In summary

Starting Sept. 20, people attending indoor events with 1,000 or more guests must provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test. That’s less than a week after the recall election.

Timing is everything.

It’s an adage that Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration appears to have taken to heart as recall ballots land in millions of mailboxes. The state Department of Public Health announced Wednesday that, starting Sept. 20, people attending indoor events with 1,000 or more guests must provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test from within the prior 72 hours. (A similar rule had previously applied only to indoor events with 5,000 or more attendees.) That means the new policy won’t go into effect until six days after the Sept. 14 recall election — and it’s slated to end less than two months later, on Nov. 1.

The timeline suggests that Newsom may be trying to thread the needle as voters contemplate whether to keep him in office. Announcing a new public health mandate allows Newsom to draw a sharper contrast between his coronavirus policies and those of his prominent Republican challengers, who say they would reverse school mask rules and end vaccine mandates for health care employees and state workers. But, by not actually implementing the policy until after the election, Newsom may be able to avoid potential backlash from frustrated voters and businesses.

When I asked the California Department of Public Health about the public health rationale for the policy’s start and end dates, its office of communications told me:

  • CDPH: “We chose Sept. 20 in order to allow venues and other event operators to plan for the new requirements, and inform any potential attendees of the new requirements and recommendations. With the emergence of the new delta variant and California experiencing the fastest increase in COVID-19 cases during the entire pandemic, the state has determined that additional precautionary measures must be taken in large, indoor events, which have the potential to cause large, substantial and severe outbreaks. The extended date allows the state to assess the impact of these new measures.”

Timing also appears to play a key role in Newsom’s approach to handling California’s devastating drought. The governor on Tuesday said Californians could soon face mandatory statewide water restrictions — but likely not until the end of September.

Meanwhile, tougher coronavirus rules are springing up across the state. The Los Angeles City Council voted Wednesday to require vaccinations for city employees, a day after the county health officer issued an order mandating masks at large outdoor events regardless of vaccination status. Also Wednesday, Culver City Unified School District apparently became the first in the state to mandate vaccines for eligible students 12 and older.

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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Tuesday, California had 4,057,724 confirmed cases (+0.4% from previous day) and 64,291 deaths (+0.1% from previous day), according to state data.

California has administered 45,563,957 vaccine doses, and 64.7% 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. Business owners: key recall voters

Andrew McDowell, owner of With Love Market & Cafe, rearranges the pastry case in Los Angeles, on August 4, 2021. According to McDowell, it has been a difficult task to keep his business in full operation due to the pandemic and a lack of financial assistance from the government. Photo by Pablo Unzueta for CalMatters
Andrew McDowell, owner of With Love Market & Cafe, rearranges the pastry case in Los Angeles on Aug. 4, 2021. Photo by Pablo Unzueta for CalMatters

How close is the recall election likely to be? Pretty darn close, according to a Wednesday analysis from FiveThirtyEight. When averaging other polls — and taking into account their quality, recency and sample size — the national polling aggregation website found that 48.8% of California voters would keep Newsom in office, compared to 47.6% who would remove him. Ultimately, the election outcome will likely come down to undecided voters like Brianna Knight, a 31-year-old Fresno resident and owner of a holistic skincare business. Knight managed to stay afloat during the pandemic, but didn’t agree with how state leaders decided which businesses were essential. 

  • Knight: “I do corrective skincare … so even in a pandemic, those clients are still dealing with an issue. I think that what they considered wasn’t as important — was important to a lot of people, and we weren’t recognized.” 

For the third installment of CalMatters’ series “Building Blocs: Key voters in California’s recall election,” reporter Sameea Kamal talked to small-business owners across the state to see whether Newsom’s shutdowns impacted how they plan to vote in the recall. Here’s what they said.

In other recall news: Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer is doubling down on his strategy of attacking frontrunner Larry Elder, likely an attempt to position himself as the moderate Republican in the race. When asked by a reporter Wednesday to respond to comments Faulconer made during a Tuesday night debate accusing Elder of saying women know less than men, Elder declined to hit back at Faulconer. Instead, Elder lambasted the reporter for misquoting a 2000 article in which he cited a study from the Annenberg School at the University of Pennsylvania that found men knew more than women on 15 of 25 political topics. “I didn’t say women were less intelligent than men,” Elder later told CalMatters.

2. Nursing home license by clerical error

Illustration by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters; iStock

There are times when the truth really is stranger than fiction — and this jaw-dropping story from CalMatters’ Jocelyn Wiener is one of them. As Jocelyn writes:

“By its own admission, the California Department of Public Health incorrectly listed a controversial nursing home operator as holding permanent licenses for two Los Angeles-area nursing homes. Department officials failed to realize their mistake for five years, until advocates pointed it out this spring. Now department officials say they won’t fix it.”

The controversial operator is Los Angeles businessman Shlomo Rechnitz — the state’s largest nursing home owner. And the two nursing homes in question are in the top 4% of nursing homes statewide with the highest numbers of resident deaths due to COVID-19.

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CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: California’s top business leader is retiring with an enviable track record.

California’s proposed math curriculum defies logic: Social justice, while desirable and necessary, will not come about by abandoning mathematical rigor, argues Svetlana Jitomirskaya, a distinguished professor of mathematics at UC Irvine.

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Other things worth your time

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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...