Good morning, California. It’s Thursday, July 2.

First major reopening reversal

A sign outside of the Stanford Theatre announcing its temporary closure in downtown Palo Alto on March 4, 2020. Photo by Nhat V. Meyer, Bay Area News Group
A sign outside of the Stanford Theatre announced its temporary closure in downtown Palo Alto on March 4. Photo by Nhat V. Meyer, Bay Area News Group

In the first major reversal of California’s reopening, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday ordered 19 counties to close indoor portions of restaurants, wineries, movie theaters, entertainment centers and other businesses for at least three weeks.

The governor also ordered the counties — which represent 72% of the state’s population and are being monitored for growing coronavirus outbreaks — to close all bars and recommended they cancel Fourth of July fireworks celebrations.

Newsom made good on his promise to tighten restrictions for the holiday weekend, announcing parking lot closures at state beaches in Southern California and the Bay Area. State beaches will also be closed in counties shutting down local beaches for the Fourth, such as Los Angeles and Ventura.

  • Newsom: “I think patriotism, at least in a COVID-19 environment, can be expressed a little bit differently. … I hope you’ll reconsider those gatherings with people that you do not live with.”

The governor also revealed that “strike teams” composed of seven state agencies will ramp up enforcement of his mask order and other public health directives by targeting “non-compliant workplaces.” 

  • Newsom told me: “They’ve been sent out to six specific regions, which we hadn’t done in the past. We have been all over the state doing enforcement, but not as teams and cohorts that are now more proactively focused on these regions, particularly in the 19 counties that we highlighted today.” 

Though Newsom predicted Tuesday an additional four counties would land on the state’s watch list within 24 hours, he told me Wednesday that “fortunately” they “did not reach the threshold,” though “we will see where we are in the next day or two.”

Over the past two weeks, the state’s rate of positive tests shot up from 4.6% to 6%, while hospitalizations increased by 55% and intensive care admissions by 46%, CalMatters’ tracker shows.


The coronavirus bottom line: As of 9 p.m. Wednesday night, California had 232,657 confirmed coronavirus cases and 6,090 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. Future of California’s COVID testing uncertain

A nurse performs COVID-19 swabs at a drive-thru testing facility at Cal Expo in Sacramento on April 15. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

Even as infections and hospitalizations soar, the state is denying counties’ requests to fund additional testing sites, citing high costs — while also threatening to remove sites from areas where less than 50% of testing slots are filled, California Healthline reports. (Some counties have seen their state-funded sites pulled.)

  • Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly: “With every asset and resource — especially when it’s scarce — you want it to go to places where it’s most needed. It wouldn’t be prudent or wise to maintain spending in a place where resources aren’t being used.”

This has frustrated local public health officers, who say underperforming sites don’t necessarily represent a lack of need. Meanwhile, the state’s contracts with more than 100 sites are set to expire Aug. 31 — and counties can’t afford to keep them running, raising concerns about the future of testing in California as the virus continues to spread.

2. How K-12 schools fared in California’s pandemic budget

Image via iStock

The good news: The $202 billion budget Newsom signed Monday largely keeps intact funding for public schools. The bad news: By temporarily deferring financial pain, schools could face steeper cuts in the future, CalMatters’ Ricardo Cano reports. A lot’s at stake, as 40 districts already risk insolvency in the next three years and five could go bankrupt in the coming school year. For more information on the state’s requirements for distance learning in the fall, check out Ricardo’s report.

3. Proposed pilot programs would remove police from nonviolent crises

Taun Hall’s son, Miles, was killed last year by Walnut Creek police during a mental health crisis. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

Police would no longer be responsible for responding to crises involving mental illness, homelessness, natural disasters and domestic violence under a pilot program proposal gaining traction in California in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, CalMatters’ Jocelyn Wiener reports. The bill, currently under consideration by the Legislature, would create up to a dozen such pilot programs around the state. San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento and Los Angeles have already pledged to divert nonviolent calls from police — an idea supported by officers and activists alike. 

  • Brian Marvel, president of the Peace Officers Research Association of California: “Unfortunately, with city budgets and the societal ills that we face, it all gets dumped on police. It seems to have fallen on deaf ears. But it appears now that they’re taking it seriously.” 
  • Cat Brooks, co-founder of Anti Police-Terror Project: “We rely on police to be the answer to every single social ill and they shouldn’t be.”


CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: California’s law to improve the schooling poor and English-learner students receive is not being enforced by state officials.

Most Californians prefer mail-in ballots: California needs to meet this bipartisan demand while also redesigning voting sites to ensure safety and accessibility, write Mindy Romero of USC’s Price School of Public Policy and Thad Kousser of UC San Diego.

Strengthening forestry workforce: Policymakers should put Californians to work on improving the health of the state’s forests, which would aid in economic recovery and reduce wildfire risk, argue Henry McCann of the Public Policy Institute of California and Van Butsic of UC Berkeley.


Other things worth your time

In the California county hit hardest by coronavirus, fear and death mix with anger. // San Francisco Chronicle

Los Angeles school board cuts campus police budget by $25 million. // Los Angeles Times

Removing school police could create liability issues for California districts. // Fox & Hounds

UCSF paid over $1 million ransom after a cyberattack. Now the FBI is investigating. // San Francisco Chronicle

California begins enforcing digital privacy law, despite calls for delay. // Washington Post

State nursing board executives falsified data in report to state auditor, report finds. // Sacramento Bee

A community built on freelancers crumbles in Los Angeles. // Wall Street Journal

Community members prevent border wall construction on Kumeyaay burial grounds. // San Diego Union-Tribune

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...