Welcome to open season.

On Thursday, California will expand vaccine eligibility to everyone 16 and older — the same day the vast majority of counties will get the green light to resume indoor concerts, conferences, weddings and other gatherings under certain conditions.

But the promising news comes amid some not-so-promising numbers: The Golden State’s vaccine supply is set to shrink 15% this week and another 5% the week after, largely due to a manufacturing mixup that ruined 15 million doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Because some doses are reserved for Californians getting their second shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, the number of available first shots will drop 33% this week and 4% the week after, even as millions more people become eligible, according to the state Department of Public Health.

And although California’s seven-day coronavirus positivity rate remains at a record low of 1.6%, cases are plateauing or even ticking up in some parts of the state, fueling fears that a fourth wave could be on the horizon. Napa County, for example, would likely have moved into a more restrictive tier this week had the state not recently loosened its reopening criteria as a result of administering 4 million doses in disadvantaged communities. San Francisco is also seeing a slight increase in hospitalizations, though they remain far lower than previous surge levels.

Vaccine supply is expected to ramp up again in a few weeks — a prerequisite, along with low hospitalization rates, for Gov. Gavin Newsom to meet his bold goal of reopening the state by June 15.

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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Sunday, California had 3,600,178 confirmed cases (+0.1% from previous day) and 59,218 deaths (+0.3% from previous day), according to a CalMatters tracker.

California has administered 22,777,893 vaccine doses, and 27.1% of Californians are fully vaccinated.

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.


Podcast: Baseball fans get back to basics as California slowly reopens, and a CalMatters investigation reveals bewildering delays in the state’s nursing home oversight. Listen to the latest California State of Mind episode here.


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1. Supreme Court rejects ban on at-home religious groups

A Bible study group. Image via iStock

The U.S. Supreme Court knocked down another one of Newsom’s coronavirus restrictions on Friday, finding that the state’s ban on at-home religious gatherings violated the First Amendment. The 5-4 ruling paves the way for indoor gatherings of more than three households to resume, though the state was already slated to ease its restrictions on indoor events on Thursday. The order comes about two months after the Supreme Court overturned California’s ban on indoor church services and marks the fifth time the country’s highest court has rejected the Golden State’s coronavirus rules for their impact on religious exercise. However, the state’s ban on indoor gatherings of more than three households also applied to non-religious events.

  • The unsigned order, on behalf of the five conservative justices: “California treats some comparable secular activities more favorably than at-home religious exercise, permitting hair salons, retail stores, personal care services, movie theaters, private suites at sporting events and concerts, and indoor restaurants to bring together more than three households at a time.”
  • Justice Elena Kagan, in a dissent: “If the state also limits all secular gatherings in homes to three households, it has complied with the First Amendment. And the state does exactly that.”

2. Big school districts reopen

Ten-year-old twins Kai, left, and Olin Bejsada participate in a ‘Zoom-in’ rally to reopen schools at Oakland Technical High School on March 12, 2021. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

Some of the state’s largest school districts — including Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego Unified — will begin welcoming some of their youngest and most vulnerable students back to campus this week, marking the beginning of the end of a protracted reopening battle with less than eight weeks left in the school year. And when I say “beginning of the end,” I’m really emphasizing the “beginning”: Los Angeles Unified was hit with yet another lawsuit last week to force a wider reopening, and negotiating stalemates persist between teachers unions and districts over child care stipends and other return-to-work policies, such as the amount of space between desks. While the teachers’ union in Los Angeles was able to secure a $500 monthly child care stipend for its members, Sacramento City Unified’s union and district are at an impasse over child care support.

  • Moema Leblanc, a San Jose parent: “I support a lot of the things (the unions are) fighting for, but there’s a fine line because the moment that it prevents our kids from going back to school, then that’s not okay.”
  • Maya Daniels, a Los Angeles Unified teacher: “A competition to the bottom is not in any of our best interests. … We do not want anything we don’t believe everyone is entitled to: employer support for children and families.”

3. California battles invasive species

Close up view of a bin of green crabs pulled from a single trap. Photo courtesy of Ted Grosholz

What do the European green crab, the American bullfrog, the quagga mussel, black mustard and nutria rodents have in common? Answer: They’re all invasive species on which California spends millions of dollars annually attempting to prevent them from eliminating native plants and animals, destroying crops, and damaging critical flood control and water delivery systems. But those attempts are rarely successful, and can sometimes go terribly wrong, CalMatters’ Julie Cart reports. Take the European green crab: After scientists spent years and hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to remove the species from a Bay Area lagoon, the population ended up nearly tripling.

To find out went wrong — and the important lesson that emerged from the green crab’s population explosion — check out Julie’s report.


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CalMatters events

April 21: The Future of Campus Policing. In the wake of national protests against racism and police brutality, join CalMatters and KQED for a wide-ranging discussion about the role of police on college campuses. Register here.


CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: One could easily describe California’s school situation as child neglect on a massive scale.

Safer school zones: I introduced a bill that will enhance children and pedestrian safety by allowing speed safety cameras in school zones, writes state Sen. Susan Rubio, a Baldwin Park Democrat.

Mandate oil and gas setbacks: As a doctor working in one of the most polluted corridors of California, I’ve seen firsthand how my patients suffer from nearby oil and gas wells, argues Dr. Saba Malik of Harbor UCLA Medical Center.


Other things worth your time

Homebound Californians still lack options to get COVID-19 vaccine. // CapRadio

Latino areas devastated by COVID-19 are reopening slowly, with caution and fear about future. // Los Angeles Times

Sacramento pushes back against protests at officials’ homes. // Los Angeles Times

‘White lives matter’ rally goers vastly outnumbered in Huntington Beach. // Orange County Register

Windsor Mayor Dominic Foppoli under investigation over sexual assault allegations. // San Francisco Chronicle

She exposed decades of alleged sexual abuse at elite Bay Area high schools. Now, she’s speaking out. // San Francisco Chronicle

California Democrat proposes law to strengthen oversight of migrant children. // Sacramento Bee

Delta tunnel authority changes leaders as Newsom turns to billionaire champions of the project. // Sacramento News & Review

California braces for extreme 2021 wildfire season — it’s very dry out there. // San Francisco Chronicle

Judge halts California development, citing wildfire risk. // Associated Press

California county set for major expansion in oil, gas drilling. // Washington Post

San Diego’s soaring water rates have avocado, other growers eyeing break with county. // San Diego Union-Tribune


See you tomorrow.

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Follow me on Twitter: @emily_hoeven

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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...