Gavin Newsom Declares Drought Emergency In Two California Counties

Gov. Gavin Newsom officially declared a drought emergency Wednesday in one of the driest regions of California, the Russian River watershed in Northern California.

While the governor stopped short of declaring a statewide drought, the move makes various forms of drought assistance available for Sonoma and Mendocino counties and could allow the state to take swifter action on curtailing farmers and others from pulling water from the river.

Newsom said his order won’t bring the imposition of water-conservation mandates, however.

The Democratic governor issued the declaration during a visit to Lake Mendocino in Ukiah, where he stood in a cracked, dry lake bed that vividly demonstrated the impact of the drought. …

Click here to read the full article from the Sacramento Bee.

California’s Coronavirus Case Rate The Lowest In The Continental U.S.

California’s coronavirus case rate is now the lowest in the continental U.S., an achievement that reflects months of hard-won progress against the pandemic in the aftermath of the state’s devastating fall and winter surge.

The state’s latest seven-day rate of new cases — 40.3 per 100,000 people — is dramatically lower than the nationwide rate of 135.3 and edged only by Hawaii, 39.1, over the same time period, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

At the other end of the spectrum is Michigan, which has far and away the highest seven-day case rate in the nation, at 483 per 100,000 people. Others topping that distressing leaderboard are New Jersey, 269.7; Delaware, 264.1; Pennsylvania, 248.5; and Minnesota, 238.4.

Among larger states, the comparable rates over the same time period were 201.1 in Florida and 65.9 in Texas. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times.

GOP Lawsuit Over Newsom’s COVID Powers Faces Tough Questions From California Judges

Republican lawmakers faced tough questions from appeals court judges on Tuesday in a case where they argue Gov. Gavin Newsom overstepped his executive power when issuing orders related to the pandemic.

Newsom’s attorneys are seeking to have the Third District Court of Appeal overturn a lower court’s ruling that found the governor misused his emergency authority with an executive order related to mail-in elections during the coronavirus pandemic.

Republican Assemblymen Kevin Kiley and James Gallagher, who filed the lawsuit, sparred with appeals court judges or talked over them during a contentious oral argument.

At one point, Judge Ronald B. Robie told Kiley that if he isn’t satisfied with the way the governor is acting under the COVID-19 state of emergency, the lawmakers should act to end it. …

Click here to read the full article from the Sacramento Bee.

Would Villaraigosa Run Again For Governor?

Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa popped in to speak to a Loyola Marymount University class earlier this year, offering up a story about the pandemic and his career.

When some people ask if he’s glad he’s not governor or mayor during the tumultuous period of the health crisis, Villaraigosa responds with a dirty look, he told the students, according to a video of the class.

“I say, ‘Obviously, you don’t know me,’ ” Villaraigosa said, sounding as feisty as when he would spar with reporters at City Hall news conferences. “Because if you did, you would know I want to be right in the middle of all of it.”

He could soon get his chance. Three years after his underwhelming performance in the California governor’s race, Villaraigosa is being talked about as a possible Democratic candidate in the likely recall election of Gov. Gavin Newsom. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times.

Vaccine passports in California?

Now that more than 7.5 million Californians have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the Newsom administration has set a goal of reopening the state’s economy by June 15. So what does the state plan to do when it comes to proving that people are vaccinated?

State health officials said Tuesday that verification of immunization or testing may be required before some large events are allowed. But so far, they haven’t issued any guidelines or advice for businesses on how to do that.

A theater, for example, could create a section of vaccinated people who may sit shoulder to shoulder for a performance, while requiring unvaccinated people to socially distance in a separate section. 

A convention center could hold a conference for more than 5,000 people — but only if it establishes that everyone has been vaccinated or tested, according to a state order.

How will those venues verify who’s vaccinated and who isn’t? And what about travel? Public health experts, regulators and businesses are wrestling — in a highly politicized environment — with logistical, ethical and legal questions about how and whether to verify COVID immunization status. 

For now, California has no plans to create a statewide vaccine passport or other credential. But private businesses, especially airlines, could require them in the near future.

Here are answers to six questions you may have about vaccine passports. 

What is a vaccine passport, and what are their pros and cons? 

A vaccine passport or credential verifies that the person carrying it has been fully immunized against COVID-19. A related “health pass” also could verify immunization, or could confirm a negative COVID-19 test or recovery from COVID-19 and some subsequent immunity. 

Supporters of vaccine passports say they can help reopen the economy more quickly, portraying them as a temporary fix needed only until enough people have been immunized to reach herd immunity. The travel industry, including airlines and cruise lines, is particularly keen to get countries to ease restrictions on international travel and has said vaccine passports could help. 

Critics say that credentials based on health status — especially if they’re digital-only — reinforce racial and economic inequities already seen throughout the pandemic and raise civil liberties and privacy concerns. 

The U.S. debate over vaccine passports has a distinctly partisan tinge, with many conservatives decrying them as government overreach. 

Does the U.S. government require any kind of vaccine passport? What about other countries?

No. White House officials have said repeatedly that the federal government will not create any kind of national vaccine passport. There is no federal mandate to be immunized against COVID-19. 

However, federal officials are working with private companies to create privacy and equity standards for private passports that are now being developed, the Washington Post recently reported

Other countries or regions are planning or already have developed national vaccine passports or health passes, including Israel, China, Japan and the European Union. Some of these countries are linking the digital passports to their national health care systems or immunization registries. 

Requiring proof of vaccination for travel isn’t new: A number of countries mandate yellow fever or other vaccinations for incoming international travelers, and the United States requires numerous vaccinations for new immigrants.

Will California require any kind of vaccine passport? 

California’s top health official, Dr. Mark Ghaly, said Tuesday that the state has no plans to develop its own vaccine passport.

Despite this, Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, a Republican from Rocklin, tweeted Tuesday that he plans to draft legislation “to stop the madness of vaccine passports before it starts.”

However, the state also sent some mixed messages: Businesses by June 15 “may return to usual operations…with limited public health restrictions, such as….testing or vaccination verification requirements for large-scale higher-risk events,” according to the state’s announcement.

In addition, the state would specifically require conventions of more than 5,000 people to verify attendees’ vaccination or negative COVID test status. “Unless testing or vaccination status is verified for all attendees, conventions will be capped at 5,000 persons until October 1,” according to the state order.

Ghaly said state officials will monitor private sector development of passports for privacy, equity and fairness.  …

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Half of California Adults Have at Least One Vaccination Shot

More than half of California adults have now received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, a promising milestone that comes as the state is now inoculating as wide a swath of its residents as possible.

To date, 52.2% of Californians 18 and older have been at least partially vaccinated, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That level of coverage ranks 11th among all states, federal figures show, and is higher than the proportion of adults who have received a dose in other heavily populated states — including Pennsylvania, 51.8%; New York, 51.3%; Texas, 45%; and Florida, 44.8%.

Nationwide, 48.3% of adult Americans have received at least one shot. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times.

Caitlyn Jenner for Governor of California?

What on Earth makes Caitlyn Jenner believe she’s qualified to be governor of California?

She’s an Olympic gold-medal-winning decathlete, a former spokesperson for Wheaties; she posed for the cover of Playgirl magazine, has appeared in all sorts of TV shows including “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” and is an activist on behalf of transgender rights.

That’s a lot of stuff for one person’s resume. But nothing on it screams out “Gov. Jenner.” She has no electoral or policymaking experience. Call me narrow-minded, but neither throwing javelins nor peddling breakfast cereal is meaningful preparation for running post-COVID California.

Nevertheless, when Axios reported earlier this month that Jenner was exploring a run to replace Gov. Gavin Newsom (assuming the recall election moves forward), her candidacy was taken seriously by a number of political professionals — simply because she’s really, really famous. “I think she’d be a formidable candidate,” said former GOP Rep. Mimi Walters. Former GOP Chairman Jim Brulte called her “viable.” …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times.

Here’s where the Democratic and Republican parties are growing most in California

For the first time in nearly two decades, the Republican Party grew in California last year. At the same time, Democrats expanded their dominance as the largest party in the state.

Political experts say the growth of both parties — with a simultaneous decline in the number of independents — is the result of growing polarization in the state’s electorate and a belief on both sides of the divide that the opposing party poses an existential threat.

The Chronicle analyzed registration numbers across California and found that voters in almost every county gravitated toward the two major parties starting after the 2018 elections and running through the November 2020 presidential vote. …

Click here to read the full article from the San Francisco Chronicle.

California Ban On Fracking Fails To Advance

A far-reaching proposal to outlaw hydraulic fracturing and ban oil and gas wells from operating near homes, schools and healthcare facilities failed in the California Legislature on Tuesday, a major setback for progressive leaders who hail the state as the nation’s bellwether on environmental protection.

Gov. Gavin Newsom in September called on state lawmakers to ban fracking and voiced his support for safety buffer zones around wells, saying they posed a significant health threat to vulnerable Californians, primarily in predominantly Black and Latino communities near well fields and refineries.

The legislation that failed Tuesday was much more ambitious than what Newsom proposed, however, and faced fierce opposition from California’s oil industry, which holds tremendous political sway among Central Valley legislators, along with trade unions, a powerful force within the Democratic Party. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times.

Lawsuit Seeks To Clear Out Skid Row

The plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit about homelessness are calling for the city and county of Los Angeles to offer some form of shelter to skid row’s most vulnerable by August.

The legal move — a request for a preliminary injunction — comes as lawyers for the group of mostly downtown business owners and residents are said to be inching toward a settlement with the city that would require it to provide new housing or shelter for thousands of homeless people across the city. At the same time, it would allow the city to use anti-camping laws to clear anyone remaining on the streets.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs want the city and county to offer some form of shelter or housing within 90 days to every homeless person between 3rd and 8th streets and Alameda and Main streets, a downtown quadrant that essentially encompasses skid row.

Their brief describes how homeless people are dying on the streets of Los Angeles every day and how, on April 7, a man in a wheelchair burned to death in a tent on skid row, and his charred corpse “remained on the sidewalk for hours, a testament to decades of intentional actions and deliberate indifference by the city and county.” …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times.