Good morning, California. It’s Tuesday, November 17.

Reopening on pause

Gov. Gavin Newsom found himself in the unusual position Monday of apologizing for flouting his administration’s public health guidelines even as he directed massive swaths of California’s economy to close down under the most restrictive statewide order since July.

Citing California’s fastest increase yet in new coronavirus cases, Newsom pulled an “emergency brake” on the state’s reopening plan, directing 39 counties to regress into more restrictive tiers. Around 94% of the state’s residents now live in the most restrictive purple tier, which prohibits indoor dining, gym workouts and religious services and halts reopening plans for schools that haven’t already opened campuses. The governor also strengthened his mask mandate to require Californians wear a face covering at almost all times outside of the home and said he is considering a statewide curfew to mitigate spread of the virus.

  • Newsom: “We’re moving from a marathon to a sprint. … We need to be more aggressive, more surgical, more targeted.”

The restrictions came a few days after news broke of Newsom’s attendance at a birthday party at the famed French Laundry restaurant in Napa County, which the governor acknowledged could make Californians less inclined to abide by the new mandates. (As might the news that some California lawmakers traveled to Maui this week for a policy conference, despite the state’s travel advisory.)

  • Newsom: “I shouldn’t have been there, I should have turned back around. And so when that happens, you gotta pay the price, but you also gotta own the mistake and you don’t ever make it again.”

Whether Californians will obey the new rules remains to be seen. Counties across the state were already forming coalitions to challenge what they say is prolonged top-down rule from Sacramento, and more than 40 lawsuits have been filed against Newsom’s stay-at-home orders. Businesses are also challenging the closures, arguing they’re being punished for an uptick in cases primarily fueled by household gatherings.

  • Assemblymember James Gallagher, a Yuba City Republican: “The governor and state bureaucrats can color-code counties and change rules as they go, but … we are all free people who can exercise our freedom responsibly. … I don’t think you should close your business, church or school. I would encourage you to keep them open.”


The coronavirus bottom line: As of 9 p.m. Monday night, California had 1,029,235 confirmed coronavirus cases and 18,263 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.

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Most of California’s Democratic and GOP counties shifted further away from President Donald Trump in 2020, with a notable exception in the majority-Latino Imperial County. Check out this graphic from Ben Christopher to see which California counties are the Trumpiest and which are the most Trump-averse.


1. Homeless housing falls through

A sign in support of creating additional housing on a boarded up business in downtown Oakland on Nov. 5, 2020. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters
A sign on a boarded-up business in downtown Oakland on Nov. 5, 2020. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

In an attempt to prevent thousands of homeless Californians from returning to the streets, Newsom on Monday announced an emergency infusion of $62 million into a program temporarily housing homeless people in hotel rooms amid the pandemic. But long-term solutions remain uncertain. As of mid-October, only 5% of program participants had found permanent homes, a Desert Sun analysis found. Meanwhile, several cities are pushing back on Newsom’s nearly $1 billion effort to convert hotels into permanent supportive housing for the homeless. A lawsuit from a group of Milpitas residents could block Santa Clara County’s plans to convert a hotel into 132 apartments. Amid complaints and threats of lawsuits, the Marin County Board of Supervisors nixed plans to convert a 70-room Novato hotel. And in Sacramento, plans to convert a 100-unit hotel fell through amid appraisal complications and two lawsuits. Time is running out: If the state doesn’t spend the emergency funding by the end of the year, it goes back to the federal government.

2. The future of California’s school database

A crossing guard ushers Mcgaugh Elementary School students across the street in Seal Beach, CA. Sept. 17, 2020. Los Alamitos Unified School District has been permitted to to reopen elementary schools for hybrid in-person instruction. Photo by Tash Kimmell for CalMatters
A crossing guard ushers McGaugh Elementary School students across the street in Seal Beach on Sept. 17, 2020. Photo by Tash Kimmell for CalMatters

Could California’s first centralized database measuring the success of its educational systems be over before it even began? A year after Newsom championed legislation to create a “cradle to career data system” tracking students’ progress from preschool to the workforce, its organizers are ready to begin developing and launching it — a process that will likely require about five years and millions of dollars, EdSource reports. But with the state staring down a projected $8.7 billion budget deficit and a federal stimulus package yet to materialize, advocates are worried there won’t be enough money to fund the next phase of the database’s development.

Though California’s K-12 schools, community colleges and the UC and CSU systems have their own databases, they aren’t linked together — creating major blind spots for lawmakers, parents, students, education leaders and researchers. Advocates say California should have created a statewide database years ago, pointing out that it would provide invaluable information about the pandemic’s effect on student achievement. California is currently one of 12 states that doesn’t have a statewide education database.


CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: After a record amount of money was spent on this year’s ballot campaigns, here’s a look at four high-dollar measures headed for the 2022 ballot.

The future of voting: I’ve always loved voting in person, but the pandemic made me a vote-by-mail convert, writes Justin Hughes of Loyola Law School.

A return to civility: Local governments have a unique and important role to play in stemming eroding confidence in democratic institutions and principles, argues Erica Manuel of the Institute for Local Government.


Other things worth your time

California mayors share how the pandemic has shaped their cities. // CalMatters

How the Republican Party made gains in California — but missed in San Diego County. // Los Angeles Times

Why I moved my family and my venture-capital firm to Texas. // Wall Street Journal

Voters in Los Angeles County cast more ballots than 38 states. // Crosstown LA

How a deadly police force came to rule Vallejo. // New Yorker

Why don’t California lawmakers care that it’s deadly to live near oil drilling? // New York Times

New data reveal where San Francisco overdoses occurred this year. // San Francisco Chronicle

How one Bay Area state park benefited from this summer’s fires. // Mercury News

Hundreds of giant sequoias killed by the Castle Fire, a stunning loss. // Los Angeles Times

As public pension costs soar, some Southern California agencies turn to controversial borrowing. // Los Angeles Daily News

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...