In summary

Newsom tackles coronavirus pandemic as fallout spreads. Another federal investigation targets a local government. Census invitations are on the way.

Good morning, California. It’s Friday, March 13.

Governor flexes executive authority

Gov. Gavin Newsom holds a press conference in the wake of the first COVID-19 death in California, a man who took a cruise from San Francisco to Mexico in February. The governor outlined measures being taken by the state to identify and test all other individuals who were on the same cruise ship as the deceased. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters
Gov. Gavin Newsom holds a press conference on March 4 in the wake of the first COVID-19 death in California. (Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters)

Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order Thursday that puts muscle behind the public health guidelines his office released late Wednesday night, marking an extraordinary new stage in California’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The order directs Californians to cancel events with more than 250 people, empowers the state to take over medical facilities and hotels to treat coronavirus patients, and allows local and state legislatures to conduct virtual meetings — although it will be business as usual at the state Capitol for the time being, CalMatters’ Laurel Rosenhall and Ana Ibarra report.

  • Newsom: “I continue to posit that it’s decisions, not conditions, that will determine our fate and future as it relates to COVID-19. … We can change the future. So, it is in the sum total of our individual decisions that we will determine the fate of this virus. We will meet or not meet the moment. I am confident we will meet the moment.”

Other major coronavirus developments in California:

  • Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti recommends canceling events of more than 50 people. // LA Daily News
  • The Walt Disney Company is closing all six theme park resorts for the first time in history, including California’s Disneyland. // Vox
  • How coronavirus brought the sports world to a screeching halt. // The Washington Post
  • Beverly Hills-based Live Nation cancels all U.S. and international concert tours. // The Orange County Register
  • Food banks across California are experiencing precipitous drops in volunteers at a time of urgent need. // CalMatters
  • San Francisco public schools close for the next three weeks. // The San Francisco Chronicle
  • Nursing homes are limiting visitors to protect vulnerable residents. // The San Francisco Chronicle
  • White House orders Santa Clara County to ban gatherings of more than 250 people. // The San Jose Mercury News
  • Oakland bans large gatherings at city-owned theaters and facilities. // The San Jose Mercury News

The Bottom Line: As of 10 p.m. Thursday, there were 251 people in California who have tested positive, out of 1,323 across the United States. Four people have died in California out of 38 across the country, according to the San Francisco Chronicle’s live tracker.

Coronavirus and the United States: The New York Times has live updates on how coronavirus is impacting the United States as a whole. Check it out.

Stories you need to know

1. Behind Gov. Newsom’s praise of President Trump’s coronavirus response

Democratic governors across the United States are highly critical of President Trump’s coronavirus strategy — but not so much Gavin Newsom, who emphasized California’s “strong relationship with our federal partners” in a recent press conference. Yet Newsom has elevated his national profile by positioning himself as a key adversary of Trump. What’s going on? CalMatters’ Laurel Rosenhall explores the California governor’s strategy.

2. Another federal crackdown on government in California

Police DUI Nigh Time Checkpoint. Police Cruiser Lights Closeup Photo.
Image via iStock

The San Luis Obispo County Government Center was served a search-and-seizure warrant by the FBI early Wednesday morning. Details of the investigation have yet to be released, but it follows a string of several other high-profile federal investigations in California. Former Los Angeles City Councilman Mitch Englander surrendered on Monday to federal authorities for his role in “pay-to-play” schemes. And in January, the FBI arrested San Francisco Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru, sparking an ongoing corruption probe at San Francisco’s City Hall.

3. Keep an eye out — census invitations are coming

Image via iStock

Check your mailboxes — invitations to participate in the U.S. Census began going out yesterday. The once-in-a-decade count helps determine everything from the number of seats California gets in the U.S. House of Representatives to federal funding for programs like Medi-Cal — which explains why California is spending nearly $200 million to reach historically undercounted communities, CalMatters’ Judy Lin explains.

  • For the first time, California is projected to lose a congressional seat because it’s not growing as fast as other states, Capitol Weekly reported.
  • Also: The coronavirus pandemic could affect census participation, said Democratic strategist Garry South.
  • Digital-friendly: For the first time, you can fill out the census online.

4. A private beach in California?

Is Martins Beach private or public property? It’s still up for debate, but the balance may have tilted Wednesday when the California Supreme Court declined to review a prior decision that found the beach near Half Moon Bay was not public property.

  • What’s going on? Venture capitalist Vinod Khosla bought the beach in 2008 for $32.5 million and closed the public access gate in 2010.
  • A group called the Friends of Martin Beach sued Khosla, arguing that the beach has been open to the public since 1930. Its lawsuit was the one declined for review.
  • What’s next? The California Coastal Commission has a pending lawsuit against Khosla that also contends the beach is public.

CalMatters commentary

When it comes to marriage, it’s time for a renewed separation of church and state: The state and each religion have very different ideas about marriage — which in recent years often haven’t aligned, argues William L. Rukeyser, a Davis-based writer.

Other things worth your time

It looked like San Francisco Mayor London Breed was starting to get homelessness under control. But now it seems to be getting worse. What happened? // The San Francisco Chronicle

Thousands of Chinese immigrants are living in potentially deadly conditions in San Gabriel Valley “boarding houses.” // LAist

As the White House cracks down on sanctuary cities in California, tensions are growing between county sheriffs and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. // The Los Angeles Times

Coronavirus is forcing social distancing. But our society has been growing more separated for years. // The Los Angeles Times

Court rejects Trump challenge to California-Quebec climate agreement. // Bloomberg Environment

See you Monday.

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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...