In summary

Protestors, legislators take on Newsom over COVID-19 actions. Studies on coronavirus infections draw scrutiny. What pandemic models can tell us.

Good morning, California. It’s Tuesday, April 21.

Protesters: Open the state. Legislators: Include us

Demonstrators filled the sidewalk and part of 10th Street in Sacramento during the "Operation Gridlock" stay-at-home protest at the Capitol Monday, April 20, 2020. Photo by Andrew Nixon, CapRadio
Demonstrators during the stay-at-home protest at the Capitol on Monday. Photo by Andrew Nixon, CapRadio

Some Californians are getting antsy.

On Monday, several hundred protesters gathered outside the Capitol demanding Gov. Gavin Newsom lift his stay-at-home order, while inside, state lawmakers expressed frustration at the governor keeping them out of the loop in key coronavirus decisions, Laurel Rosenhall and I report.

The Sacramento protest, organized by a group that opposed a California law last year that makes it more difficult for people to exempt their children from mandatory vaccines, came on the heels of weekend protests in San Diego, San Clemente, Newport Beach and Huntington Beach.

  • Natalie Hutchison, a Capitol protestor: “Our freedoms are being stripped. They tell you, like, ‘Oh, we don’t know when we’re going to let you out.’ What do you mean you’re not going to let me out? I’m not a rat in a cage.”

Some local governments are loosening restrictions. Ventura County began Saturday to ease shelter-in-place restrictions, and Placerville and San Luis Obispo are now urging Newsom to allow businesses to reopen.

And in an Assembly hearing Monday on the state’s COVID-19 spending, three areas emerged where lawmakers are frustrated with Newsom.

  1. A general lack of information from the Newsom administration. Assemblyman Jim Wood, a Democrat from Healdsburg: “We often, as legislators, hear maybe five minutes before an executive order comes out, or watching live the governor’s daily updates to get information.”
  2. Lawmakers want to play a greater role in non-emergency decisions, like helping rebuild the social safety net after COVID-19.
  3. And that $1 billion deal to buy medical-grade protective equipment: Newsom’s administration refuses to release the contract, despite repeated requests from lawmakers. The governor has said it could jeopardize a critical supply chain.


The Bottom Line: As of 9:30 p.m. Monday night, California had 33,840 confirmed coronavirus cases and 1,226 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. Two CA studies: Coronavirus far more widespread and less lethal than previously thought. But questions remain.

People walk and jog by a social distancing awareness sign along Shore Line Drive near Crown Beach in Alameda on April 15, day 30 of the Bay Area coronavirus shelter in place. Photo by Jane Tyska, Bay Area News Group
People pass a social distancing awareness sign in Alameda on April 15. Photo by Jane Tyska, Bay Area News Group

Coronavirus is far more widespread and has a much lower fatality rate than previously thought, according to two new studies focused on Santa Clara and Los Angeles counties. A Stanford study published Friday concluded that 2.5% to 4.2% of Santa Clara residents have virus antibodies in their blood, suggesting 50 to 85 times more people were infected than the county thought. A study of Los Angeles County released Monday by USC found 2.8% to 5.6% of adults had antibodies, or roughly 221,000 to 442,000 have recovered from infection — 28 to 55 times the county’s official tally.

If the findings are accurate, the COVID-19 death rate in both counties would be about 0.2% — much smaller than what governments have been preparing for. But statistical experts have questioned the methodology, and researchers in both cases say more studies are needed. Speaking about the Stanford study:

2. Pandemic models aren’t oracles — but here’s what they can tell you

State and federal planners are relying on conflicting coronavirus pandemic models — but an infectious disease model is no oracle. Image via iStock
State and federal planners are relying on conflicting coronavirus pandemic models. Image via iStock

Speaking of accuracy, there are a lot of coronavirus models floating around, and each one seems to predict a very different fate for California. So which one should state government and health officials use to determine the appropriate actions to take? It’s not as simple as just choosing one, CalMatters’ Barbara Feder Ostrov reports: Models are not oracles. They’re only as good as the data they’re given, and right now, some key data are lacking. Feder Ostrov breaks down five things you need to know about interpreting these COVID-19 models.

3. California’s community health clinics struggle to survive

The Gardner Health Center in San Jose, Calif., Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018. Photo Karl Mondon, Bay Area News Group
Patient visits at the Gardner Health Center in San Jose have dropped nearly 60%. Photo by Karl Mondon, Bay Area News Group

Patient visits to California’s community clinics and health centers, which serve some of the state’s poorest and most vulnerable residents, are down roughly 50% because of the coronavirus pandemic, The Mercury News’ Erica Hellerstein reports. Many local health clinics say they’re losing millions of dollars per week and likely won’t be able to survive for more than three months if current trends persist. And even federal aid of $1.3 billion to health centers across the country won’t be enough, operators say.

  • Marc Gannon, COO of Fremont’s Tri-City Health Center: “This is financially a very difficult time, there is no way of sugarcoating this. We are analyzing sustainability on a day-to-day basis.”

CalMatters virtual events

Today at 6 p.m.: CalMatters and La Opinión host a Spanish-language virtual event on how Californians, including undocumented immigrants, can get financial aid to cover food, housing and rent during the pandemic. Register here.

Hoy a las 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 aquí.

CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Donald Trump and Gavin Newsom may have set aside their incessant squabbling to cooperate on the pandemic, but they are poised for a showdown over who controls the state’s vital water supply.

Time to reassess stay-at-home order: With public safety in mind, California needs to ease the stay-at-home restrictions that have wreaked havoc on its economy, argues Marc Joffe, a senior policy analyst at Reason Foundation.

Coronavirus claims a community lifeline: One week the Feather River Bulletin was reporting on the county General Plan. The next week it was gone. The coronavirus pandemic has claimed yet another beloved local newspaper, writes independent journalist Jane Braxton Little.

Other things worth your time

California obtains more laptops for needy students to access distance learning. // CalMatters

Machine to decontaminate N95 masks arrives in California. // The Los Angeles Times

California has third-lowest US coronavirus testing rate, study finds. // The Mercury News

First California inmate dies of coronavirus. // The Sacramento Bee

UC Berkeley’s dilemma: What will fall semester look like? // The San Francisco Chronicle

LA Mayor Eric Garcetti: City will need to furlough thousands of public workers to balance budget. // The Los Angeles Times

How California’s rural regions could take the lead post-pandemic. // Politico

Thousands of wildfire victims yet to cast votes on PG&E multibillion-dollar bankruptcy deal. // The San Francisco Chronicle


See you tomorrow.

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Correction: An earlier version of the newsletter misstated an aspect of the USC study of viral antibodies in LA County. The study found there were roughly 28 to 55 times the number of coronavirus cases in LA County than the county’s official tally, not 17 to 34 times as previously reported.

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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...