California continues to grapple with rapidly increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases and record numbers of hospitalizations—an increase of 89 percent in the last two weeks statewide. California Governor Gavin Newsom is cautioning that if the current surge continues, hospitalizations could increase by 2-3 times within the next month, and a full shut down may be looming.

In an effort to slow the spread, new Los Angeles County COVID-19 restrictions went into effect on Monday. The modified stay-at-home orders exempt essential services, but impact most businesses. Non-essential office-based businesses were required to send workers home to work remotely. Other full closures include bars, theaters, spectator sporting events, and playgrounds not associated with a licenced daycare or school.

Restaurants, even those that implemented outdoor dining requirements earlier this year, are back to take-out only. Essential businesses like grocery stores and pharmacies are limited to 35 percent of maximum occupancy; “non-essential” retail, including personal care services, is limited to just 20 percent. It’s a good idea to go early and anticipate waiting in line. Check out TNT’s updated grocery delivery and pickup resource for contactless grocery options.

Parks, beaches and trails remain open, but hikes or picnics with friends are not permitted: gatherings are limited to members of the same household. Outdoor fitness centers, botanical gardens, zoos, museums and aquariums can operate at 50 percent occupancy, while vehicle-only events like drive-in movies and car holiday parades are permitted, provided each vehicle contains only members of the same household.

The nightly 10 p.m. 5 a.m. curfew remains in effect for everyone except individuals experiencing homelessness. 

All of that boils down to stay home as much as possible to help stop the surge of COVID-19 cases, and if you have to go out for essentials, mask up and keep six feet distance from others. Learn more at publichealth.lacounty.gov

If coronavirus concerns weren’t enough, residents of the Santa Monica Mountains remain on edge during one the longest and most potentially deadly wildfire seasons in recent memory. Topanga had two more close calls in the past week. On November 24,  a structure fire in the Saddlepeak area spread to a hillside. The 69Bravo heliport was quickly activated and air support helped stop the spread of the fire, but could not save the house, which was reportedly fully engulfed in flame. On November 30, a vehicle over the side in the S curves on Topanga Canyon Blvd. sparked a fire that swiftly spread into brush. Rapid response, including air support, contained the fire at roughly an eighth of an acre. However, downed power lines left residents from Fernwood in Topanga to Big Rock in Malibu without electricity, and shut down Topanga Canyon Blvd. overnight.

Critical fire conditions created by powerful Santa Ana winds left many on edge over the Thanksgiving holiday and throughout the week, with no rain in the forecast. You can keep an eye on local fire conditions at t-cep.org

Despite fire fears and the shadow cast by coronavirus, the holiday season is here. Many favorite family traditions may be on hold but here at TNT our hope is to help our readers find safe ways to celebrate the season, and find joy.

In the spirit of the holidays, we visit an amazing and heartwarming local non profit, the Topanga Animal Rescue, which is always there to help save and protect the community’s wild and domestic animals. Also in this issue, we welcome the Krampus, Central Europe’s horrific yet helpful traditional Christmas spirit; solve the mystery of just when and why the fruitcake fell out of favor; cook the perfect apple cranberry crumble; and share tips on what to get the family historian for the holidays, and where to order local farm boxes and grocery delivery.  

Our local Canyon businesses need our help more than ever. Don’t miss our special local shopping guide, complete with a video window-shopping feature. There is plenty of holiday cheer right here at home!

Stay safe, be well!