Good morning, California. It’s Friday, May 29.

“We are walking into the unknown”

Beachgoers enjoy the sunset at Ocean Beach on Memorial Day in San Francisco on May 25. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

As most California counties accelerate their reopening pace, some of the first to do so are now hitting the brakes or backpedaling as coronavirus cases mount — a potentially cautionary tale for the rest of the state as restrictions loosen.

Sonoma County said Wednesday it would not reopen in-store retail, hair salons or places of worship, even though the state had given it permission to do so. The county’s coronavirus cases doubled from 20 to 41 per 100,000 residents over the past 14 days.

And Lassen County on Tuesday closed dine-in restaurants and in-store retail after the remote area saw its first confirmed cases since the shutdown began. But Thursday afternoon, it moved to reopen them again — along with places of worship and hair salons.

The decisions came after Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday and Tuesday cleared (you guessed it) hair salons, barbershops, places of worship and in-store retail to reopen in most counties — a rapid-fire pace that alarmed some public health officials.

Newsom on Tuesday acknowledged that “we are walking into the unknown, the untested” but reinforced his commitment to “be guided by the data.”

A Sacramento Bee analysis found the first 22 counties to reopen restaurants and stores saw cases, hospitalizations and deaths grow faster in the two weeks after reopening than in the two weeks before — though these largely rural counties were still doing better than the rest of the state.

It’s a potential warning for large, urban counties like Los Angeles, the epicenter of the outbreak, which this week began to accelerate its reopening after weeks of holding back. San Francisco also unveiled a phased reopening plan Thursday, though other Bay Area counties are keeping tight restrictions in place.

  • David Relman, Stanford Medicine microbiologist and immunologist: “If something fails, we have two problems: One is we’re not going to know for a little while, and during that lag time things are worsening without us knowing it. And the second thing is that you then have to be able to … restore stability.”


The Bottom Line: As of 9 p.m. Thursday night, California had 98,980 confirmed coronavirus cases and 3,707 deaths from the virus, according to a CalMatters tracker.

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. Senate advances budget plan significantly different from Newsom’s

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
Newsom discusses his revised 2020-2021 state budget in Sacramento on May 14. Photo by Rich Pedroncelli, AP Photo/Pool

The Senate’s plan to plug California’s estimated $54 billion deficit differs significantly from Newsom’s, rejecting most of his proposed cuts to education, health care and safety net programs, the Associated Press reports. The Senate budget committee voted Thursday to pass the proposal. The Assembly has yet to release its plan.

Here’s how the Senate’s plan differs from Newsom’s:

  • Delays payments to school districts instead of imposing permanent cuts. The Senate’s proposal would allow school districts to spend about $9 billion by borrowing or tapping savings, and the state would pay them back later. (It’s unclear how this would pan out, as the state could have an even larger deficit next year.)
  • Restores health care programs Newsom proposed to cut by increasing a tax on the companies that manage Medi-Cal, the state’s health care program for the poor (but only if federal aid doesn’t come through). The plan would also restore Medi-Cal for undocumented seniors.
  • Gives the federal government more time to send aid. Newsom’s budget would institute $15 billion in cuts if the federal government doesn’t send aid by July 1. The Senate’s plan extends that to Oct. 1.

2. Trust barriers pose challenge for coronavirus testing, tracing in black, Latino communities

Coronavirus testing is offered in the parking lot of San Jose 's Antioch Baptist Church, on May 20. Targeted outreach may be key to ensuring that California's black and Latino residents do not continue to be disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Photo by Karl Mondon, Bay Area News Group
Coronavirus testing in the parking lot of San Jose’s Antioch Baptist Church on May 20. Photo by Karl Mondon, Bay Area News Group

As California ramps up its testing and tracing efforts, public health leaders are working to tailor their outreach to African American and Latino communities — both disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus — in a culturally competent way, CalMatters’ Ana Ibarra reports. This includes leveraging trusted messengers and institutions like churches and barbershops, tapping tracers from groups already working in the community, and translating information into multiple languages.

  • Newsom last week: “I’m certainly not naive. When you get a call from some stranger on the phone saying they work with the government, not everybody is pleased to receive those calls.”

Meanwhile, the state on Sunday hit its goal of 60,000 daily tests for the first time, a CalMatters tracker shows. Skilled nursing facilities are also now required to submit COVID-19 mitigation plans by May 30 to the state Department of Public Health that include at least monthly testing of all residents and workers, even if they don’t have symptoms. Around 40% of California’s COVID-19 deaths have been nursing home residents or staff.

3. Californians in “news deserts” struggle to access information, aid

digital divide
Two volunteers from the Education & Leadership Foundation help unload essentials for farmworkers on May 9 near Rolinda. Photo by Eric Paul Zamora/The Fresno Bee

Another communication challenge: reaching Californians in “news deserts” with key information and supplies amid the pandemic, the Fresno Bee’s Cresencio Rodriguez-Delgado reports in a CalMatters collaboration. Many rural Californians and low-income and immigrant communities with unreliable or nonexistent internet access get information through word of mouth, printed newspapers or radio. But as more and more local newspapers go out of business, reliable information is even harder to come by. Rodriguez-Delgado has more on how Californians are working to bridge the digital divide.

  • Pedro Hernandez, editor-in-chief of the Ivanhoe Sol, a nonprofit newspaper in Tulare County: “There is a shift to the digital interface, but in a place like the Valley, it’s not a guarantee. (Mail) is really one of the only ways of reliable communication between you and an entity. I view the postal service as the backstop for all the other forms of communication.”

CalMatters commentary

How California should move forward: Government cannot be all things to all people. Leaders set priorities. They have to learn how to say “We can’t afford that right now,” argues Doug Ose, CEO of Rebuild California Foundation and a former California congressman.

Recoup money from tax cuts: State governments could recoup needed revenues by taxing corporations’ windfall from President Donald Trump and the Republican Congress’s 2017 tax cuts, write Reuven Avi-Yonah, a law professor at the University of Michigan; David Gamage, a professor at Indiana University, Bloomington; and Darien Shanske, a UC Davis law professor.

Toward a better economy: California’s coronavirus response must be founded on equitable programs that recognize, rather than ignore, the past. Otherwise, we’ll end up with the same inequitable economy we had before, argues state Sen. Steven Bradford, a Gardena Democrat.

Inside California’s water wars: It seems as though everyone is suing each other in the war for California’s water. At the heart of the conflict is “Delta outflow,” write Jeffrey Mount and Greg Gartrell of the PPIC Water Policy Center.

Internet for all: Amid the pandemic, the internet is our only lifeline to the outside world. State and national leaders need to work with the telecommunications industry to provide internet access to everyone, argue Lisa Gonzales, chief business officer of the Mt. Diablo Unified School District, and state Sen. Steve Glazer, an Orinda Democrat.

Incarcerated pregnant women deserve minimum care standards: More than 50 organizations support AB 732, which would require a consistent standard of pregnancy and reproductive care for incarcerated people, writes Kate Karpilow, a writer and previous director of the California Center for Research on Women and Families.

Other things worth your time

Regulators unanimously approve PG&E bankruptcy plan despite safety fears. // The Associated Press

President Donald Trump signs order targeting Silicon Valley social media companies. // The Los Angeles Times

Newsom signals gym-reopening guidelines could come in next week. // The San Francisco Chronicle

California unemployment department launches “mass hiring” to answer phones, help jobless workers. // The Mercury News

Another two lawsuits filed against Newsom — one from a church and one from a winery, which has to sting, given the governor got his start in the Bay Area wine business. // CalMatters

Homeless deaths spike in San Francisco — but not necessarily because of the coronavirus. // KQED

Joe Biden backs California’s gig-economy labor law — the one Uber, Lyft and DoorDash are seeking exemption from. // The Sacramento Bee

Revenue from California’s cap-and-trade program is severely reduced because of the coronavirus pandemic. // KQED


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...