Category Archives: California Governor Gavin Newsom

Solano County schools ordered to stay closed this fall

Gov. Newsom orders California schools on watch list stay closed

SFGate, by Amy Graff, July 17, 2020
California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Press Conference, July 17, 2020

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a Friday press briefing that schools in counties on the  watch list for more than 14 days open with distance learning. Counties would need to meet strict criteria for schools to offer in-class instruction.

This marks a change in what Newsom has said in the past with the state initially giving school districts the flexibility to reopen on their own timelines in consultation with local public health officials.

Newsom also said the new reopening guidelines for schools require teachers and students in third grade and above to wear masks. There’s also a new requirement to keep students six-feet-apart.

More than half of the state’s 58 counties are on the watch list including seven Bay Area counties — Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, Santa Clara,  Solano  and Sonoma. Being on the list puts restrictions on the ability to reopen various segments of the economy.

The California Department of Public Health created the watch list to monitor counties that experience significant changes in COVID-19 infection rates, an increase in hospitalizations, outbreaks in congregate settings or a rise in community transmission at workplaces. Counties on the list are working with the state to identify the causes for any worrisome trends and next steps to mitigate the virus spread. The watch list is constantly changing based the latest data available from public health departments.

Several school districts have already said their schools will begin the new term virtually, including Los Angeles and San Diego, the state’s two largest, with a combined population of 720,000 K-12 students.

San Francisco Unified School District announced this week fall semester classes will begin August 17 via distance learning exclusively.

The news, sent in a letter by Superintendent Dr. Vincent Matthews, notes that the district eventually hopes to implement a “hybrid approach” to learning. This involves a combination of in-person classroom learning and virtual instruction, but only “when science and data suggest it is safe to do so.”

Administrators intend to release a plan detailing ways in which virtual learning can be improved in a meeting with the San Francisco Board of Education on July 28 at 3 p.m. The “most essential details” will be shared with parents the following day.

Oakland, Sacramento, Long Beach, Santa Ana and San Bernardino are among the other districts opting not to immediately return to classrooms.

Some districts have said they aim to open with hybrid models. The Palo Alto Unified School District recently approved a plan for distancing learning for high school and middle school students and a return to classrooms for elementary school students. The Alum Rock district in San Jose said 90% of students will continue with online school while 10% will come to class. Students in foster care and with disabilities will be prioritized for on-site school.

The decisions were made amid growing concern by teachers and parents over the state’s surge of coronavirus cases and uncertainty surrounding the safety of both students and staff on campuses. The state this week reported its second-highest one-day totals in infection rates and deaths since the start of the pandemic and more than 7,200 have died.

Many small, rural communities argue they shouldn’t have to comply with the same rules as big cities where infection rates are higher. Thurmond indicated Wednesday that he agreed.

“We have some counties in this state where the number of cases is actually quite low,” Thurmond said. As long as schools in those counties follow state guidance on hand washing, six feet (1.8 meters) of spacing, maintaining physical distance and face coverings, Thurmond said, “we believe that those schools can open safely.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

As Oil Giant Goes Bankrupt, California Governor Urged to Hold Industry Responsible for Well Cleanups

SACRAMENTO, Calif.— As one of California’s largest oil producers enters bankruptcy, the Center for Biological Diversity and Sierra Club today urged Gov. Gavin Newsom to prevent California Resources Corporation and other troubled oil companies from shirking legal obligations to clean up their wells and prevent pollution. CRC filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Wednesday.

Today’s letter calls on the governor to intervene in CRC’s bankruptcy proceedings to ensure the company sets aside enough money for well cleanup. CRC and its affiliates operate approximately 18,700 wells in California, which could cost more than $1 billion to properly plug, according to the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis. Of these, 7,826 are already “idle,” which means they’ve produced little to no oil in the past two years.

“Bankruptcy proceedings like these endanger California because oil companies like CRC can weaponize them to dump their environmental cleanup costs on the public,” said Kassie Siegel, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Given the huge number of wells at stake, the Newsom administration should intervene quickly to protect the public from those costs and our environment from pollution. More big oil bankruptcies are coming, and Gov. Newsom has a responsibility to be ready.”

“CRC’s bankruptcy is likely just the first of many as the oil industry inevitably declines in California. Gov. Newsom has the tools to protect the public from Big Oil, but so far he hasn’t used them,” said Kathryn Phillips, director of the Sierra Club California. “It’s critical that Gov. Newsom ensure that failing oil companies are held accountable for cleaning up their own mess, rather than leaving taxpayers and workers to pay the price.”

Although oil companies are required to pay for the cost of properly plugging and abandoning wells, they have not set aside nearly the amount required for remediation. Statewide, the California Council on Science and Technology estimates that cleaning up California’s approximately 107,000 oil and gas wells would cost over $9.2 billion, yet the bonds that are supposed to cover these costs total only about $107 million.

Today’s letter also urges Gov. Newsom to take proactive steps to protect the public and the environment in anticipation of a likely wave of future oil and gas bankruptcies. These steps include:

  • Increasing and accelerating well plugging and abandonment requirements to reduce air and water pollution and create jobs.
  • Increasing bond requirements to ensure that oil and gas companies set aside enough financial resources to cover the full costs of remediation even if they become insolvent.
  • Ensuring that the oil and gas industry as a whole – not taxpayers –funds the remediation of truly “orphaned” wells, by increasing the administrative fee on well owners as needed.
  • Avoiding the accrual of additional well cleanup costs by halting approvals and permits for new oil and gas activity, including new wells and fracking permits.
  • Taking steps to ensure that oil and gas companies satisfy their obligations to workers by honoring their pension and healthcare commitments.

Despite the dire outlook for the company, Newsom has continued to issue CRC new permits to drill wells. State oil regulators have issued CRC and its affiliates permits to drill nearly 300 new wells so far this year, including 27 new permits in just the first week of July, all without conducting environmental review required by law. Newsom has approved this expansion of drilling operations despite CRC’s long record of violating safety and environmental regulations.

“As other companies flirt with insolvency, the governor should accelerate well remediation by solvent operators, increase bonding levels on existing wells, and stop digging the hole deeper by handing out new drilling permits,” said Siegel. “Forcing companies to clean up their own messes would create jobs, keep the public safe from unattended wells and make sure polluters are the ones paying for cleanup.”

Statewide, Newsom has issued 1,500 drilling permits for new wells so far this year. He also lifted a moratorium on fracking by authorizing 360 new fracking events over the past few months.

In 2014, CRC was created as a spin-off by Occidental Petroleum and took over Occidental’s California oil and gas wells. Since then, CRC has performed poorly, earning “junk bond” status from ratings agencies. CRC blamed the coronavirus pandemic and economic downturn for the bankruptcy, but CRC was at high risk of bankruptcy even before these events, as detailed in a report from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.


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Newsom orders all California counties to close indoor restaurants, shut down bars

[BenIndy editor: See also video of Newsom’s press conference on ABC7.  – R.S.]
San Francisco Chronicle, by Dustin Gardiner, July 13, 2020
Gov. Gavin Newsom at a coronavirus-related briefing in Pittsburg on July 1.
Gov. Gavin Newsom at a coronavirus-related briefing in Pittsburg on July 1. Photo: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered every county in California to close indoor restaurants, movie theaters and wineries Monday as the state combats a surge in coronavirus cases.

He also ordered bars to cease all operations, indoor and outdoor, throughout the state.

Newsom had previously directed 30 counties on the state’s “watch list” due to surging outbreaks to close business operations in those sectors. But Newsom said the order will now extend to all 58 California counties.

Newsom’s statewide closure order applies to a host of other indoor spaces: zoos, museums, cardrooms and family entertainment centers. Those establishments are still allowed to operate outdoors in most counties, including restaurant patios.

In addition, Newsom ordered the 30 counties on the state watch list to close gyms, churches, offices for non-critical work sectors, shopping malls and barbershops and hair salons.

More than 80% percent of California’s population lives in those 30 counties. In the Bay Area, the list includes Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, Solano and Sonoma counties.

The governor said the order comes as hospitalizations and new cases continue to surge, and some rural counties, such as Placer and Lake counties, are nearing bed capacity in hospital intensive care units.

“This virus is not going away any time soon,” he said. “It’s incumbent upon all of us to recognize soberly that COVID -19 is not going away any time soon, until there is a vaccine and/or an effective therapy.”

Solano County among 19 California counties ordered to close bars, indoors restaurant seating and more

Newsom orders new shutdown of restaurants, other indoor business in 19 California counties

San Francisco Chronicle, by Dustin Gardiner July 1, 2020
Gov. Gavin Newsom at a news conference in Sacramento on Jan. 10.
Gov. Gavin Newsom at a news conference in Sacramento on Jan. 10. Photo: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered 19 counties with surging coronavirus outbreaks to close indoor restaurants, wineries, movie theaters and other venues on Wednesday, saying California must act to keep the pandemic from spiraling out of control.

Newsom said the state has directed counties on its “watch list” — those with spiking numbers of new cases and hospitalizations — to reimpose parts of their stay-at-home orders. His directive came as the state warned that the virus could spread from family gatherings on the the Fourth of July weekend.

In the Bay Area, the list includes Contra Costa, Santa Clara and Solano counties.

“We’ve seen increased activity where people simply aren’t able to practice social distancing,” Newsom said at a briefing.

His order requires restaurants, wineries, family entertainment centers, movie theaters, museums, zoos and cardrooms in the 19 counties to halt indoor operations for at least three weeks. The affected establishments are allowed to operate outdoors, such as restaurant patios.

Newsom also ordered the full closure of all bars and breweries in the 19 counties, both indoor and outdoor operations.

Combined, the 19 counties include nearly three-fourths of California’s population. Besides the Bay Area counties, the list includes Los Angeles, Orange, Sacramento, Stanislaus, Fresno, Glenn, Imperial, Kern, Kings, Merced, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Joaquin, Santa Barbara, Tulare and Ventura counties.

The governor said the state will also close parking lots at state beaches, including those in the Bay Area, for the holiday weekend.

Newsom implored Californians to practice social distancing and wear masks as they mingle and travel for the holiday. He said people must “disabuse” themselves of any notion that people have stopped dying of COVID-19, noting that the statewide death toll hit 110 on Tuesday.

“Let’s do our best to meet this moment, as we met the moment many months ago and bent the curve again the first time,” he said. “Let’s do it again.”

On Tuesday, the state recorded 7,820 new cases — its second-highest tally in a 24-hour period — and surpassed 6,000 deaths. The state reported 5,898 new cases on Wednesday.

Newsom’s administration began allowing counties in May to move ahead on reopening businesses including indoor restaurants and shopping malls if they hit benchmarks in slowing the spread of the virus and creating capacity to contain a surge.

Most of California’s 58 counties have allowed some nonessential businesses to reopen, although the pace has been slower in the Bay Area than elsewhere.

In recent days, however, some of those efforts have been reversed — several counties have closed bars again, and San Francisco, Marin, Alameda and Contra Costa counties all pulled back on plans to let gyms and hair salons reopen.

Alarming updates about the virus’ toll continue to mount: San Francisco announced Tuesday that the city has seen a 49% spike in hospitalizations over the last week as patients from San Quentin State Prison and hard-hit rural Imperial County were transferred to city hospitals.

Dustin Gardiner is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer.