In summary

Many counties plan to reopen gyms, bars, hotels, movie theaters, pro sports venues without fans, and more, even as coronavirus cases continue to rise.

Good morning, California. It’s Thursday, June 11.

State is prepared for spike, gov says

Masked employees work in the open kitchen overlooking the dining room at Cole’s Chop House in downtown Napa on May 22. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

California is entering yet another pivotal moment in its coronavirus response.

On Friday, many counties plan to reopen gyms, bars, hotels, movie theaters, pro sports venues without fans, and more, even as cases continue to rise. Meanwhile, the state is monitoring 10 counties experiencing spikes in cases or hospitalizations. And Gov. Gavin Newsom is striving to balance the competing desires of reopening the economy and protecting public health.

  • Newsom in a Tuesday meeting with Oakland community and business leaders: “As we phase in, in a responsible way, a reopening of the economy, we’ve made it abundantly clear that we anticipate an increase in the total number of positive cases. But we also need a concurrent recognition and commitment that we are in a substantially different place than we were 90 days ago.”

The governor said the state has adequate alternative care facilities, hospital surge capacity and ventilators to handle a potential spike in patients. In addition, California will soon start receiving hundreds of millions of N95 face masks from BYD after they were certified by a federal agency Monday. The state is also now conducting close to its goal of 60,000 tests per day.

He added that keeping the economy in “permanent stasis” could also “lead to catastrophic public health outcomes.”

Six Bay Area counties are reopening much more slowly than the rest of the state, though they continue to ease restrictions every two to three weeks. Public health officials say they’re trying avoid a surge in cases that will force residents to shelter in place again.

  • Susan Philip of the San Francisco Department of Public Health: “We don’t want people to keep living their lives sheltering at home. … We have a commitment to keep moving forward, because we know there are impacts on people’s health and economic wellbeing and happiness that are so important as well.”

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The coronavirus bottom line: As of 9 p.m. Wednesday night, California had 136,191 confirmed coronavirus cases and 4,776 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. Uber and Lyft drivers are employees, state regulator says

Photo by Andrei Stanescu via iStock

In the latest development in the ongoing Uber/Lyft worker classification saga, the California Public Utilities Commission — which regulates the gig-economy companies — said in an order Tuesday that ride-hail drivers are employees and the companies must provide them with workers’ compensation coverage by July 1. The order comes a month after the state and three cities sued Uber and Lyft for failing to reclassify half a million independent contractors as employees under a new state law, AB5. Voters will get to weigh in on the issue in November: A ballot measure championed by Uber, Lyft and DoorDash would exempt their drivers from AB5, allowing them to remain independent contractors.

2. CA changes guidelines for prioritizing coronavirus patients

Image via iStock

The California Department of Public Health on Tuesday changed its guidelines for how patients should be prioritized if hospitals are overwhelmed due to a coronavirus outbreak. In April, the department said ICU beds and ventilators should be given first to patients with the greatest likelihood of survival, younger people and workers “vital to the public health response.” Following an outcry from more than 60 community and advocacy groups, the guidelines were changed to prohibit allocating scarce resources based on factors like age, disability, chronic medical conditions, weight and perceived quality of life.

3. Lawmakers want to scrap CA’s online-only community college

Maria Garcia, at her Antioch home in January, works her way through a Calbright cybersecurity course. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

Will California’s online-only community college survive in the era of distance learning? As Newsom and lawmakers wrap up their budget negotiations this week, they disagree over whether to continue funding Calbright, which has progressed slowly since a rocky launch two years ago. The governor’s administration wants to preserve $134 million for Calbright, arguing that the pandemic “makes an even more compelling case” for it, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Lawmakers, facing complaints from faculty unions, say Calbright replicates classes at the state’s 114 other community colleges — which will also be online-only in the fall — and the money should be used to save established programs serving more students.

But Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley disagrees.

  • Oakley: “Asking the California Community Colleges to cannibalize some programs to save others is a choice that I reject. Now is not the time to deny educational opportunities to our black and Latinx learners.”

The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office found in a May report that Calbright “has a very high cost per student, is currently unaccredited and largely duplicates programs at other colleges.”

4. Homelessness still a main priority for mayors of CA’s biggest cities

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti takes questions during a Big City Mayors press conference focused on homelessness solutions on March 9. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

Before the pandemic, homelessness was top of mind in California, with Newsom dedicating his entire State of the State speech to it. On Wednesday, the mayors of California’s 13 biggest cities emphasized that homelessness remains one of their main priorities. They threw their support behind the homelessness funding proposals in the Legislature’s version of the state budget, which includes $350 million for local governments that Newsom’s proposal does not. Both Newsom and the Legislature propose using $600 million in federal funds to convert motel rooms into supportive housing for homeless Californians — though local governments would likely be on the hook for the motels’ operating costs and supportive services.

  • Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti: The $350 million is necessary “because if we don’t have the services also to help people stay housed, we can move people around as far as we want, but they’re going to be back on the streets within months.”
  • San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo: “We are all grappling with crises that have arisen since, but we know when our current crises resolve homelessness will continue to be a crisis in each of our cities.”

CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Government transparency advocates scored two recent wins, one of which will affect the aftermath of George Floyd demonstrations.

Bridging digital divide: We need action now from state leaders to extend the reach of broadband to all, argues former state Sen. Martha Escutia, USC’s vice president of government relations.

Protect food access: SB 882 would streamline access to CalFresh and make permanent emergency measures helping Californians obtain food assistance from home, writes Nancy McPherson, AARP’s California state director.

Where cars go when they die: A state department is threatening to shut down car recycling plants, which would create an environmental disaster, argue Doug Kramer, president of Kramer Metals Inc., and Gary Umphenour, president of the State of California Auto Dismantlers Association.

Standing up for the vulnerable: Californians with intellectual and developmental disabilities need a fighter like Assemblyman Jim Frazier, writes Carlsbad resident Lucile Lynch.

Other things worth your time

Legislature will vote on state budget Monday — though they have yet to strike a deal with Newsom. // San Francisco Chronicle

California’s Judicial Council rescinds zero-bail pandemic emergency measure, postpones vote on resuming eviction court proceedings. // Los Angeles Times

San Francisco permanently bars landlords from evicting tenants if they can’t pay rent due to coronavirus-related issues. // San Francisco Chronicle

Some California Democrats ready to close state prisons. // Sacramento Bee

Tribal casinos sue California for more time to qualify legal sports betting measure for November ballot. // Los Angeles Times

California weighs diesel regulations amid pandemic. // Inside Climate News

Could Bakersfield become a remote work capital? // Bakersfield Californian

Tens of thousands of these fantastical sea creatures in Monterey Bay help remove planet-warming gases from the atmosphere. // Los Angeles Times

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See you tomorrow.

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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...