Good morning, California. It’s Thursday, July 30.

State, counties, cities take hard stance

A woman walks out of a liquor store in Santa Monica on June 23. Photo by Jae C. Hong, AP Photo

Enforcement of coronavirus orders is ramping up across California as the state broke its single-day record for deaths twice this week amid a series of outbreaks in essential workplaces.

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday withheld federal coronavirus relief funds from two Central Valley cities for their “sanctuary” resolutions allowing all businesses to remain open amid the pandemic. On Tuesday, Contra Costa joined a growing list of counties and cities that permit fining residents and businesses for not complying with public health orders, such as wearing face masks. 

And Los Angeles this week shut down three businesses for failing to report coronavirus outbreaks that infected more than 140 employees, marking a significant escalation of the county’s enforcement practices.

The stepped-up enforcement comes as 37 of 58 counties have landed on the state’s watch list, with 36 required to close almost all indoor activities. Some cities are taking things even further — Palm Springs on Tuesday instituted a curfew for some businesses to curb the virus’ spread.

Newsom on Monday said the state will send three “strike teams” into the hard-hit Central Valley to investigate coronavirus outbreaks, many of which have occurred in agricultural workplaces and disproportionately impacted low-income Latino workers. 

  • Newsom: “It’s not the fact that an employee has tested positive, it’s how we respond to that employee testing positive and how we protect those coworkers, how we protect the entire business and the community those businesses are operating in.”

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The coronavirus bottom line: As of 9 p.m. Wednesday night, California had 475,305 confirmed coronavirus cases and 8,715 deaths from the virus, according to a CalMatters tracker.

Also: CalMatters regularly updates this pandemic timeline tracking the state’s daily actions. And we’re tracking the state’s coronavirus hospitalizations by county.


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Other stories you should know

1. Will California raise taxes on millionaires for schools, govt services?

Image via iStock

Californians with taxable income of $1 million and higher would see a significant and permanent tax hike under a bill Democrats introduced Monday in an attempt to raise billions of dollars for public schools and other government services, the Los Angeles Times reports. The bill takes a different approach from the $100 billion stimulus proposal Democrats also released Monday that wouldn’t immediately raise taxes — but both signal the state’s desperation for funds amid a deepening recession and increased demand for government programs. Some cities are following a similar blueprint, with San Francisco on Tuesday voting unanimously to put a measure on the city’s November ballot that would raise taxes on companies whose executives earn more than 100 times the median employee.

The proposed state tax would affect half a percent of all Californians who filed taxes in 2018. That same half percent accounted for 40% of the income tax revenue California collected that year.

2. Newsom launches unemployment investigation

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Change could soon be coming to California’s beleaguered unemployment department, which has struggled to manage an unprecedented wave of claims amid the pandemic. Newsom on Wednesday unveiled a new “strike team” tasked with “reimagining” the department’s outdated technology systems and sharing its recommendations within 45 days. The governor also said the department aims to get through its backlog of nearly 1 million claims by September. Lawmakers will today conduct an oversight hearing of the department, which has processed more than 8 million claims and distributed more than $49 billion in benefits but has seen processing times lag in recent months.

  • Newsom: “Unprecedented demand due to job loss during this pandemic paired with an antiquated system have created an unacceptable backlog of claims.”
  • Assemblymember Jim Patterson, a Fresno Democrat: “Governor Newsom has become notorious for his words — not his actions. It’s our responsibility in the Legislature to not only hold the (department) responsible, but the Governor as well.”

3. Will Assemblymember Phil Ting be put under investigation?

Assemblymember Phil Ting in the Capitol on January 22. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

Will a formal investigation be launched into Assemblymember Phil Ting over allegations by Carmel Foster, a domestic worker who says she had a sexual relationship with the San Francisco Democrat while advocating for controversial labor legislation he supported? Though both the state Legislature and California Democratic Party crafted new procedures for investigating sexual misconduct in the wake of the #MeToo movement, party members are debating whether the situation should be seen as a private matter or a professional breach, CalMatters’ Laurel Rosenhall reports. Further complicating matters: Ting allegedly met Foster on a website on which men pay women for dates while using a picture of Republican Assemblyman Phillip Chen. The website is also part of a network implicated in cases of human trafficking.

  • Ting: “The allegation that my bills or votes were ever driven by any personal consideration is false. I have fought for the rights of working people my entire adult life.”
  • Foster: “He used me for his own gain. … Taking everything we talked about when we’re laying down in bed and then turning around and making it part of his job description, it’s unacceptable.”
  • Jessica Levinson, Loyola Law School professor: “It raises the question — did he vote on something to make his paramour happy, or because it’s something that’s good for his constituents?”

4. Is your county tracing contacts of infected people? Maybe not…

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Though most of the counties on California’s coronavirus watch list are attempting to investigate each COVID-19 case and notify everyone exposed, at least seven counties are only partially conducting contact tracing, and one isn’t contact tracing at all, CalMatters’ Rebecca Sohn, Ana Ibarra and Manuela Tobias report. This uneven approach limits the state’s ability to slow the spread of coronavirus. But counties are also hamstrung by California’s strained testing system, which is plagued with delays and often results in contact tracers notifying exposed people too late. The problem is only growing larger as cases continue to surge.

  • Dr. Mark Ghaly, California’s secretary of health and human services: “Even a very robust contact tracing program in every single county will have a hard time reaching out to every single case.”

CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: California lawmakers are proposing a $100 billion “economic stimulus plan” financed by massive new borrowing. What could possibly go wrong?

Controlling COVID spread: California’s reopening and closing plans should be regionally coordinated based on existing and potential travel patterns, writes Katherine Florey, a professor at UC Davis School of Law.

Vote “yes” on Prop. 25: This would replace a money bail system that criminalizes poverty with a fair system that assesses each individual’s public safety risk, argues Sam Lewis of the Anti-Recidivism Coalition.


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Other things worth your time

Last California county without COVID-19 reports first positive cases. // Sacramento Bee

California schools scramble to teach teachers how to educate virtually. // CalMatters

Dispute between LAUSD and teachers union over online learning keeps parents in limbo. // Los Angeles Times

How Los Angeles and San Diego Unified started driving state education policy. // Voice of San Diego

California considers strict “George Floyd” law to punish police who fail to intervene. // Los Angeles Times

Stunning allegation against Vallejo police: Officers bent badges to mark people they killed. // San Francisco Chronicle

Oakland city council approves task force with goal of defunding police by 50%. // Mercury News

Medi-Cal’s new head wants to tackle disparities and racism. // California Healthline

Podcast: Trump and California’s suburbs. // CalMatters


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