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In California: Harris, Padilla make history. And does the state have enough vaccine?

Winston Gieseke, USA TODAY
·6 min read
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Plus: Bay Area doctors hail Biden’s plan for rapid COVID response; and Tito Ortiz attempts TKO on iconic restaurant over mask issue and loses

I'm Winston Gieseke, philanthropy and special sections editor for The Desert Sun in Palm Springs bringing you the latest California news on this history-making Inauguration Day.

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.

Vice President Kamala Harris makes history as first woman to hold the office

(L-R) Doug Emhoff, U.S. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, Jill Biden and President-elect Joe Biden wave as they arrive on the East Front of the U.S. Capitol for the inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021 in Washington, DC.
(L-R) Doug Emhoff, U.S. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, Jill Biden and President-elect Joe Biden wave as they arrive on the East Front of the U.S. Capitol for the inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021 in Washington, DC.

In a barrier-breaking ceremony Wednesday, Vice President Kamala Harris took the oath of office, becoming the first woman, the first Black American and the first South Asian American to hold the office.

The daughter of an Indian mother and a Jamaican father, Harris was sworn in by fellow trailblazer Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina Supreme Court justice.

The vice president took the oath while her husband and second gentleman (another first!) Doug Emhoff looked on. Emhoff's two children from his first marriage also were there. After taking the oath, Harris hugged Emhoff and gave a double fist-bump to President Joe Biden.

The crowd of lawmakers, family and friends fell silent as Harris made history, then erupted into applause after she was sworn in. "Ready to serve," Harris wrote in her first tweet on the official Vice President Twitter account.

Despite fears of violence on Inauguration Day, California protests remained peaceful. The only thing out of the ordinary Wednesday was a magnitude 3.5 earthquake that briefly rocked parts of Southern California at 8:31 a.m. No damage was reported.

Alex Padilla becomes first Latino to represent California in U.S. Senate

Secretary of State Alex Padilla is photographed in his office on Monday, July 29, 2019, in Sacramento, Calif.
Secretary of State Alex Padilla is photographed in his office on Monday, July 29, 2019, in Sacramento, Calif.

Among her first duties as vice president, California’s former senator Kamala Harris swore into office her replacement, former California Secretary of State Alex Padilla.

The child of Mexican immigrants, Padilla is the state's first Latino senator, giving a new level of representation to the demographic group that makes up nearly 40% of the state's population.

In an interview with CalMatters prior to being sworn in, Padilla expressed his views that former President Donald Trump and his supporters, including Electoral College objectors Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, "must be held accountable" for their actions during his time in office.

"Every member of the Senate takes an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States, not to uphold conspiracy theories and baseless lies about election results," Padilla said. "And they had fatal consequences on Jan. 6. We can’t lose sight of it. ... I think the nation would be best served if they were no longer in the Senate."

On the subject of COVID, he said: "We can’t rest on our laurels just because there’s vaccines that have been approved. … The other side of COVID response is economic. The $2,000 direct assistance to families across the country should have been done yesterday. The sooner we get that done, the better. And I want to be clear that it’s not a stimulus check in my opinion. It’s a survival check."

California ramps up COVID vaccinations, but are there enough doses?

Barry Parkins of Indian Wells receives a COVID-19 vaccination from Jennifer Salazar, R.N. at the Riverside County Fairgrounds in Indio, January 17, 2021.
Barry Parkins of Indian Wells receives a COVID-19 vaccination from Jennifer Salazar, R.N. at the Riverside County Fairgrounds in Indio, January 17, 2021.

The COVID-19 vaccine rollout has been stymied by a lack of available doses; California counties have greenlighted hundreds of hundreds of thousands of people to receive vaccines that have not yet been delivered. Will this make it difficult for patients to get the required second dose in a timely manner?

Data from Riverside County as of Tuesday showed that while more than 700,000 people are eligible for the vaccine — including anyone 65 years or older, teachers, law enforcement, farmworkers and others — it has only received 157,775 doses.

Up north, San Francisco, which is planning to open three large coronavirus vaccination sites in the hopes of eventually administering a minimum of 10,000 doses per day, said it's likely to run out of vaccine Thursday. And while Fresno County has the means to inoculate 30,000 people weekly, it's only been receiving 8,000-10,000 doses per week.

And let's not forget that a full vaccine requires two doses administered several weeks apart, so the number of "available" doses is actually half the number received.

California officials said they are counting on the federal distribution network speeding up now that President Biden is in office. In fact ...

Bay Area doctors hail Biden’s plan for rapid COVID response

Vials of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine are placed next to a loaded syringe in Throop, Pa., on Jan. 9, 2021.
Vials of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine are placed next to a loaded syringe in Throop, Pa., on Jan. 9, 2021.

In spite of vaccine distribution problems, the San Francisco Chronicle reports that after almost a year of fighting misinformation and disjointed efforts to control the virus, many Bay Area doctors felt hope on Wednesday as Biden was sworn in.

Dr. John Swartzberg, an infectious disease specialist from UC Berkeley who wiped away tears while watching the inauguration, said he was just relieved to see a rational speech from the president and a science-based plan from the federal administration. “We’re going to see a big difference," he said. "Mark my words.”

Biden's ambitious plan to handle the pandemic, unveiled last week, includes a goal to administer 100 million vaccines in his first 100 days and invoking the Cold War-era Defense Production Act to produce more doses. He also announced a $1.9 trillion proposal to build up testing in order to reopen schools, boost the economy and help workers and their families who have been hurt by nearly a year of recession.

Following the inauguration, the president signed executive orders requiring masks to be worn on federal property and directives to rejoin international efforts working to combat the pandemic that the previous administration had shunned, including membership in the World Health Organization.

He also put together a task force of medical experts in November, which included three specialists from the Bay Area.

Tito Ortiz attempts TKO on iconic restaurant over mask issue, loses

Former UFC Heavyweight World Champion Tito Ortiz attends Waiting for Wishes Celebrity Waiters Dinner hosted by Kevin Carter & Jay DeMarcus in Nashville, Tenn.
Former UFC Heavyweight World Champion Tito Ortiz attends Waiting for Wishes Celebrity Waiters Dinner hosted by Kevin Carter & Jay DeMarcus in Nashville, Tenn.

American mixed martial artist Tito Ortiz, who was voted in last year as a Huntington Beach city council member, took to Facebook over the weekend, urging people to avoid a local burger joint that had refused to serve the maskless public official, according to a report in The Orange County Register.

In a video posted Sunday, Ortiz complains that “they won’t let me order unless I have a mask to come in. ... TK Burger, you lose my business, you lose HB’s business.”

Ortiz's video had the opposite effect. Dozens of people went to the restaurant to show support. Even Mayor Kim Carr shared a photo of her picking up lunch at the restaurant Monday. “TK Burgers is a Huntington Beach institution,” Carr said. “I wanted to thank them for practicing health guidelines.”

By Monday, possibly stung by the criticism he received, Ortiz had changed his tune, calling his denunciation of TK Burgers “a bad decision.”

“I understand this is a small business," he said via Facebook, "and I would never want to ruin that business.”

Ortiz has previously raised eyebrows and ire over his skepticism to COVID-19 and his refusal to wear a face covering, expressing his belief that masks actually cause disease rather than prevent it.

That's all for now. In California will be back in your inbox tomorrow with the latest headlines.

In California is a roundup of news from across USA Today network newsrooms. Also contributing: Los Angeles Times, The Orange County Register, San Francisco Chronicle.

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 winston.gieseke@desertsun.com.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Californians Kamala Harris, Alex Padilla make history