In summary

Nursing home data on COVID-19 cases filled with holes. California’s largest cities brace for budget cuts. Tom Steyer tapped to lead economic recovery.

Good morning, California. It’s Monday, April 20.

Glaring holes in state data on nursing home cases

A nurse performs COVNurses prepare to enter the testing area at a drive thru COVID-19 testing facility at Cal Expo in Sacramento on April 15, 2020. The nurses work in teams of four and take shifts throughout the day. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMattersID-19 swabs at a drive thru testing facility at Cal Expo in Sacramento on April 15, 2020. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters
Nurses prepare to enter a COVID-19 testing facility at Cal Expo in Sacramento on April 15. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

For the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began, California released the number of COVID-19 cases in nursing homes, showing that roughly 10% of the state’s 31,527 confirmed cases are found among the staff and patients at care centers for the elderly.

The state list was released late Friday evening, a few days after reports in CalMatters and The Los Angeles Times pointed out that much of what is known about the virus’ spread through nursing homes was shared through personal connections, rather than an official public source.

Still, the data have some glaring holes, The Los Angeles Times reported. Some nursing homes are not testing residents to avoid bad publicity, The Times found. Also, the state data only include information from 86% of California’s 1,224 skilled nursing facilities; it doesn’t reveal how many residents have died from COVID-19; and the data from smaller facilities are incomplete.

The Mercury News also reported Sunday that two nursing homes with the highest number of COVID-19 infections and deaths in the Bay Area had lengthy track records of poor care and state and federal safety violations.

  • Dr. Mehrdad Ayati, geriatrician and professor of medicine at Stanford University: “We see skilled nursing facilities who have not followed basic regulations related to staffing and other things — they are more at risk of getting it.”

Legislators asking questions today: The state Assembly is holding a hearing on the government’s COVID-19 spending, following a Senate hearing on the same subject last week. I’ll be reporting from the Capitol, mask and all, and listening for questions about how the state’s modeling of the virus is affecting its spending. As the Assembly agenda points out, the state’s model predicts a peak in May, but another “widely cited” model contends we hit peak resource use April 17.


The Bottom Line: As of 8 p.m. Sunday night, California had 31,527 confirmed coronavirus cases and 1,157 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. How CA’s 10 biggest cities plan to handle coronavirus budget cuts

A pedestrian walks past boarded up windows of a business in Oakland on the the eighth day of the shelter-in-place order meant to reduce the spread of coronavirus on March 24, 2020.
A pedestrian walks past boarded-up windows of an Oakland business on March 24. Photo by Ray Chavez, Bay Area News Group

With California now officially in a pandemic-induced recession, cities are facing a bleak reality: Services are about to be cut. Even with $150 billion in federal stimulus aimed locally, the League of California Cities says it’s not enough. As local governments face deficits, budget cuts and pension obligations, many are calling for increased federal aid.

  • Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti: “There’s no question … that we’re going to have cuts. I’m imploring our Congress, I’m imploring our president to make sure the next round (of relief) also helps bail out cities.”

CalMatters takes a look at how California’s 10 largest cities are responding to the coronavirus crisis and their plans for weathering the storm ahead.

2. Governor taps Tom Steyer to help lead CA’s economic recovery

Billionaire activist Tom Steyer will co-chair Gov. Gavin Newsom’s new economic task force. Photo by Chris Stone, courtesy

Former presidential candidate and businessman Tom Steyer will help chart California’s path toward economic recovery as co-chair of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s new economic task force, Newsom announced Friday, a week after the resignation of his chief economic advisor, Lenny Mendonca. The 80-member task force includes big-name business leaders like former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Walt Disney Executive Chairman Bob Iger and Gap CEO Sonia Syngal — as well as the four living former California governors and leaders of 10 labor unions. However, details of its focus are unclear, CalMatters’ Nigel Duara reports.

3. Lawsuits over hotels being used as emergency homeless housing ramp up

The Radisson near Oakland airport is one of the hotels being rented out by the state to house homeless individuals deemed at higher risk if they contract coronavirus. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters
The Radisson near Oakland airport is one of the hotels the state is renting to house homeless individuals. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

As some California cities mount legal challenges to converting hotels and motels into emergency housing for the homeless, Newsom announced Saturday a partnership with Motel 6 for 5,000 more rooms, on top of the 10,974 the state has already acquired. However, it’s up to local governments to use them, and not all seem eager to — in recent weeks, four Southern California cities sued hotels for signing emergency leases with county governments, CalMatters’ Matt Levin reports. This “not-in-my-backyard” mentality is not sitting well with Newsom.

  • Newsom: “I just want to encourage those cities that are blocking efforts like this … to consider their actions in the context and annals of history. They’ll judge themselves, not just be judged by others, by the extent they help the least among us.”

CalMatters virtual events

Tuesday at 6 p.m.: In collaboration with La Opinión, CalMatters is hosting a Spanish-language virtual event on how Californians, including undocumented immigrants, can get financial aid to cover food, housing and rent amidst the pandemic. Register here.

martes 21 abril de 6 p.m.: Jacqueline García, periodista de La Opinión, en compañía de algunos expertos, explicará cómo los californianos, especialmente las personas que no cuentan con su estatus migratorio legal, pueden obtener ayuda financiera para cubrir los gastos en alimentos, renta de vivienda y ayuda financiera en efectivo en caso de una emergencia. Registrar.

CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: So far, Californians are voluntarily complying with restrictions on their daily lives to battle coronavirus. But how long will they keep it up? And will authorities use force if compliance declines?

Moving up California’s primary a win: The Golden State played a significant role in Joe Biden’s ascent to frontrunner status. And a record number of Californians registered to vote and cast ballots, writes California Secretary of State Alex Padilla.

House all homeless: California is housing some of its homeless population during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s not enough. Rather than waiting for people to test positive, we must place all unhoused Californians in hotels, like San Francisco plans to do, argue Neil Gong, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michigan, and Chris Herring, a PhD candidate at UC Berkeley.

Your next boss could be undocumented: Entrepreneurship is one of the main ways that undocumented immigrants can thrive in America’s workforce, as the federal government doesn’t require work authorization or a Social Security number to start a business, writes Iliana G. Perez, director of research and entrepreneurship at Immigrants Rising.

Other things worth your time

California’s move to help gig workers get unemployment benefits may break federal rules. But the state said it had little choice after ride-hailing companies refused to provide essential information. // The New York Times

“This is the wild, wild West”: Newsom administration refuses to release more information about nearly $1 billion mask deal. // The Sacramento Bee

This reclusive West Marin community is launching a privately funded operation to test each resident for coronavirus. // The Marin Independent Journal

California health care workers hit harder by coronavirus than previously revealed. // The Los Angeles Times

How gang-intervention workers are handling coronavirus conflicts and confusion in their neighborhoods. // The Los Angeles Times

CSU drops SAT and ACT testing for next year’s admissions, following in the footsteps of UC. // EdSource

Protests against California’s stay-at-home order are beginning to spring up. // The Los Angeles Times

Willie Brown: Trump is letting the governors handle coronavirus problems. It’s a smart move. // The San Francisco Chronicle

Sen. Kamala Harris would be “honored” to be Joe Biden’s vice president. // 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...