Another stay-at-home order could be in the cards for California as early as this week.

Citing a record level of coronavirus hospitalizations and rapidly filling intensive-care units, Gov. Gavin Newsom warned in a Monday press conference that another lockdown may be necessary to curb the virus’ spread in counties in the most restrictive purple tier, which comprises 99% of the state’s population. Residents in those counties are already subject to a curfew and, in some cases, stay-at-home orders of their own. But without additional intervention, hospitalizations could triple in a month, and California could hit 112% ICU capacity by Christmas Eve, Newsom said.

  • Newsom: “The red flags are flying in terms of the trajectory in our projections of growth. If these trends continue, we’re going to have to take much more dramatic — arguably drastic — action.”

The governor said the lockdown could include modifications for businesses to continue operating, but didn’t specify what they might be. Acknowledging that tighter restrictions come with severe “economic impact and consequences,” he announced new state aid for struggling businesses, including temporary tax relief, a $500-million grant program, and additional funding for small-business loans.

Still, the relief will likely amount to a Band-Aid on a gaping wound for many businesses — and is unlikely to tamp down rising resentment from Californians of all stripes. A California church last week asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block Newsom’s order limiting indoor services, while a group of families sued the state Monday for failing to “ensure basic educational equality” amid the pandemic. High school athletes rallied at the Capitol Sunday, calling on Newsom to allow youth sports to resume — the same day protesters gathered outside the home of Los Angeles County’s public health director, demanding an end to the shutdown.

  • Newsom: “This is a dynamic week, this is an incredibly important week in the history of this pandemic … and I can assure you that we will be coming out with some … additional recommendations in the very, very near future.”

______________

The coronavirus bottom line: As of 9 p.m. Monday night, California had 1,212,968 confirmed coronavirus cases and 19,141 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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1. County jails overcrowded

A gloved hand points to a holding cell at Twin Towers jail in Los Angeles on April 16, 2020. Photo by Chris Carlson, AP Photo

California’s prison population has fallen by 22,000 since March to its lowest level in three decades, a milestone achieved in part by the state’s decision to stop transferring inmates from county jails to state prisons. As a result, more than 7,000 inmates are sitting in jail awaiting prison transfers — leaving county sheriffs to shoulder the burden of increased costs, overcrowded facilities and heightened coronavirus risk, CalMatters’ Byrhonda Lyons reports. Although the state resumed transfers in late August under strict testing and quarantine protocols, it halted them again on Thanksgiving Day as prisons logged a record high of COVID-19 cases.

  • Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva: “That is a large chunk of people who are sitting in our jails when they should be in state prison, and they are a double problem because these are people we cannot release any other way.”

Meanwhile, state prisons have slowed early releases of medically vulnerable inmates. Attorneys and experts say Newsom appears to be weighing the political risk of releasing violent offenders following weeks of critical press coverage.

2. Feds charge California officials in corruption probe

Los Angeles City Hall on August 7, 2019. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

Federal authorities cracked down on California officials Monday amid ongoing corruption probes at San Francisco and Los Angeles city halls. The U.S. Attorney’s Office charged Harlan Kelly, chief of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, with allegedly accepting bribes — including paid family vacations abroad, free meals and jewelry — from a contractor in exchange for a leg up on city contracts, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. And Raymond Chan, a former senior aide to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, was charged with racketeering conspiracy, bribery and other crimes, including accepting and soliciting bribes from developers seeking approval for downtown real estate projects, the Los Angeles Times reports. The charges come months after federal authorities arrested numerous other officials involved in related pay-to-play schemes in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Further complicating matters, Harlan Kelly’s wife, Naomi, is San Francisco’s city administrator — the city’s highest-ranking non-elected role that oversees 25 departments, divisions and programs. However, she wasn’t directly named in the federal complaint.

3. State moves forward on sea-level-rise project

Gleason Beach, in Sonoma County, is heavily impacted by erosion caused by sea level rise. Photo by Frank Schulenburg via Wikimedia Commons

With rising seas likely to swallow up to $10 billion of California property in the next 30 years, the state this month approved one of its first major projects to relocate key infrastructure away from the coast. The Gleason Beach Roadway Realignment Project will move 0.7 miles of Highway 1 along the Sonoma Coast more than 350 feet inland, largely by way of a new concrete bridge, the Los Angeles Times reports. The $73 million project, which came together after more than a decade of planning, represents a hard-won compromise between a vast array of groups — something that many coastal communities will likely have to confront in the coming years. At the heart of the issue: Can California’s iconic coasts be redesigned to survive the ravages of climate change while preserving what made them beloved in the first place?

  • Richard Charter, a longtime Gleason Beach resident: The bridge “is going to completely obliterate what we thought we had saved on our coast.”
  • Stavan Cook, another resident: “I’ve seen the cliff erode for my entire life. We have to do something, and if putting in a bridge is what it takes, well, that’s what it takes.”

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The Year of Loss

The pandemic has touched all of us. We have lost loved ones. Our health and mental health have been challenged. We have lost jobs, income, housing, stability. Our children have missed out on school, birthday parties and graduations.

Each of us has a story to tell about the impact of this past year. CalMatters wants to hear yours. What have you lost in 2020? Fill out our survey.


CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Bad optics undid Donald Trump and Gray Davis — a lesson for Newsom amid seemingly endless managerial disasters.

Representation matters: Newsom must appoint a Latino or Latina to Kamala Harris’ Senate seat to fulfill the promise of “California for All,” argues Helen Torres, CEO of Hispanas Organized for Political Equality.

Climate leadership: The California Air Resources Board recently took the first step toward phasing out gas-powered home appliances, writes Denise Grab of Rocky Mountain Institute.

Delta tunnel would be catastrophic: It’s a massively over-budget state project based on 19th-century thinking, argue San Joaquin County Supervisors Kathy Miller and Chuck Winn.


Other things worth your time

Christy Smith concedes to Mike Garcia in tight CA-25 race. // Los Angeles Times

California continues census fight over undocumented immigrants as Supreme Court hears case. // Sacramento Bee

If there aren’t enough vaccines for all California health care workers, who will get them first? // KQED

Los Angeles charter schools offered reprieve amid pandemic. // EdSource

Changes to California special education teacher preparation expected to have big impact on schools. // EdSource

San Francisco to decide whether to rename one-third of its public schools. // Los Angeles Times

Sixth day of protests as group aims to block Garcetti from Biden’s cabinet. // Los Angeles Daily News

Livermore development fight isn’t over suburban sprawl, but rather a big solar farm. // San Francisco Chronicle

From farmworker to astronaut: Story of Stockton’s Jose Hernandez to be told in Netflix movie. // CapRadio


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...