| USA TODAY
I’m Erin Rode, housing reporter at the Ventura County Star, with Tuesday’s California news.
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.
Door-to-door trick-or-treating is “strongly discouraged”
If you were holding out hope that things would get “back to normal” in time for trick-or-treating this Halloween, we have some bad news. The state announced its guidance for Halloween and Dia De Los Muertos today, and it “strongly discourages” families from trick-or-treating or attending parties.
“Some traditional Halloween celebrations such as parties and door-to-door trick-or-treating pose a high risk of spreading COVID-19 and are strongly discouraged,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s Health and Human Services secretary, during a Tuesday press conference. “If a positive case is discovered, it could be very challenging to conduct appropriate contact tracing.”
Ghaly encouraged families to celebrate the holidays within their own households or virtually. He offered several alternative Halloween celebration ideas, including:
- Create a haunted house or candy hunt at home within a single household
- Have a scary movie night with those in your household
- Carve pumpkins or paint faces at home
- Design COVID-19 face masks that match your costume
- Have an online costume contest
Local health departments may also have additional restrictions. Last month, both Los Angeles and Ventura County announced that trick-or-treating would not be allowed this year, only to later change the guidance to “not recommended.”
Riverside County stays in the red tier despite backsliding; other counties go orange, yellow
While several California counties improved their COVID-19 metrics this week, Riverside County’s metrics worsened for the second week in a row. Riverside, due east of Los Angeles, is the state’s fourth most populous county, with about 2.5 million people. But it has the second-highest total number of coronavirus cases, 62,000, behind only giant L.A. County.
Under the state’s color-coded, four-tiered framework, Riverside and Fresno counties — which have been in the red tier — did not meet the requirements for the red tier last week. While Fresno County improved enough to stay in the red tier this week, Riverside County’s numbers got worse.
But the state is not immediately moving the county back a tier, after local officials asked for a one-week grace period to review the data. County officials say they will try to demonstrate that they can stay in the red tier while keeping the virus’s spread in check, and say that a return to the purple tier would negatively impact small businesses.
If the county moves back into the purple tier, movie theaters, places of worship, gyms and indoor dining will need to close again.
Other counties moved forward to a new color on Tuesday. Colusa, Kern, Kings, San Benito, Stanislaus and Sutter counties moved into the red tier. Alameda, Placer and Santa Clara counties moved into the orange tier, and Sierra County moved into the yellow tier, which is the least restrictive.
California GOP considers adding more unofficial ballot boxes
California’s Republican Party says it will stop labeling its ballot drop boxes as “official,” but may expand the use of them even though the state says they are illegal. California GOP spokesman Hector Barajas said the party used the boxes in three of the state’s highly contested congressional districts, and may put out additional boxes.
“It gives voters another opportunity to be able to turn in their ballots if they choose to do so,” he said. “This is just another option.”
On Monday, the state issued a cease-and-desist order to the GOP, saying that the ballot drop boxes are illegal. The order gave the Republican Party until Thursday to remove the boxes.
Rick Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California, Irvine, told the Associated Press that it is unclear whether the unofficial ballot boxes are legal.
“I think it’s a very bad idea. They are not as secure as government drop boxes, which are put in well-lighted places and are tamper-proof,” he said. “I worry about third parties interfering with these privately run drop boxes.”
In Ventura County, elections chief Mark Lunn also called on those putting out unofficial ballot boxes to cease and desist on Tuesday. “If they think that they are helping, they are not,” Lunn told the Ventura County Star. “They are obstructing the election process by doing that.”
The response in Ventura County came after elections officials received reports of unofficial boxes in Simi Valley on Monday. Lunn encouraged voters to sign up for ballot tracking at wheresmyballot.sos.ca.gov, which allows people to get notifications about the status of their ballot, including when it is mailed and counted.
FAQs about your mail-in ballot
California prepares for vote-by-mail effort
California prepares for vote-by-mail effort
If you’re filling out your mail-in ballot soon, don’t forget to do these things to fill out your ballot correctly:
- According to the Riverside County Registrar of Voters, the county elections office will compare your signature on your ballot envelope to the one on your driver’s license/state ID or the one provided when registering. This is done to protect your vote.
- Use a black ink pen or marker. Do not use red ink.
- Completely fill in the oval next to the name of the candidate you want to vote for. If the oval is not completely filled in, your vote will not count.
Check out this guide for other information on mail-in ballots in California and answers to other frequently asked questions.
Another week of elevated fire risk
Triple-digit temperatures and strong winds are bringing elevated fire risk back to California this week. Last week’s cooler temperatures helped fire crews contain the Zogg Fire and Glass Fire in Northern California. But fire season isn’t over.
“By midweek, we’re actually expecting the wind to increase and the humidity to decrease, and so that trend is actually going to elevate fire risk across much of Northern California,” Cal Fire Assistant Deputy Director Daniel Berland told USA TODAY.
Nine of California’s 20 deadliest wildfires have happened in October.
“October is generally a dry month for us and, unfortunately, if you look at our history, some of our largest fires and most destructive fires have actually happened in October,” Scott L. Stephens, professor of fire science at UC Berkeley, told USA TODAY.
Parents pay $100 per hour for private tutors; Redding megachurch hosted an in-person worship conference
Some parents are paying $100 per hour for private tutors to supplement distance learning, which both increases demand and widens inequities. The Los Angeles Unified School District is attempting to bridge this gap through a pilot tutoring program that pairs students with volunteer tutors.
Bethel Church, a megachurch with approximately 11,000 members in Redding, hosted an in-person worship conference amid a COVID-19 outbreak at the church’s School of Supernatural Ministry. As of Tuesday, the school had 274 coronavirus cases. The church hosted a two-plus day worship conference for 325 people starting on Sept. 30.
In California is a roundup of news from across USA Today network newsrooms. Also contributing: Los Angeles Times, Associated Press.
Source: USA Today
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