Newsom reopening comments backfire: State of emergency to stay

Gov. Gavin Newsom randomly selects cash prize winners at the California Lottery Building in Sacramento on June 4, 2021. Photo by Laurel Rosenhall, CalMatters

Friday wasn’t a lucky day for Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The stage was set — literally — for a positive announcement. Newsom, standing in front of shimmery gold and red curtains and a Wheel of Fortune-style gizmo in the California Lottery Building in Sacramento, randomly selected the first 15 winners of a $50,000 cash prize from the state’s vaccine lottery program. Confetti rained down on the governor as he held up a supersized check emblazoned with “Vax for the Win” and “FIFTY THOUSAND DOLLARS.”

But then tough questions from reporters began raining down, and the state’s June 15 grand reopening started to look a little hazy.

First, Newsom suggested he wouldn’t take executive action to overturn rules passed late Thursday night by California’s workplace safety agency requiring many employees to keep wearing masks past June 15. Then, in response to a question from CalMatters’ Laurel Rosenhall, he said he would not end California’s state of emergency on June 15.

  • Newsom: “This disease has not been extinguished. It’s not vanished. It’s not taking the summer months off.”

Keeping the emergency status allows California to bypass certain rules and expedite federal funding even as businesses reopen, which Newsom’s administration says is necessary to handle the lingering effects of the pandemic. But it also provides fodder to Newsom’s critics, who accused him Friday of wanting to hold on to emergency powers that have allowed him to unilaterally affect more than 400 laws and regulations.

Just like that, the main takeaway from Friday’s event went from “cash prizes for getting vaccinated” to “Newsom doesn’t plan to end the state of emergency.” The rapidly shifting narrative underscores the extent to which the outcome of the almost-certain recall election may depend on timing. As Laurel reports, some top Democrats appear to be pushing for the election to be held as soon as mid-September — a move that could capitalize on promising polls and shorten the window for political pitfalls.

Meanwhile, Newsom continues to rake in donations, according to a CalMatters tracker, and endorsements. The California Teachers Association on Saturday said it would support Newsom against the recall, the latest influential union to do so.

The coronavirus bottom line: As of Sunday, California had 3,689,994 confirmed cases (+0.03% from previous day) and 62,470 deaths (+0.4% from previous day), according to a CalMatters tracker.

California has administered 38,429,927 vaccine doses, and 52.9% of eligible Californians are fully vaccinated.

Plus: CalMatters regularly updates this pandemic timeline tracking the state’s daily actions. We’re also tracking the state’s coronavirus hospitalizations by county and lawsuits against COVID-19 restrictions.

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