Welcome to California’s vaccine rollout, part two: the booster and kids edition.
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday received a booster shot of the Moderna vaccine, about seven months after getting the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The move reflects the “mix-and-match” strategy approved late last week by federal regulators and a group of Western public health experts, who also gave certain recipients of the Moderna and J&J vaccines the green light to receive boosters. Elderly and at-risk people who received the Pfizer vaccine have been eligible for booster shots since late September.
But even as Newsom extolled California’s coronavirus case rate — which remains among the lowest in the nation — he warned that without sufficient precautions the Golden State could soon find itself in the predicament it did last winter, when so many hospitals were overflowing with COVID patients that he placed the state under a regional stay-at-home order tied to ICU capacity. In recent weeks, California’s coronavirus positivity rate and hospitalizations have plateaued instead of continuing to decline.
- Newsom: “I want to be sober about the moment we’re in because in many ways it’s reminiscent of where we were last year. … Let’s not put our guard down. Let’s get those booster shots. Let’s encourage those that haven’t gotten vaccines to get vaccinated.”
Also Wednesday, the state’s top public health officials outlined their plan to vaccinate California’s 3.5 million children aged 5 to 11, who could be cleared to receive the Pfizer vaccine by the end of next week. The state expects to receive 1.2 million kid-sized doses in the next few days, and thousands of providers and schools are preparing to administer them.
Meanwhile, California’s vaccine wars continue. Asked about his plan to require students to receive the COVID-19 vaccine once it’s fully approved by federal regulators for their age group — which likely wouldn’t happen until next year — Newsom said he also supports “local efforts to move those deadlines forward.” But some districts with inoculation deadlines earlier than the state’s are getting hit with lawsuits: San Diego Unified, for example, received a second legal challenge this week.
The Golden State’s battle with In-N-Out is also escalating. Contra Costa County shut down one of the burger chain’s locations on Tuesday for failing to verify customers’ vaccination status. The San Francisco health department is investigating another location that was previously fined for the same violation, and In-N-Outs in Pinole and San Ramon have also received fines and citations for not checking vaccine cards.
When asked about In-N-Out Wednesday, Newsom said, “I love hamburgers! In moderation.” He added, “I’m not going to get caught up in this situation. In-N-Out Burger is one of our great home-based businesses. … Years back, you may recall they doubled down on their commitment to our state. I want to double down on my commitment to them.”
Newsom is also doubling down on his commitment to prison guards. On Monday, his administration asked a federal judge to put on hold an order requiring state prison staff to get vaccinated while the administration’s appeal of the order makes its way through the courts. If the vaccine order were to be enforced, Newsom’s administration wrote, the state prison department could see “crippling” job losses.
For its part, the Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday approved a plan to postpone its inoculation deadline for city workers until Dec. 18.
The coronavirus bottom line: As of Tuesday, California had 4,635,540 confirmed cases (+0.1% from previous day) and 71,295 deaths (+0.2% from previous day), according to state data. CalMatters is also tracking coronavirus hospitalizations by county.
Other stories you should know
1. California’s role at UN climate conference
What exactly are Newsom, top members of his administration and 15 state lawmakers going to do at the United Nations climate change conference that begins next week in Glasgow, Scotland? What kind of influence will California be able to exert when it doesn’t have a seat at the negotiating table reserved for nations? And will any of the discussions actually make a difference? Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger doesn’t think so: “Over and over, year after year, they make these pledges and they come out to declare victory, but then nothing is getting done,” he said Wednesday. Newsom’s predecessor Jerry Brown sees it differently: Newsom should view the conference as an opportunity to “get others to do what California is doing so we’re not the outlier,” he told CalMatters’ Rachel Becker. “We don’t want to have rules that the rest of the world doesn’t have.”
As Rachel reports, the conference may also be a way for Newsom to carve out his own climate path, one that isn’t embroiled in Brown’s legacy.
- RL Miller, a member of the Democratic National Committee and president of Climate Hawks Vote: “Newsom did survive his recall handily, and I think he’s now looking at what he wants to do for not just the remainder of this term but for his next term. And rather than be content with simply implementing the Jerry Brown policies, I think he’s genuinely beginning to grapple with phasing out oil production in California.”
2. Rain did not end fire season
California’s drought is so devastating that even a bomb cyclone dumping record amounts of rain across the state won’t be enough to end fire season, state fire officials said Wednesday. The risk remains higher in Southern California, which received less rain than the northern part of the state and is also likely to be whipped by hot, dry Santa Ana winds, said Christine McMorrow, a spokesperson for Cal Fire. But, she added, Northern California isn’t in the clear.
- McMorrow: “We are still in a long-term drought, and while the recent rain helps, it hasn’t ended fire season. … Depending on where you are in the state and what the conditions over the next few months look like … we could back to where we were last week in a relatively short period of time.”
For example, although the rain pushed Marin County’s reservoir levels from 32% to nearly 50% of total capacity, that’s still just 67% of average storage for this time of year, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. As a result, the county is keeping its mandatory water restrictions in place. To actually end California’s drought, some parts of the state would need to receive 200% of normal rain levels over the next three months, Justin Mankin, co-lead of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Drought Task Force, told the Associated Press.
3. Cash-strapped schools turn to TikTok
Desperate times call for desperate measures — and with California public schools running out of money amid declining enrollment and soaring rates of chronic absenteeism, some are leveraging unorthodox methods to draw students and teachers back to their districts. Among them: TikTok. As the San Francisco Chronicle reports, a Lodi school district created a TikTok account with posts featuring a high school class caring for ducklings and a therapy dog roaming an elementary school. Other districts are pouring tens of thousands of dollars into glossy postcards, revamped websites, professional videos and and social media ads. Because each student brings $10,000 or more in state funding, a district could recoup $30,000 in marketing costs if its ads convince at least three students to transfer.
- Troy Flint, spokesman for the California School Boards Association: “People are understandably wary of spending a lot of money on splashy advertising when schools are short of funds. But the financial tradeoffs are clearer than they were in the past.”
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CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Will California’s state auditor remain independent?
California should create more water: Instead of being almost entirely dependent on rain and snow, the state should develop a strategy to create water through desalination and recycling, argues Jim Wunderman, president and CEO of the Bay Area Council.
Newsom’s veto of Cal Grant expansion hurts students: Housing and food insecurity is a persistent issue across California’s public university systems, and expanding state financial aid would have helped mitigate that, writes Michelle Lee, a UC Berkeley graduate student.
Other things worth your time
Marijuana is California’s new $5 billion industry powerhouse. Is the state holding it back? // Sacramento Bee
How California’s wildfire skies ended up in ‘Call of Duty: Vanguard.’ // Engadget
Toxic fracking waste is leaking into California groundwater, study shows. // Grist
Los Angeles is aiming to be first major carbon-free U.S. city, but obstacles loom. // Washington Post
Dairy cows’ greenhouse gas emissions cut by 52% after eating seaweed at Bay Area farm. // San Francisco Chronicle
City nixes homeless drop-in center plan for vacant former McDonald’s site. // San Francisco Chronicle
California failed to consistently track ride-hailing assault and harassment complaints. // San Francisco Public Press
Beverly Hills police accused of targeting Black people on Rodeo Drive. // Los Angeles Times
San Diego is worst place in country for Black renters, new report shows. // KPBS
Searching for equity in dual enrollment for California high school students. // EdSource
He unleashed a California massacre. Should this school be named for him? // New York Times
Fresno-area farm workers want daily pesticide warnings to protect against cancer risks. // Fresno Bee
Silicon Valley tech workers are no longer afraid to go public. Here’s how they found their voices. // Los Angeles Times
Florida judge sends Trump suit over Twitter to California. // Associated Press
Amazon joins race for quantum computer with new Caltech center. // Washington Post
Wanna tie the knot? Expect to wait eight weeks in Santa Clara County for a license or ceremony. // Mercury News
See you tomorrow.
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