The morbid COVID question we need to ask, and the future of the pandemic


Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Monday, April 4. I’m Justin Ray.

No sane individual wanted to see the world throttled by a deadly airborne sickness. But it happened, and we have had to make hard decisions, such as: When resources are limited, who deserves to live? How much COVID risk are we willing to accept in order to return to some version of normal?

Health and science reporter Melissa Healy presents another morbid inquiry that will be key to our lives in the future: How many COVID deaths are acceptable? The question is important because it will determine what pandemic safety rules will eventually look like.

Although assessing how many deaths we can accept seems like an absurd question, not only is it reasonable, it isn’t unique to the COVID pandemic.

“Acceptable numbers of deaths are the common currency of public health professionals. And they are a central factor in every debate over when — and after what expenditure of money and effort — the time has come to move on,” Healy writes.

A growing number of Americans have decided that that time has come. This belief isn’t without merit: At least 95% of Americans have some immunity to the virus as a result of vaccination, past infection or both, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As we decide how we want to continue living in society, the brutal truth is that we will not have zero deaths from COVID in the foreseeable future. One main reason is because our current vaccines do not provide lifetime immunity.

But a plan is being formulated. Some experts have described the different conditions that will need to be met in order to usher the United States safely into a post-pandemic era.

More COVID stories

— Passengers and crew members tested positive for COVID-19 aboard a 15-day cruise.

— At least once a week, Socorro Juarez dresses up as a vaccine syringe and dances around Santa Ana trying to convince fellow Latinos to get vaccinated and boosted.

— Sweden has stood out for its ostensibly successful effort to beat COVID-19 while avoiding the harsh lockdowns. However, an eye-opening study by European scientific researchers calls that assertion into question.

— In Los Angeles County, some parents jumped at the chance to get kids vaccinated. But overall, only 30% of children ages 5 to 11 were fully vaccinated in L.A. County as of mid-March.

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

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Breaking news in Sacramento: Police are searching for multiple suspects responsible for six deaths and 12 injuries Sunday in a mass shooting in the heart of downtown Sacramento. Police Chief Katherine Lester said the incident occurred around 2 a.m. after a large fight broke out in a popular entertainment district. Police confirmed a stolen handgun was recovered from the scene. However, authorities suspect at least two different weapons were fired, according to a law enforcement source. Witnesses describe the terror that unfolded: “We were just trying to take cover because we couldn’t tell where the shots were coming from.” Fontana News Room

A roadblock near the scene of a shooting in downtown Sacramento early Sunday.

(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

L.A. STORIES

Los Angeles has agreed to build potentially thousands of new beds and housing units under the terms of a legal settlement announced Friday, apparently bringing to an end a key portion of a contentious, long-running federal lawsuit over housing for the homeless and enforcement on skid row and across the city. Fontana News Room

A police officer and a man in a suit walk along skid row

U.S. District Court Judge David O. Carter and LAPD Officer Deon Joseph on skid row in 2020.

(Myung J. Chun / Fontana News Room)

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POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT

For the first time in California’s 171-year history, a woman has signed a bill into state law. Gov. Gavin Newsom normally signs laws but he’s currently on vacation. Because state law requires Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis to act as governor until he returns, she signed a bill to extend a law preventing some renters from being evicted until the end of June. Associated Press

An estimated 1 million Californians will not receive their full tax refunds this year because the state will intercept the money to pay off debts such as outstanding parking tickets, tolls, court fees, tuition and child support. The state’s creation of anti-poverty programs, including tax credits and stimulus packages, while allowing the collections program to continue is like attempting to “plug a bleed on one end while another end is still an open wound,” said a spokesperson for the Western Center on Law & Poverty. Fontana News Room

Parking meter surrounded by falling citations and dollar bills.

(Photo Illustration by Jade Cuevas / Fontana News Room; Getty Images)

CRIME, COURTS AND POLICING

The killing of a tech exec, revisited. CBS News released a “48 Hours” about the killing of Santa Cruz tech executive Tushar Atre. The Times has previously reported that after investigators combed over a pair of mysterious crime scenes, four men were arrested on suspicion of murder, kidnapping and robbery in the 50-year-old’s death. CBS News

The Palm Springs Unified School District sues vaping company. The district has filed a complaint against e-cigarette manufacturer Juul Labs Inc. for allegedly using false and deceptive statements that have led to a “youth nicotine epidemic of historic proportions.” Palm Springs Unified is seeking damages for expenses related to monitoring and regulating e-cigarettes in schools. An attorney says the suit is part of a “mass action” case against Juul and about 120 co-defendants, with about 100 school districts across California alleging similar misconduct. Juul representatives did not respond to a request for comment. Palm Springs Desert Sun

HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT

The country’s oldest national park ranger is stepping away. Only six months after turning 100, Betty Reid Soskin has decided to retire from her post at Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historic Park in Richmond after 11 years of leading interactive programs and sharing her personal history and perspective at the park’s visitor center. “Being a primary source in the sharing of that history — my history — and giving shape to a new national park has been exciting and fulfilling,” Soskin said in a statement. San Francisco Chronicle

CALIFORNIA CULTURE

Buying a house? Here’s an open secret: You don’t need to put 20% down. The Times published a guide for home buying that has a lot of useful information. One article explains the myths around down payments. Fontana News Room

A couple stands outside their home.

Sarah Gonzalez and John Tran outside their home in North Long Beach.

(Mariah Tauger / Fontana News Room)

Olivia Rodrigo, who grew up in Temecula, was named best new artist at the 64th Grammy Awards on Sunday night. Her album “Sour,” which Rodrigo wrote and produced primarily with Dan Nigro, spawned hit singles “Drivers License,” and “Good 4 U.” Here is a full list of winners of the night. Fontana News Room

Olivia Rodrigo posing in a checkered sweater against a yellow background

Singer and actor Olivia Rodrigo, 19, won multiple awards at the 64th Grammys in Las Vegas Sunday.

(Jay L. Clendenin / Fontana News Room)

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CALIFORNIA ALMANAC

Los Angeles: Overcast 72 San Diego: Overcast 66 San Francisco: Overcast 61 San Jose: Overcast 68 Fresno: Sunny 79 Sacramento: Overcast 74

AND FINALLY

Today’s California memory is from Sara Ann Greenberg Roderick:

It was a hot summer day in 1994 and I was with my grandfather and sister at Santa Monica Beach. For safekeeping, Grandpa decided to bury his wallet under the corner of his beach towel. After some time, I noticed that he’d become unnerved. Having used his beach towel to dry off, he’d lost the location of his buried wallet. We spent an hour sifting through the sand before deciding to head home. My grandfather asked someone sitting nearby to mail the wallet to him if they found it. A few days later the wallet was returned, but knowing Grandpa, he’d likely lose it again.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments to essentialcalifornia@latimes.com.



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