Northern California fires, counties move off watch list, back-to-school on Zoom

Some of the largest fires in California history continue burning, as thousands of firefighters battle blazes across the state. And two more counties exit the state’s coronavirus watch list. Plus: A weekly rally in Beverly Hills, a death sentence overturned and the latest on unemployment benefits.

We start the week with more fire and coronavirus headlines in California. 

I’m Erin Rode, the housing reporter for the Ventura County Star, writing from the new desk I finally bought after five months of working from home.

But first, this week is the 50th anniversary of the National Chicano Moratorium Against the Vietnam War, when over 20,000 demonstrators marched through East Los Angeles. The day’s events still reverberate in L.A.’s Latino community, the Los Angeles Times reports in an expansive project on the Moratorium. 

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.  

Fires continue to rage in Northern California

The state is still on fire, and giant wildfires started by lightning continued to rage in Northern California on Monday. More than 14,000 firefighters are battling two of the three largest fires in California history, the LNU Lightning Complex Fire and the SCU Lightning Complex Fire, as well as more than two dozen other major fires in the state. 

Luckily, the threat of lightning igniting more fires appeared to subside on Monday, and firefighters received help from an increase in humidity. 

A burned out vintage Ford Mustang in the Pineridge neighborhood of the Santa Cruz Mountains community of Bonny Doon near Santa Cruz, Calif., is seen, Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020, where the CZU August Lightning Complex fire has grown.

“Mother Nature’s helped us quite a bit,” said Billy See, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection incident commander for a complex of fires burning south of San Francisco.

Red flag warnings were canceled in parts of the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento on Monday. But nearly a quarter-million people remain under evacuation orders and warnings as weather forecasts include the possibility of more lightning with hot temperatures and unpredictable winds. 

The hundreds of fires burning in the state have significantly deteriorated air quality As of Monday afternoon, about one-third of the state had air quality that was unhealthy to the general public. And over the weekend, smoke from the fires spread as far as Utah, where residents experienced high concentrations of air pollution.

Coronavirus: Orange County taken off state watch list

Splash Mountain riders hurtle down a five story drop at the Disneyland's Splash Mountain attraction, located in Critter Country.
Splash Mountain riders hurtle down a five story drop at the Disneyland’s Splash Mountain attraction, located in Critter Country.

Orange County, home to Disneyland, beaches and viral videos about anti-maskers, was taken off the state’s coronavirus watch list on Sunday. If the county’s case numbers and other indicators remain at acceptable levels over the next two weeks, schools could resume in-person classes after Labor Day weekend. 

Napa County is also off the watch list, the only Bay Area county to do so. The county was removed from the list after showing an average of over three consecutive days of less than 100 new coronavirus cases per 100,000 people over a 14-day period.

In Beverly Hills, the iconic Beverly Gardens Park (that’s the one with the “Beverly Hills” sign) has become the site of a weekly “Freedom Rally.” Conservatives and Trump supporters gather there to protest what they say is government overreach during the pandemic and show support for President Trump and law enforcement, LAist reported. 

Good and bad news on unemployment

Californians on unemployment may receive an extra $300 per week under an agreement between the state and federal government. It’s unclear how long it will be before Californians start seeing the extra money in their bank accounts. 

But, unemployed Californians are also still struggling to reach the unemployment agency. The Employment Development Department is not answering 60% of the calls it receives for help, as the agency continues to work through a backlog of over 1 million pending claims, the Associated Press reports. 

Back to school — on Zoom and in the classroom

In the rural Northern California town of Weaverville, students recently had their first day of school — in classrooms, not over Zoom. The Trinity Alps Unified School District’s reopening plans could serve as a preview for other California districts as coronavirus case numbers decline, the Los Angeles Times reports. 

Meanwhile, roughly 700 miles away in the desert town of Indio, one teacher created a mini-TV studio in the corner of his classroom to use for distance learning. Here’s what a typical day of teaching during distance learning looks like for him. 

To turn on cameras or not? In Ventura County, administrators discuss whether students should be required to turn their cameras on. Some worry that students might be embarrassed to show their homes or might not have the bandwidth needed for video. 

As for colleges, USC reported an ‘alarming’ coronavirus spike on Monday, with 43 coronavirus cases confirmed in off-campus housing facilities and 100 students in quarantine due to possible exposure to COVID-19. 

Scott Peterson’s death sentence overturned

The California Supreme Court overturned the death penalty sentence for Scott Peterson on Monday. Peterson was convicted of killing his wife, Laci, and their unborn son in 2002 in a case that drew national interest. 

According to the California Supreme Court, the death sentence must be removed because the trail judge wrongly removed potential jurors who opposed the death penalty but said they would be willing to impose it. 

In San Diego, push for racial equity might mean paving roads

In San Diego, city officials are considering paving 40 miles of dirt roads in low-income neighborhoods as a step toward racial equity in the wake of recent protests, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. 

Community leaders say the dirt streets hurt neighborhood pride and create a negative image of the neighborhoods for visitors and potential developers. Councilwoman Vivian Moreno is proposing that the city pave the dirt streets and take over maintenance costs. 

“Dirt roads and alleys have no place in America’s Finest City – or any neighborhood, frankly,” Moreno said. “This will signal that the city is truly committed to equity across all neighborhoods.”

Today is Kobe Bryant Day

August 24 (8/24) is Kobe Bryant Day in Los Angeles County and Orange County.
August 24 (8/24) is Kobe Bryant Day in Los Angeles County and Orange County.

In Orange County and Los Angeles County, today is officially as Kobe Bryant Day. The 8/24 date pays homage to the two numbers Bryant wore on his jersey as a Laker.

Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven other people died in a helicopter crash in January. Sunday would have been Bryant’s 42nd birthday. 

Tributes to Bryant are happening across Los Angeles this week. On Sunday, members of the Los Angeles Dodgers wore Kobe Bryant jerseys in a pre-game tribute. Los Angeles councilmembers will introduce a motion to rename a street after Bryant on Tuesday. And when the Lakers play the Portland Trailblazers tonight, they’ll wear special “Black Mamba” uniforms in a tribute to Bryant. 

In California is a roundup of news from across USA Today network newsrooms. Also contributing: Orange County Register, Los Angeles Times, San Diego Union-Tribune, San Jose Mercury, LAist, Los Angeles Daily News.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fires, coronavirus, back-to-school, Kobe Bryant: Monday news

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