Good morning, California. It’s Thursday, June 10.
School: Yes. Work: Maybe.
Masks at school, but not at the store. Well, unless you work at the store. But store employees may only have to wear masks until June 28. As long as they’re fully vaccinated. But it’s up to businesses to figure out how to verify employees’ vaccination status. Or not.
If that sounds confusing, then it’s an accurate portrayal of the patchwork of policies various state agencies unveiled Wednesday, six days before California’s grand reopening.
First, Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s top health officer, announced that California will on June 15 align its mask rules with that of the federal government: Fully vaccinated people can forgo face coverings in most settings, with notable exceptions including K-12 school classrooms and public transportation.
Then, the standards board of the state’s workplace safety agency voted to repeal the mask policy it passed last week after changing its mind twice. It will consider modifying the policy yet again on June 17, with changes — which could include allowing fully vaccinated workers to go maskless — set to go into effect June 28.
In the meantime, even stricter emergency regulations will snap back into place — meaning all employees, even those who are fully vaccinated, must wear masks and physically distance, among other requirements.
As if those announcements — intended to answer the unresolved questions hanging over California’s full reopening — weren’t complicated enough, other key details were left up in the air. Chief among them: How will businesses distinguish between vaccinated and unvaccinated employees? And although businesses have some leeway to determine customers’ vaccination status, can one of the options — the honor system — be relied on to keep everyone safe?
For answers to your reopening-related questions, check out this Q&A from CalMatters’ Ben Christopher.
The coronavirus bottom line: As of Wednesday, California had 3,692,506 confirmed cases (+0.02% from previous day) and 62,499 deaths (+0.03% 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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Other stories you should know
1. Other workplace battles loom
Speaking of the workplace, it will likely be the site of California’s next major post-pandemic clash. Although many offices have begun to embrace more relaxed work-from-home policies, other companies — including Apple — are announcing stricter in-person rules that have already been met with strong pushback. On the other hand, working from home hasn’t been positive for everyone: A Wednesday survey from staffing giant Robert Half found that 39% of San Diego workers are burned out — up from 25% who said the same in October. One key reason? An inability to disconnect from work.
Meanwhile, many Californians who work in restaurants, grocery stores and other essential businesses are anxious that loosened restrictions could put them at risk.
- Jacques Loveall, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union in Northern California: “Our members are seeing hundreds of people a day where most people don’t see anywhere near that number of people. So the possibility for exposure (is) still there, so they are concerned and I think legitimately concerned.”
2. Limited oversight of school spending
One year after Gov. Gavin Newsom and lawmakers allocated $450,000 to build a statewide portal tracking how school districts spend extra money intended for disadvantaged students, the state still hasn’t embarked on the first step of the project, EdSource reports. And a bill introduced in April — which would have required the state Department of Education to develop the portal by January 2022 — never received a hearing. The delays have sparked concerns among advocates for low-income students, who point out that school districts are about to receive record amounts of money — thanks to state and federal COVID relief funds and a massive budget surplus — with very little accountability. For example, although districts were required to tell the state how they plan to spend $4.6 billion earmarked for summer school programs, the state won’t actually monitor the spending — and districts aren’t required to share the information publicly.
- Vincent Stewart, senior managing director for education for the nonprofit Children Now: “It’s more important now than ever, with billions of dollars more in public education, that there be oversight and accountability.”
3. Will CA decriminalize psychedelics?
If you’re looking for topics that divide California’s Democratic-dominated Legislature, psychedelic drugs seems to be pretty high on the list. A bill that would decriminalize the possession and non-commercial sharing of psychedelics for Californians 21 and older narrowly squeaked out of the state Senate last week and now heads to the Assembly, where it will likely continue to drive a wedge between top Democrats, CalMatters’ Marissa Garcia reports. The proposal’s author, state Sen. Scott Wiener, says decriminalizing psychedelics — which scientific research has shown have promise in treating PTSD, depression and anxiety — could help expand mental health care, especially for veterans. But others say the measure would essentially legalize party drugs and could result in serious consequences.
- Sen. Melissa Melendez, a Temecula Republican: “I don’t know why in the world we would be contemplating legalizing a drug like ketamine, used to incapacitate young women and girls for the purposes of raping them.”
- Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat: “We’ve addressed the issue of drug use by trying to arrest and incarcerate as many people as possible, and it hasn’t worked.”
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CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Were Newsom as humble as he often proclaims to be, he would issue a personal apology to the hundreds of thousands of Californians who still can’t receive unemployment checks.
Keep families in crisis together: A permanent investment in supportive services could help keep children out of California’s foster care system, write Cathy Senderling-McDonald of the County Welfare Directors Association of California and Jackie Rose of the Rose Family Creative Empowerment Center.
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Other things worth your time
Newsom, California lawmakers to get pay raises. // Los Angeles Times
Unions face big test with California’s troubled bullet train. // Los Angeles Times
$2 billion in federal aid, but little relief for Bay Area landlords. // Mercury News
Sheriff deploys deputies to Venice homeless encampments, but is he overstepping his authority? // Los Angeles Times
Faster, cheaper: How California is revolutionizing homeless housing — and why it might not last. // KQED
Intensifying California drought promises ‘very concerning’ fire season. // Washington Post
California’s farmers are already taking drastic measures to conserve water. // San Francisco Chronicle
Sacramento councilwoman hires activist who said elected officials should be ‘terrified.’ // Sacramento Bee
See you tomorrow.
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