In CA: In the city with the highest pay in the state, your house isn't likely to burn down

Arlene Martinez, USA TODAY

It's a battle to win hearts and minds in California, and Gov. Newsom and friends are ready to spend big to do it. And I'll tell you the story of the city that on average pays its employees the most of anywhere in the Golden State, a little place where there's one firefighter for every 4.2 residents.

It's Arlene Martínez with news to take you into the weekend.

But first, we were the envy of the country when it came to the coronavirus, what with our quick, aggressive responses and low caseload. Then, things changed. The Associated Press explored how California went from success story to cautionary tale.

And a quick note: I'm off tomorrow for the Fourth of July holiday 🇺🇸 . See you Monday.

In California brings you top stories and commentary from across the USA TODAY Network and beyond. Get it free, straight to your inbox.

State embarks on education campaign

Gov. Gavin Newsom again urged residents to use common sense and be on guard this Fourth of July weekend, to use masks and stay away from family/friend gatherings.

And he's putting a significant amount of money to drive home the mask message via a new public awareness campaign involving billboards, TV and radio ads in multiple languages.

They'll start in English and Spanish and will eventually extend to seven languages. Accompanying social media ads will focus on Black and Latino communities, which are being disproportionately impacted by the virus.

The new campaign is funded in part by Silicon Valley groups and philanthropists, including Tom Steyer, the head of Newsom’s Task Force on Business and Jobs Recovery.

Tulare County's coronavirus caseload doubled over the last two weeks, and hospital officials, straining to accommodate patients, urge people to stay home this weekend.

Santa Barbara County announced it's closing beaches starting tomorrow, following neighboring Ventura County, which followed neighboring Los Angeles County. Orange and San Diego counties have limited closures in effect.

More on the face mask front

Sheriff's deputies in West Hollywood will issue citations for not wearing a mask in public and it won't come cheap: $250 for the first offense + $50 in fees.

Monterey is also fining folks for failing to wear a mask, though the fine starts at $100.

Palm Springs implemented even stricter face mask requirements than Gov. Newsom, requiring people to wear them on sidewalks near businesses, while picking up food and while dining in (when employees approach) and any inside exercise activities.

Speaking of masks, is this the end of lipstick use for the foreseeable future? Asking for my long-neglected, lonely magenta friend.

Celebrities take on the #WearADamnMask challenge.

Want to socialize? Get a social bubble

Social bubbles can help protect you and your family from COVID-19 infections.
Social bubbles can help protect you and your family from COVID-19 infections.

We’ve heard that COVID-19 social bubbles can help protect you and your family from infections. Now there’s research to back that up.

A study published last month in Nature suggests that we can still have social lives during the pandemic as long as we think a little bit about the groups we interact with —setting up a bubble now can be important to you and your community to slow infection rates.

The researchers modeled three concepts that “rely on less confinement and allow strategic social contact while still flattening the curve.”

The main takeaway? Make your bubble, then you and those in it stay there.

Remember these three things if you're leaving it:

Avoid close contact: Six feet is about two arms' length.

Wear a cloth face cover: The mask should cover your mouth and nose.

Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer: On the latter, at least 60% alcohol.

Jobs added in record numbers, biotech in LA and boxed wine

The U.S. economy added a record 4.8 million jobs in June following a historic loss of 20.8 million jobs just two months earlier.

Los Angeles County commits $15 million to a venture fund to grow the biotech industry. Will companies stay?

And so a new population learns what I learned so many years ago: Boxed wine is good, inexpensive and enjoying pandemic-infused popularity (tip: Try the Black Box).

Cannabis licenses, Ventura's Father Serra and a new John Lewis doc

Los Angeles tightens the rules on its social equity program for cannabis businesses so it truly benefits the people it was meant to help (which are those disproportionately hurt by the "war" on marijuana).

Ventura's historical preservation committee determined a statue of Father Junipero Serra, located in front of City Hall, is not a historic landmark. On Tuesday, elected officials will determine if it should stay or come down altogether.

"John Lewis: Good Trouble," tells the story of a civil rights activist and legislator who at 80 continues to wage war against systemic racism, even while battling stage-four pancreatic cancer. You can download it starting this weekend.

What else we're talking about

Summer Road Trip Guide from USA TODAY and the Smithsonian.
Summer Road Trip Guide from USA TODAY and the Smithsonian.

USA TODAY and the Smithsonian Institution partnered to create a summer road trip-themed learning guide with games, puzzles, recipes and lots of crafts. It's designed for ages 6-12 (but fun for everyone!) and free to download.

The fight to protect twisty Joshua trees has taken twists and turns in recent weeks. Most recently, Assembly member Chad Mayes, I-Rancho Mirage, quietly sought to undo a degree of protection under the state's Endangered Species Act.

PG&E, which paid an initial $5.4 billion to a trust for victims of wildfires it caused, exits bankruptcy.

Vernon: One firefighter for every 4.2 residents

I'll leave you this shortened week with a fun activity.

Earlier this week, the state controller's office released public pay records for 469 cities and 50 counties. A nice feature is it breaks it down by total compensation: base wages; overtime; "other" pay (sick, vacation, uniform allowance); lump-sum payouts; health care; and pension contributions.

Explore it at

The state's effort started in the wake of the scandal in the city of Bell (pop. 35,000-ish), where the city manager and the elected officials who set his pay determined his salary should be around $800,000.

Who pays big bucks: The small, industrial city of Vernon boasted the highest average pay of any city. I hope employees there are highly responsive, considering its population of 297 people (according to the city) is served by 285 government workers.

What drives pay there, you ask?

Well, its fire department had 70 employees, and all but nine made over $100,000 in 2019, excluding benefits (49 cleared $150,000;18 topped $200,000). It has four stations covering 5.2 square miles and boasts a response time of under three minutes.

The HBO show "True Detective" used Vernon as the backdrop for its second season.

By the way: You can download the data in an easy-to-filter Excel format by using the CSV button under the jurisdiction's landing page. Play, learn, hold your officials accountable.

See you Monday.

In California brings you top news and analysis from across USA TODAY Network newsrooms. Also contributing: Associated Press, Dot.LA, LA Curbed, San Francisco Chronicle, S.F. Gate, Orange County Register, Santa Barbara Independent, Toofab,

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: California, Newsom, Vernon, public pay, boxed wine, beaches: Thur news