COVID-19 has killed 5 million people worldwide. It’s a somber milestone in a horrific chapter of history. The statistic was—with grim appropriateness—released on November 1, the day observed by many as All Souls Day, or Dia de los Muertos—the Day of the Dead. The U.S. continues to lead the world in the number of confirmed deaths from the virus with more than 745,800 people dead from COVID-19. 

While California has recorded a steady, two month decline in the number of new cases, 100 Californians are still dying of COVID-19 every day, and Los Angeles County is currently experiencing a troubling increase in the number of new cases. L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer stated at a recent briefing that the highest case rates have been among unvaccinated teens, who were eight times more likely than vaccinated teens to test positive for COVID. She described this group as “important drivers of transmission across our communities,” 

Beginning November 4, patrons and employees of Los Angeles County bars, wineries, distilleries, and nightclubs are now required to show proof of full vaccination before entering indoor areas. The unvaccinated and partially vaccinated can still patronize outdoor seating areas. Outdoor “mega events” with 10,000 or more people in attendance also now require proof of either full vaccination or a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours for all participants, 12 and up. The list of venues includes sporting events, concerts and theme parks. 

Health officials are concerned that winter group activities and travel could generate a new wave of COVID-19 transmission and hospitalizations. It goes without saying that masks and vaccination will remain essential as we head into the third year of the pandemic.

Here at TNT we are determined not to let the shadow of COVID darken the holiday season. We are gearing up for our favorite time of the year with family recipes, book and gift recommendations, the return of our popular virtual shopping and giving guides, and much more. 

We are kicking off the holiday season in this issue with a guide to books by local authors, a historic shipwreck adventure, and a look at a couple of TNT historian’s favorite spy thrillers.

And speaking of espionage, it’s Guy Fawkes Day today.  It’s not a holiday the revolutionary troublemakers in the Colonies brought with them, but it’s celebrated with enthusiasm in Great Britain. Fawkes unsuccessfully plotted to blow up the Houses of Parliament in London on November 5, 1605, in response to violence by the Protestant government against Catholics. He was tortured to death for his crime and gruesomely executed, his body parts shipped about the country and put on display as a traveling attraction that attracted crowds. Whether he was a Catholic martyr or an unsuccessful domestic terrorist remains a  point of contention, but somewhere along the way he became a figure of fun for children. More than 400 years after his death, he lives on at the heart of festivities that include fireworks, bonfires, straw-stuffed effigies, and going door to door for treats and money. There’s a lesson there somewhere.

Daylight saving time ends November 7. Set the clock back, turn on the lights, and settle in for winter. In the Santa Monica Mountains, this is the start of the best time of the year for hiking, beach walks, star gazing, sunrises and sunsets. The world may still be a long way from pre-COVID normal, but we have a lot to be grateful for here in this particular corner of terrestrial paradise.

Stay safe, be well, and Happy Guy Fawkes Day— “a penny for the old guy.”