A roundup of the biggest news stories in California this week, including a wildfire update, coronavirus news and the latest from Sacramento.
Nobel Prizes in Chemistry and Physics Awarded to UC Berkeley Faculty
Jennifer Doudna of UC Berkeley won the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry this week. The biochemist shares the prize with her colleague Emmanuelle Charpentier of the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology. Doudna and Charpentier were awarded the prize for developing CRISPR-Cas9, a revolutionary breakthrough in the science of gene editing.
The 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to UC Berkeley’s Richard Genzel, an emeritus physics and astronomy professor. Genzel shares half the prize with UCLA professor Andrea Ghez; the other half was awarded to UK physicist Roger Penrose. The Berkeley scientists won the prize for their discovery of a supermassive compact object at the center of our galaxy.
Doudna makes history as the first woman on the UC Berkeley faculty to win a Nobel Prize (others have won after leaving the university). Genzel and Doudna are UC Berkeley’s 24th and 25th Nobel laureates.
August Complex Fire Becomes Largest in California History
The August Complex fire, which began on August 17, 2020 and comprises dozens of individual fires that have burned together, has become the largest wildfire recorded in state history. According to Cal Fire, the August Complex has grown to 1,021,476 acres and is 65 percent contained. It is burning in the Coast Range of Northern California, largely in Mendocino, Shasta-Trinity and Six Rivers national forests. Cal Fire and the U.S. Forest Service are jointly managing the fire fighting efforts. One firefighter has been killed and two have been seriously injured.
Statewide Wildfire Update
Cal Fire reports that it has more than 14,000 fire fighters currently battling 20 major wildfires across California. In 2020 more than 4 million acres have burned in California, causing 31 fatalities and the destruction of more than 9,200 structures.
Cooler weather and increased humidity are predicted for this weekend. A return to warmer and drier conditions is expected next week.
Governor Newsom Appoints Justice Martin Jenkins (Ret.) to California Supreme Court
On Monday, Governor Gavin Newsom announced the nomination of Justice Martin Jenkins (Ret.) for Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court. Justice Jenkins would be the first openly gay California Supreme Court Justice. He would also be the third African American man to serve on the California Supreme Court.
“Justice Jenkins is widely respected among lawyers and jurists, active in his Oakland community and his faith, and is a decent man to his core,” said Governor Newsom. “As a critical member of my senior leadership team, I’ve seen firsthand that Justice Jenkins possesses brilliance and humility in equal measure. The people of California could not ask for a better jurist or kinder person to take on this important responsibility.”
Coalition of Local Governments Wins Court Order to Continue Census Count
A national coalition of local governments and civil rights organizations including the cities of Los Angeles, San Jose and Salinas, Los Angeles County, the League of Women Voters, NAACP and others, have won an order blocking the Trump Administration’s latest effort to end the 2020 Census early. The order confirms that the Census county must continue through October 31, and rejects the Trump administration’s attempt to end the count on October 5.
“The Court’s ruling is a victory for everyone who relies on an accurate Census count for key federal funding and fair political representation,” said Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer. “Outreach and counting must continue through October, and Judge Kh made it utterly clear that she will not tolerate any further Trump Administration efforts to cut this vital process short. The Administration must stop playing games with this fundamental constitutional requirement and ensure the hard work of counting every American is accomplished.”
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California has had 838,606 confirmed cases of Covid-19 to date, with 16,428 deaths since the start of the pandemic. There were 3,806 newly confirmed cases on Thursday. The seven-day positivity rate is 2.5% and the 14-day positivity rate is 2.6%.
The state released updated guidance for private gatherings. Among the new requirements, gatherings are limited to three households and must be held outside in a space large enough to allow 6-foot social distancing. Everyone at a gathering should wash or sanitize hands frequently and should not share items such as food serving utensils and containers. Face coverings must be worn in accordance with CDHP guidance. Gatherings should be two hours or less. Singing, shouting and chanting are strongly discouraged.
(See last week’s News Roundup to compare the stats.)
Go to covid19.ca.gov to find out the latest Covid-19 statistics in your county.