Good morning, California. It’s Tuesday, November 10.

Note: The newsletter will pause Wednesday in recognition of Veterans Day. I’ll be back in your inbox on Thursday.

Health insurance on the line

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare — and millions of Californians’ health insurance, as well as billions of dollars in federal funding, is on the line.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is leading a coalition of 21 attorneys general in defending the ACA against 18 Republican attorneys general and the Trump administration. If the Supreme Court — which now has a 6-3 conservative majority — overturns the ACA, more than 5 million Californians could lose their health insurance, the state could lose $25 billion in federal funding, nearly 300,000 Californians could lose their jobs, and premiums for the state’s health care marketplace could significantly increase, CalMatters’ Ana Ibarra reports.

Also at risk: Gov. Gavin Newsom’s ambitious agenda of universal health care. The governor extended Medi-Cal — the state’s health care program for the poor — to cover undocumented Californians between the ages of 19 and 26. (Undocumented children were already eligible.) This year, Newsom proposed expanding Medi-Cal to cover undocumented seniors over 65, though the plan fell apart amid the economic ravages of the pandemic.

  • Newsom on Monday: “We didn’t wait around and look at the ACA as a ceiling. We looked at it as a floor, we looked at it as an opportunity to architect something that no other state in America has done.”

Even though the ACA’s future is uncertain, California is ramping up its efforts to insure more residents. Covered California, the state’s health care marketplace, is sending out 4 million face masks to encourage residents to renew their coverage or enroll for the first time, executive director Peter Lee said Monday. And it’s spending $140 million in advertising and partnerships for the new enrollment period that started Nov. 1.

  • Lee: “Now is not the time to back off, and California’s not doing that. … I think the nation’s gonna be looking at California — what we’re doing, what we can do — to have the (Biden) administration truly follow in our footsteps on building on the ACA and making it better.”


The coronavirus bottom line: As of 9 p.m. Monday night, California had 971,851 confirmed coronavirus cases and 17,977 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.


1. California coronavirus update

Gov. Gavin Newsom, center, tours a COVID-19 testing facility with Secretary of the Government Operations Agency Yolanda Richardson, far left, and Secretary for the California Health and Human Services Agency Dr. Mark Ghaly, second from left, Oct. 30, 2020, in Valencia. Photo by Marcio Jose Sanchez, AP Photo/Pool
Newsom, center, tours a COVID-19 testing facility on Oct. 30, 2020, in Valencia. Photo by Marcio Jose Sanchez, AP Photo/Pool

Coronavirus hospitalizations have shot up 31% and intensive-care admissions 33% in the past two weeks, CalMatters’ tracker shows — a sobering sign for the Golden State as winter approaches. The state’s two-week positivity rate has also increased to 3.9% after weeks of remaining below 3%. Newsom acknowledged Monday that the positivity rate “may sound great compared to most other states right now,” but suggested the uptick in cases could push several counties into more restrictive reopening tiers today, CalMatters’ Ana Ibarra reports. The governor also warned against reading too much into drug manufacturer Pfizer’s Monday announcement that its COVID-19 vaccine was more than 90% effective in clinical trials and it would apply next week for emergency FDA authorization.

  • Newsom: “Mass distribution is a ways off. … The availability to you and me and others outside our first responders, outside our health care professionals, is many, many months off.”

2. California protests new oil, gas leases

Oil pumpjacks near the Cuyama Valley on Sept. 6, 2020. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

Election Day may have come and gone, but California’s tussling with the Trump administration is far from over. Becerra filed yet another lawsuit against the federal government Monday — this one challenging a Department of Energy policy — the same day he, Newsom, the California Air Resources Board and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife filed a protest challenging the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s proposal to sell seven oil and gas leases in Kern County in December. The move comes nine months after California sued the Bureau of Land Management for a policy the state alleges would open up more than 1 million acres of public land in Central California to oil and gas drilling without proper environmental review.

  • Becerra: “Time and time again, the Trump Administration has worked outside the bounds of the law to advance the interests of industry polluters.”

Another group that filed a protest against the proposed Kern County leases: the Center for Biological Diversity, a national environmental organization preparing to sue Newsom’s administration for issuing new fracking permits — including six approved last month.

3. Cool, wet weather sweeps across California

A pedestrian walks past a boarded-up business in Oakland on March 24, 2020. Photo by Ray Chavez, Bay Area News Group

After California’s warmest April-to-September period in 126 years, rain, hail and snow made an appearance over the weekend, bringing much-needed relief to a state battered by a historic fire season. The wetter and cooler conditions are likely to return later in the week, though they don’t quite signal an end to wildfire season, meteorologists say. In the Bay Area, for example, wildfire season is projected to end when the region receives more than an inch of rain in the span of the week. This weekend’s showers totaled less than a tenth of an inch.

For some parts of the state, the cold snap induced weather whiplash: Stockton on Monday set a new all-time low of 33 degrees for that date, less than a week after it set a record afternoon high of 84 degrees for the date of Nov. 5. Downtown Sacramento on Monday notched a temperature of 34 degrees, tying a record low for that date set in 1920.


CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Sacramento is the Peter Pan of California’s larger cities — its refusal to adopt a big-city system of governance shows it isn’t willing to grow up.

A check on special interests: California should create a citizens’ review process to independently review ballot measures, argues Nathan Gardels of Think Long Committee for California.

Votes show we’re deeply divided: We must continue to fight for a better America – for a more representative voting electorate and for a less polarized one, writes Mindy Romero of the University of Southern California.

California wolf recovery imperiled: Now that the federal government has abandoned protection for most gray wolves, governors, legislators and wildlife commissions must step up, argues Amaroq Weiss of the Center for Biological Diversity.


Other things worth your time

Orange County to conduct audit of presidential election ballots. // Los Angeles Times

Trump expanded his support in Beverly Hills, a rare spot of red in blue LA County. // Los Angeles Times

Biden taps two UCSF doctors for national coronavirus task force. // San Francisco Chronicle

Christine Pelosi: Newsom should let voters choose Harris’ successor. // San Francisco Chronicle

Linda Darling-Hammond removes herself from possible consideration as Secretary of Education. // EdSource

Oakland’s Moms 4 Housing activist beats incumbent for city council seat. // San Francisco Chronicle

A little-known private company has an outsize role writing policies for California police departments. // San Diego Union-Tribune

Oregon voted to decriminalize possession of hard drugs. Could California be next? // Sacramento Bee

California wine country adapting to annual wildfire threat. // Associated Press

Ready for ‘real’ college experience, California transfer students find their hopes dashed. // CalMatters

See you Thursday.

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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...