Good morning, California. It’s Tuesday, January 12.

Only 27% of doses used

Gov. Gavin Newsom has a lot of political capital riding on his goal of vaccinating 1 million additional Californians by this weekend.

Apart from school reopenings, no issue looms larger for Newsom’s third year in office — and his ability to fend off a growing recall movement — than the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine, which has so far been plagued with logistical and technical problems. Only eight states have administered fewer doses per capita than California, which as of Sunday had administered only 27% of its nearly 3 million doses — a decline from the 35% rate the state notched last week.

  • Newsom in a Monday press conference: “We recognize that the current strategy is not going to get us to where we need to go as quickly as we all need to go.”

To help pick up the pace, Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles, Petco Park in San Diego and Cal Expo in Sacramento are being converted into vaccination sites for frontline workers and, eventually, the general public. The state also recently loosened its vaccination guidelines to ensure that doses don’t go to waste if refused by high-priority groups. The guidelines — developed by numerous working groups — were intended to prevent well-connected Californians from accessing the vaccine before those in need.

But former Assembly Speaker and San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown argued in a recent San Francisco Chronicle column that the state should be administering the vaccine to as many people as possible.

  • Brown: “It would be for everyone — no Phase 1A, Phase 1B and other confusing classification categories. And Gov. Gavin Newsom: Such a program would end the recall talk overnight.”

In other coronavirus news, hospitalizations and intensive-care admissions are beginning to level off — “a point of some optimism” Newsom attributed to the regional stay-at-home orders. And, in a signal 2021 will be no less chaotic than 2020, two gorillas at a San Diego Zoo park have tested positive for COVID-19.


The coronavirus bottom line: As of Monday, California had 2,710,801 confirmed cases (+1.5% from previous day) and 29,965 deaths (+0.9% 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.


1. Newsom’s school reopening plan criticized

Second and third grade teacher Kylie Shannon, center, answers questions from students during the first day of school at Sunnyvale Christian School in Sunnyvale on Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020. Photo by Randy Vazquez, Bay Area News Group
Teacher Kylie Shannon answers student questions at Sunnyvale Christian School on Aug. 27, 2020. Photo by Randy Vazquez, Bay Area News Group

Newsom has an ambitious plan to get some students back into the classroom as early as next month — but his $2 billion proposal has come under fire from superintendents, teachers unions and the nonpartisan office that advises the state Legislature, CalMatters’ Ricardo Cano reports. Newsom’s proposal would give schools between $450 and $750 per student in grant funding if they submit reopening plans to the state by Feb. 1. They would then be required to offer in-person instruction to students in transitional kindergarten through second grade by Feb. 16 and to third- through sixth-graders by March 15. But critics say the plan fails to set a statewide standard for safe reopening and shuts out many of the state’s largest districts — generally located in harder-hit communities — from receiving grant money. And the independent Legislative Analyst’s Office said the “proposal sets unfeasible time lines.”

If there was any remaining doubt that school reopenings would be one of the biggest political battles this year, the California Teachers Federation called Monday for a four-week shutdown of in-person instruction.

  • CFT President Jeff Freitas: “We cannot put our own lives, the lives of our students and our communities at risk during what is clearly an escalating crisis in our state.”

2. Assembly calls for Trump’s removal

Assemblymember Chad Mayes wears a mask on the Assembly floor on Aug. 31, 2020. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

In the first vote of the new legislative session, the state Assembly on Monday passed a nonbinding resolution calling for the removal of President Donald Trump from office — the same day House Democrats, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, introduced an article of impeachment against the president for inciting his supporters to storm the U.S. Capitol. Interestingly, the Assembly resolution was authored by Chad Mayes, a Rancho Mirage independent who left the GOP early last year due to frustrations with his party’s defense of Trump, CalMatters’ Ben Christopher reports. In a sign of the political dilemma Trump poses for California Republicans, six voted against the resolution and 11 abstained. All of the Democrats who were present voted to pass the resolution.

Meanwhile, two Democratic state Senators announced plans Monday to introduce bills that would require state law enforcement to create units focused on “white nationalist, neo-Nazi, neo-confederate, anti-government militia” and similar groups. The news came the same day the FBI warned local law enforcement agencies about the potential for armed protests in all 50 state capitals in the coming days. 

  • Newsom: “Everybody is on high alert … I can assure you we have a heightened, heightened level of security.”

3. Gascón’s policies take another hit

George Gascon in 2010. Photo via Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)
George Gascón in 2010. Photo via Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

In the harshest rebuke yet of Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón’s progressive policies, a superior court judge took the unprecedented step Monday of giving San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan control over five armed robbery charges filed in Los Angeles connected to a crime spree that left two people dead. Stephan had filed a motion to allow her office to prosecute the charges instead of Gascón’s due to his ban on enhancements — which, if proved, lengthen defendants’ prison sentences under certain circumstances. Also Monday, Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert sent a scathing letter to Gascón denying him jurisdiction over crimes in her region as long as his policies remain in place.

Gascón’s enhancements ban has proved so controversial that the union representing his own deputy district attorneys sued him two weeks ago, prompting Gascón to allow enhancements for hate crimes, sex trafficking, financial crimes, and elder and child abuse. The strong pushback suggests that California is still at a crossroads when it comes to the role district attorneys should play in criminal justice reform.


CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: How did California go from being a leader in controlling COVID-19 to an epicenter of infections and deaths?

Where is statewide testing data? In order to rectify California’s growing educational equity gap, we need comprehensive data about how students are doing academically, writes Paul Keefer of the Sacramento County Board of Education.

Criminal justice reforms needed: It’s time to reduce California’s corrections budget and overturn extreme sentencing laws, argues Jay Jordan of Californians for Safety and Justice.

Other things worth your time

University of California plans to bring students back to campus in fall 2021. // Los Angeles Times

Newsom said he would punish counties for not enforcing COVID rules. Why hasn’t he? // Sacramento Bee

Los Angeles public health officials recommend some residents wear masks at home. // LAist

San Francisco office market hits worst slump in decades as pandemic rages. // San Francisco Chronicle

Happy 50th birthday to the name ‘Silicon Valley.’ // Mercury News

Santa Ana winds raise fire risk in Southern California as temperatures climb. // Los Angeles Daily News

California bald eagles lay second egg after first devoured by ravens. // Sacramento Bee

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...