In California: L.A. County adopts further COVID-19 restrictions, and Disney lays off workers

Winston Gieseke, USA TODAY
·5 min read

I hope you had your fill of delicious Thanksgiving-ness! I sure did. I'm Winston Gieseke, philanthropy and special sections editor for The Desert Sun in Palm Springs, bringing you the latest California 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.

L.A. County adopts further restrictions

The Hollywood sign, as seen from Griffith Park.
The Hollywood sign, as seen from Griffith Park.

The Los Angeles Times reports that health officials have issued a temporary stay-at-home order Friday that will take effect Monday and will last for three weeks.

“Residents are advised to stay home as much as possible and always wear a face covering over their nose and mouth when they are outside their household and around others,” the county health department said.

Public and private gatherings with individuals not in the same household are prohibited under the order, except for church services and protests.

Beaches, trails and parks currently remain open, but gatherings there with non-household members are similarly banned.

The new restrictions come two days after restaurants in L.A. County were ordered to suspend outdoor dining, a decision not supported by restaurant owners and some elected officials, who called the rules too restrictive for the already struggling restaurant industry.

Palm Springs resident: 'Jeopardy!' was an 'opportunity of a lifetime'

Palm Springs resident and former "Jeopardy!" contestant Burt Thakur in Palm Springs, Calif., on Monday, Nov. 23, 2020.
Palm Springs resident and former "Jeopardy!" contestant Burt Thakur in Palm Springs, Calif., on Monday, Nov. 23, 2020.

Project manager Burt Thakur, a Palm Springs resident, says appearing on "Jeopardy!" was the "opportunity of a lifetime." His two-episode run, filmed back in August, aired this month.

The game show's host, Alex Trebek, asked Thakur — who immigrated to the United States at age 7 from India — if he had "any family members back home cheering" him on. Thakur shared a touching story:

"You know, here's a true story, man. I grew up, I learned English because of you," Thakur told Trebek. "And so, my grandfather, who raised me — I'm gonna get tears right now — I used to sit on his lap and watch you every day, so it's a pretty special moment for me, man."

Thakur told The Desert Sun that he didn't think the cameras were rolling during that moment, and he suspected the footage wouldn't be included in the episode.

"I wanted to tell someone whom I'd never met before how much he mattered to me my whole life, and there wasn't a dry eye in that studio at that point, and his reaction was palpable," Thakur said.

Trebek died Nov. 8 at age 80 of pancreatic cancer.

No SantaCon this year

Even Santa Claus is surprised.
Even Santa Claus is surprised.

SantaCon, which the San Francisco Chronicle's Datebook calls "the annual, impromptu gathering of drunken revelers in Santa suits who bar hop downtown San Francisco" has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic and has been canceled.

Meanwhile ...

Disney to lay off workers at parks in California, Florida

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the state's disallowing Disneyland to re-open, The Walt Disney Co. has announced plans to lay off 32,000 employees in the first half of fiscal year 2021, which began last month.

In the SEC document filed on the eve of Thanksgiving Day, the company said it also put 37,000 employees not scheduled for termination on furlough as a result of the pandemic.

“Due to the current climate, including COVID-19 impacts, and (the) changing environment in which we are operating, the company has generated efficiencies in its staffing, including limiting hiring to critical business roles, furloughs and reductions-in-force,” the document said.

The company also said they may make more cuts in spending, such as reducing film and television content investments and additional furloughs and layoffs.

Disney’s parks closed in March as the pandemic started spreading in the U.S. The Florida parks reopened in the summer, but the California parks have yet to reopen pending state and local government approvals.

Audit: California oil regulators issued hundreds of improper permits

Oil rigs and pipeline infrastructure pump oil and gases in Kern County, California, February 20, 2020.
Oil rigs and pipeline infrastructure pump oil and gases in Kern County, California, February 20, 2020.

California oil regulators ignored their own regulations and issued improper permits for hundreds of new wells last year, according to an audit by the state Department of Finance that was finalized this week.

That's one of the findings in the long-awaited report, which concluded that while the troubled California Geologic Energy Management Division (CalGEM) "generally" complied with laws governing safe underground injection and fracking techniques, there were notable exceptions and significant room for improvement.

The audit was requested after stories in The Desert Sun in 2019 revealed that CalGEM employees used so-called "dummy" folders to approve new injection wells for several oil companies that do risky steam injection. While a CalGEM spokeswoman said at the time there were isolated instances of "dummy" folders, the reviewers found nearly three dozen, and the practice continued after it was made public.

CalGEM has 60 days to submit a corrective action plan to the Finance Department.

In other California news:

New COVID-19 surge spreading to all corners

In addition to California's major urban areas, the latest surge in new COVID-19 cases has hit the far northern rural reaches of the state, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Santa Ana winds escalate fire risk

Warning: Winds up to 82 mph and extremely low humidity have prompted renewed fears of wildfires in Southern California, reports The Washington Post.

That's all, folks! Have a safe and informed weekend, and we'll be back in your inbox on Monday.

In California is a roundup of news from across USA Today network newsrooms. Also contributing: the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: L.A. County adopts further COVID-19 restrictions, and Disney lays off workers