Good morning, California. It’s Thursday, January 14.

Some counties low on doses

Six million Californians 65 and older are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine — a major shift in strategy that could help accelerate the Golden State’s sluggish vaccine rollout even as some counties say they’re unprepared to handle increased demand.

Gov. Gavin Newsom and state health officials announced the new policy Wednesday, a day after the federal government instructed states to make doses available to people 65 and older and to those under 65 with preexisting conditions. For unknown reasons, California’s new guidelines don’t include the latter group, CalMatters’ Ana Ibarra reports.

The expanded eligibility could help Newsom meet his goal of inoculating 1 million additional Californians by this weekend. But he has a ways to go: As of Tuesday, the state had administered only 889,000 of its nearly 3 million doses, or 31% — one of the lowest rates in the nation. In a sign that frustrations are rising, a bipartisan group of 47 lawmakers sent Newsom a letter Wednesday demanding “a more effective and efficient roll out of these vaccines.”

Meanwhile, not every county or health care provider is ready to begin vaccinating seniors. Los Angeles County still doesn’t have enough vaccine to finish inoculating health care workers. Santa Clara County is focusing on immunizing people 75 and older because it doesn’t have enough vaccine for people in the 65-74 age group. Some health systems, such as Sutter Health, are also prioritizing those over age 75. Tech infrastructure is also strained: Several county websites crashed Wednesday as people rushed to make appointments.

Newsom said Wednesday he would unveil next week “a new system” to notify Californians by email or text when they’re eligible for the vaccine. He added that a second phase of the system would help cities and counties run and coordinate “mass vaccination events.” The state’s current vaccine distribution system has been plagued with technical problems that have exacerbated the slow rollout.

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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Wednesday, California had 2,781,039 confirmed cases (+1.2% from previous day) and 31,102 deaths (+1.9% 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.


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1. Valadao votes to impeach Trump

Rep. David Valadao. Photo via Creative Commons

Rep. David Valadao was the only one of California’s 11 congressional Republicans who voted Wednesday to impeach President Donald Trump — the latest distinction setting him apart from the rest of the caucus. As CalMatters’ Ben Christopher explains, registered Democrats outnumber GOP voters by 16 percentage points in Valadao’s Hanford district, making it by far the bluest California district to be represented by a Republican. In explaining his vote, Valadao tried to appease his party’s base while also appealing to his purple-to-blue district. He criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for a “rushed political stunt,” while also condemning Trump’s “inciting rhetoric” that “was un-American, abhorrent and absolutely an impeachable offense.”

The three other Republicans who represent swing districts — Mike Garcia in Simi Valley, and Young Kim and Michelle Steel in Orange County — voted against impeachment. But Kim tried to find middle ground with an unsuccessful resolution to censure Trump, which she said would “unite our country and chamber, rather than divide it.”

2. School reopening hits another snag

Image via iStock

The Los Angeles Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday to authorize litigation against Newsom for his $2 billion plan to get kids back in the classroom, escalating the governor’s standoff over school reopenings with California’s largest districts. The move came a day after the superintendents of seven urban districts met with top members of Newsom’s administration — and failed to get any closer to a compromise. The superintendents want Newsom to set a statewide standard for safe reopening, but the administration isn’t willing to issue such a mandate, which would force it to take on the responsibility of union negotiations, EdSource reports. The stalemate suggests the vast majority of California’s public school students will not return to campus in the spring.

Meanwhile, San Francisco officials are contemplating their own $2 billion plan to address learning loss and revamp public-school classes — and they’re looking for billionaires to help fund the effort, though the cost would likely eventually be shifted to taxpayers.

3. Inside California’s budget surplus

Image via iStock

Speaking of billionaires, they’re the main reason why Newsom was able to propose a record-high $227 billion budget last week. Thanks to the state’s progressive tax structure, California is so flush with money that it may be forced to issue tiny taxpayer rebates next year, even as millions of residents lose their jobs and housing security. Ironically, California’s growing wealth gap is what makes possible the state’s increased spending on safety net programs, as illustrated by five charts put together by CalMatters’ Jackie Botts.

Here’s a look at some other funding proposals Newsom and lawmakers have floated in recent days:


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CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Despite the failures of the EDD and DMV, Newsom has proposed spending even more money on government tech services.

A historic first: Kamala Harris’ rise to the vice presidency is a huge step forward in Indian Americans’ national history, writes Krishna Sudhir, a Santa Clara cardiologist.

Latinos flex voting muscle: Latinos were a decisive force in the outcome of the 2020 election, representing 31% of the votes cast in California, write Jeffrey Reynoso and Seciah Aquino of the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California.


Other things worth your time

Newsom keeps politically connected picks in medical watchdog role past deadline. // San Francisco Chronicle

Trouble for Newsom’s electric car plan? Democrats criticize it at hearing. // Sacramento Bee

After anonymous donation to Newsom recall, Democrat revives campaign finance proposal. // Sacramento Bee

Santa Clara County Sheriff’s office forms task force to combat right-wing terrorists. // Mercury News

Orange County embarks on a PR offensive to convince skeptics that vaccine is safe. // Los Angeles Times

Why so many people are getting swept to sea along California’s coast. // SF Gate

Pet cat believed to have died in 2018 Montecito mudslides is found alive. // Associated Press


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...