Hello, From Your New Writer

Tuesday: Introducing the new voice of the newsletter. Plus, Bay Area counties instate a universal indoor masking requirement.


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It’s Tuesday. We’re introducing a new lead writer for the California Today newsletter. Plus, as of today, seven Bay Area counties are requiring that everyone wear masks indoors.


A lovely day in San Francisco in December 2019.Credit…Soumya Karlamangla

Hi, I’m Soumya. I’m so excited to meet you.

Starting today, I will be taking over the California Today newsletter, which will continue to provide dispatches from the state in your inbox every weekday. I hope that you’ll come to think of me as your tour guide/correspondent/resident-know-it-all for keeping up with news, culture and everything else happening in this great state.

My family moved to Los Angeles from Michigan when I was 4, so my earliest memories as a child are of trying to make sense of my new, sunny surroundings. I remember my parents pointing out landmarks from the recently concluded O.J. Simpson trial and, more compelling to me at the time, an outdoor escalator near our apartment that seemed to defy the laws of nature.

L.A. was the promised land in our family lore, the first place my father lived after immigrating from India and before moving to the Midwest. Not only did it never rain in L.A. (that seemed like a good thing at the time), but also the people were friendlier, the population more diverse and — a big sell for us since we didn’t eat meat — restaurants offered more vegetarian food. The state quickly became home.

I didn’t, however, set out in my career as a reporter to focus solely on California, and largely viewed news made here as a means to talk about bigger issues happening elsewhere. That has changed over the years.


My mom and me on a trip to Yosemite National Park soon after we moved to California.Credit…Soumya Karlamangla

Writing about California for The Los Angeles Times, where I worked for the past eight years, revealed to me the beauty and complexity of our state. I began to see the place where I had lived for so long with renewed fascination, almost like falling in love with an old friend.

Covering tragedies in particular shifted my priorities. In 2016, I interviewed survivors of a devastating warehouse fire in Oakland, a short BART ride from U.C. Berkeley, where I went to college. Two years later, I reported on a mass shooting in Thousand Oaks, the suburb in Ventura County where I grew up.

I’ve seen the way California breeds a kind of resilience in its people. The land dries up, wildfires burn year-round and the edge of the state threatens to slip into the sea, yet California endures.

Disaster strikes so often that Californians are accustomed to fleeing their homes at a moment’s notice, ignoring warnings about extreme drought and breathing in air choked with smoke. But that does little to shake their dedication to their home state.

The day after that shooting in Thousand Oaks, in November 2018, two major wildfires erupted nearby. One of them forced my parents to evacuate their house and spend the night at my apartment in L.A. The other tore through neighborhoods in Malibu and blanketed the Pacific Coast Highway in ominous, black clouds.

As if that were not nightmarish enough, that same day, in Northern California, another fire ignited. It leveled the town of Paradise and became the deadliest blaze in California history.

Year after year, through wildfires, earthquakes, floods and pandemics, Californians rebuild and recommit to living here. There’s a yawning gap between our dream of California and our reality, but we continue to find ways to bridge it.

I like to think that our resolve to stay here is brave, though perhaps it’s blind. But as the saying goes, so is love.


Customers at the Buena Vista restaurant in San Francisco in June, when the mask requirement was lifted. Seven Bay Area counties are now once again requiring masks indoors. Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

If you read one story, make it this

Seven Bay Area counties are newly requiring that everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks indoors. The mandate is the latest attempt to curb the rapid spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus, which has led to a sharp uptick in hospitalizations across California.

There are so many new universal masking laws in California that they now apply to more than half of the state’s residents. The list of counties that have recently ordered universal indoor masking includes: Alameda, Contra Costa, Los Angeles, Marin, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Sonoma and Yolo.


People riding their bikes past a homeless encampment in Venice Beach in June.Credit…Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

The rest of the news


Pandemic dining: More restaurants in Los Angeles are requiring that diners show proof of vaccination against Covid, reports The Los Angeles Times.

Corona shooting: Mourners gathered at the Regal Edwards cinema in Corona on Saturday to honor victims of a recent shooting there, The Press-Enterprise reports.

Homeless housing: The Los Angeles Times explores what happened when roughly 200 people were moved from their Venice Beach encampments to temporary housing.

An app for creators: A new company based in Santa Monica is grabbing attention with an unprintable name and a mission to bring pay transparency to influencers.

Northern California

Mask mandate: Starting today, all Facebook employees will be required to wear a mask while working in the office — regardless of vaccination status, The San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Back to school: After holding in-person classes for less than a week, 55 students and two staff members at two Brentwood school districts are quarantining after being exposed to students and peers who have Covid-19, according to The Mercury News.

Water supply: The statewide drought is imperiling communities in Northern California, The Mercury News reports, as the water supplies for over 130,000 people have been affected.

Drug crisis: A new overdose response team with a focus on follow-up care rolled out in San Francisco on Monday. The San Francisco Chronicle details the team’s mission.

Museum break-in: A thief broke into the Sacramento History Museum early Saturday morning and stole gold artifacts from a display case, The Sacramento Bee reports.

Bacon shortage: A new animal welfare law that will go into effect early next year means California could lose most of its pork supply, according to The Associated Press.


Credit…Jessica Pons for The New York Times

What we’re eating

At these Los Angeles restaurants, sample Japanese rice balls inspired by home cooking.

Tell us

Sometimes I’ll be writing from my home in East Hollywood in L.A. and other times from far corners of the state. I want your help figuring out what I should see and write about next. Email us at CAtoday@nytimes.com with your suggestions.


Passengers were allowed on cable cars in San Francisco for the first time since the pandemic closed down operations.Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

And before you go, some good news

San Francisco’s iconic cable cars are up and running again after a 16-month hiatus. And for the rest of the month, all rides will be free for tourists and locals alike.

Thanks for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow. — Soumya

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: What planes, museums and bar menus all have, in different senses (5 letters).

Mariel Wamsley contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at CAtoday@nytimes.com.

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