Plus: California economists win Nobel prize, the state's COVID cases are slowing down, and a Lakers victory celebration ends with arrests.
I'm Winston Gieseke, philanthropy and special sections editor for The Desert Sun in Palm Springs starting off your week with some of today's biggest 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.
Election 2020: Unofficial ballot boxes are illegal, state tells GOP
California officials issued a cease-and-desist order Monday to the California Republican Party after GOP officials acknowledged setting up unofficial ballot drop boxes that state election authorities said were illegal.
State election officials said they had received reports about the boxes in Fresno, Los Angeles and Orange counties. Officials in Ventura County also said they had received reports of unauthorized ballot drop boxes.
The secretary of state issued a memo to county registrars this weekend clarifying that unofficial drop boxes are illegal and ballots must be returned by mail or to official polling places, vote centers or county-authorized ballot drop-off locations. Officials began investigating after a photo was posted on social media showing a regional field director for the California Republican Party in Orange County supporting the congressional campaign of Michelle Steel alongside a box labeled “official ballot drop off box.”
State GOP spokesman Hector Barajas acknowledged that the party owned some of the boxes. He declined to comment on how many exist and where they are located. Barajas said the state’s law governing so-called ballot harvesting allows an organization to collect and return groups of ballots. “Democrats only seem to object to ballot harvesting when someone else does it,” Barajas said.
State hits COVID-19 hospitalization milestone, some counties remain a concern
Fewer Californians were hospitalized for coronavirus on Saturday than at any time since the pandemic began — with the exception of April 1, reports The Mercury News.
But despite this feel-good statistic, some counties have seen an alarming increase in new cases. As of Friday, Shasta County had more than doubled its daily average to about 55 infections per day. Two weeks ago, the average was about 14 cases per day. Another significant increase has taken place in Sonoma County, where daily cases have risen 57% in two weeks.
Meanwhile, daily deaths have continued to decrease. For the ninth time since the pandemic began, there were no deaths reported Sunday in the Bay Area, while Los Angeles County reported three fatalities and Monterey County reported two. While the state's overall death toll has grown to 16,578, that number is smaller than its proportion of the population. According to Johns Hopkins University, Californians comprise about 12% of the U.S. population but only around 7% of the American deaths from coronavirus.
Palm Desert business owner's 'White Lives Matter' window display sparks controversy
A window display at an art gallery in Palm Desert is being called “repulsive” and racist because of its use of phrases such as “Back the Blue,” “All Lives Matter” and “White Lives Matter.”
The business, which is owned by Denise Robergé, unveiled its new window display over the weekend; it includes an armless black male mannequin dressed in a T-shirt printed with “White Lives Matter” in large, all-capital black letters.
Chelsea Dorris, who owns Chelsea Nicole Makeup & Hair salon nearby, said the window décor incites anger and hatred. “The Black Lives Matter movement doesn’t mean Black lives only matter, it means right now we need to put our focus on making our world a better place for the Black community,” said Dorris.
Other local merchants, like Jack Palmtag, one of the two owners of Lotus Garden Center, felt that while everyone has a right to their opinions, the timing seemed especially inappropriate. “Yes, we understand freedom of speech and we're proud that we live in a country that allows freedom of speech,” Palmtag said. “But we find it offensive and unfortunate in this setting.”
Robergé told The Desert Sun on Monday that her message was not racist. “It’s a statement. All lives matter. Blue lives matter and white lives matter.” She declined further comment.
Fans celebrate Lakers’ championship win, get arrested
Los Angeles Police arrested at least 76 people in downtown Los Angeles on Sunday night on suspicion of vandalism, unlawful assembly and failure to disperse after a crowd of more than 2,000 gathered near the Staples Center to celebrate the Lakers' 106-93 win against the Miami Heat in Orlando.
The Los Angeles Times reports that fans said the crowd turned from celebratory to violent after police responded by firing hard foam and plastic projectiles into the crowd in response to people throwing bottles and other items.
The scene quickly developed into a standoff between police in riot gear and crowds of people in the streets, many of whom were not wearing masks despite the ongoing threat of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Though LAPD Chief Michel Moore urged fans on Twitter to “celebrate responsibly,” at least three celebrants were injured, as were eight officers, and more than 30 buildings were damaged.
$7.2 million in drugs seized at San Diego border crossing
United States authorities discovered more than 3,100 pounds of methamphetamine, fentanyl powder, fentanyl pills and heroin at the Otay Mesa border crossing, which officials said was the second-largest single meth bust on the southwestern border in the history of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency.
Among the drugs found were approximately 3,014 pounds of methamphetamine, 64 pounds of heroin, 29 pounds of fentanyl powder and almost 37 pounds of fentanyl pills. The value of the cache is estimated at $7.2 million.
The seizure happened about 9:45 a.m. Friday when a driver arrived at the cargo border crossing with a tractor-trailer shipment that was purported to contain medical supplies, according to U.S. Customs officials. The male driver, a 47–year-old Mexican citizen, was arrested.
Joe Morgan, Hall of Fame second baseman, dies at 77; California economists win Nobel prize
Joe Morgan, who played for the Cincinnati Reds from 1972 to 1979 and the San Francisco Giants from 1981 to 1982 died Sunday at his home in Danville, a San Francisco suburb. He was 77.
Two Californians won the Nobel prize for economics Monday for tackling the tricky problem of making auctions work efficiently. Paul R. Milgrom and Robert B. Wilson, both of Stanford University, "have benefited sellers, buyers and taxpayers around the world," the Nobel Committee said. Their research has had a big impact on the telecommunications industry.
And lastly, if you're wondering what Halloween in California 2020 will look like, stay tuned. Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that state guidelines for the costumed affair would be announced Tuesday.
In California is a roundup of news from across USA Today network newsrooms. Also contributing: Los Angeles Times, Associated Press, The Mercury News.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Election 2020: Unofficial ballot boxes are illegal, state hits COVID milestone