In California: State to allow indoor gatherings starting April 15 as virus cases plummet

Happy Easter! Happy Passover! Happy weekend! I’m Winston Gieseke, philanthropy and special sections editor for The Desert Sun in Palm Springs, wishing everyone a safe and relaxing holiday. But first, here are some of today’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.

Seeing as how it’s Good Friday, let’s start this off with a little good news. Drum roll …

California to allow indoor gatherings as virus cases plummet

For those of you who don't remember — it has been a while, after all — this is a theater. And soon we will able to return to places like these. (Photo: Donald Tong,

Beginning April 15, the Golden State will allow indoor concerts, theater performances and other private gatherings as the rate of people testing positive for the coronavirus in the state has dropped significantly.

“Everything is moving in the correct direction,” said Dr. Tomás Aragón, the state’s public health officer and director of the California Department of Public Health.

The new rules apply to indoor seated venues, including theaters, sports stadiums and other event venues as well as meetings, receptions and conferences, said Dee Dee Myers, senior advisor to the governor and director of the governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development.

Entry will be granted on the condition that attendees can show a vaccination card or a negative test result in the previous 72 hours, Aragón said.

Vaccinated “sections” will be allowed without social distancing but masks will still be required, officials said. The state will work with different venues to help determine how this can be implemented safely, Myers added.

The approach was built based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines recently released for indoor gatherings, Aragón said.

This just in from the San Francisco Chronicle: “California is preparing to retire its color-coded tiered reopening plan as vaccination rates improve and coronavirus cases continue to drop, state officials said Friday, as several Bay Area counties prepared to move into a less restrictive tier next week.”

This Easter weekend, continue practicing COVID-19 safety measures, officials urge

Lilies (Photo: Courtesy of Palm Springs Cultural Center)

Not to rain on your Easter parade, but officials in Tulare County and across the state are advising you to remain diligent in maintaining COVID-19 safety practices while enjoying the holiday.

“Special events and holidays are significant,” Tulare County Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Haught said. “We understand the importance of maintaining some type of connection as we work our way back to normalcy. However, we strongly encourage residents to continue COVID-19 safety measures, even if you are vaccinated because COVID-19 remains a health risk.”

Despite the more robust availability of vaccinations and the county’s emergence from the most widespread tier of COVID-19 spread, it remains important that all residents continue to maintain safety precautions to prevent the spread of the disease, including masking and social distancing until vaccinations are widely distributed. Residents must always wear a face mask or covering while in environments where physical distancing is not possible and while in public settings.

In addition, everyone is encouraged to frequently wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer, regularly disinfect high-touch surfaces, and stay home if you are sick or instructed to isolate/quarantine by a medical or public health professional.

Planning to travel over the holiday weekend? On Friday, the CDC updated its COVID-19 travel guidance. Learn more here.

Chihuahua survives after being left in hot car with frozen burritos, ice cream

Not the chihuahua left with the frozen treats. (Photo: jasam_io / iStock)

A Chihuahua is recovering after being left inside a hot car in Palm Desert Thursday.

According to KTLA5, the 3-year-old dog (not pictured above) was discovered in a black Escalade in the parking lot of The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens. The temperature inside the SUV was measured at 104 degrees.

Inside the dog’s crate, veterinarian staff discovered two frozen burritos and five wrapped drumstick-shaped ice cream cones.

Animal Services Director Julie Bank said she can “appreciate the ingenuity of using frozen items” in the car as an attempt to keep the dog cool, but nonetheless advises against such practices and leaving pets in hot cars.

Officials said the Chihuahua was panting, but wasn’t overheated. He was taken to a local animal shelter. The dog’s guardian will be cited for leaving an animal unattended in a vehicle.

California sees another drought four years after last one 

LOS ANGELES, CA – FEBRUARY 5: Canadian geese fly over a tumbleweed-covered fallow field at sunrise on February 5, 2014 near Visalia, California. Now in its third straight year of unprecedented drought, California is experiencing its driest year on record, dating back 119 years and possible the worst in the past 500 years. (Photo: David McNew/Getty Images)

All hopes for a wet “March miracle” in the Golden State did not materialize, and a dousing of April showers may as well be a mirage at this point.

The state appears to be in the midst of another drought only a few years after a punishing five-year dry spell dried up rural wells, killed endangered salmon, idled farm fields and helped fuel the most deadly and destructive wildfires in modern state history.

Much of California’s water comes from mountain snow in the Sierra Nevada that melts during the spring and summer and feeds rivers and streams that in turn fill reservoirs. The Sierra snowpack traditionally holds its peak water content on April 1 and the state will take a survey Thursday to determine the level. Last month, a survey showed just 60% of the average.

Four years ago, when then-Gov. Jerry Brown officially declared an end to a statewide drought emergency, he said conservation should continue, warning “the next drought could be around the corner.”

Bite-sized news bits, perfectly seasoned

"Hey, bro. Do I have your permission to record this call?" (Photo: Andrea Piacquadio,

  • Can someone make sure Taylor Swift and Kanye West get this memo? The California Supreme Court has ruled that it’s illegal to record a cell phone conversation without the consent of every person on the call. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that in the case of Smith vs. LoanMe, the state’s highest court unanimously disagreed with a December 2019 ruling that interpreted the no-recording-calls-without-permission law as applying only to third-parties (i.e., eavesdroppers). The court ruled Thursday that clandestine recordings of cellphone calls are illegal without permission. Period.
  • Beware of scams during tax season. Have you done your taxes? Or are you, like me, waiting until the last possible minute in the hopes that an enchanted tax gnome will appear and do it for you? Regardless, our friends at The Daily Independent have some advice on how to avoid getting scammed during tax season. One tip: The IRS never initiates contact with taxpayers by email, text messages or social media to request personal or financial information.
  • Art for art’s sake: In what police are saying was not a “political” move, three 20-something men were arrested Friday for hanging the image of a cow over one of the letters of the Hollywood sign. The Los Angeles Times reports that the perps were caught on surveillance cameras and will be booked for misdemeanor trespassing. Officers at the scene inquired about the significance of the cow image, and the three alleged trespassers said there was none.

In California is a roundup of news from across USA Today network newsrooms. Also contributing: Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle. We’ll be back in your inbox Monday with the latest headlines.

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 [email protected].

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