Plus: California keeps virus data from public, and San Mateo County sues yoga studio for health violations
TGIF, everyone! I'm Winston Gieseke, philanthropy and special sections editor for The Desert Sun in Palm Springs, wrapping up this week with the latest news from the Golden State.
In California brings you top Golden State stories and commentary from across the USA TODAY Network and beyond. Get it free, straight to your inbox.
State launches civil rights investigation of LA County Sheriff's Department
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced in a statement Friday that the state will be investigating the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department over a possible pattern of unconstitutional law enforcement, the L.A. Times reported.
"The California Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation comes on the heels of allegations of excessive force, retaliation, and other misconduct, as well as a number of recent reported incidents involving LASD management and personnel," the office said.
In a statement, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said he has repeatedly asked the attorney general's office for its oversight. "I look forward to this non-criminal 'pattern and practice' investigation," he said. "Our department may finally have an impartial, objective assessment of our operations."
The L.A. Sheriff's Department has been the subject of a number of protests over fatal shootings. One of the department's most controversial killings was the shooting of Andres Guardado in June 2020. An independent autopsy released by his family in July concluded that the 18-year-old was shot five times in the back.
California keeps virus data from public
From the beginning of the pandemic, California Gov. Gavin Newsom has said his coronavirus policy decisions would be driven by publicly shared information to provide maximum transparency. But with the state starting to emerge from its worst surge, the governor's administration won't disclose key information that will help determine when his latest stay-at-home orders will be lifted.
After Newsom imposed a statewide shutdown in March, his administration developed metrics for reopening, such as per capita infection rates, that counties needed to meet to relax restrictions. But as cases surged after Thanksgiving, Newsom tried a new tack, creating five regions and establishing a single measurement — ICU capacity — as the determination for whether a region would continue under a stay-at-home order.
While state officials are able to project ICU capacity four weeks into the future using a combination of models to estimate how many more people would become infected, they have chosen not to release that information. "At the moment, the projections are not being shared publicly," Department of Public Health spokeswoman Ali Bay told the Associated Press.
California Health and Human Services Agency spokeswoman Kate Folmar said officials are committed to transparency and providing updates on whether certain regions can relax restrictions. But she said the projected ICU capacity is based on multiple variables including available beds and staffing that change regularly.
State officials have also said the complex set of measurements they use would confuse and potentially mislead the public if they were released.
Vaccine updates: Supply creates confusion, farmworkers get inoculated
In vaccine news, some health officials are complaining that California is creating unreasonable expectations by pushing to inoculate those age 65 and up when many counties still lack enough vaccines even for health care workers.
In other vaccine news, hundreds of immigrants lined up Thursday to become some of the first U.S. farmworkers to receive COVID-19 vaccination shots during a launch event in Riverside County.
San Mateo County sues yoga studio for health violations
We've heard plenty of stories about customers trying to enter businesses while shunning masks, but not so many the other way around. Yet Tommy Antoon, owner of Pacifica Beach Yoga, has been in hot water for months for offering "mask-free" yoga classes at his studio.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that since late October there have been 26 complaints against Pacifica Beach Yoga for allegedly violating health orders and that fines against the business total $3,750, including a $250 citation in November for advertising mask-free hot yoga and another $500 fine in December for operating indoors.
Antoon reportedly told a county staffer on Jan. 5 that he will "never close” his business and profanely said he would never pay the fines he'd incurred.
As a result, San Mateo County filed a lawsuit against the business. According to the Chronicle, this is "the toughest action the county has taken against businesses breaking safety rules in the pandemic."
“This business has left us no choice,” San Mateo County Counsel John Beiers said via statement. “Our community rightly expects that when its state government imposes shelter in place laws, those laws will be enforced justly and equitably to ensure that everyone is playing by the same rules.”
California spent how much shielding the state Capitol from protests?
According to foxla.com, it cost the Golden State nearly $19 million for a week’s worth of high security around the state Capitol and other locations as a result of fears of civil unrest surrounding the inauguration of President Joe Biden, officials said Thursday, citing preliminary estimates.
While "state and local law enforcement will maintain a heightened posture over the coming days," said Brian Ferguson, a spokesman for the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, the temporary fencing installed around the Capitol building will remain in place at least through the end of the week.
Despite fears of crowds reminiscent of the insurgence on the nation's Capitol on Jan. 6, only one Trump supporter was present at the Capitol building in Sacramento as Biden took his oath of office Wednesday. The man, who wore a red "Make America Great Again" hat and identified himself as "Joe," said: "I thanked all the police for coming out for me. I think they’ve gone way overboard."
Meanwhile, abc.10.com reports that California’s legal bill for fighting former President Donald Trump in court over the past four years is currently $41 million. During Trump's presidency, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed 110 lawsuits against his administration over its environmental laws, immigration policies and other rules and rollbacks.
A spokesperson for the Department of Justice said the costs are “almost entirely” personnel hours, including work by Justice Department attorneys, legal secretaries, paralegal analysts and special agents as well as costs for printing, travel and facilities.
In a statement issued Tuesday, Becerra said: “From Day 1, our team at CA DOJ has protected our public lands, natural resources and environment from four years of attack from the White House. It will take time to unwind the havoc the Trump Administration has wrought.”
Biden displays bust of California icon in Oval Office
As President Joe Biden signed 17 executive orders, memorandums and proclamations from the Oval Office on Inauguration Day, a bronze bust of civil rights and farm labor leader César Chávez was prominently visible behind the Resolute Desk.
The bust had previously been exhibited in the visitor center of the César E. Chávez National Monument, in Keene, Calif., where Chavez lived and worked for the last quarter-century of his life, and where he and his wife are buried.
For some, the bust is a tangible sign that the Biden administration intends to take a different approach to issues of race, immigration and labor than the previous administration.
“Placing a bust of my father in the Oval Office symbolizes the hopeful new day that is dawning for our nation,” said Paul Chavez, Chavez’s middle son and president of the Cesar Chavez Foundation, in a statement. “That isn’t just because it honors my dad but more importantly because it represents faith and empowerment for an entire people on whose behalf he fought and sacrificed.”
In California is a roundup of news from across USA Today network newsrooms. Also contributing: abc10.com, foxla.com, San Francisco Chronicle
As the philanthropy and special sections editor at The Desert Sun, Winston Gieseke writes about nonprofits, fundraising and people who give back in the Coachella Valley. Reach him at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: State investigates LA County Sheriff's Department