Good morning, California. It’s Friday, February 12.

Note: Due to Presidents’ Day, the newsletter will pause until Tuesday.

Trifecta of concerns

California is slated to launch on Monday its new vaccine distribution system helmed by Blue Shield and Kaiser Permanente — one that will inherit longstanding concerns over supply, equity and speed.

Here’s a closer look at where things stand with California’s vaccine rollout ahead of the major transition.

— Supply. The 1 million doses flowing into California this week is “simply not enough,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said recently. After running out of doses Thursday, Los Angeles was forced to close the mass vaccination site at Dodger Stadium and four other locations through at least Monday. But supply is ramping up elsewhere: CVS Health will today begin vaccinating Californians at certain pharmacy locations, though most appointments have already been snapped up.

— Equity. If the state adheres to the timeline Newsom announced on Monday, it will today launch a vaccination demographics dashboard and a framework to prioritize Californians with disabilities and underlying health conditions. Newsom and lawmakers are also expected to unveil a school reopening package today with a priority framework for teachers — though some didn’t need to wait. Teachers at an expensive private school in North Hollywood managed to obtain vaccines through a “special program,” despite Los Angeles County educators not yet being eligible for doses. Meanwhile, questions have emerged over the state’s current guidelines, which permit cannabis workers to get doses alongside frontline health care workers.

— Speed. California now ranks 30th nationwide in the number of doses administered per capita, a significant improvement from last month, when it ranked 45th. But time is of the essence: More contagious strains of the virus are spreading, and on Wednesday Newsom announced California’s first two cases of the South Africa variant, which is thought to reduce vaccine efficacy.


The coronavirus bottom line: As of Thursday, California had 3,371,556 confirmed cases (+0.3% from previous day) and 45,456 deaths (+1% 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. Pandemic prompts teacher retirements

Image via iStock

More California teachers are retiring than at any point since the Great Recession — many of them because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a recent survey from the California State Teachers’ Retirement System. The survey found that 3,202 teachers retired in the second half of 2020, a 26% increase from the same period in 2019. Of those, 62% retired earlier than planned, primarily due to the challenges of teaching amid the pandemic (56%), wanting to stop teaching remotely (35%) and not wanting to risk exposure to COVID-19 (35%). The findings appear to be corroborated by recent events at Huntington Beach Union School District, where 9% of teachers decided to take a leave of absence as the district prepares to return to in-person instruction.

2. Audit slams state homelessness response

A BART train rides above a homeless encampment in West Oakland. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

California’s “disjointed” approach to homelessness is partly why the Golden State has the largest homeless population in the nation, according to an acerbic Thursday report from the state auditor. At least nine state agencies allocated $13 billion to homeless programs between 2018 and 2020 — but it’s unclear where exactly the money went, because the state doesn’t have a central entity that oversees their work or tracks progress. And although California established a state homeless council in 2017 to coordinate funding and strategy, it still hasn’t set priorities or a timeline for achieving its 18 statutory goals. Newsom in September vetoed a bill that would have created a state Office to End Homelessness, writing, “I do not support this particular vision of organizational restructuring at this time.”

The audit comes on the heels of a report from the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office that found “the governor’s (homelessness) response continues to focus on various one-time solutions” such as Project Roomkey and Homekey. “A clear, long-term strategy would make it more likely that the state’s investments would have a meaningful ongoing impact on its housing and homelessness challenges,” according to the report.

3. Wiener bill could end UC/Dignity Health contract

Sen. Scott Wiener speaks on the Senate floor during a vote on Aug. 31, 2020. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters
Sen. Scott Wiener speaks on the Senate floor during a vote on Aug. 31, 2020. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

Under a bill state Sen. Scott Wiener introduced Thursday, the University of California health care system — the state’s fourth-largest — would no longer be able to contract with Catholic hospital system Dignity Health due to its prohibition of contraception, abortions, sterilizations, in-vitro fertilization, gender affirmation surgery for transgender patients, and some end-of-life options. (The two systems could keep working together if contracts are renegotiated to allow UC staff to provide all care they deem medically necessary.) UC Health’s contract with Dignity Health has long been controversial: In 2019, more than 1,500 doctors signed a letter demanding an end to the partnership.

  • Wiener: “UC Health is one of the very best health systems in the nation; it’s a system known for its inclusive and progressive approach to health care. UC’s contracts must reflect this core value of health care inclusion.”

But others warn severing the partnership could harm health care access. Dignity Health is the state’s largest provider for low-income Medi-Cal patients and helps the UC system meet demand not only in the overwhelmed San Francisco region but also in underserved, rural parts of the state.

4. Inland Empire’s warehouse boom

Members of the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice protest the Bloomington Business Park project in San Bernardino on Feb. 9, 2021. Photo by Shae Hammond for CalMatters

Warehouses have become ubiquitous in the Inland Empire as e-commerce skyrockets, driving a slew of proposals that call for residential land to be rezoned for industrial use, CalMatters’ Orlando Mayorquin reports. The warehouses creeping ever-closer to homes and schools has alarmed residents, many of whom are Latino, low-income and already breathe some of the unhealthiest air in California. But the economic benefits have been hard for local governments to turn down: Amazon has become the Inland Empire’s largest employer, more than 18 million square feet of new warehouse space is under construction, and logistics is one of the few sectors that has added jobs amid the pandemic.


CalMatters commentary

Combating antisemitism: It is time to build a community of conscience against antisemitism, write San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen.

Homelessness roadmap: California needs a clear game plan that charts a path to long-term victory, not just to short-term success, argue Lisa Hershey of Housing California and Matt Schwartz of the California Housing Partnership.


Other things worth your time

Opinion: California is making liberals squirm. // New York Times

Republican National Committee drops $250,000 into campaign to recall Newsom. // Politico

New poll finds sharp decline in support for Sen. Dianne Feinstein in California. // Los Angeles Times

Sonoma’s acclaimed Girl & the Fig restaurant closes amid backlash over ex-staffer’s Black Lives Matter mask. // MSN

Lawyers threaten to sue California State Bar over facial recognition technology. // San Francisco Chronicle

Former state assemblyman sentenced to year in prison for BART coffee shop fraud scheme. // San Francisco Chronicle

Why the University of California is seeing a massive surge in freshman applications. // EdSource

Closed nearly a year, empty museums in Los Angeles struggle. // New York Times

Chevron spills 600 gallons of fuel into San Francisco Bay. // SFist

California lawmakers want to ease limits on state’s aid-in-dying law. // Los Angeles Times

Here’s how much California wine grape crop was lost in the 2020 wildfires. // Sacramento Bee

See you Tuesday.

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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...