Good morning, California. It’s Friday, July 10.

Shut-down sites, supply shortages

Nurses place ice packs in the coolers used to store and transport samples from patients tested for COVID-19 at the drive-thru testing facility at Cal Expo in Sacramento. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

So you want a coronavirus test? Well, it may not be that simple.

This week, San Bernardino County canceled hundreds of appointments due to a shortage of materials. Five testing sites were shut down in Sacramento because UC Davis Health, which processes the tests, couldn’t procure enough kits. Unable to meet soaring demand, Los Angeles County asked residents to get tested only if they have symptoms, work in high-risk environments or were exposed to someone who tested positive. San Diego residents are waiting around a week to get a test.

Gov. Gavin Newsom is set to unveil a new state testing strategy today or Monday. He acknowledged Wednesday that “testing supply constraints are starting to present themselves.” 

  • Newsom: “We are now looking to really target and modify our testing criteria in a much more strategic way. … really targeting the most vulnerable members of our community, the most diverse parts of the state and still addressing some existing testing deserts … and obviously supply concerns.” 

Nevertheless, some of the state-funded sites in “testing deserts” appear to be at risk. The state has pulled sites where less than 50% of appointments are filled and denied counties’ requests to fund additional sites, citing high costs, California Healthline reports

And though the state is testing more than 100,000 people each day, up from 8,000 in March, it’s now grappling with a three-headed hydra of supply constraints, overwhelmed labs and delayed processing of tests. As a result, the state public health department asked labs on July 4 to prioritize processing tests from patients with symptoms and those in hospitals, nursing homes or prisons. 

  • Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly: “These delays will present significant challenges in our ability to care for people in the hospital where testing helps us make appropriate treatment decisions, and our ability to appropriately isolate those who are sick in order to … cut transmission rates.”

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The coronavirus bottom line: As of 9 p.m. Thursday night, California had 296,499 confirmed coronavirus cases and 6,711 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.


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Other stories you should know

1. Pressure builds on Newsom to release San Quentin inmates

San Quentin State Prison. Photo via iStock

Lawmakers and activists increased pressure on Newsom Thursday to release inmates from San Quentin State Prison, where more than 1,400 have tested positive for coronavirus and seven have died, most of whom were on death row. The outbreak occurred after 121 inmates were transferred from a Chino facility hard-hit by the virus, leading to what Assemblymember Marc Levine, a San Rafael Democrat, called “the worst prison health screw-up in state history” and the ousting of California’s top prison medical officer.

Newsom on Thursday said he was committed to reducing San Quentin’s population to 3,076, down from its 131% capacity of 4,051 in March. But he also expressed his commitment to public safety.

  • Newsom: “This is serious stuff and requires a seriousness of purpose. People are saying, ‘Just release thousands and thousands of people.’ I hope they are being thoughtful and considerate — of not only the victims, but the prospects of people reoffending.”

2. California hires 900 new firefighters due to fewer inmate crews

Inmate firefighters battle the Quail Fire burning near Winters, Calif., on June 7. Photo by Noah Berger, AP Photo

Speaking of inmates, California will hire nearly 900 new seasonal firefighters to make up for fewer available inmate firefighters following a coronavirus outbreak at their main training hub (likely caused by a transfer of prisoners from San Quentin), CalMatters’ Rachel Becker reports. The state has long relied on thousands of incarcerated firefighters to help manage wildfires, but only 94 of 192 inmate fire crews are available this year due to the outbreak and the inmate population falling by 10,000. The news comes as wildfires have already burned more acreage this year than last. For more information on how the state plans to fight fires and handle evacuations amid the pandemic, check out Rachel’s report.

3. Will California increase state oversight when police use lethal force?

Protesters march in Oakland in support of Erik Salgado, who was shot and killed on June 6 by California Highway Patrol officers. Photo by Jane Tyska, Bay Area News Group

The Senate will soon consider a proposed law that would increase state oversight of lethal police use-of-force incidents, rather than relying on local police departments to investigate themselves. It’s the third time in five years that Assemblymember Kevin McCarty, a Sacramento Democrat, has tried to pass such a law — and he’s hopeful there’s enough momentum after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police to propel it through, Raheem Hosseini reports for CalMatters. Still, McCarty’s bill is weaker than past versions: Instead of requiring the attorney general to oversee investigations into every deadly police encounter, it would create a new division within the state Department of Justice to investigate those encounters only when asked by local police or district attorneys.

  • George Gascón, former San Francisco district attorney who’s running for the same position in Los Angeles: “It fails to address a basic concern: You have a lot of people who are not going to ask for that.”

4. California court to decide if Black Lives Matter supporters can be struck from jury pools

Protesters hold “Black Lives Matter” signs at a June 1 rally. Photo by Kate Cimini, The Salinas Californian

Is it legal for prosecutors to strike Black Lives Matter supporters from jury pools? The question, which is gaining urgency in the wake of widespread protests over Floyd’s death, will soon be taken up by a California appeals court, the Marshall Project reports. After vocalizing support for Black Lives Matter, Crishala Reed was eliminated as a potential juror in the 2016 trial of three Black defendants ultimately convicted of murdering a Bay Area couple. The defendants’ lawyers say Reed’s removal violated the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition on excluding prospective jurors based on race.

  • In the meantime, the California Supreme Court in January said it plans to form a working group to review the rules for disqualifying potential jurors. And state lawmakers are considering a measure that would make it harder for prosecutors to strike potential jurors.

CalMatters survey

Have you been tested for coronavirus? How difficult was it to access a test? How long did you have to wait for results? Fill out our COVID-19 testing questionnaire to share your experience with health reporter Ana Ibarra. All answers are confidential and identifying information will only be used with your permission.


CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Will California’s unemployment department address its outdated computer system and scant reserves before the next recession hits?

Reverse ICE’s inhumane decision: Our international students have paid tuition, signed leases and registered for classes, and now they’re being told to get on the next plane home, writes Jayathi Y. Murphy, dean of UCLA’s Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Sharing story of anxiety and depression helps many: Lenny Mendonca’s personal story was moving, intelligent and instructive. Depression and anxiety know no demographic boundaries, writes Kelly Powers of the National Alliance on Mental Illness San Mateo County.


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Other things worth your time

California investigating Google for potential antitrust violations. // Politico

California, California State University and California Community Colleges also suing Trump administration over international student visa guidelines. // CalMatters

Cancel the bar exam? California considers allowing law graduates to skip test due to pandemic. // Sacramento Bee

Warehouse workers in a bind as virus spikes in Southern California. // New York Times

Coronavirus outbreak tied to fraternity parties imperils fall semester at UC Berkeley. // Los Angeles Times

San Francisco’s beloved cable cars won’t run until a coronavirus vaccine is ready. // San Francisco Chronicle

In Yucca Valley, worries mount that Joshua trees will be designated an endangered species, causing economic devastation. // Los Angeles Times


See you Monday.

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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...