THIS SPECIAL UPDATE:

  • COVID-19/NOVEL CORONAVIRUS
  • CA25 (Santa Clarita-Palmdale)
  • SD28 (Temecula-Blythe)

THE NUMBERS:  California confirmed cases: 1,093 (+167 from yesterday), with 20 deaths (+3 from yesterday). Confirmed cases in 34/58 counties (+1 from yesterday). [h/t SFChron]

Hello folks. If you missed my update last night, it is on The Nooner page, where I will also archive this one.

It seems useless for me to put out a full Nooner at the normal hour, so I'll save it for this evening. If you missed The White House's presser this morning, it was a doozy, and you'll be hearing about it on teevee. 

Late last night and early this morning, many experts will still trying to figure out major questions about Governor Newsom's order, interaction with county orders, and what exactly was essential. One of the biggest issues is over the essential federal critical infrastructure sectors, which deals with keeping construction and technology workers operational. The issue was novel literally as of yesterday after this federal memo was released. 

There are also questions about the list of essential services that remain open. For example, hospitals aren't listed but obviously are. (They are referenced in the executive order, but only in terms of prioritization of patients.)

The executive order essentially allows the state public health officer to add or subtract from the list on the page, and clearly the intent is to largely mirror the Bay Area counties' orders, which was written by Santa Clara County with the vetting of County Counsel. The state is trying to simplify the county orders for the lay reader, so I understand its brevity.

Already, changes have been made to the page. At the time of executive order, residential construction was not considered "essential critical infrastructure." Obviously, it's a top state priority, the jobs are generally outside, and by nature involve physical distancing. We hopefully will see more clarifications throughout the day, which the governor last night suggested were forthcoming.

While I agree it's somewhat absurd to treat Modoc, Lassen, Mono, Alpine and Inyo as we do the impacted counties to their west, I have heard from many people in business that just wanted certainty and conformity. Solano and Sacramento came up with somewhat different than the Bay Area counties and the Wine Country. Los Angeles, Orange, and Ventura all had different flavors. In Orange County's case, I have it well-sourced that the county public health officer wanted to follow the Santa Clara model, had buy in from the Board of Supervisors, but then political pressure softened it at the end

The congressional delegation wanted the full order, but in the end, the health officer was basically forced to change it to exempt most commercial, non-customer-facing businesses, so long as they could practice physical distancing. It is alleged by some, but I have not confirmed that the powerful Irvine Company was a major player in the political pressure. 

Uniformity is good in this circumstance and, as I expected when Newsom announced it last night, New York has followed suit statewide. I expect others to follow as well.

It was rolled out quickly right after the LA countywide order was issued. It was clearly not completely thought out and Governor Newsom has said as much. Was it purposely timed to break in the middle of CNN's third Global Town Hall on COVID-19 and during the local news hours? Perhaps.

I started to write an update late last night but just didn't have enough answers. I was talking to state employees who thought they weren't essential but had received no communication (at 10pm last night) as to whether or not they were expected to show up today. This was at 10pm when they were going to bed. The same was true for residential construction companies and unions who didn't know until late evening. 

It is what it is. 

The fact is that there is no martial law and from what I can tell, no interest by public safety agencies to issue misdemeanor citations or arrest residents violating the order. They are focused on letting people know the rules (which are quite confusing). A restaurant that allows people to sit down to eat their take out will be told to stop it. Bars probably have a shorter leash and they face a huge possible penalty of the loss of a liquor license, which can be as much as $150,000 for a market-traded full license. 

Based on the experiences in the Bay Area over the first week, it's about the spirit of the order. I could see people being arrested because they want to prove a point, but that's not like regular political protests. There are plentiful conspiracy theories out there. There's a homeless guy that comes in to the corner store across the street that I'm always talking about where I get my "real-world" intelligence. He believes that Sandoz Pharmaceuticals has a cure available only to rich people but he is immune from COVID-19 because of an injection he got in the Army decades ago. Sad on so many levels.

As an aside, Sandoz had the trial of immune gamma globulin (IgG) that I was a part of in 1989-90 for those with severe asthma and associated compromised immune systems. It was a turning point in my health, so it was really strange to hear the name brought up by a homeless guy.

It is true that there was a caravan of California National Guard reserves driving up I-5 yesterday, which was expected after Governor Newsom's March 17 order.

The National Guard has been directed by the Governor to be prepared to perform humanitarian missions across the state including food distribution, ensuring resiliency of supply lines, as well as supporting public safety as required.

The National Guard was welcomed in New Rochelle, NY and affected communities in The Golden State should welcome them as well. I don't see any indications of checkpoints here, there is no curfew, and we're likely to see them with meals in their hands rather than a rifle. The latter is happening in Italy, but we sure hope we don't get to that catastrophic extreme where the country's death total now exceeds the far larger China. 

Just before I sent this, Sacramento mayor Darrell Steinberg was on CNN and emphasized this point. "We are not looking to arrest people...the only people who would be arrested are those who willfully disregard the order." I think Darrell and I had the same criminal law professor at King Hall.

ISN'T THAT SPECIAL? We may be on quasi-lockdown, but there are two special elections on May 12 in CA25 (Santa Clarita-Palmdale) and SD28 (Murrieta-Blythe). Both are expected to be all-mail ballots, although there's a question as to whether there will be opportunities for registration after the two weeks out period (and same day) now afforded to voters. Many local government services have shut down most public-facing services so they are scrambling to figure out how to handle that if we're still under a statewide order.

Most special elections that go to runoff in California are ho-hums, as are 90% of legislative and congressional races in most election years. That's not necessarily the case with these two, although no political analyst has looked at races in the environment we are currently in. September 11, 2001 was in an off-year and the only specials were in the spring and the first election after the fateful day was in June 2002. We have no idea what to expect in the way of turnout in this uncertain environment that changes daily.

Both of these specials are competitive more or less, so let's take a look at where they stand.

CA25 (Santa Clarita-Palmdale): This is the race to succeed Katie Hill (D), who flipped the seat from Steve Knight (R) in 2018. Knight ran in the special primary on March 3 and largely had the backing of Washington, but businessman Mike Garcia (R) currently has 23.9% to Knight's 19.0%. Los Angeles has an estimated 64,000 uncounted ballots and will have an update late today. The 1-2 results here are unlikely to change. Assembly member Christy Smith (D) with 31.8%. Of course, with 6 Dems and 6 Reps, we can look at March as May approaches.

As they stand now, the combined vote for Democratic Party candidates in March was 50.8% and thus for Republican Party candidates 49.2%. The special general race in May will be fascinating for the short-term completion of Hill's term, as will the November general between Garcia and Smith for the full term. And it's very possible that all ballot-chasing will be done by phone and electronics. While initial orders were looking at only the month of March, the talk now -- from local officials to The White House -- is now a couple of months, and could go longer. 

Here is the general election performance in the last two cycles:

2018 Gubernatorial Race

  • Gavin Newsom (D) 51.1%
  • John Cox (R) 48.9%

2016 Presidential Race

  • Hillary Clinton (D) 50.3%
  • Donald Trump (R) 43.6%

SD28 (Temecula-Blythe): In the race to succeed former senator Jeff Stone (R). This district has been moving more Dem in recent cycles, but is an uphill battle particularly in a midterm election not coinciding with another election, and particularly one done by mail when conventional ballot chasing can not occur. The special general has Assemblymember Melissa Melendez (R) facing Riverside County Board of Ed member Elizabeth Romero (D). There were three Democrats and two Republicans on the March 3 ballot. The Republican Party candidates received a combined 52.3% and the Democratic Party candidates currently have received a combined 47.7%.

Of course, as an even-numbered district, SD28 will only have the special this year and a regular in 2022. If successful in the special election, Assembly member Melendez could not run for reelection in 2022. Conversely, if she is unsuccessful, she could run in 2022 and exactly meet the 12-year term limit. Here are the district performance numbers for the last to regular general elections:

2018 Gubernatorial Race

  • Gavin Newsom (D) 47.5%
  • John Cox (R) 52.5%

2016 Presidential Race

  • Hillary Clinton (D) 46.7%
  • Donald Trump (R) 48.5%

In both these districts, will would-be voters be able to reregister in the last two weeks such as college kids who don't know today whether they will still be back home or at the campus they have called their temporary home? We have no idea.