Good morning, California. It’s Monday, September 27.
Law enforcement resists mandates
California is preparing to roll out COVID-19 booster shots even as millions of residents have yet to receive their first vaccine dose and a dearth of rapid coronavirus tests threatens to fuel outbreaks across the state.
On Friday, public health experts from California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington recommended the states align with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in offering booster shots to the following groups at least six months after their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine:
- People 65 and older and residents of long-term care facilities.
- People ages 18 to 64 with underlying medical conditions or who work jobs that put them at high risk of being exposed to or transmitting COVID-19.
It remains unclear how many Californians are eligible for booster shots, though state officials said around 3 million people over age 65 received the Pfizer vaccine. Because medical facilities and schools are considered high-risk locations, boosters would also likely be recommended for California’s 2.5 million health care workers and 300,000 teachers.
Law enforcement officers and firefighters are also likely candidates for booster shots — but that may be an uphill battle.
The Los Angeles Police Department and Los Angeles Fire Department, which together account for more than half of the county’s identified public safety workplace outbreaks since March 2020, both saw employees file lawsuits against a city vaccine mandate. And nearly 200 members of the San Francisco Police Department are seeking a religious exemption from the city’s vaccine mandate, far more than any other department.
Meanwhile, an official appointed by a federal court to oversee medical care in California’s prison system urged a federal judge Friday to mandate vaccines for prison guards and staff. The appeal came as state officials traced an outbreak of 137 coronavirus cases at North Kern State Prison to an infected staff member whose vaccination status they declined to reveal.
The state prison guards’ union opposes a vaccine mandate — as does Gov. Gavin Newsom, who received millions of dollars from labor groups representing prison workers to fight the Sept. 14 recall.
- Don Specter of the Prison Law Office: “The guards and other unions for those in the prisons carry considerable influence. You just have to look at the donations.”
The bumps in California’s vaccination efforts come amid a shortage of rapid COVID-19 tests so severe that many residents seeking same-day results for sniffling kids, employer verification or peace of mind are out of luck. The state has so many backlogged orders for rapid test kits that it could take six to eight weeks for schools and community groups to receive them, CalMatters’ Kristen Hwang reports.
Experts say the lack of quick, easy testing could spark otherwise avoidable outbreaks — as could a new state law that allows businesses to avoid publicly reporting outbreaks by workplace location, the Fresno Bee’s Melissa Montalvo reports for CalMatters’ California Divide project.
Podcast: CapRadio’s Pauline Bartolone talks about participatory budgeting in Vallejo and how other California cities are focusing on economic justice, inequality and defunding the police. Listen here.
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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Saturday, California had 4,448,666 confirmed cases (+0.2% from previous day) and 68,087 deaths (+0.2% from previous day), according to state data. CalMatters is also tracking coronavirus hospitalizations by county.
California has administered 49,066,06 vaccine doses, and 69.8% of eligible Californians are fully vaccinated.
Plus: CalMatters is tracking the results of the Newsom recall election and the top 21 bills state lawmakers sent to Newsom’s desk.
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Other stories you should know
1. Newsom takes action on bills
Newsom has just under two weeks to decide the fate of a little more than 500 bills on his desk, according to a tally maintained by lobbyist Chris Micheli. One of the many controversial bills awaiting action ahead of the Oct. 10 deadline: a proposal to create non-hospital facilities dedicated to treating mental health crises in children covered by Medi-Cal, the state’s health insurance program for the poor. Proponents say it would take pressure off overwhelmed emergency rooms, while critics say the state shouldn’t be focused on building out the most restrictive part of the youth mental health care system, CalMatters’ Jocelyn Wiener reports.
In other bill-related news:
- United Farm Workers over the weekend marched to the French Laundry and PlumpJack Winery — part of a wine and hospitality company Newsom founded — to protest the governor vetoing a bill that would have allowed farmworkers to vote by mail in union elections.
- On Friday, Newsom signed a host of bills related to Native Americans and immigrants, including proposals to: replace a statue of St. Junípero Serra at the state Capitol building with a monument to Native American tribes; replace the word “alien” in state laws with terms like “noncitizen” or “immigrant”; boost oversight of unaccompanied migrant children housed in state-licensed facilities; and allow for the election or appointment of undocumented immigrants to Democratic Party county central committees. He also signed a bill — inspired by the 2019 Poway synagogue shooting — to tighten state law allowing 18- to 20-year-olds to buy guns if they have a hunting license.
Also Friday, Attorney General Rob Bonta announced that California will restrict state-funded travel to Ohio after it passed a law allowing medical providers to deny certain services for moral or religious reasons. Ohio is the 18th state to which California has banned state-funded travel.
2. CA GOP looks to 2022
What is the future of the California Republican Party? At the party’s fall convention in San Diego this weekend — less than two weeks after Newsom overwhelmingly defeated the recall — GOP officials seemed to be struggling to identify a clear path forward, even as they floated ideas like recruiting more diverse candidates and engaging Latino voters. Perhaps tellingly, the only recall candidate to speak publicly at the sparsely attended convention was former U.S. Rep. Doug Ose — who dropped out of the race after suffering a heart attack. Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, long seen as the party’s favorite to challenge Newsom in 2022, only spoke privately with delegates, while Larry Elder — who secured the most votes of any replacement candidate by a wide margin — was vacationing in Florida. But party officials didn’t spend much time reflecting on their resounding loss in the recall — apart from a panel of lawyers noting that election fraud claims, such as those voiced by Elder, hurt the party by depressing voter turnout. Instead, chairperson Jessica Millan Patterson said the party is full steam ahead on the 2022 elections for Congress and the state Legislature.
California could see a political shakeup even before 2022. This week, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera is likely to be approved to lead the city’s Public Utilities Commission — and Mayor London Breed is expected to appoint Democratic Assemblymember David Chiu of San Francisco to replace him, which would prompt a special election for his seat in the state Assembly. Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Karen Bass is apparently planning to run for Los Angeles mayor in 2022 — further scrambling the electoral calculus of California’s congressional delegation as the state prepares to lose a House seat for the first time in history.
3. Fire updates
What a flurry of fire news there was over the weekend! Here’s a look at some key updates:
- Today, a red flag warning signifying high fire danger will go into effect for the Sierra Nevada mountain range — threatening the progress firefighters made over the weekend on major blazes, including the KNP Complex Fire in Sequoia National Park and the Fawn Fire in Shasta County. Newsom on Thursday secured federal support to help respond to the Fawn Fire, which authorities said may have been started by a serial arsonist.
- The Shasta County district attorney on Friday filed 31 criminal charges against PG&E for its role in last year’s deadly Zogg Fire. It’s the latest setback for the beleaguered utility, whose new policy of aggressively cutting power in fire-prone areas has caused an average of 36 weekly blackouts since July. “They’re treating it as binary: You can have safety or you can have power, but you can’t have both,” Santa Cruz County resident Craig Chatterton told the San Francisco Chronicle.
- State Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara on Friday ordered the state’s “insurer of last resort” to offer more comprehensive coverage to customers in fire-prone areas who have lost private insurance due to high risk.
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Demanding data on digital network infrastructure: A bill I authored — which is currently on Newsom’s desk — would provide two important tools to force transparency and ensure accountability from broadband internet providers, writes state Sen. Anna Caballero, a Salinas Democrat.
Correcting California’s caregiver shortage: As nursing shortfalls reach a crisis point, state officials must restructure our workforce with common sense solutions, argue Jeannee Parker Martin, CEO of LeadingAge California, and Cheryl Wilson, CEO of St. Paul Senior Services.
Other things worth your time
How a California program controls people leaving psych hospitals. // Marshall Project
California therapists-to-be face long waits to seek licenses. // Los Angeles Times
‘A very big deal.’ Nonlawyer licensing plan clears hurdle in California. // Reuters
California prison inmate indicted in $1.9 million unemployment fraud scheme. // Sacramento Bee
He built a powerhouse set of Wine Country restaurants. Ex-staffers say he sexually harassed employees along the way. // San Francisco Chronicle
San Jose State president faces increased scrutiny in athletic trainer sex abuse case. // Mercury News
Kern County under investigation after denying group COVID contract over support for defunding police. // Bakersfield Californian
Devin Nunes’ family lawsuit turns on workers’ citizenship. // Sacramento Bee
As more Californians head to Texas, how do the states really stack up? // San Francisco Chronicle
Is San Diego building an Amazon company town from scratch? // San Diego Union-Tribune
A harrowing Kabul escape. A Sacramento motel. How Afghans are adjusting to their new home. // Sacramento Bee
Outcry over granny flat construction in San Diego prompts rule change proposals. // San Diego Union-Tribune
Permit irregularities abound on properties of Angus McCarthy, president of Department of Building Inspection’s commission. // Mission Local
All development could be permanently banned on 288,000 acres of Central Coast land. // San Luis Obispo Tribune
Bay Area high school rescues 4,000 endangered salmon from the drought — they’ll grow up on campus. // San Francisco Chronicle
Mexican traditions live on in California through female rodeo performances. // National Geographic
See you tomorrow.
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