In summary

Governor blames state’s COVID-19 spike on misinformation and unveils vaccine and testing requirements for state and health care workers.

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday placed the blame for California’s surging coronavirus rates squarely on the shoulders of “right-wing pundits” and “the folks that are behind this damn recall” — a politically risky move that comes less than two months before the special election to remove him from office.

The comments bookended his announcement that health care workers and state employees must be vaccinated or undergo weekly testing and wear face masks — a policy he also encouraged local governments and private businesses to implement. They also marked a shift in strategy for the governor, whose administration just days ago touted the ability of public education and community-based programs and the vaccine cash lottery to improve inoculation rates.

Instead, Newsom on Monday zeroed in on “the right-wing echo chamber that has been perpetuating misinformation around the vaccine,” accusing Fox News host Tucker Carlson, Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson and Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of “profiteering off misinformation” that “comes at a real societal cost.”

Newsom reiterated his remarks during appearances on CNN and MSNBC, and on the latter program he equated recall supporters with anti-vaccine extremists — a recurring campaign tactic that could fire up his Democratic base but nevertheless risks alienating moderate voters.

  • Newsom: “Let’s call it out. There’s been a right-wing talking point here. And it’s overwhelmingly coming from certain networks. … Including, by the way, the folks that are behind this damn recall in California. These are the exact same people describing mask coverings as the equivalency of the Holocaust.”

Newsom also engaged in a Twitter battle with Taylor Greene, who accused him of running “a communist dictatorship.” Newsom, in turn, suggested Taylor Greene was “murderous,” adding, “Your anti-vaccine lies are literally killing Americans.”

Whether this strategy will appeal to the millions of Californians still on the fence about getting vaccinated remains to be seen. Then again, it’s unclear how completely any strategy would succeed. Though health care experts, local leaders and some influential unions voiced their support for the new vaccine policy, one of the state’s largest health care unions appeared to be lukewarm on it. Other approaches have had similarly lackluster responses. For example, California has funded 155 pop-up vaccine clinics at more than 80 McDonald’s restaurants, but has administered an average of just 16 shots per event.

The coronavirus bottom line: As of Sunday, California had 3,807,971 confirmed cases (+0.6% from previous day) and 63,806 deaths (+0.1% from previous day), according to state data.

California has administered 43,501,625 vaccine doses, and 62.1% 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. High court upholds criminal justice change

Image via iStock

The California Supreme Court on Monday strengthened a state law allowing inmates to challenge their murder convictions for killings committed by others, ruling unanimously that those prisoners have the right to a court-appointed attorney to help argue their case. Although a 2019 law had narrowed the circumstances under which defendants could be convicted for murder if they took part in a felony involving murder but did not themselves commit the killing, hundreds of inmates saw their challenges dismissed before they got to the stage where the court would appoint a lawyer, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The ruling from the state’s highest court grants those prisoners the right to an attorney earlier in the legal process, presumably increasing their chances of overturning their convictions.

Meanwhile, the state is funneling $18 million into a pilot program encouraging district attorneys to recommend lighter sentences for inmates no longer deemed a public safety risk, KQED reports — a move that comes as skyrocketing homicide rates and viral videos of store robberies increase pressure on Newsom to crack down on crime. Adding to voters’ public safety anxieties, former California U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer on Monday was robbed and assaulted in Oakland.

2. State delays math curriculum changes

Image via iStock

A controversial proposal to overhaul California’s math framework for 6.1 million K-12 public school students has drawn so much public engagement that the state Board of Education recently voted to postpone final action on the curriculum from November 2021 to May 2022. More than 500 individuals and groups submitted edits to the state’s draft plan, which recommends districts keep all students in the same math classes through sophomore year of high school instead of letting some start taking advanced math courses in middle school. The framework has also come under fire for promoting social justice and racial equity concepts. Though it still seeks to replace the notion that some students “have natural gifts and talents” with the “recognition that every student is on a growth pathway,” references to a report about dismantling racism and white supremacy were removed due to parent complaints. Once the framework is revised to incorporate recent feedback, Californians will have another opportunity to suggest edits before the state Board of Education takes final action next year.

Things aren’t quiet at the Board of Education these days: In March, it passed an ethnic studies model curriculum after four years, four drafts and more than 100,000 public comments.

3. Great white shark alert

A great white shark. Image via iStock

Go to the beach for a quick dip in the ocean, and you may unknowingly end up within a few feet of a young great white shark. In recent years, the legendary animal’s geographic range has expanded north along California’s coast by hundreds of miles, largely due to successful conservation measures and climate change warming the Pacific Ocean, the Washington Post reports. The sharks’ growing territory has raised public safety concerns, though scientists say the juveniles appear to show no interest in eating humans. But many gaps remain in our understanding of the rapidly evolving situation — which scientists are working to fill with a $3.75 million grant for great white shark monitoring that state lawmakers approved three years ago.

Listen: CalMatters reporter Manuela Tobias joins the podcast to discuss California’s housing crisis and why the majority-Democrat legislature can’t seem to agree on policy.

CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: California educators are enmeshed in a debate over whether the traditional math curriculum should be replaced by a new method steeped in race and culture.

Cities must work together on homelessness: California needs a new legal standard covering a city’s ability to manage its public right of way so it won’t have reason to push unhoused people into neighboring cities, argues Kevin James, a candidate for Los Angeles city attorney.

Not time to get rid of power plants: The state water board is considering a two-year extension for ocean-cooled power plants due to be shut down. Given the effects of the climate crisis, legislators should support it, writes Ron Miller of the Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council.

Other things worth your time

Opinion: It’s hard to have faith in a state that can’t even house its people. // New York Times

Bay Area tops list as one of the world’s most expensive regions to build. // Mercury News

Is Los Angeles losing the fight against slum housing? // LAist

Modesto’s housing crisis amplified by recession, lack of development. // Modesto Bee

California cities rank low on this ‘best places’ scorecard. // Daily News

Overdose reversal drug Narcan has already been used more than 4,200 times in city this year. // San Francisco Chronicle

California correctional officers to wear body cameras in state prisons. // Sacramento Bee

LAFD chief criticized over reported Paradise fire incident. // Los Angeles Times

California faces labor shortage for low pay caregiving work. // Sacramento Bee

California overtime law could put sheep ranching operations that prevent fire out of business. // San Francisco Chronicle

White residents burned this California Chinatown to the ground. An apology came 145 years later. // Los Angeles 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...