Gov. Gavin Newsom on Feb. 26, 2020, at the Sheraton Grand in Sacramento. His press secretary, Vicky Waters, is standing next to Newsom.

In summary

Homeless man suffers another setback. Conservatives jump on Newsom line from State of State speech. Questions swirl around coronavirus.

Good morning, California.

“We want justice and we want accountability and if I have to go to … Rusty Hicks’ home, or anyone else who claims they represent my community when in actuality they don’t, they should expect that the people will demand answers.”—Maria Estrada, a self-described “Berner,” to Politico, justifying protesting with a bullhorn at 11 p.m. outside California Democratic Party Chairman Hicks’ home. 

  • Hicks called the cops.
  • Jeff Weaver, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign manager, denounced the tactic.
  • Estrada is running for the Assembly seat held by Speaker Anthony Rendon of Lakewood.
  • Estrada’s donors include Jovanka Beckles, a former Richmond City Council member and Democratic Socialist who lost a 2018 Assembly race to Democratic Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks of Oakland, after Sanders endorsed Beckles.

When an ‘accident’ is predictable

Before the latest accident left him critically injured, Mark Rippee ate a snack of rolls and coffee on November 22, 2019 in Vallejo. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters
James Mark Rippee in November 2019 in Vallejo

To the surprise of no one familiar with his situation, James Mark Rippee walked into a dimly lit street on the night of Feb. 12 in his hometown of Vacaville and was hit by a car. He had done it before, in September.

Rippee is blind, brain damaged, schizophrenic and homeless. His sisters are unable to persuade him to accept help or housing, and Solano County officials are unable to force him to accept care.

CalMatters’ Jocelyn Wiener wrote about him in December, focusing on his sisters’ futile efforts to get him help.

Wiener, following up on her story, reports that Rippee survived but suffered a fractured skull, a brain bleed, a shattered elbow, a dislocated shoulder and a crushed leg.

Rippee’s sisters blame the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act,  a 1967 law that restricts the ability of authorities to treat individuals against their will unless they are gravely disabled, or deemed to be a danger to themselves or others.

Vacaville police Lt. Mark Donaldson knows Rippee. Vacaville cops regularly get called about him walking into traffic.

  • “I got into this job to help people above all else, and we like to be problem solvers, and when you simply don’t have the tools to solve these problems, it’s devastating. It’s so frustrating. Your heart hurts for him and his family. There simply is no place; there’s nothing we can do.”

To read Wiener’s latest story, please click here.

Coronavirus questions

A group of ambulances from the Solano EMS Cooperative stage at the visitor center at Travis Air Force Base, adjacent to Fairfield, Calif., Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020.
Solano EMS Cooperative Travis Air Force Base. (Photo by Hector Amezcua, AP.)

A Solano County resident appears to be the first U.S. patient who contracted coronavirus without traveling overseas or coming into contact with anyone who did, officials said Wednesday.

The California Department of Public Health: 

  • “The individual had no known exposure to the virus through travel or close contact with a known infected individual.”

The UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento has been treating the patient since Feb. 19.

The Davis Enterprise reported that medical center executives issued an internal memo saying Davis requested that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention test the individual for coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.

  • The memo: “Since the patient did not fit the existing CDC criteria for COVID-19, a test was not immediately administered. UC Davis Health does not control the testing process.”

The CDC tested the person on Sunday. The result came back positive on Wednesday. 

Authorities have quarantined travelers at Travis Air Force Base, in Solano County.

The Sacramento Bee quoted California Public Health Officer Dr. Sonia Angell:

  • “We have been anticipating the potential for such a case in the U.S., and given our close familial, social and business relationships with China, it is not unexpected that the first case in the U.S. would be in California.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom told reporters Wednesday the state and feds are working closely, and said 31 people in California have been identified as having the coronavirus:

  • “This changes quite literally by the hour.”

To read CalMatters reporter Ana Ibarra’s report, please click here.

Prescriptions of housing?

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday

Gov. Gavin Newsom said he was bemused by the conservative reaction to one of the more provocative lines in his State of the State Speech last week:

  • “Doctors should be able to write prescriptions for housing the same way they do for insulin or antibiotics.”

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, tweeted

  • “This is the Leftist mind: write a slip of paper & a house will magically appear.” And Cruz added a clown emoji.

A San Diego talk radio host, appearing on Fox & Friends, called the notion “so off the charts that you don’t even know where to begin.”

The Daily Wire opened its story about the line with this clause: “Far-left California Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom.”

The Daily Mail of the United Kingdom took Newsom literally:

  • “Doctors in California may soon be given the power to prescribe housing for sick patients.”

On Wednesday, Newsom spoke to the Chief Probation Officers of California about the need to provide more treatment and supervision of people on probation.

Afterward, I asked him about the reaction:

  • “I thought it was kind of fun reading some of the blogs.”

The point, he noted, is serious:

  • “I wanted to make a provocative point. … Health and housing are connected. Homelessness is not just a housing issue.
  • “It is a health issue, and unless you deal with brain and physical health and stability together, you’re not going to get under the hood and really address this issue in a systematic way.”

Take a number: 42.3

A photo of cigarette butts in a pile.
California’s anti-smoking campaign has paid off. (Photo by Petr Kratochvil via

California has the third-lowest rate of new lung-cancer cases of any state, 42.3 cases per 100,000 residents. It’s a testament to California’s decades-long campaign against smoking.

California’s rate is above Utah’s 27.1 cases per 100,000 people but far below the national average of 59.6 per 100,000 residents. It’s less than half the rate of the state with the highest lung-cancer rate, tobacco-growing Kentucky’s 92.6. The worst five states all are in the South.

In a puzzling contradiction, California screened patients at a lower rate than any state other than Nevada, Kaiser Health News’ California Healthline reports. And nearly a quarter of people with lung cancer received no treatment.

California Healthline’s Mark Kreidler said experts cite several reasons: California’s income inequality, cultural and linguistic diversity, and inconsistency of health care access by region.

A final reason: “a financial reluctance by many medical professionals to treat poor people, who smoke at higher rates than those of the general population.”

Commentary at CalMatters

David Rattray, David Gordon and Bruce Fuller, LA-Unite, Sacramento Unified & UC Berkeley: The new Proposition 13 offers a chance to reinvigorate educational facilities and fund innovative schools, to invest in our long-term prospects, together.

James Strock and Winston Hickox, former California Environmental Protection Agency secretaries: One of the only remaining healthy parts of the California recycling industry is scrap-metal recycling. Now comes the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, a part of the California Environmental Protection Agency. Out of the blue, the department has begun designating metal-recycling facilities as “hazardous waste treatment” facilities.

Dan Walters, CalMatters: A new state report explores the effects of climate change on California’s water supply and says more storage and other infrastructure is needed to cope.


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Dan Morain joined CalMatters in March 2018. He is the former editorial page editor of The Sacramento Bee. Morain also spent 27 years at The Los Angeles Times, and has covered the Capitol since 1992.