Good morning, California. It’s Tuesday, January 5.

New strategies on the way

Three weeks after doses of the coronavirus vaccine began arriving in California, only 35% of them have ended up in people’s arms — raising questions about the effectiveness of the state’s vaccination strategy at a critical phase in the pandemic.

California has administered around 454,000 doses of the 1.3 million it’s received, Gov. Gavin Newsom said at a Monday press conference. When asked where the remaining doses are, his response was vague: “They’re all across the state. They’ve been distributed to counties, have been distributed to providers, distributed throughout the system.”

But why they haven’t been administered to Californians — despite widespread jostling for vaccination priority and the appearance of a new, potentially more contagious strain of the virus — is unclear. Newsom acknowledged there is “anecdotal evidence” that health care workers are turning down the vaccine, but emphasized there “are plenty of people that want to take that shot.” The governor added that he plans to ask state lawmakers in his 2021-22 budget proposal — which will be unveiled Friday — to approve $300 million for vaccine distribution.

  • Newsom: “It’s like a flywheel. The first 10, 15 days we’re going to slowly start building pace and start building up and you’re going to start seeing more rapid distribution of this vaccine, I can assure you that.”

To help accelerate distribution, California will now allow dentists with proper training to administer the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. State officials also are working to enlist pharmacy technicians and National Guard members to immunize Californians, CalMatters’ Barbara Feder Ostrov reports.

Meanwhile, other wrinkles have appeared in the state’s vaccination strategy. The hard-hit state prison system recently began vaccinating inmates — but not those at the 25 facilities with the highest number of coronavirus infections, the New York Times found.

Newsom pledged Monday to provide in the next few days “much more prescriptive detail” on “new strategies to deal with some of the roadblocks” in California’s vaccine rollout.

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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Monday, California had 2,420,894 confirmed cases (+1.2% from previous day) and 26,635 deaths (+0.4% from previous day), 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. Faulconer closer to gubernatorial run

Former mayor of San Diego Kevin Faulconer. Photo by Chris Stone, Times of San Diego

Competition for Newsom’s job is heating up. Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer launched a gubernatorial exploratory committee Monday, two days after the Republican publicly endorsed the movement to recall Newsom. The timing of Faulconer’s formal campaign launch will likely depend on whether the recall effort is able to submit nearly 1.5 million valid signatures by March, prompting an election in late 2021 or early 2022. (If the recall fails, Newsom will still be up for reelection in 2022.) Around 911,000 signatures have already been gathered, according to the recall campaign. One of its major funders is Republican businessman John Cox, who ran against Newsom in 2018 and recently filed a candidate intention statement to run for governor again in 2022.

Another major funder: A mysterious Orange County-based LLC called Prov. 3:9, whose limited paper trail led Ann Ravel, the former chair of California’s campaign finance watchdog, to call Monday for an investigation into the funding source.

  • Ravel, a Democrat: Prov. 3:9 resembles “a shell company being used to evade disclosure of the person or persons funding the recall contribution.”
  • Anne Dunsmore, manager of the recall campaign: Ravel’s complaint is “clearly a partisan stab. … The big message to me is that they are taking us seriously now.”

2. Q&A with Secretary of State-designate

Assemblymember Shirley Weber in the California Capitol on July 8, 2019. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

When Newsom appointed Secretary of State Alex Padilla to fill Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ seat in the U.S. Senate, he incensed many Black Democrats who believed the position should have gone to a Black woman. Among them was Shirley Weber, a San Diego Assemblymember whom Newsom tapped to replace Padilla as Secretary of State. Weber is “still very, very, very upset” about Newsom’s Senate decision, she told CalMatters’ Ben Christopher in a new Q&A. But she’s also looking forward to a new role after spending nearly a decade in the state Legislature focused on education policy, police use of lethal force and racial justice.

The daughter of sharecroppers denied the right to vote in the Jim Crow South and who came to California after escaping a lynch mob, Weber said she plans to focus on voter access and civic education.

  • Weber: “I’m not sure if our folks truly understand (civics). Because if you did, you would be vigilant about voting, you would understand how fragile the democracy is, and you would understand what tyranny is.”

3. California’s worsening recycling woes

Non-recyclable items pass through a sorting machine at Greenwaste on July 29, 2019. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

California fell far short of meeting its ambitious goal of recycling, reducing or composting 75% of solid waste by 2020, according to a new report from the Statewide Commission on Recycling Markets and Curbside Recycling. In fact, the state’s recycling rate has steadily decreased for years, from 50% in 2013 to a projected 37% in 2020. Meanwhile, the state’s annual waste disposal shot up from around 40 million tons in 2013 to around 50 million tons in 2019. And the pandemic dealt yet another financial blow to California’s recycling industry, which was already struggling to stay afloat: Nearly 1,000 recycling centers across the state have closed since 2013, the report found.


CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: The California Supreme Court has indirectly upbraided former Gov. Jerry Brown, putting an indelible stain on what Brown had characterized as one of his proudest achievements.

Newsom must improve school funding formula: Without transparency, we cannot evaluate whether the Local Control Funding Formula is helping our most vulnerable students, argues Sarah Novicoff, a teacher at Los Angeles’ Alliance Kory Hunter Middle School.

Closing the digital divide: State and local policymakers should make expanding broadband internet access a priority, write Niu Gao, Julien Lafortune and Laura Hill of the Public Policy Institute of California.


Other things worth your time

California Democrats say pandemic highlighted their failures. // Sacramento Bee

San Francisco’s hyper-local approach to fighting the pandemic. // New Yorker

Why few farmworkers isolate in California’s free COVID-19 hotel rooms. // CalMatters

California schools build local wireless networks to bridge digital divide. // EdSource

Sacramento region is California’s hot spot for housing and growth. // Sacramento Bee

The unsung hero of California’s coast. // Los Angeles Times

LAPD officers reject plan to raise $10 million for union war chest despite layoff threat. // Los Angeles Times

More allegations of botched procedures arise at Fresno plastic surgery center. // Fresno Bee

Two rare tornadoes hit Northern California. // 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...