Good morning, California. It’s Wednesday, February 3.

Low marks for vaccine rollout

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s approval rating has fallen from record-high levels notched earlier in the pandemic, according to two polls released Tuesday — potentially fueling the campaign to recall him from office.

Around 54% of Californians approve of Newsom’s job performance, down from a record 65% in June, according to a survey from the Public Policy Institute of California. But only 46% of registered voters surveyed by UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies approve of Newsom’s performance, a steep drop from the 64% who did in September. (For more on why the polling results may differ, check out this piece from CalMatters’ Ben Christopher.)

Participants in both surveys gave Newsom especially low marks for vaccine distribution — an indication that improving the state’s sluggish and chaotic rollout may be key to fending off the recall. Just 29% of Californians surveyed by PPIC said the state is doing a good job distributing the vaccine, compared to 22% of participants in the IGS poll. A majority of IGS respondents also criticized Newsom’s coronavirus regulations, with 62% describing them as inconsistent, 60% confusing and 53% ineffective. Around 45% opposed recalling Newsom, while 36% supported it and 19% were undecided.

  • Mark DiCamillo, director of the IGS poll: “Once your job performance rating starts to decline, it’s more difficult to put it back in the right direction. You kind of accumulate negatives over time.”

Still, Newsom’s approval rating remains higher than it did pre-pandemic. Around 51% of Californians approved of the governor’s job performance in January 2020, and just 44% did in January 2019, according to PPIC.

  • Mark Baldassare, president and CEO of PPIC, told me: “Compared to where the governor was when we did our poll a year ago or two years ago … we come to the conclusion … this isn’t a sky is falling scenario here. Yet.”

Nevertheless, the recall campaign seized on the findings, sending an email Tuesday with the subject line “CA Voters Turn Against Newsom.” Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer also launched his gubernatorial campaign Tuesday, calling Newsom “the promise-breaker-in-chief.” But the Republican will have to contend with a somewhat diminished base: Following the U.S. Capitol attack, 33,448 voters left the California Republican Party, Ben reports.

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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Tuesday, California had 3,270,770 confirmed cases (+0.4% from previous day) and 41,330 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.


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1. Details scarce for new vaccine plan

California Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly at a press conference on March 4, 2020. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s top health official, gave a Tuesday press conference on the state’s major shift in vaccine strategy that left reporters with more questions than answers. Asked repeatedly for more information about California’s vaccine delivery partnership with Blue Shield, Ghaly said Government Operations Agency Secretary Yolanda Richardson, who wasn’t present at the press conference, could answer those questions next week. In addition, advocates had thought it likely Ghaly would announce revisions to the state’s new age-based system to ensure Californians with disabilities and underlying health conditions would be prioritized for the vaccine. But Ghaly merely hinted at a future announcement.

  • Ghaly: We’re “beginning to galvanize around a policy that we will announce later that brings together an opportunity to vaccinate those individuals.”

Ghaly offered a similarly unclear timeline of “hopefully between now and next week” for when the state would release vaccination priority guidelines for educators, childcare workers, food and farm workers and first responders. Ghaly and other state health officials have shifted into a more prominent role as Newsom, facing pushback for long-winded and confusing press conferences, has dialed down his public appearances. It was health officials, not Newsom, who lifted the regional stay-at-home order and formally announced the new vaccine strategy. The governor has not given a press conference since last Monday.

2. Cities, grocers battle over hazard pay

People check out at the Cardenas Markets grocery store on High Street in Oakland on May 27, 2020. Photo by Jane Tyska, Bay Area News Group

From CalMatters economy reporter Lauren Hepler: Following Long Beach’s lead, Oakland on Tuesday became the second California city to approve an immediate $5-an-hour hazard pay bump for essential grocery workers. Similar measures are being debated in Los Angeles, Berkeley, Antioch, San Mateo and elsewhere, and Santa Clara County also plans to extend the $5 hazard pay to fast food businesses and pharmacies, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The shift comes a few months after the state, under pressure to do more to protect essential workers, mandated new emergency COVID-19 workplace protections.

But not everyone is convinced by the argument for hazard pay. National grocery chain Kroger has already announced plans to shutter two Long Beach stores in response to the local pay ordinance, and the California Grocers Association argues the change could lead to lawsuits or higher prices for customers.

  • Ron Fong, president and CEO of the California Grocers Association: “These types of ordinances cause real economic harm for many grocers and could lead to store closures. If that happens, the grocers would have legal claims against Long Beach and other cities that pass similar ordinances.”

3. Car companies drop lawsuit against CA

Image via iStock

From CalMatters environment reporter Rachel Becker: In a sign that California is regaining influence under the Biden administration, a coalition of major automakers, including Fiat Chrysler and Toyota, announced Tuesday that they will abandon the Trump administration’s attack on the Golden State’s authority to set its own emissions standards. The move comes about a week after Newsom called on the companies to drop the lawsuits and a few months after General Motors also jumped ship from the Trump litigation. Ford, Honda, BMW, Volvo and Volkswagen had already agreed to follow California’s greenhouse gas rules nationwide.

  • The coalition: “In a gesture of good faith and to find a constructive path forward, (we have) decided to withdraw from this lawsuit in order to unify the auto industry behind a single national program, with ambitious, achievable standards.”
  • Newsom on Twitter: “Good start. Now it’s time to join forward-looking carmakers in the CA framework to protect our air and planet.”

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CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: The pandemic has worsened California’s housing crisis — and new state housing goals will be a political test.

Leading on housing: Sacramento’s groundbreaking housing reforms should be embraced by every city in California — and the state Legislature, argue Steve Hansen, a former Sacramento City Councilmember, and Brian Hanlon of California YIMBY.

Transit key to recovery: Restoring California’s transit is key to an equitable recovery and requires immediate assistance from the federal and state government, writes Michael Pimentel of the California Transit Association.

Importance of local involvement: Local cooperation is what makes regional water partnerships possible, writes Mike Wade of the California Farm Water Coalition.


Other things worth your time

California schools consider extending next school year while mental health remains a concern. // EdSource

State Treasurer Fiona Ma got the COVID vaccine in December. Did she cut the line? // Sacramento Bee

Sen. Alex Padilla gets choice Senate committee assignments. // San Francisco Chronicle

Rep. Adam Schiff lobbying Newsom to become California’s next attorney general. // Axios

California’s pot of unclaimed property tops $10 billion. Check if the state has your money. // Sacramento Bee

Why the San Fernando Valley is so important to California history. // Los Angeles Times

Pair of wolves move to California, adding to state’s low wolf population. // SF Gate

California town offering $100 to visitors. // Fox40


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...