Today’s Headlines: COVID, flu and RSV are stressing hospitals statewide

Hello, it’s Friday, Dec. 2. Before we get started, we’d like to congratulate our colleagues at L.A. Times Short Docs on the recent nomination of “ᎤᏕᏲᏅ (What They’ve Been Taught)” for an International Documentary Assn. award! The film is among those in the monthly L.A. Times Short Docs series.

Nani Walker, the director of the series, told us about the latest film, which came out Thursday. “Ibach,” Nani said, “is a short documentary about a piano that survived the Holocaust as it is restored four generations later. It is an intimate story of one family’s history, trauma and healing.” We’d just add that we found the footage of the piano restoration to be mesmerizing.


L.A. is seeing a major COVID surge as viral illnesses stress hospitals statewide

Coronavirus case and hospitalization rates have risen dramatically in Los Angeles County, which reentered the medium COVID-19 community level for the first time since the end of the summer Omicron wave, raising the possibility again of an indoor masking mandate.

Local and state health officials worry about difficult times ahead for California’s healthcare system, not only because of COVID-19, but also flu and RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus. Children’s hospitals throughout the state are already under stress because of RSV and other viral illnesses: Orange County declared a public emergency, and some San Diego County hospitals had to set up overflow tents outside of their emergency departments.

In Fresno County, the strain on hospitals extended to those for adults. At several hospitals, according to the county health department, “emergency rooms are close to disaster levels.”

Stay up to date on variant developments, case counts and vaccine news with Coronavirus Today.


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With Macron on hand, Biden said he made ‘no apology’ for protecting U.S. manufacturing

President Biden has angered some European allies with his signature climate law, which encourages Americans to buy electric vehicles made in North America. French President Emmanuel Macron, on an official state visit to the U.S., sharply criticized Biden’s “Buy America” policy.

Although Biden said at a news conference with Macron that there were “tweaks” that could be made, he refused to apologize for the administration’s stance.

Macron said earlier in his U.S. visit that the climate measure and a separate bill to boost domestic production of semiconductors would “fragment the West.” White House officials argue the climate law is designed to help the U.S. meet its climate goals and benefits the global green energy industry.

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L.A. County’s sheriff-elect said he was focusing on repairing ‘fractured relationships’

In the three weeks since he was elected, Robert Luna has spent a lot of time meeting with leaders who tangled with outgoing Sheriff Alex Villanueva, including the five members of the county Board of Supervisors, who warred with Villanueva for the last four years.

He said he had a “very positive” meeting with county Inspector General Max Huntsman — who’d had a years-long power struggle with Villanueva; last month, the sheriff barred Huntsman from the department’s facilities and databases. In addition, Luna told The Times he had talked to “some outside agencies” about ongoing investigations into sheriff’s deputy gangs to reassure them there would be “full cooperation.”

Yep, California is sapped

Climate change-driven heat and dryness have taken their toll on the state’s water supplies, and California water managers are warning that next year will probably mean severely reduced allocations.

The Department of Water Resources announced an initial allocation of just 5% of requested supplies from the State Water Project — a complex system of reservoirs, canals and dams that acts as a major component of California’s water system, feeding 29 agencies that together provide water for about 27 million residents.

What that means: We’d better prepare ourselves for brown lawns and tight water restrictions in 2023.

Check out “The Times” podcast for essential news and more.

These days, waking up to current events can be, well, daunting. If you’re seeking a more balanced news diet, “The Times” podcast is for you. Gustavo Arellano, along with a diverse set of reporters from the award-winning L.A. Times newsroom, delivers the most interesting stories from the Los Angeles Times every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Listen and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.


New evidence suggests corruption ran deeper in San Diego than a gun-dealing sheriff’s captain. New court filings and proceedings in a co-defendant’s case show how San Diego County Sheriff’s Capt. Marco Garmo tipped off cannabis dispensaries to multiple raids. Garmo is nearing the completion of his two-year federal prison term for unlawfully dealing firearms.

How much do you need to earn annually to afford a house in Los Angeles? The annual income needed to buy a home in Los Angeles blew past $220,000, a recent study found, with higher mortgage rates and inflation cutting deeper into household incomes.

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Lava is creeping toward a Hawaii highway. History shows that stopping it isn’t easy. Despite technological advances, stopping lava’s path remains difficult and dependent on the force of the flow and the terrain. But many in Hawaii also question the wisdom of interfering with nature and Pele, the Hawaiian deity of volcanoes and fire.

Mexico owes its young democracy to its elections institute. The president wants to dismantle it. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a leftist populist whose party controls both houses of Congress and most state governorships, is pushing for a dramatic overhaul of the institute that critics say would strip its autonomy and once again concentrate power.


Deplorable: How Kanye West went from beloved generational rapper to far-right Hitler apologist. Our colleague August Brown charts the descent of the rapper known as Ye: “After decades at the vanguard of music and fashion, West has descended into the far-right fever swamps, following months of antisemitic, Christian Nationalist ravings on social media and podcasts. … West is now fully invested as a paranoid conspiracy trafficker, willing to burn down a life’s work to prove his ugly point.”

“Emancipation,” with Will Smith, struggles to do its real-life survival story justice. Smith gives the solid, easily sympathetic, sometimes rousing performance you’d expect, but the director seems vaguely torn between his usual flair for bone-crunching violence and the desire to forge something more artful and historically resonant, writes film critic Justin Chang.

The trouble with “Fleishman” — the novel and now the FX series. In adapting the book to eight roughly one-hour installments, writer Taffy Brodesser-Akner smooths some rough edges but fritters away a prime opportunity to address an unhappy paradox: that a text about how society privileges men’s stories over women’s itself privileges a man’s story over that of his female counterpart.

Hollywood writers are promoting abortion rights with fundraisers and TV shows. A group of writers has been working behind the scenes to keep the topic in the spotlight as they look for ways to tackle the delicate issue of reproductive rights in their scripts and press studios to do more.


Sam Bankman-Fried: “I didn’t ever try to commit fraud.” The disgraced founder of the bankrupt FTX crypto empire denied trying to perpetrate a fraud while admitting to many errors at the helm of the company in a new interview. Among the outstanding questions are how the company ended up with an $8-billion hole in its balance sheet and whether it mishandled customer funds.

Skywriting was a dying art, but it’s taking off again. Social media and our insatiable promotional hunger have pushed the throttle on the old-timey art form, especially in Southern California, where endless sunny skies create the ideal backdrop.


Editorial: Taxpayer money can build transit projects — and a stronger middle class. L.A. Metro shows how. The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority is slated to adopt a policy to ensure that local and federal dollars invested actually deliver quality blue-collar jobs — the most comprehensive program of its kind in the country, advocates say, and a model for public agencies.

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The Chargers’ Keenan Allen says he’s ready to play chicken with the Raiders’ defensive secondary. Las Vegas employs man-to-man pass coverage at a rate that ranks as the ninth-most in the NFL. Allen was asked what, specifically, that will mean to him. “Barbecued chicken,” he said. “No doubt.” On Sunday the Chargers (6-5) visit the Raiders (4-7) for an AFC West game with significant postseason implications.

Christian Pulisic said he was doing everything in his power to play for the U.S. vs. Netherlands. Pulisic suffered a “pelvic contusion” when he plowed into Iran’s goalkeeper while scoring the single goal that propelled the U.S. to the World Cup’s round of 16. His absence against the Netherlands would be a major blow to the U.S. since the Americans have only two goals in this World Cup and Pulisic set up one and scored the other.

Gaylord Perry has died at 84. Perry was a Baseball Hall of Famer and two-time Cy Young Award winner, as well as a master of the spitball. He said in his 1974 autobiography, “Me and the Spitter,” that he chewed slippery elm bark to build up his saliva, which he’d then rub on the ball. He said he continued to rely on the spitball until 1968, when Major League Baseball ruled pitchers could no longer touch their fingers to their mouths before touching the baseball.


Biscotti cookies on a tray atop a layer of crushed candy canes.

Salted Peppermint Macadamia Biscotti.

(Hannah Mills / For The Times)

Make bar cookies. Our Ben Mims, cookie-meister, has developed recipes for six kinds of bar cookies — meaning they require no rolling, cookie-cutter-ing or scooping. Among them: Eggnog Caramel Brownies: Freshly grated nutmeg, a pinch of ground cloves, gold rum and egg yolks add the distinctive flavor of eggnog to a simple caramel sauce that’s then swirled over a bittersweet brownie base with white chocolate chips. And Salted Peppermint and Macadamia Biscotti: Teeming with salted macadamia nuts, rum and mint extract, they’re dipped in melted white chocolate and sprinkled with crushed candy canes and a pinch of sea salt.

Take a desert hike. Casey Schreiner, author of the Wild newsletter, writes about the joys of hiking in California’s deserts: “One of the things that struck me most about exploring the deserts here was that the slower I went, the more I saw. Sure, if you’re speeding to Vegas on the 15, the Mojave is going to seem pretty nondescript and forgettable. But on foot, you notice the intricate shadows cast by the ancient rock formations, the hardy pockets of life that persevere quietly and — perhaps most interesting — you see the influence of water just about everywhere.”

Consider riding America’s most scenic train. Is 34 hours on Amtrak’s Coast Starlight as dreamy as it sounds?There are certainly more efficient ways to get from Los Angeles to Seattle than sitting in a metal box. But the Coast Starlight wasn’t designed for people who are in a rush. You may have even seen it on Instagram or TikTok. The Times’ Julia Carmel rode the train — in coach seats, no less — and has the full breakdown on whether it’s the right travel experience for you. Expect OK food, bad sleep, some stinky smells — and incredible views.


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The big fight over 403 very small wasps. Wired delves into the effort by insect taxonomists to identify new species in the face of climate change, which is killing insects faster than they can be discovered. An effort by one hymenopterist (an expert on the insect order that includes wasps) created a furor among his peers as he prioritized speed, using DNA barcoding. “Even the fiercest arguments about methods and goals boils down to this: We live in a world of diversity that exceeds the grasp of our knowledge, but not our ability to destroy it.” Wired

Mexican asylum seekers are setting their sights on Canada. The nation to the north has stiff barriers to granting asylum, yet the surge in Mexicans seeking refugee status there persists. Why? Some in Canada cite social media, including YouTube and TikTok videos “talking about how easy it is to come to Canada.” Mexicans also don’t need a visa to travel there. And, said one social outreach coordinator, they think it’s safer than the U.S., where “they are put in cages. … People do not feel safe or protected.” Associated Press


A dark-haired man smiles as he turns his head and looks over one shoulder, the sun on his face.

Desi Arnaz, shown in July 1955.

(Associated Press)

Thirty-six years ago today, on Dec. 2, 1986, Desi Arnaz died at his home in Del Mar, Calif. He was 69.

Arnaz was born Desiderio Alberto Arnaz y de Acha III in Santiago, Cuba, where his father was the mayor. When he was 16, he and his father came to the U.S., fleeing a revolution. He eventually became the leader of his own band and popularized the conga line in the U.S. Arnaz landed a role in a Broadway show, where he met actress Lucille Ball. They married and eventually created TV history with the show “I Love Lucy,” which ran from 1951 to 1957 and was a huge success.

Their personal life, however, was rocky. Ball divorced Arnaz twice, once in 1944 and, for a final time, in 1960. They said, however, they remained close. Three years before his death, Arnaz told The Times that the show’s success stemmed from their mutual affection: “The audience knew we loved each other. … Underneath all that crap was that Lucy and Ricky loved each other.”

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