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A Christmas Unlike Any Other

Good morning.

As I type this, I’m sitting in my undecorated kitchen in Los Angeles, blasting Spotify’s “Christmas Favourites” playlist and trying to summon something resembling cheer. Instead, I started tearing up while Don Henley wailed about bells ringing “sad, sad news.”

Suffice to say, it’s still rough going for the Golden State.

On Tuesday, as Californians met their first Latino Senator and the first Black woman to be named secretary of state, hospital officials made an extraordinary plea for people to stay home, to resist the temptation to gather with loved ones.

Intensive care units across the state are at or near capacity, and tens of thousands more people are testing positive for the coronavirus every day. Even if the surge drops off sharply — not likely, given how things went after Thanksgiving, experts say — the state has predicted that patients will continue to flood intensive care units and emergency rooms well into January.

Health care workers are exhausted, overworked and feeling mounting “moral distress,” as Joanne Spetz, a professor at the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies at the University of California, San Francisco, explained earlier this week.

And yet, as The Los Angeles Times reported, shoppers are still flocking to shopping malls, which are still allowed to be open, despite that in most of the state, nearly every other type of nonessential business is supposed to be closed.

Nevertheless, there are reasons to celebrate. More and more health care workers and their families are getting vaccine doses, giving them a peace they haven’t known since early this year.

There are still tamales and cookies and even Zoom parties. There’s the hope that next year will be better. And when it is, we can look forward to the holidays being even brighter.

(This article is part of the California Today newsletter. Sign up to get it delivered to your inbox.)


  • Track coronavirus cases by county in California, as well as hospitalizations and deaths. [The New York Times]

  • See how full intensive care units are at hospitals near you. [The New York Times]

And track the state’s alternate care sites. [CA.gov]


We’ll be off tomorrow and Monday. We wish you comfort, safety and time to rest. Thank you, as always, for reading.


California Today goes live at 6:30 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: CAtoday@nytimes.com. Were you forwarded this email? Sign up for California Today here and read every edition online here.

Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, graduated from U.C. Berkeley and has reported all over the state, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles — but she always wants to see more. Follow along here or on Twitter.

California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.

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