Plus: Some San Diego restaurants are wary of reopening, and a lonely 4-year-old girl starts fairy garden and hears from a ‘fairy’
Happy Friday, everyone! I’m Winston Gieseke, philanthropy and special sections editor for The Desert Sun in Palm Springs, and when I’m not bringing you the latest headlines from the Golden State, I’m counting down the days until Christmas. Only one week to go!
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.
Californians stop looking for work amid virus surges
Last month, more than 327,000 people stopped looking for work in the Golden State, a worrisome trend that has clouded the state’s economic picture during its worst COVID-19 outbreak since the pandemic began.
The state’s unemployment rate dropped to 8.2% in November, declining for the sixth month in a row since reaching an all-time high of 16.4% in April and May. The state added 57,100 jobs in November versus 145,500 the previous month.
Experts said the falling unemployment rate is due to people ending their job searches. Since November of last year, nearly 600,000 people have stopped looking for work — more than half of them in November, according to data released Friday by the state Employment Development Department.
According to Sung Won Sohn, a professor of finance and economics at Loyola Marymount University, the numbers likely represent parents staying home to care for children, people going back to school to learn new skills and others frustrated with the lack of available jobs.
Sohn said the latest jobs report is likely the “calm before the storm” because it does not include impacts from Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recent moves to close or limit the capacity of many businesses throughout the state in an effort to curb transmission of COVID-19.
Should rich folks get vaccines first?
Should a five-figure donation to a hospital help someone cut to the front of the vaccine distribution line? That’s a question posed by a Los Angeles Times report.
With initial doses in short supply, the state has organized the distribution of vaccinations based on need and risk, with health care workers and nursing home residents at the top of the list. However, there are plenty of people with power, money and influence who believe that rules can be broken — or at least bent — for the right price. (College admissions scandal, anyone?)
Could the vaccine’s current scarcity create a thriving black market should some less-than-scrupulous health care workers decide to skim off just a few doses for friends, family — or the highest bidder? It seems possible. Dr. Jeff Toll of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center says a patient has already asked him: “If I donate $25,000 to Cedars, would that help me get in line?” Toll said told the patient no.
Representatives for vaccine makers Pfizer and Moderna said doses are not yet available for purchase by private citizens or doctors, and that the United States government is controlling the allocation of doses to all 50 states.
Some San Diego restaurants wary of reopening
Despite a judge’s ruling Thursday that cleared the way for eateries in San Diego County to resume on-site dining — despite the governor’s stay-at-home orders — an air of uncertainty continues to hang over some restaurant owners.
On Friday, California’s 4th District Court of Appeal was scheduled to hear an appeal by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office of the ruling that exempted two San Diego strip clubs and all restaurants from his coronavirus protections.
One restaurant owner said his business shot up 200% Thursday as diners returned to his Carlsbad eatery, while others were mulling whether or not to buy food and schedule staff amid the possibility that the victory could soon be overturned. Still others were sticking to a takeout-only model amid a record number of coronavirus cases, figuring the financial and health risks were simply not worth it.
The county Board of Supervisors was scheduled to meet Friday in closed session to discuss the next steps, though county Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, who backs restrictions, said the supervisors’ actions were not crucial. “The state of California is already appealing the decision, so whether the county joins it or not will have no impact on the outcome,” he said.
Lonely 4-year-old girl starts fairy garden, hears from a ‘fairy’
Here’s a perfect example of how a good deed can benefit more than the recipient. In April, a 4-year-old girl named Eliana created a fairy garden with her parents. It was a way of helping the girl cope with the loneliness brought on by “the sickness,” as she called it. Atop it was a sign to strangers saying the garden was there “to brighten your day,” and requesting that people “please add to the magic.”
One day, Eliana, who lives near Los Angeles, received a note saying: “My name is Sapphire. I am one of the fairies who lives in this tree.” What followed was a friendship of sorts. What Eliana didn’t know was that Sapphire was Kelly Kenney, a photographer neighbor who was dealing with her own struggles.
Kenney soon found that brightening a young girl’s day was her favorite part of the months that followed. “I just want people to realize it doesn’t take that much,” Kenney said. An act of kindness may seem “natural and easy,” but it has the potential to be “life-changing for someone else.”
And, she added, “[Eliana] did as much for me as I did for her.”
Bite-sized news bits
- After months of negotiations, the San Francisco school district and its teachers union failed to reach an agreement on working conditions, writes the San Francisco Chronicle. As a result, San Francisco schools will not reopen in late January as had been hoped. “These are complex situations that we have to work through in order to come to an agreement that will serve our students and keep our teachers safe,” said Susan Solomon, president of the United Educators of San Francisco.
- The L.A. Times reports that a group calling itself Freedom Angels 2.0 — founded by three women in response to a 2019 state bill tightening vaccine requirements — are speaking out against the coronavirus vaccines to politicize and draw attention to the anti-vaxxer movement.
- The man who died on a United Airlines flight bound for California Monday had COVID-19 symptoms, his wife was overhead telling an emergency medical technician. Meanwhile, kron4.com reports, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have requested the passenger manifest to inform those on the flight that they might have been exposed to the disease.
- A scammer using California Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s name and Social Security number filed for unemployment benefits and bilked the government out of $21,000. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the same scammer has also fraudulently collected at least $200,000 in benefits in Placer County. The state’s Employment Development Division has said it’s committed to combating fraud.
Have a great — and safe — weekend. We’ll be back in your inbox on Monday with more news from this great state of ours.
In California is a roundup of news from across USA Today network newsrooms. Also contributing: kron4.com, Los Angeles Times, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.