“A surge on top of a surge” of the coronavirus is incoming, Gov. Gavin Newsom warned Monday in his first briefing of what’s already shaping up to be an exhausting year.
With the holidays over, the governor said, more than 2.4 million Californians have been infected, some 27,000 are dead, hospitals are overwhelmed and only about a third of the state’s 1.3 million vaccine doses have made it into the arms of patients.
That lag, he said, is a function of California’s size and complex logistics. More than 450,000 people have gotten their first dose, but “that is not good enough.”
In Los Angeles County, people suffering from Covid-19 have been waiting in emergency lanes for hours while exhausted staff members try to find bed space; health authorities have directed ambulance crews to stop transporting patients whose survival is unlikely and start conserving their oxygen.
In San Bernardino County, a clinical director at a large hospital told reporters that cots have been placed in conference rooms, with plans to put overflow patients in the cafeteria and lobby. In San Diego County, Mr. Newsom said, the new, highly transmissible variant of the virus has now been pinpointed in at least four cases, for a total of at least a half-dozen statewide.
What’s being done
If California’s terrifying pandemic numbers seem to have leveled off, Mr. Newsom said, it is only because more Californians are getting the message — and because the inevitable deaths and infections generated by those who couldn’t or wouldn’t stay home or wear masks will take a few days.
Mr. Newsom, who will open state budget negotiations this week, said he planned to ask the Legislature for $300 million to help pay for vaccine distribution and outreach. He also has deployed members of the California National Guard and authorized dentists and pharmacy technicians to help give shots. Additional nursing reinforcements have been dispatched to help care for the flood of patients and to help deliver and refill oxygen tanks.
Talk of recall
The governor delivered his report in a voice so gravelly after a year of daily pandemic reports that his livestream hecklers commented on it between their usual demands that he be drummed out of office. “Let my salon open!” they digitally jeered. “Lies lies lies lies lies!” “Let’s talk about your recall!”
At least one Republican-led effort to oust the governor has, in fact, been gaining momentum. A mysterious Orange County organization with a scant paper trail and a biblical name recently donated $500,000, which is already being used to solicit support, campaign records indicate.
On Monday, Ann Ravel, a former chair of the Federal Election Commission who lives in Northern California and who is a Democrat, like Mr. Newsom, charged that the group, Prov 3:9, LLC, appears to be a shell company set up to hide the identity of dark money donors, and filed a complaint urging the state attorney general and elections officials to get to the bottom of it. Organizers of the recall drive said her concern was just an attempt to discredit their campaign.
Here’s what else to know today
As the governor was briefing the news media on California’s slow vaccine distribution on Monday, a Mendocino County hospital was furiously inoculating hundreds of people in an ad hoc response to a broken freezer where 830 doses of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine were thawing, rapidly. [The Los Angeles Times]
That San Jose hospital outbreak tied to an inflatable Christmas tree costume has not only infected 44 people, but now also claimed the life of a Kaiser Permanente employee. [The Mercury News]
Anti-mask protesters stormed a Ralph’s grocery store and the Westfield Century City mall on Sunday, calling customers “mask Nazis” and ramming masked shoppers with shopping carts. The disruption comes a week after people in Trump regalia orchestrated a similar clash at a Fairfax grocery store. [The Los Angeles Times]
Seven Costcos. Eight Home Depots. Ten Targets, six McDonald’s locations, four Chick-Fil-As, three Apple stores, the Cerritos Nordstrom. Netflix, LAX. Workplace outbreaks are a big driver of coronavirus infections in Los Angeles County. [The Los Angeles Times]
More than 225 Google engineers and other workers have formed a union, capping years of growing activism at one of the world’s largest companies and presenting a rare beachhead for labor organizers in staunchly anti-union Silicon Valley. [The New York Times]
The first workweek of 2021 kicked off on Monday with a major disruption at the workplace software company Slack, based in San Francisco. [The New York Times]
The American Legion removed an Escondido post commander from two national leadership roles in the veterans service organization after he bragged on social media about joining the Proud Boys and violently attacking a liberal demonstrator as part of a pro-Trump protest. [The San Diego Union-Tribune]
And Finally …
The White House on Monday awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Representative Devin Nunes, characterizing the Central Valley Republican’s defense of President Trump during the investigation into Russia’s 2016 election interference as an act of “unassailable integrity.”
The award is the nation’s highest civilian honor, meant to recognize “exceptional contributions” to national security, world peace or cultural and other “significant” endeavors. Past California winners have included the former governor and Supreme Court chief justice Earl Warren, the record-setting test pilot Chuck Yeager and President Ronald Reagan.
White House officials told Maggie Haberman and Nicholas Fandos that Mr. Trump wanted to recognize Mr. Nunes’s political loyalty during a probe that the president condemned as a partisan “witch hunt,” even as multiple congressional committees and U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russia had meddled in the election with the aim of sending Mr. Trump to the White House.
A White House news release said Mr. Nunes had “had the fortitude to take on the media, the F.B.I., the Intelligence Community, the Democrat Party, foreign spies, and the full power of the Deep State.” The Government Accountability Project, a watchdog group, condemned the award, saying that Mr. Nunes had “damaged our national interests” with attacks on government employees who risked careers to expose wrongdoing by the Trump camp.
The president also plans to award a medal to Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, another outspoken ally.
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California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.