In summary

California set to start partial reopening Friday. Colleges use lessons from past disasters to confront coronavirus. COVID-19 hits Pacific Islanders hard.

Good morning, California. It’s Tuesday, May 5.

Room for regional variation, too

An empty parking lot in front of TJ Maxx at The Veranda shopping center in Concord on March 19, 2020. One third of the centers businesses have been forced to close temporarily due to the shelter in place order in Contra Costa and surrounding counties. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters
An empty parking lot at The Veranda shopping center in Concord on March 19. Retail stores can offer curbside pickup as early as Friday. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

Mark your calendars for Friday — the day that California will begin partially reopening after seven weeks of sheltering in place.

By the end of the week, clothing stores, bookstores, florists, sporting goods stores and other retailers — as well as the manufacturing and logistics companies that support them — can offer curbside pickup as long as physical distancing is practiced and workers are protected, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday.

“The data says it can happen,” Newsom said, pointing out stabilizing COVID-19 hospitalization rates, improving testing capacity and a sufficient inventory of personal protective equipment.

Music to rural counties’ ears was the governor’s announcement that individual counties can move at a faster rate than the state and reopen restaurants and offices, as long as local public health officials sign off on mandatory safety plans.

But Newsom cautioned the state will step in if a wave of coronavirus cases crops up in those communities.

  • Newsom: “To the extent that we start to see community spread, that we start to see that the certification and the commitments they made at the local level aren’t manifesting and they weren’t able to hold up … then the state can once again intervene.”

Central to the state’s reopening strategy: deploying an “army” of 20,000 state employees to trace and track the spread of the virus. As CalMatters’ Rachel Becker reports, Newsom announced Monday a partnership with UCSF and UCLA to train 3,000 new tracers a week, beginning Wednesday. California will also develop a new statewide database to help local health departments trace infected people and their contacts as they travel through the state. 

  • Sara Bosse, Madera County public health director: “I’m very excited about that innovation. It is something that we have needed for a decade in California.”


The Bottom Line: As of 7:30 p.m. Monday night, California had 55,883 confirmed coronavirus cases and 2,276 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, and those in intensive care, 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. Disaster isn’t new for California campuses. How past emergencies could inform their COVID-19 response

Smoke from the Camp Fire, burning in the Feather River Canyon near Paradise, Calif., darkens the sky above the Butte College sig in Oroville, Calif., Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. (AP Photo/Don Thompson)
Smoke from the Camp Fire darkens the sky above the Butte College sign in Oroville on Nov. 8, 2018. AP Photo/Don Thompson

As fires and other natural disasters occur more frequently, California colleges and universities are developing strategies to handle the fallout — and becoming lifelines for their students and surrounding communities in the process. Felicia Mello and Charlotte West explore what lessons these past disaster responses might offer for the COVID-19 era in a CalMatters/The Hechinger Report collaboration. For example, after the rural community college Butte College shut down in the wake of the 2018 Camp Fire, its basic needs center handed out laptops, gas gift cards and information about mental health counseling in parking lots and allowed students to drop classes without financial penalties.

  • Dawn Blackhorse, Butte College student success specialist: “It all coalesced into one big question: What do our students need right now to finish the semester and stay in school?”

2. Oft-overlooked Pacific Islanders hit hard by coronavirus

Dr. Ray Samoa at the City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center in Duarte on April 25, 2020. Samoa stands amongst Wishing Trees, a place where City of Hope employees and visitors offer messages of health and hope to patients and their families. Photo by Nancy Pastor for CalMatters
Dr. Ray Samoa at the City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center in Duarte on April 25. Samoa, who tested positive for the novel coronavirus, recently returned home after an extended quarantine. Photo by Nancy Pastor for CalMatters

COVID-19 is infecting and killing Pacific Islanders at a higher rate than any other racial or ethnic group in California, yet this small community is often overlooked by public health officials, CalMatters’ Jackie Botts reports. Pacific Islanders — people with origins from Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, Fiji, the Marshall Islands and other Pacific islands — have long faced economic and health disparities that make them uniquely vulnerable to the novel coronavirus. Community leaders say the state data are a wake-up call for local health officials to log their birth, death and other statistics separately from Asians. In the meantime, leaders are mounting their own response.

3. As missed rent payments pile up and calls for state aid increase, what’s California’s plan?

A sign promoting a national suspension of rent, mortgage and utility payments hands from a home in the Mission neighborhood of San Francisco on April 18, 2020. More than a month after Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a stay at home order in light of coronavirus concerns and with no clear end in sight, many Californians are wondering how they will afford rent going forward. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for Calmatters
A sign promoting the national suspension of rent, mortgage and utility payments in San Francisco on April 18. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for Calmatters

Seven weeks into the shelter-in-place order, missed rent payments are piling up, and the state still hasn’t weighed in on how much rent tenants will eventually owe, how long they’ll have to repay it, and whether the state will help shoulder some of the cost, CalMatters’ Matt Levin reports. Both landlords and tenants say government financial relief is needed to stay afloat, though they disagree on the logistics of how aid should be distributed. State lawmakers are considering a range of proposals, and tenants’ rights advocates are asking for rent to be forgiven altogether. But as the pandemic wreaks havoc on the state budget, it’s unclear how much California can realistically afford.

  • Assemblyman David Chiu, San Francisco Democrat: “This is an unprecedented problem. And we’re not in a place yet where we know exactly how we can fix it.”

CalMatters commentary

Ten truths from a quarantined Boomer: Heading into the second month of the stay-at-home order, here’s how I’m coping and what I’m learning, writes Maggie Shandera Linden, former executive vice president for Ogilvy Public Relations.

COVID-19’s economic impact on Latinas: Latinas are on the frontlines of the pandemic, and California must do more to map out a recovery plan for the Latino community, argues Helen Torres, CEO of Hispanas Organized for Political Equality.

Public transit faces existential crisis: California public transit may be hit with a “double whammy” resulting in catastrophic revenue losses threatening the viability and availability of services, writes Joshua Shaw, executive director of the California Transit Association.

Celebrate #GivingTuesdayNow by supporting CalMatters’ nonprofit journalism

Today is both #GivingTuesdayNow and #GivingNewsday, an opportunity for you to support CalMatters’ nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. If you have the means during this difficult time, consider making a contribution to our newsroom so we can continue covering the issues that matter most to you in California. Donate here, and find more information about our donation policy here. Thank you.

Other things worth your time

California dentists were promised 1 million face masks from the state. They never got them. // The Sacramento Bee

Two Orange County beaches cleared to reopen after Newsom shut them down last week. // The Los Angeles Times

California no longer pays more to Washington, D.C. than it gets back, new study finds. // The San Francisco Chronicle

Some liberal Californians don’t want things to “go back to normal.” // The New York Times

Why reopening California schools is sure to be a logistical nightmare. // The San Francisco Chronicle

California attorney general sues gas trading companies, alleging price manipulation. // The Los Angeles Times


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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...