Good morning, California. It’s Friday, July 3.

Note: Due to the holiday weekend, I’ll be back in your inbox on Tuesday.

New counties on watch list

The beach remains closed at Garrapata State Park, in Big Sur, Calif., Tuesday, April 14, 2020. Photo by Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group
The beach is closed at Garrapata State Park in Big Sur on April 14. Photo by Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group

As California heads into Fourth of July weekend, the state’s positive case rate is up 37%, hospitalizations 56% and intensive care admissions 49% compared to two weeks ago, with the ICU numbers in particular “a point of real concern,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday.

Monterey County was added to the state’s 19-county watch list Thursday and Contra Costa removed. San Diego will be added today.

The governor also unveiled Thursday a multimillion-dollar public awareness campaign encouraging Californians to wear masks, including short videos in English and Spanish — suggesting that education is ultimately more effective than enforcement.

  • Newsom: “If 40 million people want to turn their back on civil society and abuse the rules and laws and regulations … then society begins to erode. Accordingly, the health of a community begins to be diminished. … It requires some level of personal responsibility.”

Nevertheless, Newsom said the state sent a letter Thursday to all California employers reinforcing his mask order and other public health directives. He added that 13 of the 19 counties he ordered Wednesday to close bars and the indoor portions of restaurants, movie theaters and other businesses have complied so far, with the remaining six expected to follow shortly.

Some counties also canceled fireworks shows and closed beaches or beach parking lots for the holiday weekend. 

Many of you reached out to me this past week wondering why Newsom is telling Californians they can’t gather with people outside their household for Fourth of July despite allowing massive protests that brought thousands of people together.

The governor weighed in on Thursday.

  • Newsom: “Just because someone else is doing it, doesn’t mean you should. People know what the right thing to do is. … People also understand that we have a Constitution, we have the right of free speech. We are all dealing with a moment in our nation’s history that is profound and pronounced. … I recognize the dichotomy … between those examples. All I can offer is this consideration: Do what you think is best, not only for you, but for the health of those you love.”


The coronavirus bottom line: As of 9 p.m. Thursday night, California had 240,195 confirmed coronavirus cases and 6,163 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. Several counties on the verge of running out of ICU beds

El Centro Regional Medical Center staff in Imperial County attend to patients who are suspected COVID-19 positive on May 30, 2020. The county is a hot spot for the coronavirus. Photo by Omar Ornelas, The Desert Sun
El Centro Regional Medical Center staff in Imperial County on May 30. Photo by Omar Ornelas, The Desert Sun

Speaking of ICUs, the hardest-hit county in the state had only one available ICU bed on Thursday. Imperial County sent some of its critically ill COVID patients to nearby Riverside County, but it may not be able to do so much longer — 90% of Riverside’s ICU beds were filled on Wednesday, CalMatters’ Ana Ibarra reports. Imperial isn’t able to send patients to the Bay Area, because several of the region’s hospitals are already attending to an outbreak in San Quentin State Prison. The situation demonstrates that despite the state’s emphasis on local control, an outbreak in one county can be felt almost anywhere in the state.

  • Carmela Coyle, CEO and president of the California Hospital Association: “I think what’s happening now is an ethical challenge, and that is, by accepting patients from other parts of the state, is there a risk of jeopardizing the ability to treat patients in your own community?”

2. Unemployment department extends benefits, remains under fire

Image via iStock

With nearly 280,000 Californians filing first-time unemployment claims last week, pushing the state’s total to over 6 million since the beginning of the pandemic, the state’s Wednesday announcement that it will extend benefits for seven additional weeks likely brought some relief. Californians on regular state unemployment can now receive benefits for up to 59 weeks, while those on Pandemic Unemployment Assistance can get benefits for a maximum of 46 weeks, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

The extension comes amid continued frustration with the unemployment department’s handling of an unprecedented volume of claims. On Thursday, a coalition of Republican state lawmakers requested a formal audit of the Employment Development Department, following another such request last week. Meanwhile, two Democratic lawmakers in a Thursday call lambasted the department’s recent move to limit the constituent claims they can request to be expedited each week.

3. Who will redraw California’s electoral map?

Image via iStock

Eight of the 14 people who will redraw California’s electoral map — carving its legislative and congressional districts and thus affecting state politics for the next decade — were randomly selected Thursday by state Auditor Elaine Howle. As former state Senate President Kevin de León pointed out, none were Latino, though Latinos make up about 40% of California’s population. Diversity is a stated goal of the independent California’s Citizens Redistricting Commission, but its applicant pool skewed largely white and male.

Of the eight commissioners chosen today, four are female and four are male. Three are white, three are Black and two are Asian/Pacific Islander. Three are Republican, three are Democratic and two have no party preference. Four are from Southern California, two from the Bay Area and two from the Central Valley. These eight commissioners will select the final six from a predetermined list by Aug. 15.


CalMatters commentary

Time to implement SB 1000: Local officials in California must reverse the legacy of discrimination embedded in decades of redlining, disinvestment and environmental injustice, argues Steve Sanders, an urban planner and previous director of the Sustainable Communities Program at the Institute for Local Government.


Other things worth your time

Tiny desert town devastated by wildfire as it battles coronavirus. // Los Angeles Times

More than 40 Bay Area school principals in quarantine after in-person meeting. // San Francisco Chronicle

Orange County erroneously logged 30,000 more COVID tests than it actually performed. // Orange County Register

California nursing homes got insider access to Newsom’s health care regulators. Here’s how. // Sacramento Bee

Dozens of California pistachio plant workers infected with COVID-19. // La Opinión/CalMatters

USC reverses fall reopening plans, asks students to stay home for online classes. // Los Angeles Times

These California Republicans — part of the Lincoln Project — are campaigning against Trump’s reelection. // Sacramento Bee

The propositions on California’s November ballot now have numbers. // CalMatters

PG&E emerges from bankruptcy. // Bloomberg

See you Tuesday.

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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...