COVID, COVID and more COVID. Of tiny arms, federal mandates and the NFL

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Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Friday, Nov. 5. I’m Maria La Ganga.

Now that many of the littlest among us are eligible for a vaccination — which could help bring the pandemic under control — you’d think we could stop obsessing about everything COVID-19. Sadly, it’s just too soon to let down our collective guard, either out in the world or here in the Essential California newsletter.

So here we are: Heading into the weekend, focusing yet again on the scourge that, as of this week, has taken 750,000 lives in the United States, 5 million around the globe. Worrying that cold weather and holiday get-togethers could cause yet another pandemic surge. Wondering what will happen now that the federal vaccine mandate has become reality — Americans who work at companies with 100 or more employees must be vaccinated by Jan. 4 or undergo weekly testing, under rules that went into effect Thursday.

How will that federal mandate affect Californians? As of the first quarter of 2021, the most recent statistics available, the state Employment Development Department figures that California is home to 15,552 private companies with 100 or more workers. Those firms employ 7,859,438 workers, or 57.2% of the non-government workforce. Many are already vaccinated. Still, that’s a whole lot of jabs.

Although the Los Angeles Unified School District is not requiring children ages 5 to 11 to be vaccinated, my colleagues Rong-Gong Lin II, Luke Money and Howard Blume report that parents of these littler ones are flocking to clinics and hospitals with their kids in tow, eager for inoculation.

“In L.A. County, an estimated 900,000 children are newly eligible for the vaccine,” Lin, Money and Blume wrote. “The county expects to get nearly 300,000 doses in shipments over the next 10 days, and eventually, there will be 900 sites countywide offering the shots to this age group.”

In contrast, as Lin reports, initial demand for booster shots has been dramatically lower than originally expected. Demand was expected to peak during the first full week of October, according to California officials. Instead, just 21% of those 65 and older who were expected to be immunized actually showed up for a shot. For people younger than 65, it was only 17%.

There’s a lesson here, and it’s pretty simple. The kids are all right. The rest of us, not so much.

And finally, from the COVID confusion file, let us consider Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, a Chico native and UC Berkeley alum. The Packers announced Wednesday that Rodgers had been placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. He will not play Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs. Social media is buzzing about news reports that the 37-year-old apparently tested positive for COVID-19, that he has not been vaccinated and that his language around vaccination has been slippery at best.

“Yeah, I’ve been immunized,” Rodgers told reporters in August. But, as nfl.com reported this week, “Rodgers received homeopathic treatment from his personal doctor to raise his antibody levels and asked the NFLPA to review his status. The players’ union, the NFL-NFLPA jointly designated infectious disease consultant and the league agreed that Rodgers’ treatment did not provide any documented protection from the coronavirus.”

Immunized? Not as far as the NFL is concerned.

The league has a complicated vaccination policy for players, according to profootballnetwork.com, with different rules for those who have been vaccinated and those who have not.

The unvaccinated are required to quarantine for a minimum of 10 days after testing positive, are tested daily for the virus and must wear a mask both indoors and out if they’re going to be near others. The only exception is during practice.

Those who’ve had the jab don’t have to wear masks and are tested weekly. If they test positive, they can return to the team if they have two negative PCR tests taken at least 24 hours apart and have been asymptomatic for 48.

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

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L.A. STORIES

Just hours after hearing that cinematographer Halyna Hutchins had been shot to death during a rehearsal for the low-budget movie “Rust,” actor Dwayne Johnson vowed he would never again use a real gun on a movie set. Johnson owns Seven Bucks Productions, and he told Variety at the premiere of his new heist film, “Red Notice,” that “any movie … Seven Bucks does with any studio, the rule is we’re not going to use real guns. That’s it.”

Hutchins was killed on Oct. 21 on a movie set in New Mexico when “Rust” star Alec Baldwin pulled a gun from its holster, pointed it toward the camera, and it went off, striking Hutchins in the chest and injuring director Joel Souza. The movie’s sole armorer, Hannah Gutierrez Reed, has come under scrutiny since the shooting. Gutierrez Reed’s attorneys have floated the possibility that dummy rounds in the gun were replaced by live ones in an act of sabotage after complaints about working conditions.

But on Wednesday, former camera crew department head Lane Luper rejected the suggestion in an interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo. “If they have any evidence of that, they should be talking to the sheriff and not morning television shows,” Luper said, referring to multiple TV interviews Gutierrez Reed’s lawyers gave. “It’s dangerous, and it’s an irresponsible theory to put out on TV.”

Alec Baldwin after the shooting on the set of “Rust” near Santa Fe, N.M.

(Jim Weber / Associated Press)

POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT

West Hollywood boosts the minimum wage for some workers to $17.64 an hour, among the highest in the U.S. At the end of an hours-long meeting Thursday morning, the West Hollywood City Council unanimously approved a minimum wage hike that will boost pay for employees in hotels, restaurants and other businesses in the bustling area as soon as January. Los Angeles Times

San Diego bans the use of “he” and “she” in future city policies and laws. The goal is making governments more welcoming and accommodating for the roughly 1% of people who don’t identify as either male or female but instead prefer to use pronouns like “they” and “their.” Four other cities already have similar bans: Oakland, Berkeley, Boston and Portland, Ore. San Diego Union-Tribune

While thousands sleep outdoors, Sacramento has dozens of tiny homes and trailers in storage. Roughly 55 tiny homes have been sitting in storage at a North Sacramento city yard since March, said Gregg Fishman, spokesman for the city’s Department of Community Response. Another 50 trailers have been empty since June. Sacramento Bee

CRIME AND COURTS

On Beverly Hills’ famed Rodeo Drive, police allegedly targeted Black shoppers, who say they feel unwelcome in the wealthy city. Beverly Hills is being sued over allegations that its Police Department targeted Black people in 2020 and 2021, arresting them at disproportionate rates and using excessive force for minor infractions. This week, Black shoppers told my colleague Hailey Branson-Potts what it’s like to stroll the tony enclave. Los Angeles Times

Pedestrians on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills

Rodeo Drive near Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills.

(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Satellite images show a kelp forest has doubled in size on California’s North Coast, after a dramatic collapse. The kelp forest off the Sonoma-Mendocino coast, a vital habitat for marine life that historically bobbed across 9,000 acres of seashore, roughly doubled between 2020 and 2021, recent satellite and drone surveys show. The bull kelp canopy all but disappeared from the North Coast between 2014 and 2020 because of several environmental conditions converging at once, including warming ocean temperatures. San Francisco Chronicle

CALIFORNIA CULTURE

Disneyland employees wade into Pirates of the Caribbean waters to evacuate stranded riders. The Pirates of the Caribbean water ride at Disneyland broke down for approximately 90 minutes on Halloween night about 6 p.m., according to riders who had to be evacuated. Orange County Register

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CALIFORNIA ALMANAC

Los Angeles: 66 San Diego: 70 San Francisco: 63 San Jose: 66 Fresno: 70 Sacramento: 64

AND FINALLY

Today’s California memory is from Mary Gill:

In the fall of 1963, I was a freshman at the College of San Mateo. At lunchtime, I entered the large, brand-new cafeteria which was buzzing and clattering with the sound of hundreds of students. I was wearing a skirt, because girls were only allowed to wear pants during final exams. (I was on the student council that changed that archaic rule the next year.) Soon the cafeteria din diminished a bit as we focused on news coming over the loudspeakers. Kennedy had been shot and taken to a hospital. And then came the announcement: “John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States, is dead.” Every single person in that cafeteria immediately scraped back their chairs and stood in absolute silence together for a long time. It was such a powerful moment. I still get chills thinking about it. In these fractured days, I miss the unity and respect of those distant times.

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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