In summary

California begins planning to reopen economy. Newsom faces more scrutiny over face mask deal. Counties divided on early release of inmates due to COVID-19.

Good morning, California. It’s Tuesday, April 14.

But not all quiet on the Western front

Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2019. Photo by Hector Amezcua for CalMatters

Today California will unveil its strategy for slowly reopening the state’s economy and allowing residents to return to “some semblance of normalcy” as the coronavirus curve bends, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday.

Although the plan is California-specific, it’s guided by the Western States Pact, a regional framework for easing coronavirus restrictions developed with Gov. Kate Brown of Oregon and Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington, Newsom said.

  • Newsom: “There’s an old African proverb that says if you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together. That’s the spirit of regionalism that’s defined our approach to addressing this pandemic.”

The announcement came as six states in the Northeast also released a regional strategy to loosen shelter-in-place orders, potentially forecasting a showdown with President Donald Trump, who said Monday, “When somebody’s the president of the United States, the authority is total and that’s the way it’s gotta be. It’s total. It’s total. And the governors know that.”

Meanwhile, Newsom is also starting to face more scrutiny at home, CalMatters’ Laurel Rosenhall and Dan Morain report.

On Thursday, Sen. Holly Mitchell, a Democrat from Los Angeles, will lead a Senate hearing examining the governor’s $1.4 billion deal to procure protective gear, including hundreds of millions of masks, from a manufacturer in China accused of supplying faulty products to the United States. The governor and state officials said Monday the contract protects taxpayers and that audits, done in cooperation with federal and medical authorities, will affirm the quality of the products.

Lawmakers will also look into $6 billion the state expects to spend on coronavirus beyond the $1 billion already approved.

Newsom’s rapid-fire dealmaking has raised some lawmakers’ eyebrows, especially over concerns that the masks won’t be high-quality.

  • Sen. John Moorlach, a Costa Mesa Republican who sits on the budget committee: “Was this just one of those smooth talkers that convinced someone — ‘You could really be a hero using us, this will be great,’ — and in the spur of the moment you get manipulated and you make a decision like this?”

Also on Monday: The state allocated $42 million to help foster youth and their families during the pandemic.

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The Bottom Line: As of 8 p.m. Monday night, California had 24,353 confirmed coronavirus cases and 731 deaths from the virus, according to a Los Angeles Times tracker. (These numbers are different from those of the state Department of Public Health, which are updated less often.)

Also: CalMatters is tracking, by county, positive and suspected cases of COVID-19 patients hospitalized throughout the state. We’re also tracking the state’s daily actions. And we have an explainer for everything you need to know about California’s response to coronavirus.

Other stories you should know

1. Counties disagree on releasing inmates early to slow coronavirus spread

An inmate at the Sheriff’s Central Men’s Jail in Santa Ana in 2011. Photo by H. Lorren Au Jr., The Orange County Register/SCNG

As California sheriffs debate whether to release inmates to curb the spread of coronavirus in county jails, advocates say keeping medically vulnerable inmates locked up amounts to cruel and unusual punishment — a case that may get a day in court, CalMatters’ Nigel Duara reports. “You have this Petri dish. It’s inhumane, and it’s a recipe for absolute disaster,” a federal defense attorney said of jails’ crowded and unsanitary conditions. Meanwhile, 3,500 inmates have been released from state prisons, and counties like Los Angeles are reducing arrests and releasing low-risk offenders. Other counties haven’t changed their policies. Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco: “I feel very strongly that the inmates we have remaining in custody pose a much greater risk to public safety than the risk this virus poses to them while they are in custody.”

2. Will CA nursing homes be forced to accept COVID-19 patients?

Dr. Noah Marco, Jewish Home chief medical officer, at the Grancell Village Campus in Reseda. Photo by Nancy Pastor for CalMatters

Tensions are brewing between California nursing homes and public health officials over the placement of COVID-19 patients, Barbara Feder Ostrov reports for CalMatters. California health officials say skilled nursing facilities with adequate protective gear may be required to accept recovering COVID-19 patients to free up hospital beds. But with viral outbreaks in Riverside and Orinda nursing homes, not all facilities are on board.

  • Dr. Noah Marco, chief medical officer of the Los Angeles Jewish Home: “I’m not taking in a COVID-positive patient for the sole purpose of emptying one hospital bed. In two weeks, I’m sending them back 20 new patients.”

3. Who will join the ranks of the CA Health Corps?

Retired paramedic Jane Smith poses for a portrait at her home in San Francisco. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

Over 86,000 retired and part-time medical workers, as well as those still in training, have signed up for Gov. Newsom’s California Health Corps to treat a surge in coronavirus patients — even those who face heightened risks due to their age or underlying health conditions. Jane Smith, a 64-year-old retired paramedic, said, “I’d be crazy to say I’m not concerned. But I just don’t want to be sitting on the couch.” Meanwhile, the state is grappling with how to screen applicants while ensuring workers aren’t taken from rural areas already lacking health care resources, CalMatters’ Ana Ibarra reports. As of last week, only 350 people had been accepted into the program.

4. VIRTUAL EVENT: Getting or providing financial help during the pandemic

Do you need help paying for food, making rent or covering your bills — or do you want to help someone who does? Tune in to a CalMatters virtual conversation today at 1 p.m. with Jessica Bartholow, policy advocate at Western Center on Law and Poverty, Cathy Senderling-McDonald, deputy executive director of the County Welfare Directors Association of California, and Armando Hernandez, community programs director at the Unity Council in Oakland. Register here and submit questions here.

CalMatters commentary

Time to declare a moratorium on new housing legislation: The Legislature should impose a 2020 moratorium on all new housing legislation, except measures to provide funding, argues Susan Kirsch, president of Kirsch Associates.

California food banks need help: As the coronavirus crisis impacts the economy, the pressure on food banks has grown. Here are some ways you can help, writes Farrah Lynn Ezzeddine, an epidemiology masters student at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Other things worth your time

Newsom ranked #1 governor in nation for his response to coronavirus crisis. // FiveThirtyEight

CA insurance commissioner orders insurance companies to give drivers and business owners partial refunds. // The Los Angeles Times

LA Mayor Eric Garcetti is also jumping on the daily coronavirus briefing bandwagon — and unlike other prominent CA leaders, models a face mask. // The Los Angeles Times

The Atlantic wrote about SF’s coronavirus response. Here’s what it got wrong. // Mission Local

What happens if a natural disaster hits California during the pandemic? // The Associated Press

Will COVID-19 accelerate gentrification in certain neighborhoods? // The San Diego Union-Tribune

How does COVID-19 compare with other leading causes of death in California? // The Sacramento Bee

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See you tomorrow.

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Emily Hoeven writes the daily WhatMatters newsletter for CalMatters. Her reporting, essays, and opinion columns have been published in San Francisco Weekly, the Deseret News, the San Francisco Business...