Good morning, California. It’s Friday, June 18.

Behind-the-scenes look

Gov. Gavin Newsom is peeling back COVID-19 restrictions and handing out prizes, but as California tries to regain its balance, much of the fallout is landing at his feet.

Cal/OSHA, the state’s workplace safety agency, voted Thursday to allow most fully vaccinated workers to forgo face masks — the fourth time it’s changed its mind in two weeks. Newsom immediately signed an executive order allowing the rules to go into effect immediately — normally, they would be subject to a 10-day review period.

But the new rules were still met with pushback from California’s business community, which urged Newsom to provide clarity on regulations that “continue to raise questions related to privacy, liability and duration.” Among business leaders’ concerns were requirements to provide N95 masks for workers who want them and confusion over determining employees’ vaccination status. Labor groups, meanwhile, voiced concern that relaxed regulations could put workers at risk.

Newsom was met with further pushback during a Thursday tour of Oakland small businesses. Although Newsom had promoted the tour as “small businesses roaring back,” business owners challenged that narrative, citing extreme difficulty in hiring employees.

  • Davina Dickens, owner of Graffiti Pizza: “I know, from first-hand experience, a handful of people who don’t want to work because they’re getting unemployment. I don’t think the governor and I agreed on that one.”

Another Newsom assertion — that California saw a week-over-week increase in vaccinations after launching the vaccine lottery — was complicated by a Sacramento Bee investigation that found the increase was largely due to 12- to 15-year-olds getting their second shot of the Pfizer vaccine, not people getting their first dose.

Indeed, for the past year and a half, Newsom has dominated the pandemic headlines, whether receiving adulation or harsh criticism. But what has his life been like behind the scenes? In a sit-down interview, I talk with the governor about everything from his family’s new pet rooster — which, by the way, he doesn’t want — to his weekend escapes to Auburn to threats on his life. Check out the conversation here.

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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Thursday, California had 3,699,455 confirmed cases (+0.02% from previous day) and 62,565 deaths (+0.05% from previous day), according to a CalMatters tracker.

California has administered 40,098,803 vaccine doses, and 56.2% of eligible 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.

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1. EDD reinstates work search requirement

Image via iStock

Starting July 11, Californians will need to begin looking for work in order to keep receiving unemployment benefits, the Employment Development Department announced Thursday. The reinstated work search requirement — which was temporarily suspended amid the pandemic — comes as thousands of open jobs remain unfilled despite a high unemployment rate. It also comes amid an uptick in new jobless claims, even as California throws open its economy. Nearly 69,000 Californians filed new claims for the week ending June 12, up nearly 16,000 from the week before, according to federal data released Thursday. EDD’s backlog of unresolved claims also spiked to nearly 223,000, statistics released Thursday show.

Speaking of unemployment, California last year clawed a record $430 million from parents who owe thousands of dollars in child support debt — and most of the money was taken from federal stimulus checks and jobless benefits, the Salinas Californian’s Kate Cimini reports in the second installment of CalMatters’ “Intercepted” series. That’s a 16% increase from the amount California collected in 2019, a statistic that becomes even more mind-boggling when one takes into account that no other state in America keeps a higher percentage of child support payments for itself — and only one state charges a higher interest rate when parents don’t pay on time.

2. Big lawsuit milestones

Image via iStock

It’s time for another roundup of developments in major lawsuits involving California. Here we go:

3. California cities pursue reparations

Mayor Eric Garcetti announced today Los Angeles will form a reparations committee as part of a national coalition with other big city mayors. Photo by Gary Coronado, Los Angeles Times via AP/Pool
Mayor Eric Garcetti will announce today that Los Angeles will form a reparations committee. Photo by Gary Coronado, Los Angeles Times via AP/Pool

Today — on the new federal holiday Juneteenth, which commemorates the end of slavery in the United States — the mayors of Los Angeles and Sacramento will join a national coalition to support federal reparations legislation and establish pilot programs in their own cities, CalMatters’ Nigel Duara reports. The move comes a few weeks after California’s first-in-the-nation task force kicked off a two-year study into how the state might compensate African Americans for slavery and its lingering effects. Those fraught questions will now be taken up at the local level as well, with Los Angeles, Sacramento and nine other cities across the country setting up their own reparations advisory committees.

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CalMatters commentary

California should make June 19 a paid holiday: Observing Juneteenth will help us acknowledge our racist past and place equity at the center of our efforts to build a brighter future, argues Nicole Taylor of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

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Other things worth your time

Newsom declares heat wave emergency as California issues second Flex Alert. // Sacramento Bee

Davis vs. Newsom: California recall election comparison. // Los Angeles Times

Progressives fed up with Feinstein, want her to resign now. // San Francisco Chronicle

State orders San Diego to start over on sports arena deal. // San Diego Union-Tribune

Dozens of homeless have been kicked out of Sacramento hotels used as shelters during pandemic. // Sacramento Bee

He’s watching Los Angeles homelessness destroy the Ballona Wetlands. // Los Angeles Times

San Diego County has hundreds of millions of dollars in free rent. Why are so few residents applying? // San Diego Union-Tribune

Court access in Southern California remains limited to public despite reopenings elsewhere. // Daily News

Bakersfield police broke 31 people’s bones in four years. No officer has been disciplined. // CapRadio

Ring gave LAPD officers free cameras, pushed product promos. // Los Angeles Times

Top Garcetti aide made disparaging posts about city staff. // Los Angeles Times

Decades of allegations of sexual abuse, misconduct rock exclusive Ojai boarding school. // Los Angeles Times

See you Monday.

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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...