Good morning, California. It’s Monday, November 16.

More shutdowns?

Here we go again.

As Thanksgiving approaches, California is racking up a series of grim statistics. On Thursday, it became the second state to surpass 1 million coronavirus cases — the same day it recorded more new infections than all but nine other days of the pandemic. On Friday, top state public health officials said California’s weekly positive case rate is up 47%, the fastest rate of increase since the pandemic began. Hospitalizations have shot up 51% and intensive-care admissions 43% in the last two weeks, CalMatters’ tracker shows. The rates are similar to those that forced California into a second lockdown this summer. Heading into the Fourth of July weekend, the Golden State’s positive case rate was up 37%, hospitalizations 56% and ICUs 49%.

Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s health and human services secretary, said Friday there aren’t any immediate plans for another stay-at-home order. Still, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a travel advisory Friday asking residents to avoid non-essential travel and to self-quarantine for 14 days if they travel out of the state or country.

  • Ghaly: “As I say to my patients often, ‘When I’m worried, I’ll tell you so you can worry with me,’ and we’re there.”

The state’s message of caution was hampered by the news, reported Friday by the San Francisco Chronicle, that Newsom recently attended a birthday party at the three-Michelin-starred French Laundry restaurant in Napa County with people from multiple households. California in October prohibited gatherings of more than three households.

  • Newsom: “While our family followed the restaurant’s health protocols and took safety precautions, we should have modeled better behavior and not joined the dinner.”

The news is likely to heighten resistance to the governor’s public health orders. With 11 counties backsliding into more restrictive reopening tiers last week, many business owners are at their wits’ end. Some are furiously suing counties and the state; others refuse to comply with yet another round of shutdowns.

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The coronavirus bottom line: As of 9 p.m. Sunday night, California had 1,019,345 confirmed coronavirus cases and 18,253 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.


Of the seven GOP congressional seats that California Democrats flipped in 2018, only three are sure to remain in their hands, Ben Christopher writes. Two seats remain too close to call, and the other two have gone to Republican challengers — both Korean American women.


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1. Prop. 14 passes — narrowly

Dr. Gerhard Bauer at UC Davis Institute for Regenerative Cures in Sacramento. Photo courtesy of UC Davis Health

Prop. 14 passed late Thursday night with 51% of voters in support and 49% against, notching the narrowest victory margin of California’s 12 statewide propositions. By approving Prop. 14, voters extended a $5.5 billion lifeline to California’s cash-strapped stem cell agency so it can continue funding research into treatments for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer, spinal cord injuries and other diseases. Voters also gave themselves a $7.8 billion bill — $5.5 billion plus interest — to be paid back over the next 30 years. While Prop. 14’s supporters say the money will help the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine develop and fund life-saving therapies while stimulating the economy, opponents question the wisdom of taking on billions of dollars in debt in the middle of a recession.

  • Robert Klein, former CIRM chairman and Prop. 14 backer: “We have to have this funding to go forward. We can’t attract and hold the best scientists in the world unless we can show them that the therapies they work on are going to actually be able to get to patients.”
  • John Matsusaka, a USC economist: “This is money that’s channeling into … highly skilled white collar workers who are very fully employed already. … It’s hard for me to see how pouring money into this could have a stimulating effect.”

2. LA, Bay Area vs. rest of California

San Francisco City Hall lit up red, white and blue for Election Day on Nov. 3, 2020. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

The political gulf separating Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area from the rest of California is steadily widening. For the 12 propositions on this year’s ballot, an average gap of 10.6 percentage points separated LA and the Bay Area from the rest of the state, compared to about 6 percentage points in 2004, according to a Los Angeles Times analysis. This year, the divide was most apparent for Props. 15 and 16, which would have increased taxes on commercial property and reversed the state’s affirmative action ban, respectively. Los Angeles County and the nine-county Bay Area supported the measures, while the rest of the state opposed them. Both measures failed — a reflection of the fact that LA and the Bay Area make up a little less than half of the state’s registered voters.

The two regions don’t always vote in lockstep. For example, Los Angeles and four Bay Area counties supported Prop. 22 — a measure exempting Uber and Lyft from a state labor law — while five Bay Area counties opposed it. Still, their general ideological alignment is clear. Los Angeles and the Bay Area voted to pass Prop. 17, a measure granting parolees the right to vote, by a 34-point margin. The rest of the state also voted to pass Prop. 17 — but only by a margin of 2 points.

3. Voters’ thoughts on Senate appointment

Kamala Harris speaks at Frank Ogawa Plaza in Oakland on Jan. 27, 2019. Photo by Jose Carlos Fajardo, Bay Area News Group

When it comes to filling Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris’ Senate seat, Newsom is at the center of what may be the most diverse lobbying campaign in California history. This week, the California Latino Legislative Caucus will hold press conferences across the state urging Newsom to appoint California’s first Latino or Latina senator. Other groups are undertaking similar efforts to encourage Newsom to appoint a Black woman; a woman of color; an Indian American; an Asian American or Pacific Islander; an LGBTQ person; a Southern Californian. And though Newsom has a penchant for making historic choices — last month, he appointed the first openly gay justice to California’s Supreme Court — appointing a “historic first” to Harris’ seat doesn’t matter to 52% of California voters, according to a recent poll from the USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy. Some opinion writers have also argued that voters’ rejection of Prop. 16, which would have overturned California’s affirmative action ban, suggests they would want Newsom to look beyond race or gender in making his choice.


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Upcoming events

TODAY from 1-2pm: The Future of Work: A Q&A With California Mayors. CalMatters talks with mayors around the state about how they plan to confront their communities’ most pressing issues during the pandemic. Register | Submit Your Questions


CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Will Prop. 15’s defeat cool the jets of tax increase advocates, or spur them to greater efforts?

Californians want full access to legal cannabis: That’s why they approved 31 of 35 pro-cannabis ballot measures on Election Day, writes Bridget Hennessey of Weedmaps.

Ethnic studies for all: The California Department of Education’s latest recommendations to the draft Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum are the right approach at the right time, argues Luis Alejo, a Monterey County supervisor.


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Other things worth your time

Two big national questions hanging over California. // California State of Mind podcast

Without Trump in the White House, what’s next for California Republicans? // Sacramento Bee

California prison guards’ union spent big and lost with tough-on-crime message. // Sacramento Bee

Oakland ballots not counted after voters wrongly told they were receipts, civil rights groups say. // Los Angeles Times

In California, fate of tax hikes depends on who’s asking. // Associated Press

LA community colleges end sheriff’s contract, will explore unarmed security model. // Los Angeles Daily News

City of Novato declares climate change emergency. // Mercury News

An 800-mile firebreak once traversed California. What happened? // San Francisco Chronicle

Nature takes a beating from a different kind of Tahoe tourist. // Washington Post

Fishing and hunting rebound in California amid pandemic. // San Francisco Chronicle


See you tomorrow.

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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...