Good morning, California. It’s Friday, October 15.

Burnout + deadlines converge

Employee burnout and resistance to vaccine mandates are colliding across California, leading to strike authorizations, walkouts and worker shortfalls in health care, education, transportation and logistics, hospitality, retail, entertainment and law enforcement.

This week, nearly a third of California hospitals reported critical staffing shortages to the federal government as thousands of exhausted workers walked off the job and onto the picket line, CalMatters’ Kristen Hwang reports. Their primary grievance? Inadequate staffing levels.

Meanwhile, nearly 200 San Francisco police officers and firefighters who remained unvaccinated ahead of the city’s Wednesday deadline will now be put on paid leave — hobbling departments already operating below recommended staffing levels.

Today, California’s requirement that teachers be vaccinated or tested weekly goes into effect. Some educators who oppose the mandate are planning to participate in a nationwide walkout on Monday, forcing some campuses —including Oak Run Elementary in Shasta County — to close.

Los Angeles Unified, the state’s largest school district, is also running up against its own deadline: It will not allow employees to return to campus on Monday if they don’t receive at least one vaccine dose by today. But thousands of educators have yet to get the shot — and the district already has thousands of existing vacancies.

Also Monday, film and TV production could come to a halt across the country if the union representing Hollywood crews doesn’t reach an agreement with the producers’ alliance.

But the state prison guards’ union — which, with the backing of Gov. Gavin Newsom, is challenging a federal judge’s order mandating vaccines for prison employees — got another reprieve Thursday, when a superior court judge temporarily blocked a state vaccine mandate for correctional officers working in or near prison health care settings.

Meanwhile, federal data released Thursday shows that for the week ending Oct. 9, California accounted for more than 27% of new unemployment claims filed nationally. More than 67,000 Californians filed new jobless claims — an increase of more than 3,000 from the week before.


The coronavirus bottom line: As of Wednesday, California had 4,565,279 confirmed cases (+0.1% from previous day) and 70,010 deaths (+0.2% from previous day), according to state data. CalMatters is also tracking coronavirus hospitalizations by county.

California has administered 50,896,327 vaccine doses, and 71.7% of eligible Californians are fully vaccinated.

Plus: CalMatters is tracking the results of the Newsom recall election, which will be certified Oct. 22.


1. Fire and rain forecast

Firefighters extinguish a roadside fire next to train tracks off Highway 101 on Oct. 13, 2021, in Goleta. Photo by Ringo H.W. Chiu, AP Photo

It’s time for a California earth, wind, fire and water update.

2. Fresno CPS at a breaking point

Children sleep at the Child Welfare Services building in Fresno while awaiting permanent placement. Photo via The Fresno Bee

Children under the care of Fresno County Child Protective Services spend up to several weeks living in the agency’s office building — sharing one bathroom, often going without showers, sleeping on tables in conference rooms where the lights are on 24/7, eating fast food, and mixing with other kids who may have violent tendencies or serious behavioral health concerns — as overwhelmed social workers try to find placements for them, a stunning Fresno Bee investigation found. Agency leaders say recent state laws have made it harder for them to find placements for kids, especially those with complex needs — prompting Assemblymember Jim Patterson, a Fresno Republican, to ask the Newsom administration in a Wednesday letter for immediate intervention.

  • Patterson: “These are children with high needs and past experiences of trauma; this unsafe and unsanitary living situation is just one more instance of trauma they will endure.”

Further exacerbating the problem is high levels of burnout and turnover among Fresno County social workers, who are struggling to keep up with a demanding caseload as the department remains chronically understaffed.

3. State considers recall reforms, reparations

Boxes containing returned ballots for the recall election at the Alameda County Superior Courthouse on Sept. 12, 2021. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

Two California committees gathered this week to consider controversial proposals: reforming the state’s recall process and recommending reparations for Black Californians. On Thursday, the Little Hoover Commission, an independent state oversight agency, heard testimony from four experts on whether the Golden State should change its process for firing elected officials, and if so, how. Mark Baldassare, president and CEO of the Public Policy Institute of California, presented survey data showing that among likely voters, the most popular reform would be requiring a runoff election between the top two replacement candidates if no one secures more than 50% of the vote. The Little Hoover Commission will continue to hold hearings on recall reforms; Californians can submit their thoughts here.

Meanwhile, the state’s first-in-the-nation reparations committee met on Tuesday and Wednesday to continue untangling thorny questions, such as whether compensation should be prioritized for direct descendants of enslaved people or for all Black Californians. The commission will meet again in December and issue its final recommendations in June 2022.


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CalMatters commentary

Judges must protect direct democracy: California courts should head off challenges to the recall, referendum and initiative processes that would impede the will of voters, argues Loren Kaye of the California Foundation for Commerce and Education.

Many Californians benefit from backup power systems: Diesel generators are necessary to maintain the electrical system and mitigate outages’ potentially disastrous effects, writes Allen Schaeffer of the Diesel Technology Forum.


Other things worth your time

OC oil spill was likely about 25,000 gallons, Coast Guard officials say. // Orange County Register

California county loses bid to reinstate fracking ban. // Bloomberg

State begins effort to clean up toxic ‘Delano Plume.’ // Bakersfield Californian

Q&A: How California’s new ban on gas-powered leaf blowers affects you. // Mercury News

Lithium stocks are jumping as California says RIP to gas lawn mowers. // Motley Fool

Unlike LA, no COVID-19 vaccine mandate coming to San Diego. // San Diego Union-Tribune

Longtime housing activist is now facing his own eviction, despite the city’s moratorium. // San Francisco Chronicle

They fled for Joshua Tree during the pandemic. Now they face the reality of desert life. // Los Angeles Times

California hotel housekeepers may not be getting their jobs back. // Capital & Main

Nearly half of money for California high-needs students not getting to their schools, analysis finds. // EdSource

San Dieguito school board poised to ban ‘critical race theory’ instruction. // Times of San Diego

Mayor London Breed is facing pressure to declare the overdose crisis a health emergency. Would it help? // San Francisco Chronicle

Employee death at California winery under investigation. // Associated Press

Shigella outbreak reported among San Diego homeless. // San Diego Union-Tribune

Inglewood ignored mayor’s history of sexual harassment, new lawsuit alleges. // Orange County Register

Oakland is facing a surge in homicides — but there’s a generational divide on how to deal with it. // San Francisco Chronicle

USC apologizes for WWII action that derailed education of Japanese American students. // Los Angeles Times

How a California state forest became a battleground for logging redwoods on public land. // SFGATE

The race to save California’s rarest butterflies. // BBC


See you Monday.

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Emily Hoeven writes the daily WhatMatters newsletter for CalMatters. Her reporting, essays, and opinion columns have been published in San Francisco Weekly, the Deseret News, the San Francisco Business...