In summary

Newsom doubts schools will reopen before summer, leaves eviction bans up to local governments. Online learning is put to the test at colleges.

Good morning, California. It’s Wednesday, March 18.

6 million kids out of school for 5 months?

A classroom sits empty at the end of school at Monte Gardens Elementary in Concord, Calif., on Friday, March 13, 2020.
An empty classroom at Monte Gardens Elementary in Concord on Friday. (Photo by Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)

If your jaw just hit the floor, don’t worry. When I heard Gov. Gavin Newsom say during a Tuesday evening press conference that he doubts California’s K-12 schools — nearly 99 percent of which have closed in response to the coronavirus pandemic — will reopen before summer vacation, mine did too.

  • Newsom: “This is a very sober thing to say, and I can’t say this with certainty, but I can say this quite learnedly: Don’t anticipate schools are going to open up in a week. Please don’t anticipate in a few weeks. … I don’t want to mislead you. I would plan and assume that it’s unlikely that many of these schools — few, if any — will open before the summer break.”

Newsom said parents should be prepared to homeschool their children as schools transition to online learning, CalMatters’ Ricardo Cano and Laurel Rosenhall report. The state Department of Education on Tuesday published a list of online learning resources for schools and families — as well as resources to help teachers learn how to conduct virtual lessons. The state will also submit a waiver to the US Department of Education to forgo standardized testing.

But many questions remain. Will summer school be available to make up lost learning? Will students have to repeat their current grade next year? Will public schools continue to feed the approximately 6 in 10 students who participate in free or reduced-price meal programs, as Newsom said they were planning to do? And how will working parents adapt to prolonged school closures and still hold onto their jobs?

Also on Tuesday, Newsom announced a no-gathering advisory for the entire state, calling it “common sense.” This came hours after Monterey and Sacramento counties adopted the strict “shelter in place” order already in effect in seven Bay Area counties. The order, which carries the force of law in Monterey and the Bay Area, directs residents to stay at home as much as possible, avoiding even small social gatherings and only making essential errands to places like the pharmacy or grocery store. Exercise and walks outdoors are permitted as long as people remain 6 feet apart.

The governor shied away from ordering a statewide lockdown or official “shelter in place” but raised the possibility that California could eventually move to military control if people don’t follow the guidance to stay home.

  • Newsom: “We have the ability to do martial law, things like that, layer new requirements and authority. If we feel the necessity to do that, we will do that.”

Other California coronavirus updates:

  • Orange County issued strict coronavirus guidelines but not quite to the level of “shelter in place.” // The Orange County Register
  • Day one of the Bay Area’s shelter-in-place resulted in calm streets…and collective dread. // The San Francisco Chronicle
  • San Francisco shut down cannabis dispensaries, deeming them nonessential. Then they opened them again. // The San Francisco Chronicle
  • CalMatters’ Nigel Duara is now the Dear Abby of coronavirus, answering hundreds of reader questions about the pandemic. Check out his responses and ask your own question here.
  • Also, if you have questions about the shelter-in-place rules for seniors, we will host a webinar with Kim McCoy Wade, director of the state Department of Aging, on Thursday at 1 p.m. at
  • Do you have a story to share about an act of kindness? Tell us in this form for a story CalMatters’ Jocelyn Wiener is writing on grace and community support during the coronavirus pandemic. We’re all in this together!

The Bottom Line: California had 472 confirmed coronavirus cases and 12 deaths from the virus as of 6 p.m. Monday, according to the California Department of Public Health.

1. Newsom leaves eviction bans up to local governments, angering tenants’ rights groups

Resident Martha Kapla, right, holds a sign during a rally in front of Brookdale San Pablo assisted living in San Pablo, Calif., on Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019.
Martha Kapla, right, holds a sign during a rally in San Pablo. ( Photo by Jane Tyska, Bay Area News Group)

Gov. Newsom issued an executive order Monday authorizing local governments to prevent evictions for Californians who can’t make rent payments because of the coronavirus pandemic — if local governments so choose. While the executive order will make it easier for cities and counties to ban evictions, it also wasn’t necessary: Los Angeles, San Francisco and Oakland already passed temporary eviction moratoriums. And tenants’ rights groups argue the order doesn’t go far enough, as renters have to prove financial hardship because of COVID-19 in order to avoid eviction. CalMatters’ Matt Levin has more on what the executive order means for renters.

2. Are California colleges ready to move classes online?

Students at UC Berkeley’s normally bustling Sproul Plaza. (Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters)

Online learning is being put to the test as the University of California, Cal State universities, community colleges and private colleges transition to remote classes. Instructors with various levels of tech-savvy are scrambling to take their courses online, while colleges are confronting the fact that not all students have access to computers or the internet at home. Other hurdles: moving science labs online and proctoring exams. What does this experiment reveal about the future of online learning? Check out this story from the College Journalism Network, a collaboration between CalMatters and college journalists across the state.

3. Coronavirus pandemic revives interest in universal basic income — and the City of Stockton

Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs speaks during a press conference by Big City Mayors, a coalition of mayors from California’s 13 largest cities focused on finding solutions to homelessness, at the California Captiol on March 9, 2020. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters
Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs in the California Capitol. (Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters)

The Trump administration’s $1 trillion economic stimulus package proposes sending checks directly to Americans as relief for jobs or hours lost as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, reviving interest in the California city of Stockton’s universal basic income pilot program. Beginning in 2019, 125 randomly selected residents received a $500 debit card in the mail each month, no strings attached. A recent New Republic article measures how the extra money has impacted lives one year into the program.

CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Last week provided Californians with four clear examples of why independent journalism is a vital bulwark against public officials’ shenanigans and coverups.

Call it “physical distancing,” not “social distancing”: Though the coronavirus pandemic requires us to keep a reasonable physical distance from each other, it’s more important than ever that we remain socially close, writes Drew Liebert, chief of staff for state Senate Majority Leader Bob Hertzberg.

Other things worth your time

Former U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter of San Diego was sentenced to 11 months in federal prison for misusing campaign funds. // The Los Angeles Times

Eighteen percent of American workers have lost their jobs or had their hours cut because of the coronavirus pandemic. // The Los Angeles Times

National Park Service shuts down some park visitor centers, lodges, restaurants and campgrounds across California and the nation. // The San Francisco Chronicle


See you tomorrow.

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