I’m Winston Gieseke, philanthropy and special sections editor for The Desert Sun in Palm Springs, bringing you today’s Golden State headlines on this glorious Friday.

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California to drop social distancing requirements in June

California’s health director Dr. Mark Ghaly said Friday that the state will no longer require social distancing and will allow full capacity for businesses when the state reopens on June 15.

Ghaly said that dramatically lower virus cases and increasing vaccinations mean it’s safe for the state to remove nearly all restrictions next month.

The state will still recommend that organizers of outdoor events with more than 10,000 people require that attendees provide verification that they have been vaccinated or have tested negative for the coronavirus. Those who can’t or don’t provide the verification should be encouraged to wear masks, Ghaly said.

The state will require vaccine verification or negative test results for indoor events with more than 5,000 attendees, but Ghaly said that can be “by self-attestation” with details to come from health officials on how that process will work.

State officials do not anticipate that they will create or require a vaccination “passport” or other formal verification, he said.

The Orange County Register reports that California theme parks can also return to full capacity on June 15. According to the report, fully vaccinated guests will have to present a vaccination card (a photo of the card or a mobile app version are permitted). Unvaccinated attendees must show results from a COVID-19 test conducted within 72 hours of the start of the event.

Weekly unemployment claims increased in California last week

Initial unemployment claims in California increased last week compared with the week prior, the U.S. Department of Labor said Thursday.

New claims, which are considered a proxy for layoffs, rose to 70,965 in the week ending May 15, up from 69,927 the week before, the labor department said.

At the same time last year, there were 244,431 new claims in California.

U.S. jobless claims, meanwhile, continued their steady decline last week, dropping to 444,000, the lowest level during the pandemic. In early April last year, the number of new claims peaked at more than 6 million and hovered between 700,000-900,000 for much of last year.

Since February, claims have steadily declined as the pace of vaccinations has increased and consumers received stimulus checks and extra unemployment benefits.

Who is shooting pellets at cars on the 91 freeway?

California Highway Patrol is said to be stumped by a series of shootings on the 91 Freeway near Green River Road in Corona. In recent weeks, more than a dozen cars have had their windows blown out.

One such driver, Taryn Campbell, was enduring stop-and-go traffic on that section of the freeway May 11 when she heard a “loud popping sound.” Her rear window had been destroyed by a pellet. CHP investigators believe it is the same ammunition that has been fired at other cars.

The Los Angeles Times reports that while shootings aren’t unprecedented on the state’s roadways, this particular threat has escalated to the point that CHP is conducting a widespread investigation.

“We do believe it is coming from a moving vehicle,” Assistant Chief Donald Goodbrand said Thursday. “At this point, we are still determining if this is an individual or multiple individuals. We have shootings in the morning and afternoon.”

Goodbrand advises drivers whose windows have been shot out to pull over to the shoulder or off the freeway as soon as it is safe to do so and call 911 so officers can investigate the scene. Also, drivers with dash cameras that frequent that part of the freeway have been asked to review their footage to see if it provides any clues to the identity of the shooter or shooters.

No serious injuries have been reported so far.

6-year-old boy dies after being shot in SoCal road rage incident

On another Southern California freeway, a 6-year-old boy seated in the backseat of his mother’s car was shot to death Friday by another motorist, authorities said.

The shooting occurred around 8 a.m. on the northbound side of State Route 55 in the city of Orange, about 30 miles southeast of Los Angeles.

“It was an isolated road rage incident between the mom and another driver from a white sedan,” California Highway Patrol Officer Florentino Olivera told KTLA-TV at the scene. “Not sure if there were any passengers in that white sedan but apparently there was a shot fired from that sedan into the silver car and unfortunately the child that was seated in the right rear seat was struck,” he said.

The boy, whose name was not immediately released, was pronounced dead at a hospital.

The CHP asked for assistance from any drivers who were on that section of freeway between 7:55 a.m. and 8:15 a.m., especially if their vehicles have dash cams.

Transgender leaders call Caitlyn Jenner ‘the figurehead we don’t want’

Los Angeles-based transgender organizer Bamby Salcedo was not happy after watching California gubernatorial candidate Caitlyn Jenner’s interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity.

During the interview, Jenner, 71, an Olympic gold medalist, defended her opposition to transgender girls competing in girls’ sports at school and talked about a friend with a private airplane hangar next to her own who is frustrated with California’s homeless problem and planning to leave the state.

“She’s completely detached,” Salcedo, president of the TransLatin@ Coalition, an advocacy group, said about America’s most famous trans woman. “All this truly is about her. It’s not about the issues, not about the people.”

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that other transgender advocates and politicians say Jenner’s views divide her from much of the trans community. From her vacillating praise of former President Donald Trump to her opinion on youth sports, they say Jenner is either unable or unwilling to empathize with the struggles of those who aren’t in her rich and famous shoes.

“Unfortunately, because of her background and reputation, she has become the figurehead we don’t want,” said Christine Hallquist, a transgender woman who ran for governor of Vermont in 2018. “She hasn’t really done anything to raise the voices of those who can’t speak for themselves.”

In a recent CNN interview, Jenner described herself as fiscally conservative, socially liberal and “kind of on the Republican side.”

That’s all, folks! Have a safe and informed weekend. We’ll be back in your inbox Monday 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.

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