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Kamala Harris visits Creek Fire; California COVID-19 rate at new low

Rebecca Plevin USA TODAY

Published 8:37 PM EDT Sep 15, 2020

Also: Farmworkers say they can’t get masks. The postal service’s performance was ‘spotty at best.’ And stream El Grito tonight!

Greetings. From Palm Springs, I’m Rebecca Plevin, immigration reporter for The Desert Sun, here with your daily dose of news about all the crises we’re surviving together.

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.

Newsom, Harris survey Creek Fire damage

A day after President Donald Trump visited California and blamed poor forest management for recent wildfires, Gov. Gavin Newsom and Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris surveyed the damage caused by the Creek Fire on Tuesday afternoon. Harris addressed reporters in front of a charred playground, emptied due to the dual crises of COVID-19 and wildfires, the Visalia Times-Delta reported.

“This is not a partisan issue,” she said of global warming. “This is just a fact.”

The Creek Fire, which is burning on both sides of the San Joaquin River in Central California, is the state’s 12th largest as of Tuesday. Five of the state’s 20 largest fires are burning simultaneously. “Climate change is real,” Newsom said. “If you don’t believe in science, come to California and observe with your own eyes.”

Among those fighting the blazes are inmate firefighters, and they are facing longer and more dangerous days due to a shortage of prison fire crews, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

The ranks of incarcerated firefighters have shrunk 30% from last year to this year, leaving a “critical gap” in resources amid a historic fire season. The shortage of prison fire crews has been exacerbated by the pandemic, because the state has released thousands of minimum-security offenders early to prevent the spread of the virus.

“You don’t really get to recover,” said a 35-year-old inmate working his second fire season. “The resources have been spread so thin.”

Observatory, Giant Sequoias under threat from flames; 15 people die in North Complex Fire

  • At least 15 people have died in the North Complex Fire raging north of Sacramento.
  • As of Tuesday afternoon, the Bobcat Fire in the Angeles National Forest was 500 feet from the Mt. Wilson Observatory, home to 60-inch and 100-inch telescopes. Here’s what we’ll lose if the historic observatory burns.
  • The Sequoia Complex Fires are destroying homes and tearing through groves of Giant Sequoias. One of the fires, the Castle Fire, prompted the full closure of Sequoia National Park on Monday night.

As fires rage, farmworkers say masks in short supply

Farmworkers have continued working outside amid the smoke from wildfires, even though availability of N95 masks is “as hazy as the orange sky in California this week,” CalMatters reports. State officials and agricultural groups say they have distributed millions of respirator masks, but farmworker groups say they have virtually none.

Under a state mandate, employers are required to make masks available to employees free of charge if the air quality index for particulate matter 2.5 exceeds 151. The statute also requires workers to wear masks if the AQI exceeds 500.

State’s COVID-19 rate reaches a record low

In better news: Just 3.5% of Californians who got tested for coronavirus in the past seven days have tested positive for COVID-19. That’s the lowest rate since the state began reporting the data in late March, the Los Angeles Times reports. A month ago, the positive test rate was nearly twice as high.

That improvement is being seen across the state:

  • New COVID-19 cases in the Bay Area have decreased 60% since mid-August, the Chronicle reports.
  • Riverside County’s COVID-19 numbers fell enough that it could swing open the door to more businesses if it maintains those metrics for two weeks.

The city of Anaheim, meanwhile, is calling on Newsom to reopen Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, the Orange County Register reports. About half of the city’s general fund budget comes from revenue tied to businesses around Disneyland and the city’s convention center. The city faces a $100 million budget deficit as a result of the extended coroanvirus-related closures.

‘Dismal’ postal performance, lawsuit threats and a concert in the desert

  • The Los Angeles Times mailed 100 letters between Aug. 21 and 24 to multiple destinations within California and beyond. The newspaper found that postal performance this summer was “spotty at best, dismal at worst.”
  • Immigrant rights advocates are threatening litigation if the Mojave Desert city of Adelanto permits the GEO Group to expand its controversial immigration detention center. They argue that the city council didn’t take action on the expansion during its meeting last week, so allowing the permitting process to proceed would be unlawful.
  • And in case you’re craving an escape from all the news: “Live at Giant Rock,” a 50-minute Yawning Man concert filmed at Giant Rock, a seven-story freestanding boulder in the high desert city of Landers, will be released on Sept. 17 on DVD. It will also be available for download at

Stream El Grito tonight

El Grito — an annual event that commemorates the 1810 Cry of Dolores, the battle cry of Mexico’s fight for independence from Spain — is typically held on the steps of L.A. City Hall. This year, it will be celebrated via a virtual telethon and concert and streamed at, the L.A. Times reports.

L.A. council member Monica Rodriguez will host the event, which starts at 7 p.m. tonight. Grammy nominees Los Tucanes de Tijuana, Grammy-winning Mexican-American rock band La Santa Cecilia, U.S. State Department Cultural Ambassadors Ozomatli and the Mexico City-based cumbia-new wave band El Conjunto Nueva Ola will perform, the Times reports.

The event will raise money for Comunidades Indigenas en Liderazgo’s Undocu-Indigenous Fund. Audience members can donate directly from the website or by texting “ELGRITO2020” to 44-321.

In California is a roundup of news from across USA Today network newsrooms. Also contributing: Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Orange County Register and LAist.

Published 8:37 PM EDT Sep 15, 2020

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