Durazo, who introduced the bill along with a coalition of Los Angeles-area lawmakers, cited the incendiary recording involving three council members reported on by The Times in October, saying public confidence in the city’s redistricting process had eroded.

ICYMI, here are this week’s great reads

These are the 101 best restaurants in Los Angeles. Restaurants appearing for the first time comprise more than a quarter of the 2022 list. Some places that previously dropped off have returned. And yes, the restaurants are ranked again for the first time since 2019.

Steel blades, tiny bruises and a new purpose in life. Stumbling upon the sport of fencing at 55, The Times’ David Wharton writes about an unexpected journey that taught him about aging and finding your “why” in life.

Here’s how to donate to a local toy drive. Local organizations are also collecting donated toys that will go directly to youths in the community. Here are a number of community events where toys will be given out and local organizations that are having toy drives.

Native Americans of Clear Lake call for a bold plan as a sacred minnow nears extinction. The Pomo Indian tribes have taken the rare and drastic step of urging Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to use her emergency powers and invoke the federal Endangered Species Act on behalf of the Clear Lake hitch.

A toast to the misunderstood temperance movement. For 13 luckless years, the United States banned by constitutional amendment the vice of liquor — and paradoxically plunged itself instead into an age of reckless, lawless drinking, organized crime and hypocrisy. It took a second constitutional amendment to undo the first, and we still have not undone the disorder it all left behind.

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