Entrepreneur Elon Musk and musical artist Grimes welcomed a baby boy, “X Æ A-12,” to the world. Here’s a possible explanation of the name.


Plus: Lawmakers are back in session and mad about EDD fraud. They also want masks for farmers and more help for student-athletes.

Greetings from Palm Springs. I’m Robert Hopwood, online producer for The Desert Sun, bringing you a daily roundup of the top news from across California.

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.

 (Photo: Getty Images)

Top state health official: We have not peaked yet

California added 23,000 new virus cases on Tuesday, and Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state secretary of health and human services, said he doesn’t believe the state has seen the peak in new daily cases yet. 

California’s seven-day average for new daily virus cases has doubled over the past two weeks, while the positivity rate jumped 55%, Ghaly said. Hospitalizations rose 70% over the same period with pressure mounting on intensive care units that rely on specialized staff to make life-saving decisions for coronavirus and non-virus patients, he said.

The state has seen a roughly 70% increase in ICU admissions in just two weeks, leaving just 1,700 of the state’s 7,800 ICU beds available. With some California hospitals close to reaching their breaking points, Gov. Gavin Newsom is bringing in hundreds of hospital staff from outside the state and starting to prepare to re-start emergency hospitals.

California has requested nearly 600 health care workers to help in ICUs through a contracting agency and the federal government. It’s starting a two-day program to train registered nurses to care for ICU patients and setting up links for doctors to consult remotely on ICU patients. 

In another attempt to help, the state is activating the first two of 11 alternative care sites that have a total capacity of 1,862 beds. Those two sites are in Imperial and Sacramento counties.

Other need-to-know COVID-19 news:

  • BUZZZZ! At noon Tuesday, millions of people across the state received an emergency alert on their cellphones reminding them of the state’s stay-at-home order and urging them to wear a mask, practice social distancing and stay home except for essential activities. The alert was issued by the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services in regions that are subject to the order, including the 11-county Southern California region and the 12-county San Joaquin Valley region.
  • BUSTED! The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department busted a “massive underground party” in Palmdale over the weekend, the L.A. Times reported. More than 150 arrests were made and several guns were confiscated. Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva has pledged to crackdown on super-spreader events.
  • DINNER PARTY Five California Assemblymembers were spotted eating together at Maydoon, a Sacramento restaurant, on Monday.  According to the Sacramento Bee, they were Adrin Nazarian, D-West Toluca Lake; Chad Mayes, I-Rancho Mirage; Tasha Boerner Horvath, D-Encinitas; Marc Levine, D-Marin County; and Chris Ward, D-San Diego, along with Mayes’ fiancée.

Do you live in the San Joaquin or Southern California region, which are under stay-at-home orders? You probably have questions about what’s allowed and what’s not. Here’s a FAQ. 

Vaccines are coming, is the state ready?

 (Photo: Getty Images)

States are getting ready for the biggest medical undertaking many have ever attempted with many of the details still up in the air. Days before the first COVID-19 vaccine is cleared for use, an exclusive USA TODAY Network survey of health officials in all 50 states revealed a patchwork of preparations and different distribution plans that may mean wide variations in what the rollout looks like as it expands across the nation.

The FDA is expected to OK Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine as early as Thursday night. The White House has promised to get the vaccine shipped within 24 hours. Distributing those vaccines is up to each state and falls on the backs of chronically underfunded public health systems.

Besides determining who will get the vaccine first, challenges faced by the states include keeping the doses stored in subzero temperatures, finding the staff to provide injections, lack of funds to pay for the initiative, conducting the rollout during the winter, keeping the vaccine safe, and more.

Lawmakers target EDD fraud

Application for unemployment benefits (Photo: File/USA TODAY Network)

Bank of America said Monday it is likely California paid at least $2 billion in fraudulent unemployment benefits. While the $2 billion estimate is less than 2% of the $110 billion California has paid in unemployment benefits since March, Bank of America said the scale of fraud in California was unique when compared with other states.

State lawmakers, who returned to Sacramento on Monday to start a new legislative session, introduced multiple bills to address the problems at the Employment Development Department. A proposal from Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez, a Democrat from San Diego, would require California to offer an option of receiving unemployment benefits via direct deposit instead of a debit card to reduce the potential for fraud.

Republican Sen. Shannon Grove said she will author a bill requiring the state to cross-check unemployment claims against state prison records.

Other proposals brewing in Sacramento: Masks for farmworkers during fires, more help for student athletes?

A farmworker, considered an essential worker under the current COVID-19 guidelines, covers his face as he works at a flower farm in Santa Paula, Calif. (Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez, AP)

State Assemblymember Robert Rivas, D-Hollister, wants the state to acquire a stockpile of N-95 masks and set up a strike team to distribute them to farmworkers when they continue to work under dangerous conditions during wildfires in order to keep the country fed.

Assembly Bill 73, which has no funding attached, would

  • Require immediate deployment of specialized strike teams from each Cal/OSHA regional office during major unhealthy air quality events. These teams shall be composed of existing department employees who will provide technical assistance and ensure workers are adequately protected. 
  • Require the Department of Industrial Relations, in coordination with other state agencies, to establish a stockpile of N-95 masks that can be distributed to farmers during a wildfire outbreak. 
  • Require Cal/OSHA to develop and distribute information on wildfire safety to agriculture employees in both Spanish and English.

Arizona State guard Josh Christopher, left, reaches for the ball next to California forward Andre Kelly during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Berkeley, Calif., Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu) (Photo: The Associated Press)

Meanwhile, Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, who wrote what became the first state law designed to allow college athletes to make money from their name, image and likeness, has introduced a bill to expand the law’s impact.

The 2019 law, which has not taken effect yet, included provisions that are less restrictive than proposed name-image-and-likeness (NIL) rules changes that the NCAA unveiled last month in preparation for a vote in January 2021.

Skinner’s new bill could create additional differences, and it would make the law effective as soon as Aug. 1, 2021 — 17 months earlier than in her original bill. Specifically, the bill would change the law’s effective date to either Jan. 1, 2022, or on the start date of the NCAA’s NIL rules changes. As currently proposed, that would be Aug. 1, 2021.

It also would add a provision to the law that says schools cannot deny athletes any rights afforded to all other students, except in relation to recruitment. 

Can the Coachella music festival happen in April?

The sun sets over the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, Calif., on Sunday, April 14, 2019. (Photo: Thomas Hawthorne/USA Today Network)

Will the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio go forward this spring? That’s a big question for music fans across the state, and it’s not looking promising.

There’s been no official confirmation of the festival’s postponement by Goldenvoice, the company that produces the festival, but with four months until the mega music festival is set to take place, the chance it will happen in spring 2021 is getting slimmer by the day. 

The city of Indio has not been told by Goldenvoice that the April date is off. But the Coachella website features little to no detail about a 2021 concert.

At this time of year, there are typically almost-weekly meetings between the city of Indio and Goldenvoice staff, representatives from regional utilities and Riverside County, security personnel and others. Those meetings aren’t happening.

And several media reports this fall, triggered by a Rolling Stone article and comments from unnamed “music-industry insiders,” speculated that Coachella, which was delayed twice last year, would be delayed for a third time, until October 2021.

Elon Musk says he’s moved to Texas, says California takes innovators for granted

In this file photo taken on March 14, 2019 Tesla CEO Elon Musk speaks during the unveiling of the new Tesla Model Y in Hawthorne, California. (Photo: FREDERIC J. BROWN, AFP/Getty Images)

Tesla CEO Elon Musk told The Wall Street Journal in an interview Tuesday that he has moved to Texas, saying that California has taken innovators for granted.

He also could be moving because Texas has no income tax. Musk’s 18% stake in Tesla is worth billions.

The newspaper didn’t say where he had moved in Texas, but it’s likely to be close to Austin, where Tesla is building a new factory. SpaceX, another Musk-led company, has operations nearby. 

That’s all for this Tuesday. We’ll be back in your inbox tomorrow with more headlines from the Golden State.

In California is a roundup of news from across USA Today network newsrooms. Also contributing: Associated Press, Wall Street Journal,  Los Angeles Times, Sacramento Bee.

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