In California: Nearly 150 partygoers arrested at beach, and more dead whales come ashore


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I’m Winston Gieseke, philanthropy and special sections editor for The Desert Sun in Palm Springs, hoping you had a terrific weekend. It’s Monday, which means it’s time for your California COVID update. And I’m super stoked to report that the headline is once again:

New COVID-19 cases plummet in California

 (Photo: Getty Images)

California reported far fewer coronavirus cases in the week ending Sunday, adding 8,272 new cases. That’s down 22.5% from the previous week’s tally of 10,668 new cases.

Once again, California ranked 50th among the states where coronavirus was spreading the fastest on a per-person basis, according to a USA TODAY Network analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, across the country, eight states had more cases in the latest week than they did the week before.

Across the Golden State, cases fell in 40 counties, with the best declines in San Diego, Los Angeles and Riverside counties.

As for vaccinations, in the week ending Sunday, California reported administering another 1,933,160 doses, including 823,073 first doses. In the previous week, the state administered 2,005,202 vaccine doses, including 710,353 first doses. In all, California reported it has administered 37,048,042 doses.

In California, 243 people were reported dead of COVID-19 in the week ending Sunday. In the prior week, 376 people were reported dead.

The Weeknd dominates Billboard Music Awards with 10 wins

The Weeknd accepts the top artist award. (Photo: NBC via AP )

The Billboard Music Awards came roaring back to Los Angeles on Sunday, and the evening’s big winner (oh, how I wanted to say “winnr”) was The Weeknd, who took home 10 trophies and followed his sweep with a performance of “Save Your Tears.”

Nick Jonas hosted the live awards show, which was held at Los Angeles’ Microsoft Theater, and closed the night with a Jonas Brothers performance of their new Marshmello collaboration, “Leave Before You Love Me.”

Drake, who began the evening as the artist with the most Billboard trophies (27), added another for top streaming songs artist and was honored as the artist of the decade.

Other winners included country artist Gabby Barrett, who won three trophies, and Pink, who received the evening’s Icon Award — joining the ranks of Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson and Cher. She was joined onstage by her 9-year-old daughter, Willow Sage Hart, for a stunning aerial performance.

Gabby Barrett poses backstage. (Photo: Rich Fury, Getty Images for dcp)

Morgan Wallen, who back in February was banned from attending the show after a video surfaced of him yelling a racial slur, won three awards, including top country artist, top country male artist and top country album.

Notable performances came from BTS, who debuted their second English-language single, “Butter”; Colombian artist Karol G, who made her BBMAs performance debut; and the legendary Alicia Keys, who celebrated the 20th anniversary of her debut album “Songs in A Minor” with a medley performance following a touching tribute from Michelle Obama. 

A complete list of nominees and winners can be found here.

Nearly 150 people arrested after thousands attend TikTok party in Southern California

Hanging from a tree while popping open a beer, dancing shirtless on top of a gas pump or taking a joyride in a shopping cart — these are just a few of the infractions that led to the arrests of nearly 150 partygoers in Huntington Beach, southeast of Los Angeles, after approximately 2,500 people gathered for “Adrian’s Kickback” party, a raucous fete that went viral on TikTok. Watch a video here.

Speaking of Southern California, traveling in and out of Los Angeles just got a new boost with the Monday opening of a new $1.73 billion concourse at Los Angeles International Airport with 15 gates. The West Gates, as it’s being called, will provide “a digitally based travel experience,” according to KTLA5, and will serve both international and domestic flights. The project has been 4½ years in the making.

Newsom discusses preparedness plans for  wildfire season

Gov. Gavin Newsom discusses his revised state budget proposal during a news conference at the CalFire/Cameron Park Fire Station in Cameron Park, Calif., Wednesday, May 13, 2020. Los Angeles County reopened its beaches Wednesday in the latest cautious easing of coronavirus restrictions that have closed most California public spaces and businesses for nearly two months. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, Pool) (Photo: Rich Pedroncelli, AP)

As part of his proposed state budget, California Gov. Gavin Newsom revealed Monday that he’s calling for extreme levels of spending in order for the state to be better prepared to deal with the upcoming wildfire season.

The governor wants to spend $2 billion — double his initial proposal — as part of his $100 billion economic recovery plan. With the money, he hopes to hire more firefighters and purchase additional equipment to battle fires this summer.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that “the new funding would be split between beefing up emergency response and doing the precautionary work of reducing buildup of hazardous vegetation across the state’s wildlands, projects like tree thinning and building fuel breaks.”

Standing before the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection’s new fleet of helicopters at a Cal Fire base at McClellan Park in Sacramento County, Newsom said the state needs “to step up our efforts” to battle fires.

Last year, the Golden State lost more than 4 million acres to wildfires, in what has been called among the worst fire seasons in modern history. The state’s extraordinarily dry winter has fire experts warning that California’s forests and grasslands are likely to suffer a similar disaster this year.

A dozen dead whales have washed ashore in the Bay Area this spring

Gray whale seen during Captain Dave's Dolphin and Whale Watching Safari in Dana Point, California

A massive gray whale seen rolling in the surf at Pacifica State Beach on Friday brings the total of dead whales washing ashore in the San Francisco Bay Area this spring to 12.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the body of Friday’s 47-foot adult male is the 10th gray to wash ashore in the Bay Area. In addition, the carcasses of a pygmy sperm whale and a fin whale also have been found ashore.

A cause of death has not been determined — deaths of other whales in the area have been blamed on ship strikes and malnutrition — and a necropsy was not performed, although tissue samples of the whale were collected for further study by the California Academy of Sciences. The whale’s body will be towed out to sea.

Despite the number of casualties, the whale population is still considered healthy. In 2016, scientists estimated that approximately 26,000 whales were living off North America’s west coast. That number is now estimated to be around 20,000.

Meth valued at $2.5M found in watermelon shipment at San Diego border

It's not uncommon for drug smugglers to use fake fruits and vegetables, frozen sharks or even an Xbox to hide and transport their goods. (Photo: Daniel Dan,

Border Patrol agents at the Otay Mesa commercial inspection facility near San Diego discovered more than $2.5 million worth of methamphetamine — more than 1,100 pounds of the drug — hidden within a shipment of melons, according to a report from

This marks the second time meth has been discovered at the facility in the past week.

The report says the stash was discovered Tuesday evening when a truck driving through the checkpoint caught the nose of a trained canine. When U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers searched the truck, they found 193 wrapped plastic containers inside.

The driver was a 47-year-old Mexican national; he was arrested for the attempted smuggling of narcotics.

According to the report, it’s not uncommon for drug smugglers to use fake fruits and vegetables, frozen sharks, even an Xbox to hide and transport their goods.

In California is a roundup of news from across USA Today network newsrooms. Also contributing:, KTLA5, San Francisco Chronicle. We’ll be back in your inbox tomorrow with the latest headlines.

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

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