In a somber week when the U.S. passed 500,000 COVID-19 fatalities, there was good news on at least one coronavirus front: COVID-19 numbers continue to trend downward in Los Angeles County, with just 25 new cases per 100,000 people for five consecutive days—the target number for reopening elementary schools.

The county reported having received 219,700 doses of vaccine last week. The largest shipment to date. County officials estimate that around 38 percent of L.A. County residents 65 and older have received their first vaccine dose. That is roughly 537,895 out of more than 1.4 million in the eligibility group.

More essential workers in Los Angeles County, including teachers, and grocery store employees under the age of 65 will become eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccinations starting March 1. It’s estimated that there are more than 1.3 million people in the new category, but vaccine supplies continue to be limited. The logistics of providing vaccines for everyone who needs and wants them in a county with 10 million residents—more than most states—is an ongoing challenge. No matter how tired we are of them, face coverings remain essential, along with social distancing. Nearly a year into this global disaster the end may finally be in sight. Now is not the time to stop being careful!

The Rim of the Valley park plan is back. Representative Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) has reintroduced the Rim of the Valley legislation, which would more than double the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area to include 190,000 acres of federal, state, and local open space in a ring of interconnected parkland surrounding the greater Los Angeles Basin. The Rim is part of a larger package—the Protecting America’s Wilderness and Public Lands Act (H.R. 803)—scheduled for a House vote on Feb. 24, after TNT goes to press.

The bill failed to find traction last year, but things look more auspicious this time around. If H.R. 803 is approved, it would provide protection for 2.7 million acres of wilderness and conserve wildlife habitat and migration corridors in the key Western states. While the Rim of the Valley won’t have a direct impact on the lives of those of us who live within the national recreation area’s boundaries, it will make us part of a much larger community in the WUI—wildland urban interface.

We are featuring the Backbone Trail in this issue, the nearly 70-mile-long route that travels along the spine of our mountains from Point Mugu to Will Rogers State Park. Imagine a future where a Rim of the Valley trail might extend all the way around the Los Angeles Basin. If H.R. 803 is approved that route could be a reality.

We chose “roots,” in addition to routes for our theme this issue and we invite our readers to explore a modern-day Topanga homestead, and take a look at the roots of the oaks that give this community so much of its character. TNT historian Jimmy Morgan is celebrating the theme with a look at the new historical drama Emperor, a fictional account of the life of Shields Green, a man who escaped slavery and joined John Brown’s abolitionist army.

And finally, everyone with roots in the Santa Monica Mountains—residents and people who work here, are encouraged to take a moment to participate in the Malibu Foundation’s Climate Vulnerability survey. Learn more on page 19. This week’s extreme low humidity and Santa Ana wind-driven fire conditions highlight the issues the survey seeks to address. 

Stay safe, be well.