Good morning, California. It’s Tuesday, March 9.

Significant speech

Gov. Gavin Newsom has a lot riding on his State of the State speech tonight.

The annual address comes at a pivotal moment for both California and Newsom’s own political career, which could be why the governor will deliver it at 6 p.m. from Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles — prime time in the state’s largest media market — rather than mid-morning in Sacramento, as is customary. The stadium also represents the “sober” yet “optimistic” tone Newsom said Monday he hopes to strike in the speech: It contains 56,000 seats, roughly the number of Californians who have died from COVID-19. But it’s also currently being used as a mass vaccination site, and could welcome some fans back in time for baseball season under Newsom’s new reopening plan.

The governor’s address will also likely double as his first unofficial campaign event against the recall to remove him from office, CalMatters’ Laurel Rosenhall reports. Recall organizers said Sunday they’re confident they’ve collected enough signatures to force a special election, a sentiment top Democrats appear to share. California Reps. Karen Bass and Barbara Lee, along with state Democratic lawmakers, were scheduled to hold an event Monday to “stand up against the Republican Party recall attempt of Governor Newsom”; also Monday, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders urged his 15.1 million Twitter followers to “unite to oppose the recall in California.”

CalMatters will livestream the speech on our website, and I’m going to live-tweet it — so make sure to follow me and my colleagues on Twitter for updates in real time.

Incidentally, “in real time” happens to be one of Newsom’s favorite catchphrases. CalMatters’ Ben Christopher has put together a dictionary of “Newsomese,” the governor’s most-used jargon, to help guide you through the State of the State speech. And to spice things up, you can keep track of the buzzwords he uses with our interactive Bingo card.


The coronavirus bottom line: As of Monday, California had 3,504,652 confirmed cases (+0.1% from previous day) and 54,224 deaths (+0.2% from previous day), according to a CalMatters tracker.

Plus: CalMatters regularly updates this pandemic timeline tracking the state’s daily actions. We’re also tracking the state’s coronavirus hospitalizations by county and lawsuits against COVID-19 restrictions.

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1. State’s vaccine approach challenged

Patients arrive at St. John's Well Child And Family Center to receive their Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in South Los Angeles on Feb. 09, 2021. Photo by Shae Hammond for CalMatters
Patients arrive at St. John’s Well Child and Family Center to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in South Los Angeles on Feb. 9, 2021. Photo by Shae Hammond, CalMatters

Ahead of his big speech, Newsom on Monday visited a Tulare County vaccination site to highlight the state’s progress on equitably distributing doses — even as some state lawmakers challenged his recent move to allocate 40% to 400 ZIP codes. Newsom said more than 210,000 education workers across the state have received their first vaccine dose, nearly three times his administration’s weekly goal of 75,000. He also said “likely another dozen counties” will exit the most restrictive purple tier today, permitting them to reopen restaurants and other businesses indoors at limited capacity.

  • Newsom: “More and more progress every day as we’re reopening our economy and reopening our schools safely for in-person public instruction.”

Ironically, Newsom’s comments came a day after the state blocked several school districts in San Diego County from reopening their middle and high school campuses, infuriating local superintendents. The governor’s comments also followed pushback from Bay Area lawmakers who said the state’s equity formula prioritizing 400 ZIP codes excluded their communities.

  • State Sen. Dave Cortese, a San Jose Democrat: “We are working collaboratively with (the governor’s office) and are optimistic that hard-hit areas in the Bay Area that were overlooked will now be included in the state’s prioritization.”

2. Are you ready for your commute?

Morning commuters head westbound on route 580 toward Oakland on July 22, 2019. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters
Morning commuters head westbound on I-580 toward Oakland on July 22, 2019. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

As California hurtles into its fastest reopening yet, some Bay Area residents are beginning to be filled with dread at the idea of returning to hours-long commutes — underscoring the peculiar upsides of pandemic life for those able to work from home, and suggesting that workplaces in California may never fully return to “normal.” Travel to workplaces in five Bay Area counties has plummeted 50%, and some of the region’s biggest tech employers are permitting most employees to permanently split their time between home and the office.

The drop in commutes has hit California’s public transit systems hard, resulting in slashed services and longer wait times — though a $4.6 billion infusion from the feds could help get things back on track.

3. The high cost of EDD fraud

Image via iStock

One of the biggest problems confronting Newsom — and which he hasn’t yet addressed as substantively as other pandemic-era issues — is California’s beleaguered unemployment department, which may have paid as much as $31 billion to fraudsters even as more than 1 million jobless claims remain backlogged. As the Employment Development Department prepares for another extension of federal jobless benefits, check out this short video from CalMatters’ Byrhonda Lyons and Lauren Hepler to learn more about the winners and losers in California’s unemployment fraud scandal. (One winner, ironically, may be EDD itself, which reaped $22.5 million from March to October last year thanks to unemployment debit card transaction fees.)

CalMatters commentary

Schools are committed to student safety: Critics are trying to shame school staff into returning to campus. It won’t work, argues Glenn Sacks, a teacher at Los Angeles Unified School District.

Cut green tape: Streamlining California’s regulatory processes for ecosystem restoration is critical to growing green jobs and meeting environmental goals, writes Ashley Boren, CEO of Sustainable Conservation.

Other things worth your time

San Francisco Unified releases new details on school reopening plans. // San Francisco Chronicle

Many Northern California Catholic schools have opened campuses five days a week with few outbreaks. // Los Angeles Times

State health officials confirm vaccine under-dosing at Oakland Coliseum. // San Francisco Chronicle

Many Californians have just three days of paid sick leave. What happens if they get COVID-19? // Los Angeles Times

Three California district attorneys go to court to speed up future executions. // San Francisco Chronicle

She was homeless and abused. Now she’s a Silicon Valley CEO. // Mercury News

The Bay Area migration has turned the Central Valley into a hot housing market. // San Francisco Chronicle

Hundreds of homeless living under a Sacramento freeway are being evicted. Where will they go? // Sacramento Bee

Pattern shift likely to bring much-needed rain, snow to parts of California this week. // Weather Channel

The best bagels are in — drumroll, please — California. // New York Times

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...