Good morning, California. It’s Friday, June 18.
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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Other stories you should know
1. EDD reinstates work search requirement
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.
- Mike Herald, director of policy advocacy for the Western Law Center: “There are millions of people in California who lost jobs at the start of the COVID crisis and it means those dollars went to pay child support arrears instead.”
2. Big lawsuit milestones
It’s time for another roundup of developments in major lawsuits involving California. Here we go:
- On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the latest challenge to the Affordable Care Act — a major victory for California and its former Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who led the defense of Obamacare against 18 Republican attorneys general and the Trump administration. Here’s a look at what the ruling means for California.
- On Wednesday, a superior court judge tentatively rejected a lawsuit to halt dismantlement of the permanently closed San Onofre nuclear plant.
- On Tuesday, a state appeals court ordered California to accelerate its timeline for placing into treatment defendants who have been found mentally incompetent to stand trial. In prior years, defendants spent an average of 86 days in jail before being transferred into a state mental hospital, just some of the tens of thousands of people languishing in jail without being convicted or sentenced for a crime.
- Also Tuesday, a federal judge dismissed with prejudice a lawsuit filed by 10 unsuccessful GOP congressional candidates and the Election Integrity Project California alleging that California’s November election was filled with “mass irregularities and opportunities for fraud.”
3. California cities pursue reparations
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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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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