Good morning, California. It’s Tuesday, November 23.
Note: The newsletter will pause until Monday, Nov. 29.Happy Thanksgiving!
Plus, Newsom goes to Mexico
‘Tis the season … for more police officers at shopping malls.
Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday that Californians could expect to see “substantially more” law enforcement officers near “highly trafficked” retail stores starting immediately, as businesses prepare for hordes of holiday shoppers after a weekend wave of Bay Area robberies that saw thieves abscond with thousands of dollars of merchandise.
Newsom said Monday that the budget proposal he’ll send to state lawmakers in January contains “an exponential increase of support” to help cities and counties fight organized retail theft “and other quality of life issues.” But he also suggested the problem isn’t just the state’s to solve. “Mayors have to step up,” Newsom said. “Gotta be assertive, gotta be tough.”
Newsom: “I have no sympathy, no empathy whatsoever for people smashing and grabbing, stealing people’s items, creating havoc and terror in our streets. … We want real accountability. We want people prosecuted. And we want people to feel safe this holiday season.”
Shortly after making those comments at a San Francisco vaccine clinic, Newsom’s office announced that the governor had left the state to join First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom and their four children in Mexico, where they are slated to stay until Nov. 28. Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis will serve as acting governor in Newsom’s absence.
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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Sunday, California had 4,773,641 confirmed cases(+0.3% from previous day) and 73,199 deaths(+0.3% from previous day), according to state data. CalMatters is also tracking coronavirus hospitalizations by county.
A few hours after Newsom departed to Mexico, the state released a seven-month-overdue report into its problem-plagued COVID-19 testing lab, for which it recently auto-renewed a contract worth up to $1.7 billion. State health inspectors had warned in February that the lab could lose its license; in the Monday report, they said the lab had “satisfactorily addressed all the identified deficiencies” and inspections were closing “with no sanctions imposed.” But the report shows that as recently as Oct. 21, state inspectors planned to impose sanctions on the lab for certain deficiencies that weren’t satisfactorily addressed until Nov. 10 — more than a week after California auto-renewed the lab’s contract. A separate federal investigation into the lab is still ongoing.
April reports revealed that the lab was altering testing results days after notifying patients — and not informing them of the changes.
The lab, which is contractually obligated to turn around test results within 48 hours, took more than three days to return results for 30% of tests processed between Sept. 26 and Oct. 2.
In other COVID news, California is seeing “encouraging” numbers, including the nation’s lowest positivity rate of 1.9% and declining hospitalizations and intensive-care admissions, Newsom said Monday at the San Francisco vaccine clinic. But, he warned, Californians can’t “let their guard down.” Although the state as a whole is doing better than it was a year ago, at least 18 of 58 counties on Monday had more COVID hospitalizations than they did at the same time last year — and another five had just as many, CalMatters’ Ana Ibarra and Hannah Getahun report. And although virtually all adults are now eligible for booster shots, appointments can be hard to come by: In most Bay Area counties, none are available until least early December. Santa Cruz County, meanwhile, has reinstated its indoor mask mandate to help stave off a possible winter surge.
How serious is California’s housing crisis? Well, Long Beach City College recently authorized homeless students to sleep in their cars in a secure parking lot. And at least four University of California campuses have resorted to renting hotel rooms for hundreds of students unable to secure housing — though they’re offering different levels of financial assistance, Ryan Loyola and Sindhu Ananthavel report for CalMatters’ College Journalism Network. At UC San Diego, undergraduates must pay for their own hotel rooms — which works out to about $5,000 per month even with a discounted rate negotiated by the university. Contributing to the steep costs, many students are forced to eat out or order in food because the hotel rooms don’t have kitchens. Add lengthy commutes and frequent shuttling between hotels, and you get a recipe that some students say have caused them to fall behind in their classes.