I’m Winston Gieseke, philanthropy and special sections editor for The Desert Sun in Palm Springs, starting off the week with some California news highlights from today and the weekend.

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.

Newsom warns of increased COVID-19 spread in SoCal, makes an example of himself by getting a flu shot

 (Photo: Getty Images)

Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Monday that while the state’s positivity rate for coronavirus cases has dropped to 2.8% over a two-week average, caution should be exercised in certain Southern California counties, where some data shows increased transmission of the virus.

According to Newsom, the “R-effective” rate (which measures how fast the virus is spreading), has been going up in SoCal based on two groupings of counties. The rate measures the average of how many people are likely to get sick from one infected person; a rate of one or higher indicates a faster spread.

Collectively, the following counties have an “R-effective” rate of 1.02: Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Ventura, San Luis Obisbo and Kern. Riverside, San Bernardino, Orange, San Diego and Imperial counties collectively have an “R-effective” rate of 0.97.

Meanwhile in the Bay Area, Newsom said, the rate is up to 0.95.

The governor urged continued vigilance in the form of wearing masks, physical distancing, frequent hand-washing and minimizing mixing with people from other households. Following such protocols, he said, will allow businesses and schools to reopen faster.

California currently has 25 counties in the purple tier, the most restrictive level of the state’s color-coded, four-tier reopening framework. There are 19 counties in the red tier, 11 in the orange tier and three in the yellow tier, indicating the highest level of allowable business activity.

In this image taken from live streamed video from the California Governor’s Office, California Gov. Gavin Newsom getting a flu shot during a news conference on Monday, Sept. 28, 2020, in Rancho Cordova, Calif. Newsom said he has gotten a flu shot every year “for as long as I can remember.” He said it’s important to get a flu shot this year to ensure hospitals are not overrun by a combination of flu and coronavirus cases. While California’s coronavirus cases have been decreasing over the last several weeks, Newsom said Monday there is “some concern” that cases could increase over the next few weeks. (Photo: AP)

During the Monday press conference, the governor briefly stepped away from the lectern to get his own flu shot as a way to demonstrate the “power and potency” of the vaccine. Rolling up his T-shirt sleeve, he joked about his biceps as he got the shot from a masked and gloved health care professional.

New law aims to house California’s transgender prisoners by gender identity

In other Newsom news, the governor signed a law on Saturdayrequiring California prisons to house transgender inmates based on their gender identity — but only if the state does not have “management or security concerns.”

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation currently houses men and women in separate facilities, with transgender inmates often housed based on the gender they were assigned at birth. Advocates say this is dangerous, particularly for transgender women housed in facilities for men.

Under the new law, officers must privately ask inmates during the intake process if they identify as transgender, nonbinary or intersex. Those inmates can then request to be placed in a facility that corresponds to their identity.  

At any time, if inmates raise concerns about their health or safety, the new law says the state must reassess where they are housed.

A similar law was passed in Connecticut in 2018. Rhode Island, New York City and Massachusetts have also housed inmates based on their gender identity.

The law also requires officers to address transgender inmates based on the pronouns of their choice. And it requires officers to search inmates based on the search policy of their gender identity.

That wasn’t the only LGBT-related law signed over the weekend by Newsom, a long-time LGBT ally. Another will require local public health officers to better track how diseases are affecting the LGBT community and yet another bans life and disability insurance companies from denying coverage because a person is HIV positive.

And lastly was a law that sets up a Transgender Wellness and Equity Fund to provide grants to organizations that support the transgender community.

Federal judge orders U.S. Postal Service to cease slowing tactics in California, elsewhere

Pres. Trump points to mail-in ballots, claiming the election will not be fair. (Photo: Alex Brandon, AP)

A federal judge ruled Monday that the U.S. Postal Service must prioritize election mail and immediately reverse changes that resulted in widespread delays in California and several other states, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The ruling orders Louis DeJoy, the postmaster general, to stop cutting costs by instituting reforms that have overly complicated the mail system and caused lags in the delivery of medication, unemployment checks and other essential items.

The judge’s ruling was the result a lawsuit by attorneys general for the District of Columbia and six states, including California, accusing the Trump administration of “undermining the Postal Service by decommissioning high-speed mail-sorting machines, curtailing overtime and mandating that trucks run on time, which led to backlogs because mail was left behind.”

“The court has spoken. It’s time for President Trump to follow the law and stop interfering with our mail,” said Xavier Becerra, California’s attorney general, in a statement on Monday. “Our elections — and the health and livelihood of American families — depend on it. This is a major victory for the rule of law and protecting our right to vote.”

‘Heat tourists’ flock to to Death Valley; Kathy Hilton to join ‘Real Housewives’?; ‘Baby Yoda’ kitten saved from wildfire

“Heat tourists” get their photo taken by the digital thermometer showing record-setting temperatures.

Death Valley National Park is experiencing its fourth hottest summer in history, which over the weekend drew visitors interested in so-called “heat tourism.” The Los Angeles Times reported that dozens of people flocked to the park, hoping to get their picture taken alongside a thermometer listing one of the hottest recorded temperatures on Earth.

“It would be stuck at 129 and then all of a sudden it would go up to 130 and everyone would run out of their cars to take a picture,” one visitor said.

News from “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills”:Page Six reports that Kathy Hilton (aka Paris Hilton’s mother) is considering joining the show’s cast — but only as a part-timer. Hilton wants only to be a friend of the Housewives, in part because “part-timers don’t have to take part in the grueling postseason reunion specials,” says the article.

Rescued this kitty was. A weeks-old kitten whose face resembles Baby Yoda from Disney’s “The Mandalorian” was rescued over the weekend from a California wildfire. Though covered in ash, she was reportedly in good shape. While many requests have come in to adopt the kitty, she has been placed in foster care while authorities wait to see if anyone claims her.

In California is a roundup of news from across USA Today network newsrooms. Also contributing: Los Angeles Times, New York Daily News, Page Six

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