Greetings, I’m Winston Gieseke, philanthropy and special sections editor for The Desert Sun in Palm Springs, shining a spotlight on all things Golden State. Here are some of the day’s headlines from this great state of ours.
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.
Blue Shield of California tapped to run state vaccine system
Health insurance giant Blue Shield of California will be the outside administrator tasked with ramping up the state’s coronavirus vaccine delivery system, which to date has been slow, stilted and plagued by confusion, the state health agency said Wednesday.
Another major health care provider, Kaiser Permanente, will also help in the effort to deliver vaccines speedily and equitably across the state of nearly 40 million residents, the agency said.
While the contract with Blue Shield is still being finalized, its task will be to “create, contract with and manage a statewide vaccine administration network” and to allocate doses directly to providers, which will include pharmacies, public and private health networks and hospitals, pop-up sites and community health centers.
Currently, the state allocates doses to county public health departments and hospital and health care networks, but counties say they don’t know what the hospitals have and everyone wants more vaccine.
Blue Shield of California said in a statement it was “honored to be invited by the governor to play an important role” in battling the pandemic and declined further questions.
In other vaccination news, a health care worker at UC Irvine Medical Center died after receiving his second dose of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine, the Orange County Register reports.
Tim Zook, a 60-year-old X-ray technologist, suffered an adverse reaction within hours after the second shot was administered, reporting an upset stomach and trouble breathing. At the emergency room, Zook was put on oxygen. Four hours later, a BiPAP machine was needed to help push air into his lungs. While multiple tests revealed he did not have COVID-19, he died a few days later.
“We are not blaming any pharmaceutical company,” said his wife, Rochelle Zook. “My husband loved what he did. He worked in hospitals for 36½ years. He believed in vaccines. I’m sure he would take that vaccine again, and he’d want the public to take it.”
According to the Orange County coroner, the cause of death is inconclusive for now. Additional toxicology tests are needed and will likely take months.
Feds: California man sent threatening texts to families of congressman, journalist on day of Capitol riot
Federal authorities say a California man sent threatening text messages to the families of a New York congressman and a journalist on the same day pro-Donald Trump rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol.
Robert Lemke, 35, was arrested in California on Tuesday on a charge of making threatening interstate communications, according to a complaint filed by the Justice Department. To the congressman’s brother, Lemke texted: “Your brother is putting your entire family at risk with his lies and other words. We are armed and nearby your house.”
“Stop telling lies; Biden did not win, he will not be president,” Lemke texted the congressman’s brother on Jan. 6.
“He was radicalized by ‘the big lie’ that Donald Trump told and that has been supported by so many Republicans in the House and the Senate,” Jeffries told MSNBC.
According to the complaint, Lemke also told a “New York City-based” relative of a journalist — identified by the New York Times as ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos — that the journalist’s “words are putting you and your family at risk. We are nearby armed and ready. Thousands of us are active/retired law enforcement, military, etc. That’s how we do it.”
Lemke faces a maximum of five years in prison.
Dana Point earns distinction as first Whale Heritage Site in the U.S.
Located in Orange County, the small harbor city of Dana Point off the Southern California coast has long been a haven for those interested in observing dolphins and whales in their native habitat. And on Wednesday, it was announced by USA TODAY that the area had been designated a Whale Heritage Site — the first in the United States.
According to the official Whale Heritage Sites website, the designation is a “globally recognized program to identify destinations that implement and celebrate responsible and sustainable whale and dolphin watching.”
Dana Point is an illustration that “cetaceans should be only enjoyed in the wild, where they live in harmony with people and they’re experienced respectfully, by a protective and responsible tourism industry,” said Ben Williamson, U.S. programs director for World Animal Protection.
Currently, more than 3,500 marine mammals live in captivity around the world, according to a report released by World Animal Protection in 2019. “Dolphins are forced to live in barren tanks, reduced to performing in exchange for food,” Williamson said. “And it’s not fun; it’s cruelty.”
The world’s other Whale Heritage Sites are located in Hervey Bay, Australia; The Bluff, South Africa; and Tenerife-La Gomera Marine Area, Spain.
Burn areas under an evacuation warning
The Bay Area’s most powerful storm in a year soaked the region Wednesday with rain, snow and intense winds that felled trees and knocked out power from Sonoma to Monterey County, the Mercury News reported.
While the rain and blustery conditions were expected to continue into Thursday, about 5,000 residents in the Santa Cruz Mountains remained under evacuation as the fear of potentially deadly mudslides persisted into the night.
A rainstorm expected Friday also led to an evacuation warning in parts of Southern California due to fears of flooding territory charred by a pair of wildfires last year. The warning covers homes in areas north of Interstate 10 near Banning and Beaumont.
“Based on current maps, I would estimate a total of a couple hundred homes fall within these zones, including Beaumont High School and Mountain View Middle School,” said California Highway Patrol Officer Matthew Napier of the CHP San Gorgonio office. The affected area is home to about 990 people.
The area has been affected by one of two fires: The Apple Fire, which began July 31 near Cherry Valley and burned 33,424 acres, and the El Dorado Fire, which charred 22,597 acres after igniting Sept. 5 near Yucaipa. Burn areas are especially prone to flooding since the land can’t absorb water.
San Bernardino County’s portion of the El Dorado Fire’s burn area also is under an evacuation warning, the San Bernardino County Fire Department tweeted.
San Francisco votes to rename 44 schools for namesakes’ ties to racism, slavery
San Francisco school board officials decided by a 6-1 vote on Tuesday night to rename public schools carrying the names of people connected to slavery, oppression or racism.
More than a third of the district’s 125 schools made the list of objectionable names, the San Francisco Chronicle reported, including those named for Abraham Lincoln, Dianne Feinstein, George Washington and Paul Revere.
The new namesakes must adhere to a set of guidelines, including that individuals proposed must not have been slave owners or abetted in slavery or genocide, violated human rights violations or be “known racists and/or white supremacists.”
Feinstein, a U.S. senator from California since 1992, is on the list because she replaced a vandalized Confederate flag as the city’s mayor.
While San Francisco Mayor London Breed in December called it “offensive” for SFUSD to be focused on renaming schools in the midst of a global health pandemic, schools will have until April to offer new names, which will then be voted on by board members.
Since 2014, more than 30 schools in the country have been renamed to remove Confederate references.
Actress Cloris Leachman dead at 94
And lastly, we say goodbye to Oscar- and Emmy-award-winning actress Cloris Leachman, who died Wednesday of natural causes at her home in Encinitas. She was 94.
Perhaps best known for her role as Phyllis Lindstrom on TV’s “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and its spinoff “Phyllis,” she also appeared in films such as “The Last Picture Show” and one of my personal favorites, the Mel Brooks classic “Young Frankenstein,” in which she played the unforgettable Frau Blücher (cue horse whinny).
“It’s been my privilege to work with Cloris Leachman, one of the most fearless actresses of our time,” Juliet Green, Leachman’s longtime manager, said in a statement to ABC News. “You never knew what Cloris was going to say or do and that unpredictable quality was part of her unparalleled magic.”
That’s all for now. We’ll be back in your inbox tomorrow with more Golden State news.
In California is a roundup of news from across USA Today network newsrooms. Also contributing: The New York Times, NBC News, The Orange County Register, 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.