Less than three months after Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled his “California Roars Back” campaign-budget slogan, it already feels outdated.

Seven Bay Area counties on Monday mandated masks indoors regardless of vaccination status, following in the footsteps of Los Angeles, Sacramento and Yolo counties. Around 50% of California’s population is now living under the same mask rules that the state lifted just a little more than a month ago — a significant indication that California is backsliding in its fight against COVID-19 as the highly contagious Delta variant takes hold. On Monday, the statewide seven-day test positivity rate hit 6.7% — a figure not seen since February.

The grim outlook buttresses comments from other public health officials who have warned that state leaders will have to chart a long-term response to a virus that “will be with us chronically.” Yet another challenge: cutting through the highly politicized discourse surrounding masks and vaccines.

On Sunday, Modesto City Schools sent a letter to state health officials asking them to allow local districts to set their own mask rules — a move seconded Monday by the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors. In West Oakland, irate customers at a market with an indoor mask mandate took matters into their own hands: One threw a watermelon at an employee, another chucked a full can of soda at the general manager and another hurled a bag of groceries at a cashier.

Equally polarizing: vaccine mandates. Unlike the UC and CSU, California’s massive community college system says it doesn’t have the authority to mandate vaccination for students, faculty and staff who spend time on campus, Emma Hall and Matthew Reagan report for CalMatters’ College Journalism Network. Instead, most of the 73 community college districts are offering money, free textbooks and other prizes to students who get the shot.

Meanwhile, Kaiser Permanente on Monday announced it will require all employees and physicians to be vaccinated. Federal data shows that nearly 25% of California’s hospital workers remain unvaccinated — a gap Gov. Gavin Newsom is attempting to close by requiring health care workers and state employees to choose between getting the shot or undergoing a strict testing regimen.

The coronavirus bottom line: As of Sunday, California had 3,873,771 confirmed cases (+0.9% from previous day) and 64,085 deaths (+0.2% from previous day), according to state data.

California has administered 44,102,921 vaccine doses, and 62.9% 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. Recall roundup

Nine-year-old Tag, a 1,000-pound Kodiak bear, pads around the parking lot while recall candidate John Cox speaks to the press at a campaign event at Miller Regional Park in Sacramento on May 4, 2021. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters
Tag, a 1,000-pound Kodiak bear, pads around the parking lot while recall candidate John Cox holds a campaign event at Miller Regional Park in Sacramento on May 4, 2021. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

With only six weeks to go before Californians decide whether to recall Newsom, this week is a big one in Recall Land. Here’s a look at some key milestones:

  • On Monday, recall candidates filed campaign finance reports revealing — among other things — that former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer is the favorite of major GOP donors, Caitlyn Jenner built her campaign (which is in debt) on the infrastructure left behind by former President Donald Trump, and businessman John Cox paid more than $343,000 this year to a media consulting firm that reportedly helped him come up with the idea of lugging a 1,000-pound bear and a ball of trash around the state. For more takeaways, check out this report from CalMatters’ Ben Christopher and Jeremia Kimelman.
  • On Wednesday, a hearing is scheduled in a lawsuit recall supporters filed against the Newsom campaign for referring to the recall in the state’s official voter information guide as “an attempt by national Republicans and Trump supporters to force an election and grab power in California.” They also object to Newsom calling himself a Democratic governor; last month, Newsom lost a lawsuit against his own secretary of state to include his party affiliation on the recall ballot.
  • On Friday, the text of the voter guide will be finalized.
  • On Saturday, California Republican Party delegates will vote on endorsing a recall candidate — a process sure to be controversial. Only four candidates — Faulconer, talk show host Larry Elder, Rocklin Assemblymember Kevin Kiley and former Sacramento-area U.S. Rep. Doug Ose — received enough delegate signatures to vie for the endorsement.

Meanwhile, the pastor of a Rocklin megachurch urged attendees during a Sunday sermon to vote to recall Newsom — a potential violation of federal law, the Sacramento Bee reports.

2. Chinatown hit with disability lawsuits

Image via iStock

First, San Francisco’s Chinatown was hit with a deluge of anti-Asian violence. Now, the community is facing a rash of lawsuits that allege some of its businesses failed to comply with federal law ensuring people with disabilities have equal access to public transportation and facilities. San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, who plans to investigate the lawsuits and the firms leading them, told the San Francisco Chronicle that many “are focused far more on enriching plaintiffs’ lawyers than they are on vindicating disability rights.” But many disability advocates point out the federal government didn’t create an agency to enforce the disability rights law — effectively leaving the task to law firms like Potter Handy in San Diego, which has filed more than 1,500 suits in California this year.

3. California chipmunks catch plague

Image via iStock

It’s a … strange time in California. Not only are birds dropping dead from West Nile virus, but a group of chipmunks also recently tested positive for plague — forcing officials to close portions of Lake Tahoe’s south shore through Friday. Meanwhile, as California stares down a possible pork shortage, a nationwide chlorine shortage has shut down many San Diego County pools, blocking families from escaping the summer heat. Reasons for the shortfall? Hurricane Laura, which destroyed a major chlorine manufacturer in Louisiana last year; higher temperatures, which cause chlorine to burn off faster; and, oh yeah, a global pandemic.

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CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Here’s why Newsom is sometimes his own worst enemy.

Smaller classes better serve students: Critics of teachers’ unions oppose their plans to use stimulus funds to hire more educators — but that’s the only way to achieve smaller class sizes, argues Glenn Sacks, a United Teachers Los Angeles representative.

California must change how it cares for its land: The Lake Tahoe Basin is seeing the effects of climate change — less snow, more rain and more intense wildfires — much sooner than expected, writes Jane Freeman of the California Tahoe Conservancy.

Other things worth your time

COVID hits 23 in California schools, days after reopening. // Associated Press

University of California blasts Caitlin Flanagan’s Atlantic story on admissions. // Washington Post Opinion

How Los Angeles finally cleared most Venice Beach homeless camps. // Los Angeles Times

LAPD taking fewer people into custody. // Crosstown

Traffic congestion is making a comeback in the Bay Area, but in a strange new way. // San Francisco Chronicle

Power shutoffs should be last resort, state regulators warn. // Associated Press

Can reviving beach dunes help California with sea level rise? // Los Angeles Times

Sierra Nevada red fox to be listed as federally endangered. // Associated Press

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...