Good morning, California. It’s Wednesday, July 8.

Drake to helm system at pivotal moment

Photo via iStock

Michael V. Drake was named president of the University of California on Tuesday, becoming the first Black person to lead the system in its 152-year history.

Drake, who turns 70 on Thursday, will be responsible for steering the system through massive budget cuts imposed by the coronavirus pandemic and the uncertainty of online learning, while also answering calls to increase student body diversity and defund campus police that have intensified in recent weeks.

All this, while also helming the nearly $40 billion operation of UC’s 10 campuses, five medical centers, three national laboratories, and more than 280,000 students and 227,000 employees.

  • Debbie Cochrane of the Institute for College Access and Success: “I’m not sure I would envy the incoming president, that’s for sure.”

Drake, the former president of Ohio State University, has spent more than four decades in the California university system. He graduated from Stanford University and earned his medical degree at UC San Francisco before becoming UC’s vice president for health affairs and chancellor of UC Irvine.

He was selected by the UC Regents after an intensive six-month search and will replace Janet Napolitano, who will step down Aug. 1 after serving seven years.

As UC seeks to further diversify its student body, regents last month unanimously endorsed reinstating affirmative action in their admissions practices, an issue that voters will decide in November.

Drake may also oversee a possible replacement to the SAT and ACT after the regents in May dropped the standardized tests as admission requirements in a bid to create more inclusive campuses.

Student activists appeared pleased with the regents’ choice.


The coronavirus bottom line: As of 9 p.m. Tuesday night, California had 277,774 confirmed coronavirus cases and 6,448 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. Inside California’s declining death rate — and uncertain testing future

Kaiser Permanente Registered Nurse Rosa Aceves conducts a COVID-19 test in Fremont on March 11. Photo by Doug Oakley, courtesy of Kaiser Permanente

California COVID-19 deaths decreased 11% from May to June even as cases, hospitalizations and intensive-care admissions reach record levels. What gives? Experts say the rise in infections is largely being driven by young people who may be less severely affected by the virus while outbreaks in skilled nursing facilities — whose residents account for 49% of the state’s deaths — have decreased, the Los Angeles Times reports. Yet some are concerned that the death rate will begin to tick up, as it usually takes four to five weeks for the most vulnerable patients to succumb to the virus after being exposed.

  • Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday: “We’ve seen an increase in testing — now over 100,000 a day — and an increase in positivity rates. We are not seeing a commensurate increase yet in mortality. That said, these are lagging indicators — hospitalizations, ICUs and deaths. So we are … cautious, as well as modestly optimistic, but cautious nonetheless.”

But even as Newsom touted increased testing, five Sacramento testing sites were shut down Monday due to material shortages, while other cities like Los Angeles can’t meet testing demand. And with the state denying counties’ requests to fund additional sites and threatening to remove others, the future of testing in California looks uncertain.

2. California sues Trump, DeVos over school funding

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and President Donald Trump. Illustration by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

California is suing the Trump administration and U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos over federal guidance that would allow private schools to receive more federal coronavirus aid, leaving less money for low-income public schools, Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced Tuesday. 

California joined five other states in arguing that the education department’s interim final rule ignores Congress’ intention for private schools to receive aid based on how many disadvantaged students they enroll, rather than their total populations.

Becerra, who’s sued the Trump administration more than 80 times, said the rule could divert “tens of millions of dollars” of the $1.5 billion in federal aid intended mainly for California public schools to private institutions.

  • Becerra: “Secretary DeVos will argue that it’s about providing equitable services, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. This pandemic is hurting all of our schools. Those with the fewest resources have less ways to confront the challenges, and Secretary DeVos knows that.”

3. What edits to Kamala Harris’ Wikipedia page could foreshadow

U.S. Senator Kamala Harris at a rally in Oakland on Jan. 27, 2019. Photo by Jose Carlos Fajardo, Bay Area News Group

Could the hundreds of edits to California U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris’ Wikipedia page in recent weeks indicate that she’s most likely to be Joe Biden’s running mate? Maybe, given that past vice-presidential picks saw their Wikipedia pages scrubbed before being publicly announced, the Intercept reports. In any case, Harris’ page was edited 408 times over a three-week period, while the profiles of contenders Stacey Abrams, Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar had 66, 22 and four edits, respectively. Most of the changes to Harris’ page were made by one user, who deleted mention of controversial aspects of her prosecutorial record in California and inserted language pulled directly from press releases and campaign documents.


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: Five counties got a huge windfall by miscalculating how local property taxes are divvied up between local governments and schools. Under a legislative deal, they’ll keep most of the extra money.

Consequence of the Supreme Court’s “faithful elector” decision: The Golden State has much less power in electing the next president than voters in less populous states, writes Jessica Levinson, a Loyola Law School professor.

Social justice argument on Delta tunnel project doesn’t hold water: The most disadvantaged communities in California won’t be helped by a tunnel, argue John Vasquez and Chuck Winn, longtime members of the Delta Counties Coalition.

A family’s crisis during a wildfire: It is critical the state develop safety plans for people with disabilities, writes Diana Pastora Carson, a kindergarten teacher and SDSU disability studies lecturer.


Other things worth your time

San Francisco schools unlikely to send all kids back full time. // San Francisco Chronicle

San Francisco slows down reopening plan. // San Francisco Chronicle

State approves Santa Clara County’s reopening plan in sudden about-face. // Mercury News

Christopher Columbus statue removed from California Capitol. // Associated Press

State unemployment agency to expedite claims for Californians who filed in March or April but haven’t yet received benefits. // Sacramento Bee

State worker furloughs save money now but add cost later. // Sacramento Bee

Bay Area backyard cottages boom as elderly parents and college students flee coronavirus. // San Francisco Chronicle

California has five of the top 20 most gentrified U.S. cities — including No. 1. // USA Today

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...