In summary

Newsom pitches starting baseball season in June. Reports warns against giving governor too much power. Medi-Cal cuts expected in budget.

Good morning, California. It’s Tuesday, May 19.

Haircuts aren’t far off, either

Hair salons could reopen soon in California, Newsom said. Image via iStock

It’s (almost) time to play ball.

Pro sporting events could resume in California as early as the first week of June, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday in a surprising announcement that likely marked the first ray of light at the end of the tunnel for many Californians, even if fans won’t be allowed back in the stands for a while.

And that wasn’t the only piece of positive news: Hair salons will likely be eligible to reopen statewide in a few weeks, the governor said.

Suddenly, California’s future looks very different from the way it did just last week, when Newsom expressed hesitation about Major League Baseball restarting in July. What’s changed?

Newsom said Monday the state is comfortable moving forward because hospitalizations have declined by 7.5% and ICU patients by 8.7% over the past 14 days, millions of protective masks have been distributed, and the state’s testing and tracing capacity has ramped up (though not enough to pinpoint the virus’s true scope, experts say).

The state is comfortable enough, in fact, that it’s significantly loosening county reopening requirements. Newsom said that under the new criteria, 53 of 58 counties are eligible to reopen dine-in restaurants and shopping centers (24 qualified under previous requirements).

To reopen faster than the state, counties originally had to prove that they had no more than one COVID-19 case per 10,000 residents and no COVID-19 death in the past 14 days, something many large counties labeled as unrealistic.

The new requirements don’t mention deaths at all. Counties now need to prove they have fewer than 25 new cases per 100,000 residents in the past 14 days, or less than 8% testing positive in the past seven days.

  • Newsom: “The bottom line is people can go at their own pace, and we are empowering our local health directors and county officials who understand their local communities and conditions better than anyone.”


The Bottom Line: As of 9 p.m. Monday night, California had 81,661 confirmed coronavirus cases and 3,285 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 regularly updates this pandemic timeline tracking the state’s daily actions. And we’re tracking the state’s coronavirus hospitalizations by county.

Other stories you should know

1. Legislature vs Newsom: “jealously guard” your authority, report warns

Gov. Gavin Newsom discusses his revised 2020-2021 state budget during a news conference in Sacramento on May 14, 2020. Photo by AP Rich Pedroncelli, AP Photo/Pool
Gov. Newsom discusses his revised 2020-2021 state budget in Sacramento on May 14. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, Pool)

The battle between Newsom and the state Legislature over pandemic decision-making authority is far from over, if a new report from the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) on the governor’s revised budget proposal is anything to go by.

  • LAO: “In a number of areas across the budget, the Governor makes proposals that raise serious concerns about the Legislature’s role in future decisions.”

The report says Newsom’s budget proposal calls for the creation of a $2.9 billion fund that would allow him to spend money “for any purpose related to the COVID-19 state of emergency,” with only 72 hours notice to the Legislature. Newsom also proposes to reorganize several state departments, something the LAO warns that lawmakers won’t have adequate time to consider before the June 15 deadline to pass a budget.

  • LAO: “We urge the Legislature to jealously guard its constitutional role and authority.”

2. CA budget pulls back health care gains for low-income residents

A doctor listens to a man’s breathing at a clinic in Bieber on July 23, 2019. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

Medi-Cal, California’s state health program for the poor, faces steep cuts in Newsom’s budget proposal, even as a record 14.5 million people are expected to be enrolled in the program by July, CalMatters’ Ana Ibarra reports. Unless the federal government steps in with aid, Newsom’s proposal would cut Medi-Cal coverage for some adult dental services, as well as hearing exams, eyeglasses, occupational and physical therapy, pharmacist services and diabetes prevention, among other things. Many of these benefits were just reinstated after cuts during the Great Recession more than a decade ago.

  • Linda Nguy of the Western Center on Law and Poverty: “The gains we had made have been cut from people when they were still recovering from the previous recession. To have them bear that burden once more is devastating.”

Also on the chopping block: proposals that would have allowed a greater number of elderly and disabled residents to access free health care services and Medi-Cal coverage for undocumented seniors.

3. California community colleges will likely be online-only in fall

Regent Eloy Ortiz Oakley listens to public comment during the open session of the UC Regents meeting on January 23, 2020 at the UCSF Mission Bay Conference Center
Eloy Ortiz Oakley, chancellor of the state community college system. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

Fall classes at California’s 115 community colleges will likely be held online, Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley said Monday. The announcement came less than a week after Cal State’s 23 campuses announced the fall semester would be held almost entirely online, meaning millions of California students are now facing the prospect of another coronavirus-impacted semester, CalMatters’ Mikhail Zinshteyn reports. With the 10 UC campuses expected to decide fall plans next month, questions are increasingly being raised about the future of higher education — and how much students are willing to pay for an online-only experience.

CalMatters virtual events

Today at 1 p.m.: How Nursing Homes Need to Change. CalMatters discusses how nursing homes are handling the coronavirus outbreak with Craig Cornett, CEO of the California Association of Health Facilities, Michael Dark, staff attorney at California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, and Dr. Michael Wasserman, president of the California Association of Long Term Care Medicine. Register here and submit your questions here.

CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Every year, the California Chamber of Commerce labels bills it perceives as business-unfriendly as “job killers.” So far, 92% of bills with that label have failed. This year, 10 bills are on the job-killer list, most related to the COVID-19 pandemic. How will they fare?

Disaster capitalism: State Sen. John Moorlach’s proposal for California’s economic recovery is classic disaster capitalism — taking advantage of a catastrophe to push policies that favor corporations and bankers over poor and working people, argues Los Angeles resident Michael Novick.

Restore salmon runs: The Yurok Tribe and other organizations in California and Oregon are fighting to remove four Klamath River dams and restore the salmon runs that have fed native people since the beginning of time, writes Frankie Myers, vice chairman of the Yurok Tribe.

More oversight of debt collectors needed: Given debt collectors’ power, Californians need a law to hold the industry accountable and punish the bad actors, writes state Sen. Bob Wieckowski, a Fremont Democrat.

Other things worth your time

Few show up for retail reopening in San Francisco. // The San Francisco Chronicle

Drumroll, please: Alameda County gives Tesla the green light to reopen. But the battle between them isn’t over. // KQED

How a single insurance company came to dominate Newsom’s testing task force. // The Sacramento Bee

ACLU files lawsuits on behalf of federal prisoners in two California prisons, claiming officials mishandled coronavirus outbreaks. // The Los Angeles Times

Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, a temporary field hospital, placed in “warm shutdown” after surge in coronavirus patients didn’t materialize. // The Sacramento Bee

All-mail elections worked in Republicans’ favor in California. Will they now be more supportive of vote-by-mail? // Fox & Hounds


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...