Good morning, California. It’s Wednesday, August 19.

Cases, hospitalizations, deaths decline

Pressure is building on Gov. Gavin Newsom to figure out a reopening plan after San Diego, California’s second-largest county, fell off the state’s coronavirus watch list Tuesday and hospitalizations, case rates and deaths continue to decline statewide.

The news came a few days after Santa Cruz was also removed from the watch list, though outbreaks continue to flare in the Central Valley and in some rural counties — including five added to the watch list Monday.

The state doesn’t currently allow indoor businesses to reopen in counties no longer on the watch list, though Newsom said Tuesday new guidelines are “very shortly forthcoming.”

  • San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer on Friday: “What does a county do when it gets off California’s COVID watch list? No one knows because state guidelines haven’t been set. … (This) exacerbates an increasingly difficult economic situation, and undermines the credibility of and compliance with the state’s public health order.”

Hundreds of hair salons, barbershops and tattoo parlors across the state pledged to reopen for indoor service Monday — exactly five months after they were first shut down — and stay open as long as possible.

Meanwhile, two private Christian schools in Fresno County reopened in defiance of state orders, and another in Sacramento reopened under the guise of day care. Some California schools are holding day care programs in their classrooms, where students work on distance learning under the supervision of a substitute teacher.

Schools are eligible to reopen in counties that stay off the watch list for 14 days, though day care and elementary schools can reopen under different conditions — uneven and contradictory standards in the eyes of some superintendents and elected officials.


The coronavirus bottom line: As of 9 p.m. Tuesday night, California had 632,667 confirmed coronavirus cases and 11,342 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. Newsom declares another statewide emergency

Firefighters keep a watchful eye as a grassfire caused by a lightning strike burns along Marsh Creek Road in Brentwood on Aug. 17, 2020. Early Sunday morning a severe lightning storm caused several fires near the Round Valley Regional Preserve and Morgan Territory Regional Preserve. Last night residents in the area were asked to voluntary evacuate by local officials as the fire neared homes. Photo by Jose Carlos Fajardo, Bay Area News Group
A grassfire caused by a lightning strike burns along Marsh Creek Road in Brentwood on Aug. 17. Photo by Jose Carlos Fajardo, Bay Area News Group

Newsom declared a state of emergency Tuesday in response to more than 30 wildfires raging across California amid a record-setting heat wave that caused the state’s first rolling blackouts in nearly two decades. The Golden State is now dealing with two official statewide emergencies — and the coronavirus pandemic is complicating some residents’ fire evacuation efforts.

  • Newsom: “We are deploying every resource available to keep communities safe as California battles fires across the state during these extreme conditions.”

Though California managed to avert blackouts Monday night — despite predictions of a massive energy shortfall — the manager of the state electric grid said Tuesday outages were “imminent.”

President Donald Trump waded into the fray Tuesday, tweeting California “Democrats have intentionally implemented rolling blackouts.”

  • Newsom shot back: “Cal ISO (the state electric grid manager) is a federally regulated agency, and they’re the ones responsible for the orders to pull back on the load.”

2. Lawmakers size up police reform

Los Angeles police officers fire rubber bullets after a May 30 protest over the death of George Floyd. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

Both Newsom and lawmakers promised sweeping change in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police — but will anything materialize before the legislative session ends in less than two weeks? Lawmakers are currently considering at least 15 police reform bills, but one that would permit cop decertification is likely doomed, while another that would involve the attorney general in certain deadly force investigations is facing new opposition, CalMatters’ Raheem Hosseini reports. And amid a massive budget crisis that has led the state to tap into its rainy day fund, lawmakers are weighing whether California can afford the price of reform.

  • State Sen. Scott Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat: “This is a challenge to the entire Legislature. We can’t just have a few wins this year … and then just go back to business as usual.”

3. How California progressives are handling a virtual convention

Supporters peer through the window during a Bernie Sanders presidential campaign event at Craneway Pavilion in Richmond, CA on February 17, 2020. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters
Supporters peer through the window during a Bernie Sanders presidential campaign event at Craneway Pavilion in Richmond on Feb. 17. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

Normally the Democratic National Convention, which runs through Thursday, would be an opportunity for progressive California delegates to push their party — and presidential and vice-presidential nominees Joe Biden and Kamala Harris — left. But it’s a little harder to cause a ruckus or stage a walkout over Zoom, which has given the party more control of its message, CalMatters’ Ben Christopher reports. Nevertheless, California progressives are still getting their point across, with U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna of Fremont voting last week against the party’s platform, largely because it didn’t include Bernie Sanders’ Medicare-for-All proposal. Khanna was named co-chair of California’s delegation in June amid pressure from progressives — typically, that honor goes to the governor. Still, many of Sanders’ California delegates said they plan to vote for Biden in November.

  • Delegate Marcy Winograd of Santa Barbara: “We want to be clear: We are saying, ‘Vote for Joe Biden.’ But we are going to make our demands known. And once he gets elected, there will be no honeymoon.”

CalMatters events

TODAY: Student Town Hall with California State University Chancellor Timothy P. White. Register | Submit Your Questions

August 20: How the Pandemic Is Affecting Children’s Mental Health. Register | Submit Your Questions

Visit our events page for more information. Questions or comments? Email

CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: It’s unacceptable that a state with a world-class economy grounded in cutting-edge technology has the unreliable electrical service of a third-world country.

No on Prop. 24: It creates a loophole that weakens the privacy of small businesses, hurting Black, Latino and Asian American small businesses the most, and fails to address digital redlining, writes Khaim Morton, a Sacramento small-business owner.

Assembly Bill 3262 is bad policy: It stifles online commerce for small businesses, rather than encouraging it, argues state Sen. Anna Caballero, a Salinas Democrat.

Parks for all: The passage of Sen. Kamala Harris’ PUBLIC Lands Act would increase park access for underserved California communities, writes Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis.


Other things worth your time

What will California community college classes be like in fall? Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley answers student questions. // CalMatters podcast and video

Los Angeles Unified’s first day of school anything but normal. // Los Angeles Times

San Francisco schools beef up distance learning on first day back. // San Francisco Chronicle

Mayor Libby Schaaf ‘trivialized’ fatal 2018 shooting by Oakland police, federal monitor says. // San Francisco Chronicle

Trump sought to withhold California fire aid for political reasons, former official says. // Politico

California plans to sue Trump administration this week over USPS cutbacks. // Los Angeles Times

Kamala Harris faces the biggest moment of her career tonight. // San Francisco Chronicle

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...