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The Nooner for Tuesday, May 5, 2020, presented by SYASL Partners
¡Feliz Cinco de Mayo!
Last night, I sat down to eat pressure-cooked pork butt and end-of-season asparagus from Riverdog Farm in the Capay Valley and started my next pandemic binge -- Ozark. I only watched a few episodes since I do get up between 4 and 5, but I thought "Why did I wait until now?" I think I ate too much asparagus last night, if you know what I mean.
GOOD NEWS: In the LAT, Rong-Gong Lin II and Iris Lee report that California just recorded its first week-over-week drop in COVID-19 deaths.
Two weeks ago, California reported its highest one-week death toll — 542 fatalities among people infected with the coronavirus between April 20 and April 26. Last week, the weekly death toll fell for the first time, dropping nearly 9% to 495 fatalities for the seven-day period that ended Sunday, according to a Times data analysis.
While it was an improvement, last week’s toll was still the third highest over the course of the pandemic.
Even hard-hit parts of the state saw some relief. Los Angeles County, home to 55% of California’s COVID-19 deaths despite having only one-quarter of the state’s population, saw its reported weekly death toll flatten for the first time: 315 deaths each week for the last two weeks.
BAD NEWS: Scientists say a now-dominant strain of the coronavirus appears to be more contagious than original [Ralph Vartabedian @ LAT]
Scientists have identified a new strain of the coronavirus that has become dominant worldwide and appears to be more contagious than the versions that spread in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new study led by scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
NEW COVID-19 PROJECTIONS: Yesterday, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington updated its widely respected model. The new projected deaths in California by August 4 is now 4,666. That is more than double the current number of 2,283.
REOPENING TIME? For CalMatters, Matt Levin reports on Governor Gavin Newsom's announcement yesterday that counties meeting certain metrics may be able to open some retailers on Friday.
Clothing outlets, bookstores, florists and other merchants across the state will be allowed to offer curbside pickup as long as they obey physical distancing guidelines meant to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus. California companies that make clothing, furniture, toys, and other goods those retailers sell can also resume operations, with appropriate worker protections.
“This is an optimistic day as we see a little ray of sunshine on the horizon,” said Newsom.
While more details on which specific industries would be allowed to reopen won’t be available until Thursday, Newsom’s announcement marks the first major relaxing of the statewide shelter-in-place order he issued March 19 and the first time the governor has offered a specific date by which California can enter the second stage of the administration’s four-stage recovery plan.
Here is the governor's release with the presentation provided at the presser by California Department of Public Health Director and state Public Health Officer Dr. Sonia Angell.
Michelle Wiley reports for KQED "Newsom also said that individual counties can apply to move more quickly into the full second phase of the stay-at-home order by providing a plan that the state must approve to minimize the local spread of the virus. The state will publish those plans for public review."
The governor also discussed his agreement with Laguna Beach and San Clemente over the weekend to allow them to reopen their beaches. Not everybody in The OC are happy, however, as Newport Beach councilmember Kevin Muldoon sued the governor in federal court seeking a reopening of all OC beaches. The Register's Tony Svaadra writes:
The federal suit filed by Muldoon alleges Newsom’s edict violates the public’s constitutional right to enjoy Orange County’s 41-miles of beach, unfairly singling out the county for closure.
“The governor’s actions appear to be based more on politics applied to one county in California, rather than sound scientific guidance, evidence, or regard for competing constitutional concerns,” Muldoon said in a statement. “Outdoor activity is important for physical and mental health. Freedom of movement and access to California beaches are fundamental rights, and unless total or broad interference with those can be proven by the government to be necessary and also related to fulfilling a compelling government interest, this interference is unconstitutional.”
For CalMatters, Rachel Becker reports on the announcement by Newsom to recruit an army of tracers through training by UCSF and UCLA as the state starts to reopen so that exposed individuals can be quarantined.
There is some frustration among business folks that the governor is announcing Thursday about what can be opened Friday as they weigh staffing with a few hours of lead time while uncertain about demand.
Then again, Gavin is damned if he does and damned if he doesn't...
T-R-I-L-L-I-A-N: Newsom wants Congress to appropriate $1 trillion for state and local governments. The Bee's David Lightman looks at how he arrived at that number.
Newsom’s proposal provides guidelines as to how the money could be allocated, but it attaches no specific numbers. That could prove to be a problem for Washington lawmakers as conservatives are wary of spending a lot more on such aid.
In California, Newsom has predicted adjustments to his budget when he presents revisions May 14 that could reach tens of billions of dollars. That could lead to cuts in social services and layoffs for public employees like teachers, police and firefighters.
Federal action won’t be final by Newsom’s next budget announcement. It’s uncertain when a new aid package could be ready for Congress’ consideration.
Newsom’s request would involve spending in five areas hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak, according to a letter he sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last month ...
The bipartisan National Governors Association has been asking for $500 billion.
Frankly, when the dates were set for the specials back in January, I had no idea that the elections would be in quarantine. In talking to many other election observers, we thought it was quite likely Republicans would capture both seats because Democrats voting on May 12 with only one thing on the ballot could not be counted on. Then CA25 would be competitive in November on the same ballot with the presidential. And then SD28 is not up for a full four-year term until 2022.
However, the stay-at-home order turned both elections into all-mail voting and has people stir crazy at home and actually looking at their mail. At the same time, conventional ballot chasing is not possible and it must be done over the phone or electronically. In short, with those factors, I have no clue, but we do now have data on ballot returns, courtest of Paul Mitchell and PDI.
In the special general for CA25, businessman Mike Garcia (R) faces Assembly member Christy Smith (D).
In the SD28 special general, Assembly member Melissa Melendez (R) faces county school board member Elizabeth Romero (D).
Secretary of State press secretary Sam Mahood yesterday tweeted turnout history in recent special general elections:
We're definitely exceeding the average turnout in both of these special elections, and could be looking at a record high. This year is also the first where all mail-in ballots are postage paid. Ballots must be postmarked by next Tuesday and received by next Friday.
It's worth noting that, while President Trump is in Phoenix today to visit a Honeywell N95 mask factory, he is not traveling to CA25 although he has endorsed Garcia (and Obama endorsed Smith this morning). If I were Garcia's campaign manager I would likely "Thanks but no thanks" also in that district at this particular time. Arizona is a toss-up seat for the United States Senate this year as first-term senator Martha McSally (R) seeks a full term. Control of the Senate is now considered to be a battleground for control, and is also considered competitive in the presidential as well.
I'll have more to say later this week as we see more numbers. The main question is NPP/other turnout and how they break in what could be a very close race.
LIBERALS V. MOD SQUAD: Jeremy B. White writes for Politico on the split between progressives and moderate Democrats, with business groups increasingly supporting moderates as Democrats have grown in Capitol dominance.
[I]n modern California politics, the critical fault line isn’t between Democrats and Republicans. It’s between Democrats, thanks to an election system that allows two Democrats to advance out of primaries and collide in the general election. Eng learned this lesson the hard way.
A potent panoply of well-funded interest groups that included the oil industry, charter schools, agriculture, utilities and health care interests spent more than $3 million to buoy a rival Baldwin Park City Councilwoman Susan Rubio. Groups funded by organized labor and consumer attorneys countered with more than $1 million to aid [Mike] Eng, replicating a clash that has played out in Democrat-on-Democrat races up and down California.
There is no other state where Democrats wield the absolute power the party enjoys in California. Democrats occupy every statewide office and command two-thirds majorities in both houses. Former GOP strongholds like Orange County have shaded blue. Republicans don’t just lag behind Democrats — there are also fewer registered Republicans than no-party-preference voters.
Before 2011, when the state replaced party primaries with a general primary after which the top two vote-getters square off in the general election, establishment-backed Democrats running in safe seats could often sail to assured victories; now, they often find themselves fighting for their political lives against a rival from their own party.
BALLOT MEASURES: Two ballot measures were formally announced as dead yesterday:
CORRECTIONS AND COVID-19: The California Supreme Court yesterday denied a petition to release prisoners at county jails and juvenile detention facilities, reports Chron legal eagle Bob Egelko.
The court redirected inmate advocates to the counties that run the facilities, but did not rule out further lawsuits against the state.
The claims in the statewide lawsuit “call for prompt attention in a manner that considers the diversity of local conditions throughout the state,” the justices said in a unanimous order.
The state has taken steps to reduce crowding in its prisons and county jails, where protective equipment and testing for COVID-19 have sometimes been in short supply and social distancing is virtually impossible.
DISNEY: A team at the LA Times looks at where Disney goes from here and the lengthy impact it could have on California's state and local governments.
Since the outbreak, its resorts have been shuttered, its blockbuster productions have stalled, and there have been no live sports for cable channel ESPN to cover. The company has taken on billions of dollars in debt and slashed executive compensation to blunt the pain. Executive Chairman Bob Iger decided to forgo his base salary, and the company’s new chief executive, Bob Chapek, saw his base pay fall by 50%.
Analysts say the problems could be long-lasting. “We fear that the uncertainty of the present situation creates significant and unrivaled” risk to Disney’s earnings “for the foreseeable future,” wrote media analyst Michael Nathanson in a Monday research report. On Monday he downgraded Disney’s share price from buy to “neutral.”
The cuts at Disney, the world’s largest entertainment company and one of California’s biggest private employers, represent nearly half of the company’s global workforce of 223,000 people. The company pledged to continue paying healthcare benefits during the furlough period.
It remains unclear how long the Anaheim parks will remain closed. California Gov. Gavin Newsom said it would be “months, not weeks” before entertainment attractions could reopen. Because of the uncertainty surrounding when the pandemic will end, some analysts think it’s unlikely Disneyland and other parks will reopen until 2021.
NEWSOM AND BIDEN, KISSING ON TV...K-I-S-S-I-N-G: Gavin Newsom will hold his first high-dollar fundraiser -- a virtual affair -- for Joe Biden this Friday, reports Seema Mehta at the Times.
Donors are being asked to contribute up to $100,000 to a joint fundraising committee that comprises Biden’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee. It’s the first fundraiser for the joint committee, a fundraising mechanism that could help Biden narrow the enormous financial edge President Trump has in the 2020 race.
“This will be the kickoff event for the Biden Victory Fund and we are excited that California gets to take the lead,” the invitation says. “Please join us to support Vice President Biden and ensure we win back the White House in November!”
Newsom’s apparent backing of the presumptive nominee is not surprising. But the governor, who has been consumed fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, has yet to formally endorse the former vice president.
muni matters, Cakeday, and classifieds after the jump...
BAY AREA: Don't expect a quick reopen in the hard-hit six-county Bay Area, which Newsom suggested yesterday. The MercNews editorializes today:
This is no time to go back to business as usual.
The intense longing for a return to normalcy in California and other states is understandable. But the rush to reopen businesses is premature and ignores the warnings of health experts and the basic science of the novel coronavirus.
The risk is the kind of second-wave surge that killed thousands in the Bay Area during the 1918 Spanish influenza. Indeed, a draft government report forecasts sharp increases in COVID-19 cases and deaths nationally beginning around May 14.
In California, the decisions on when to open businesses should be based on science — not hope and a prayer.
The Chron joins in with an urge of caution:
Despite the vocal few protesting the shelter orders and the many more suffering job losses and other hardships, the mandates retain broad support in California and across the country. That’s because most Americans understand that rushing blindly into a second wave of a deadly disease is not a viable alternative. In the absence of federal leadership, the governor and local officials bear a heavy responsibility to put long-term public safety ahead of ephemeral political considerations.
LA-LA LAND: In an afternoon presser, mayor Eric Garcetti made clear that the city may need to wait at least an additional week before reopening. This followed NewsomAtNoon, where the governor said that some counties could be able to reopen some retail beginning Friday, with certain requirements such as curb pick-up.
Yesterday, LAUSD superintendent Austin Beutner says that he expects the district's schools to reopen August 18 for the regular start of school, although he was not ready to specify if that would be in-person or online, reports Howard Blume in the LAT.
SACTOWN: Sacramento mayor Darrell Steinberg yesterday suggested that when the city reopens he would like to see a requirement that residents wear a mask when in public and would be talking to the Board of Supervisors and county public health director to encourage it. Tony Bizjak reports in the Bee that Sacramento County public health director Dr. Peter Bielenson hopes to have a plan to quickly open the limited retail discussed by Governor Newsom yesterday.
The Bee's team report on how Sacramento's businesses are preparing to reopen as early as Friday although also are uncertain whether the customers will be there.
They aren’t sure how much business they can drum up if they can’t let people inside. Nor are they confident that, with unemployment soaring, customers will be in a mood to shop for anything other than the bare essentials they’ve been buying the past few weeks.
For CapRadio, Sarah Mizes-Tan reports on how the extension and doubling of Sacramento's sales tax was promised to primarily serve low-income communities but is not materializing because of the widespread shutdown of retail.
[I]n its recent budget proposal, the city manager’s office anticipates a $90 million loss in revenue, and the city is looking toward Measure U — which had been bringing in about $80 to $90 million a year in sales tax — to close the gap.
That means possibly no funding for groups like the Fruit Ridge Collaborative.
Mayor Darrell Steinberg says he hopes that some federal stimulus money — of which Sacramento received $89.6 million — could be used instead.
“I did promise the voters that we would devote the majority of that second half-cent [of Measure U] to economic inclusion, to invest in workforce and young people, job creation and affordable housing,” Steinberg said. “Now, of course, what is happening because of COVID-19 is that the city finance department projects that the bottom is going to fall out of the city sales tax revenue.”
SD AND SOUTH: San Diego health leaders believe the first two weeks of May could be the largest spike in Baja and many Americans who live south of the border may return to the U.S. for health care in area hospitals, report Gustavo Solis and Paul Sisson in the SDUT.
“Data indicates that the first two weeks of May will have the largest spike of viral transmissions and fatalities,” reads a presentation from San Diego County health officials obtained exclusively by The San Diego Union-Tribune.
That presentation, which also says that Tijuana’s hospital system is unprepared for a surge, was part of a report that county Public Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten and Supervisor Greg Cox gave to the mayors of Chula Vista, Imperial Beach and National City last week.
According to the presentation, experts on the north side of the border believe that Tijuana’s COVID-19 surge could impact hospitals in San Diego County. Roughly 265,000 U.S. citizens live in Baja California.
CAKEDAY: Happy birthday to Larry Levine!