In summary

Newsom closes Orange County beaches. OES becomes governor’s new headquarters. Most jobless claims made by younger, less-educated workers.

Good morning, California. It’s Friday, May 1.

Opposition to state orders heats up

Beachgoers enjoy the sun and sand in Huntington Beach on April 30. Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Thursday a closure of Orange County beaches, dispelling reports that he had planned to close all California beaches while simultaneously setting the stage for increased local pushback to the statewide stay-at-home order.

Newsom announced the closure, which the Huntington Beach and Dana Point City Councils are challenging in court, after repeatedly emphasizing his “partnership with local leaders across the state” and underscoring that 200 state parks remain open, with many outdoor activities — including golf, tennis and horseback riding — permitted as long as physical distancing is practiced.

This highlights the governor’s awareness of his predicament six weeks into the stay-at-home order: how to keep antsy Californians willingly sheltering in place without heavy-handed enforcement or stepping on local leaders’ toes.

It’s a delicate balance. As reports spread late Wednesday night that Newsom planned to close all California beaches in response to viral images of packed beaches in Orange and Ventura counties last weekend, local officials across the state pushed back, with the Humboldt County Sheriff saying he believed the order violated constitutional rights and wouldn’t enforce it.

And when Newsom said Thursday it “was always the plan” to only close Orange County beaches, some called his bluff.

A top Newsom administration official told the Los Angeles Times that the governor’s top advisers initially recommended a statewide closure, but after hearing local leaders’ concerns, Newsom decided to focus on Orange County.

Meanwhile, general opposition to the stay-at-home order is gaining strength. Modoc County, which hasn’t reported any positive coronavirus cases, plans to ease restrictions today in defiance of the state order. Other counties, including San Luis Obispo, Stainslaus, Butte, Glenn, Tehama, Yuba, Sutter and Colusa, have also asked Newsom to loosen restrictions. And today brings multiple protests against the shelter-in-place order, including at least two in Sacramento.

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The Bottom Line: As of 8:30 p.m. Thursday night, California had 50,316 confirmed coronavirus cases and 2,034 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.

Inside Newsom’s new office

Newsom meeting with U.S. Army, California National Guard and Cal OES director Mark Ghilarducci. Photo courtesy Cal OES

Five to six days a week, sometimes as early as 6:30 a.m., Gov. Newsom shows up at the headquarters of the state Office of Emergency Services, a 14-acre campus about 17 miles from his desk in the state Capitol. His temperature is checked by a member of the California National Guard; he answers questions about whether he’s experienced symptoms of the coronavirus or come in contact with someone who has; then he, and everyone else who enters, gets a colored wristband as proof of passing the health exam. 

“This is the governor’s office now,” said Bryan May, public information officer for Cal OES. 

Cal OES, as it’s known, is where Newsom gives his daily press conferences, consults with staff and state health leaders, and holds meetings — some over Zoom, some in person with chairs spaced 6 feet apart and massive bottles of hand sanitizer. The building, with its wall-size displays of developing activities, is designed to coordinate a statewide response to crises — like floods, wildfires, earthquakes or active shooters — with direct communications to hundreds of federal, state and local safety agencies.

But it wasn’t designed to keep people 6 feet apart. 

Now, only one entrance remains open to ensure everyone goes through the health screening. Door handles and surfaces are sanitized every 30 to 60 minutes. Every other desk is blocked off in the State Operations Center, which May compared to a “NASA control room.” And workers no longer serve themselves in the cafeteria; instead, masked and gloved caterers dish out the food.

“We’re learning to work with that, as is everyone,” May said. “I mean, we’re all in this boat together at this point.”

Other stories you should know

1. Which Californians are filing for unemployment insurance?

A sign posted on the door at Parkway Lounge in Oakland announces its indefinite closure. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

Around 3.7 million Californians have filed for unemployment benefits since mid-March, and a disproportionate number of them are young, lower-educated and lower-wage workers and women, according to a recent report from the California Policy Lab. Since the pandemic began, one in three high school graduates, one in four workers between the ages of 20 of 23, and one in six women filed initial unemployment insurance claims.

Some other key findings:

  • Around 14.4% of California’s workforce has filed initial unemployment insurance claims since mid-March. If none have returned to work, this could presage the unemployment rate rising to 20%, compared with 5.3% in mid-March (the rate was 25% during the Great Depression).
  • One in three food and accommodations workers and one in five retail workers have filed initial claims.
  • The spike in initial unemployment claims has been especially pronounced in the Bay Area, Los Angeles and Southern California.

2. Could COVID-19 have a higher death toll in California than previously thought?

Photo via iStock

Total deaths in California amidst the pandemic are 9% higher than historical averages, according to recently released data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Around 4,500 more deaths have occurred in 2020 than what past averages would predict, suggesting that the coronavirus death toll in the state could be higher than previously thought, the Los Angeles Times’ Matt Stiles reports. Though the data remain preliminary, experts say some coronavirus deaths could have been wrongly categorized, especially because of limited early testing, and thus undercounted.

  • Bonnie Maldonado, a Stanford University professor and infectious disease epidemiologist: “It does signal that, more likely than not, this COVID disease really did have a role in some or all of those excess deaths. The extent that it did will be important to understand.”

3. Want to get married by Zoom in California? Now you can

Californians can now get married and obtain their marriage licenses over videoconference, according to an executive order Newsom signed Thursday. To get married, both adults have to be present and one witness has to join the video conference. To obtain the marriage license (via email), both adults have to be present, located in California and provide a form of ID. But the order only lasts for 60 days, so if you really want to get married by Zoom, you’d better hurry.

CalMatters virtual events

Today at 12 p.m.: Want to know more about the breakdowns in California’s food-supply chain? Tune in to CalMatters’ virtual conversation with Cannon Michael, president of Bowles Farming Company, Anja Raudabaugh, CEO of United Western Dairies, and Jaclyn Pack, food-acquisitions manager for the Central California Food Bank. Register here.

CalMatters commentary

How to keep a Berkeley hospital? A not-for-profit Berkeley hospital is scheduled to be closed because it wouldn’t be cost-effective to retrofit it to meet required seismic standards. But we want to work with Sutter to keep this much-needed facility, writes Sophie Hahn, Berkeley’s vice mayor.

Time to expand STD prevention: California has the most reported cases of sexually transmitted diseases in the nation. We need to expand access to STD prevention and treatment to everyone in the state, argue Julie Rabinovitz of Essential Access Health and Aaron Fox of the Los Angeles LGBT Center.

Water wars: California largely ignored a decade of research in favor of political objectives that impose unjustified restrictions on the State Water Project, writes Jennifer Pierre of the State Water Contractors.

Other things worth your time

Podcast: Will California rethink housing density because of COVID-19? // CalMatters/The Los Angeles Times

Does California law allow legislators to vote remotely? Senate, Assembly leaders are divided. // The Sacramento Bee

USNS Mercy hospital ship docked in Los Angeles sees few patients, along with other temporary hospitals around the world. // The Associated Press

A record spike in daily coronavirus cases shows challenges ahead for Los Angeles County. // The Los Angeles Times

UCSF team discovers drugs that block coronavirus, revealing some of the virus’ weaknesses for the first time. // The San Francisco Chronicle

How California’s student parents are teaching their children while taking their own classes. // CalMatters

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See you Monday.

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Correction: An earlier version of the newsletter misidentified a Cal OES public information officer. His name is Bryan May, not Bryan Ferguson. It also misidentified Cal OES as OES.

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