In California: Theme parks, MLB to reopen April 1; Placer County restaurants to sue Newsom

Welcome to the weekend! I’m Winston Gieseke, philanthropy and special sections editor for The Desert Sun in Palm Springs, wrapping up your Friday with some of today’s headlines.

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.

Let’s start of with some good news. 

Disneyland, other theme parks, Major League Baseball to open in California April 1

 (Photo: Disney)

California officials will permit people to attend Major League Baseball games and other sporting events, as well as go to Disneyland and watch live performances in limited capacities, starting April 1.

Announced Friday, the rules coincide with baseball’s opening day. The San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Angels and Oakland Athletics all have home games scheduled for April 1.

Theme parks will be allowed to open at 15% capacity in the red tier, the second-highest risk level, and only people who live in California can buy tickets. Pro sports are limited to 100 people in areas where the spread of the virus is higher.

The fight to open San Francisco schools reduced to desk spacing

Are these far enough apart for social-distance learning? (Photo: Brian Munoz, USA TODAY)

For a while there, it seemed school officials and the teachers’ union in San Francisco were close to agreeing on when and how to bring back in-person learning. But then, a snag was hit. A two-foot snag.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that in a letter from the local teachers’ union, district officials were requesting students be seated four feet apart — a distance that had previously been approved by the city’s health department — instead of six feet, which is recommended by the state health department when possible. The union says the district should be adhering to the state’s guidelines.

For parents who are eager for their kids to get back to school, the setback came as yet another disappointment.

“It’s crazy to me that now we’re adding a fight over two feet,” said Meredith Dodson of Decreasing the Distance, a San Francisco parents group working to reopen schools.

As Maren Morris might say, “Why don’t you just meet me in the middle?”

Placer County restaurants to sue Newsom over restaurant reopenings

In this Jan. 22, 2021, file photo, a server attends to diners at an outdoor dining area the Polanco Cantina in Sacramento, Calif. After months with little change, five of California's 58 counties advanced from the most severe business restrictions on Tuesday as the state's worst coronavirus surge continued to ease, with eight more counties likely to move next week and "even more still" in two weeks, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. (Photo: Rich Pedroncelli, AP)

A coalition of restaurants and bars in Placer County are suing Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state of California, saying Newsom violated the U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment by ignoring due process when closing restaurants and bars’ indoor service as a way to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The lawsuit, expected to be filed Monday, argues that the governor’s executive orders are an unconstitutional overreach and the state of emergency should be lifted.

“We don’t want to hurt anybody, but at the same time we don’t want to be hurting. What (Newsom is) doing right now to us small business owners is killing us financially,” said Rula Sger, co-owner of Primo Pizza.

The Sacramento Bee reports that the lawsuit is being funded by the California Constitutional Rights Foundation, which is run by former San Diego County Superior Court Judge Gary Kreep.

In the greater Sacramento area, only eateries in Yolo and El Dorado counties have been allowed to reopen for indoor dining at 25% occupancy. However, several restaurants in Placer County have reopened regardless; two establishments face possible penalties as a result.

In a letter to Newsom, the Placer County coalition is asking him to take back all pandemic-related executive orders and allow businesses to fully reopen, as governors in states such as Texas and Mississippi recently did.

“California and New York led the nation into this fiasco,” said Congressman Tom McClintock, R-Elk Grove, who supports the suit. “Florida and Texas are leading us out of it. It’s time we wised up and joined them.”

COVID-19 has broadened our vocabulary

The word "pandemic" was the most searched word at merriam-webster.com in 2020. The coronavirus has many previously unfamiliar words common parts of our daily conversations. (Photo: Jenny Kane/The Associated Press)

Be honest: One year ago were the terms “super-spreader” or “social distancing” on your radar?

COVID-19 has clearly changed the way we live, but it’s also changed the way we talk. At this point, “Pfizer or Moderna?” is a perfectly acceptable pick-up line, right up there with, “Your Zoom room or mine?”

It’s a whole new lexicon. And Desert Sun columnist Shad Powers has picked 10 words or phrases that — while all too familiar to us now — he attempts to define using pre-pandemic knowledge, such as “purple tier,” which he writes is the best part of the parking garage at the Prince Museum.

Need a chuckle on this Friday? Check out the others.

Charitable donations increased in 2020

Despite the devastating health and economic circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic several local entities report that charitable donations actually increased in 2020. (Photo: pexels.com)

We’ve all seen the memes bidding adieu to the fiasco that was 2020. (My personal fave: Tyler Durdin’s “The first rule of 2021 is you don’t talk about 2020.”) But despite the pandemic and all that came with it, it seems there is at least one area that actually prospered: charity.

Despite the devastating health and economic circumstances of COVID-19, several entities report that charitable donations actually increased in 2020.

“People haven’t stopped giving,” says Charee Gillins, marketing and communications director of Inland Empire Community Foundation (IECF), the largest nonprofit public charity serving Riverside and San Bernardino counties. “It’s encouraging to see individuals and major funders step forward, responding with generosity.”

In fact, IECF reports a significant increase in giving in 2020: $23 million, compared to $16.3 million in 2019.

That’s a noticeable spike, with $7.1 million coming from COVID-related donations. As Gillins says: “Major crises, like COVID-19, bring people together.”

Will the uptick in giving continue through 2021? Let’s hope so.

Having trouble taking in so much information? How about some

Bite-sized news bits

Sidney (not pictured here) will be relocated as soon as she voluntarily enters her transport crate. (Photo: Elianne Dipp, pexels.com)

  • If it can drive itself, it ought to be able to plug itself in to recharge: TechCrunch reports that a California bill quietly introduced into the California State Legislature would require all self-driving vehicles to be zero-emission by 2025, making the Golden State the first in the nation to give self-driving cars a deadline to electrify.
  • One of L.A.’s most famous eateries turns 90. El Coyote Mexican Café, known to history buffs as the site of Sharon Tate’s final meal back in 1969, is a nonagenarian as of Friday. CBS Los Angeles reports that the family-owned restaurant is celebrating by offering a taco with rice and beans for only 90 cents Friday. On Saturday and Sunday, El Coyote pizzas will be offered at 90 cents. (Editor’s note: This place has great margaritas.)
  • I love a happy ending: Sidney, a female harbor seal who was likely born premature and abandoned by her mother in February 2020, has found a new home in New York City. Rescued by Pacific Marine Mammal Center near Abalone Point in Laguna Beach, Sidney has spent the past year in rehab, as CBS Los Angeles reports. But when it was determined she lacked the necessary skills to survive in the wild, the New York Aquarium agreed to take her.

And finally, set your DVR, if you still have one:

“Oprah With Meghan and Harry: A CBS Primetime Special” will air this Sunday, March 7 at 8 p.m. EST/PST. (Photo: HARPO PRODUCTIONS – JOE PUGLIESE)

Oprah Winfrey’s home-grown (i.e., filmed here in California), highly anticipated two-hour interview with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex — or, as I like to call them, Harry and Meghan — will air Sunday on CBS. The pair is expected to discuss their marriage, the media scrutiny they’ve faced, their estrangement from the royal family, and their subsequent move to the U.S. Quel drama!

Have a great weekend! We’ll be back in your inbox Monday with the latest headlines.

In California is a roundup of news from across USA Today network newsrooms. Also contributing: CBS Los Angeles, The Sacramento Bee, San Francisco Chronicle, TechCrunch.

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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