Good morning, California. It’s Friday, September 10.
Influx, outflux of people?
If you want to keep your job or go to school, get vaccinated.
That was the resounding message sent Thursday, when President Joe Biden issued a sweeping order mandating vaccines or weekly COVID-19 testing for the roughly 80 million Americans who work for a business with 100 or more employees — and when Los Angeles Unified School District, the largest in California and second biggest in the nation, said students 12 and older must be fully vaccinated by January in order to set foot on campus.
The stringent measures came just a day after California lawmakers tabled a bill that would have established legal protections for employers who require workers to get vaccinated or submit to regular testing — and a week after they hit pause on a proposal that would have required businesses to issue such orders and established vaccine mandates to enter many indoor venues. The latter bill was met with so much pushback that hundreds of demonstrators gathered at the state Capitol on Wednesday to protest it — despite the fact that it was never formally introduced.
Both Biden and Los Angeles Unified’s directives will likely face legal challenges. They also raise questions about the future of work and school in California: Will stricter safety protocols cause people to return to offices and classrooms, or push them away?
I joined KPCC on Wednesday to talk about the implications of more than 2 million Californians losing federal pandemic unemployment benefits on Sept. 4. Though some experts said the cutoff would likely prompt people to reenter the workforce, nearly 62,000 Californians filed new jobless claims for the week ending Sept. 4, an uptick of more than 5,600 from the week before. Daniela Urban, executive director of the Center for Workers’ Rights, said during the KPCC panel that many employees don’t yet feel safe returning to the workplace because of lax safety protocols. But vaccine mandates have their own side effects, such as traveling nurses turning down jobs in California and law enforcement groups staring down possible staff shortages.
School vaccine mandates are supported by many public health experts and will likely help soothe parents concerned about their kids catching or spreading COVID-19 on campus — though other California districts aren’t in a rush to follow in Los Angeles Unified’s footsteps, CalMatters’ Joe Hong reports. Still, if many families refuse to comply, the influx of kids reverting to remote learning could strain already overloaded independent study programs. Some families may choose to yank their kids out of schools with such requirements altogether, exacerbating California’s historic public school enrollment drop.
Other parents may question if Los Angeles Unified’s move is necessary: Of the 1,357 COVID-19 cases active in the district as of Thursday, only two were in-school transmissions, according to district data. San Francisco, meanwhile, has recorded zero in-school transmissions since campuses reopened in August, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Wednesday, California had 4,322,361 confirmed cases (+0.2% from previous day) and 66,257 deaths (+0.3% from previous day), according to state data.
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. Biden to campaign with Newsom
Biden will travel to California on Monday, stopping in Sacramento to assess wildfire damage before heading to Long Beach to join Gov. Gavin Newsom in rallying Californians against the recall, the White House confirmed Thursday. With the president’s visit coming at the tail end of the campaign — just one day before Election Day, and with 30% of ballots already returned as of Wednesday — it’s unclear how many voters he’ll sway. Still, the event will serve to shore up Newsom’s wall of national Democratic support while also providing Biden with an opportunity to move past a particularly challenging stretch of his presidency. In other recall news, the Los Angeles Police Department is investigating a Wednesday altercation in which frontrunner Larry Elder’s campaign staff were accosted by homeless Californians.
As the Sept. 14 election date nears, the recall is gaining momentum in the national media. On Thursday, the Atlantic argued that Newsom’s strategy of attacking Republicans rather than emphasizing his own achievements could help Democrats in the 2022 elections, while the New York Times editorial board called California’s recall process “seriously broken” and “in desperate need of reform.” However, on the first episode of the new podcast “What is California?” Newsom’s predecessor Jerry Brown said he doubts voters will approve changes to the recall, “because you’re taking power away from the people.” Gray Davis, the only California governor to ever be recalled, expressed a similar sentiment to me and emphasized that if lawmakers propose reforms, they “ought to be a bipartisan effort.”
2. Legislative session comes to a close
Today is the deadline for state lawmakers to send bills to Newsom’s desk — and they almost certainly will not be extending California’s eviction moratorium, leaving those protections to expire on Sept. 30, CalMatters’ Manuela Tobias reports. Lawmakers won’t reconvene in Sacramento until Jan. 3, 2022 — although some may return to the Capitol after the Sept. 14 recall election to hold a twice-postponed hearing on the state unemployment department’s progress on crucial reforms.
Here’s a look at key proposals legislators sent to Newsom on Thursday, as well as some that didn’t make it through:
- Passed: Bills that would take on companies like Amazon by requiring them to disclose quotas or work speed standards; ensure cost-free COVID-19 testing; massively expand California’s chief college financial aid program and ease transfers to UC and Cal State; boost paid family leave payments; end the subminimum wage for people with disabilities; crack down on debt settlement firms; restrict the use of the recycling symbol on plastic products; require public colleges to provide free period products; legalize jaywalking; phase out the use of gas-powered leaf blowers; ban the practice of paying signature-gatherers for initiative, referendum and recall petitions by the signature; and set privacy safeguards for personal data gathered by genetic testing companies such as Ancestry.com and 23andMe.
- Dead for the year: A bill that would have poured hundreds of millions of dollars into fixing California’s crumbling canals — and a bill that would have given judges discretion over whether defendants need to post bail in order to be released while awaiting trial. The latter bill was held after a Sacramento woman was allegedly raped and killed by a homeless man with a lengthy criminal history who had been released on zero bail.
3. Remembering 9/11, 20 years later
Saturday marks the 20th anniversary of 9/11, a milestone that comes less than two weeks after the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and suicide bomb attacks that killed at least 13 American service members, many of whom hailed from or were based in California. (Some Californians remain stranded in Afghanistan, which is back under Taliban rule.) No other state lost more of its residents during America’s “forever war”: As of Aug. 28, at least 776 Californians were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a Los Angeles Times database. Nearly 20% of them were under the age of 21. They left behind 453 children and families whose wounds will never heal.
- Guiselle Harris, who wears a pin in remembrance of her son Leroy Harris Kelly III, who died at age 20 in Iraq on April 20, 2004: “I carried him for nine months … he was with me for 17 years. I wish he was still here. Some people turn around and ask me, ‘Why do you still wear the pin?’ I say, ‘This is my hero. This is my baby.'”
Although Newsom and state lawmakers plan to set aside tens of millions of dollars to support Afghan evacuees in California — and despite the fact that Fremont (which happens to be my hometown) has the country’s largest Afghan population — the federal government did not include the Golden State on its list of placement options for refugees settling in the U.S. The main reason? California’s exorbitant housing costs.
- Darrell Owens, a California YIMBY data analyst, and Muhammad Alamedin, a Bay Area housing activist, write in the Atlantic: “What many ostensibly progressive California cities fail to understand is that housing affordability is refugee policy. If you want an inclusive community where people seeking refuge can actually live, you need to add a lot more housing. There’s no way around it.”
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CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Southern California’s “corridor of corruption” has yielded a new case of insider dealing — not the first and certainly not the last.
Newsom’s recall strategy based in history: Critics have greatly underestimated how difficult it would be for Newsom to lose the recall and a Democrat to win the replacement race, writes Joshua Spivak, author of “Recall Elections: From Alexander Hamilton to Gavin Newsom.”
Ending immigrants’ double punishment: California must ensure that immigrants who serve their prison sentences aren’t transferred to ICE detention afterward, argue Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo, a Los Angeles Democrat, and Gabby Solano, a domestic violence survivor who served 22 years in state prison.
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Other things worth your time
Former state employee with record of fraud to plead guilty to EDD scam. // Los Angeles Times
Revealed: LAPD officers told to collect social media data on every civilian they stop. // The Guardian
California court ruling could lead to lower limits on use of agricultural pesticide. // San Francisco Chronicle
California Independent Petroleum Association files for bankruptcy. // Sacramento Business Journal
Northern California district attorney using software to make ‘race blind’ decisions on filing charges. // Sacramento Bee
Barred from sending probation and foster youth out of state, officials struggle to find alternatives. // Voice of San Diego
Former chief medical officer sues county for discrimination. // San Diego Union-Tribune
Is Newport Beach dodging California’s fair housing law? // Capital & Main
Apple homeless camp: Neighbors push back against San Jose RV park. // Mercury News
Why is human DNA seeping into the sea near the San Clemente Pier? // Orange County Register
See you Monday.
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