State Sen. Bill Dodd’s recent bout with vertigo has nothing to do with the dizzying feeling he gets seeing the number of names — 46 — on the California Gubernatorial Recall Election ballot hitting mailboxes this week.
Not that Dodd, a former Republican, is concerned about potential replacements for Gavin Newsom. It’s the two boxes — “Yes” and “No” — he’s focusing on, backing up his support of the Democrat governor with a $75,000 mailer campaign.
The state’s Department of Finance says the recall election is costing taxpayers roughly $215.2 million — money Dodd believes “would go a long way of funding so many projects like improving Highway 37. There are so many needs. The idea we’re going to spend it on a sham recall effort doesn’t rise to the level of what I call good government.”
Just short of 1.5 million verified signatures were needed to trigger a statewide ballot. The state verified roughly 1.6 million signatures.
Recall organizers claim government overreach has led to dissatisfaction with Newsom’s leadership. They cite his executive order to phase out gasoline-powered cars by 2035 and rolling power outages to prevent wildfires, among other issues. They also cite a number of issues surrounding his handling of the coronavirus.
“There are a lot of people out there for some reason or other want to support this recall,” Dodd said by phone. “It’s my firm belief that a lot of things that have gone on — COVID-19, wildfires, utility shut-offs — since he became the chief executive officer of this state would happen no matter who is the governor of the state. He had little or no control over those things happening.”
Of the 22 million registered voters in California about 10 million (or 46%) are Democrat and 5 million (24%) are Republicans. The remaining 6.5 million (30%) are independents or registered to other parties, according to the most recent Report of Registration from the California Secretary of State released in February.
Newsom was elected in 2018, beating Republican challenger John Cox 61.9 % to 38.1%.
The thought of a sitting governor with that overwhelming a victory losing his job to someone with a comparatively minuscule portion of the vote on a crowded ballot doesn’t sit right with Dodd.
“They (recall supporters) are counting on this as their ‘January 6 opportunity’ to overturn the government, but doing it through a recall,” Dodd said, alluding to the failed takeover of the U.S. Capitol.
“This is what happens when either party can go too far,” said Dodd. “These are reactionary times.”
A main figure of that Capitol insurrection, an Arizona man wearing U.S. flag colors face paint, a furry hat and horns, is featured prominently on Dodd’s “Vote No” mailer. Another version of the mailer includes a photograph of the U.S. Capitol building from Jan. 6.
“His point is that the same people who stormed the Capitol are the same people who want to recall Newsom,” said Dodd spokesman Paul Payne.
Dodd is banking on the registered voter party difference to secure Newsom’s remaining term, set to end in January of 2023. Endorsed by Newsom in the 2016 state senate election, Dodd funded the mailout — “Are You Going to Let Them Win?” — as a reminder to vote and vote “No.”
“I think if the people of the state of California turn out and vote on this, I don’t think the chances are very good he will get recalled,” Dodd said. “I think we need to peel back the onion a little bit and stop and think what has been accomplished in terms of policies on climate change, trying to get a handle on the homeless, our budgets and what we’re investing in.”
“I ask that people just vote and let their voices be heard,” Dodd said, believing that “organizers of this recall see this as an opportunity to use COVID-19 and some of these other issues to try and move him out. They have a much better chance of getting someone elected through a recall than with a traditional election.”
Dodd believes recall supporters are counting on the heavy Democratic advantage to be distracted by the pandemic and forgo voting.
“If we don’t vote, we let them potentially win,” he said. “We know that if Democrats and independents vote in large numbers, this recall will fail.”
Dodd declined to speculate how a failed recall could backfire on Republicans.
“I’m not looking for a pound of flesh after this. For me, it’s about having them fail on this issue,” he said. “I’m happy to debate them or work with them on other issues that make sense for everyone who lives in the state or certainly in my district.”
Dodd believes there needs to be “some narrow criteria, whether a governor, legislator or local elected official” can be recalled. He cited Placerville, which is trying to recall four of its five council members because they want to “change the look of Main Street,” according to a recall organizer.
“That’s what elections are for,” Dodd said. “That’s direct democracy put in for a reason.”
Dodd, D-Napa, represents District 3, including all of Napa and Solano counties and parts of Contra Costa, Yolo and Sonoma counties.
California businesses will be able to require vaccine verification
Vallejo Times-Herald, by Emily Deruy & Solomon Moore, June 18, 2021
Don’t call it a “vaccine passport,” Gov. Gavin Newsom insists. But California is poised to roll out some sort of electronic vaccine verification system to help residents show businesses and others that they are inoculated against the coronavirus.
Promising more details in the coming days, Newsom earlier this week touted that the state is working on a digital version of the official paper immunization cards that people received when they got their shots. How the system will work, who will have access to it, and when it will launch are among the critical questions that the governor’s office did not respond to Wednesday.
But the growing anticipation comes as dozens of competing efforts for everything from personalized apps to unique registries are stirring up confusion and privacy concerns as California sheds its pandemic restrictions and fully reopens this week.
While details remain scarce about how the state’s vaccine verification system will fit in, a couple of things are clear.
For one, people won’t be required to use the system, Newsom said. But if you want to, say, attend a concert or book a flight, businesses will be able to require verification in the same way they can continue to require masks even though the state, with a few exceptions, no longer mandates them.
“Businesses have freedom of choice across the spectrum,” Newsom said Monday.
California would not be the first to unveil a statewide verification system. In March, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo launched the Excelsior Pass, a digital pass developed with the help of IBM that lets residents share their vaccination status or COVID-19 test results. Businesses can verify the information but don’t have access to personal health data.
Advocates of vaccine passports and verification systems say they can help residents and businesses get back to normal safely. They could ease access to concerts, baseball games, university campuses and other places where vaccination status matters.
“I think it makes sense on every level,” said John Swartzberg, an infectious disease expert and professor emeritus at UC Berkeley, who has been consulting with businesses.
“They would very much like to use a vaccine passport, but they don’t want to make the decision to do it,” Swartzberg said, acknowledging that the issue “is a political hot potato for them.”
Opponents of vaccine passports and verification systems have raised privacy and discrimination concerns. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an order banning the use of vaccine passports, and Texas has also banned state agencies and organizations that receive public money from requiring people to prove they’ve been jabbed.
The federal government has said it will not create a nationwide system or passport, leaving states, local governments and the private sector to choose whether to tackle vaccine verification, with a number of options emerging.
ID2020, a San Francisco-based collaborative of international civil society organizations and multinational travel, financial and technology companies, has been seeking to link digital identities with vaccine distribution since its founding in September 2019, before the coronavirus hit. Earlier this month, the group published a white paper called the Good Health Pass Interoperability Blueprint that is intended to standardize the cacophony of vaccine credentialing systems being built across the planet.
The collaborative, whose supporters include Microsoft, IBM, Salesforce, the Rockefeller Foundation, Deloitte and others, are advocating for systems that are digital, interoperable across platforms and jurisdictions, and secure. Other principles at the core of the effort include a commitment to making health passes consensual and flexible enough to accommodate a range of solutions, including mobile and secure physical documentation of vaccinations.
“We’ve seen more than 70 systems that have been proposed, globally,” said Pam Dixon, executive director of World Privacy Forum, an Oregon-based research organization. “I don’t know which system will win, but I do think that the International Air Transport Association system — which is the system that airlines are going to use — may win.”
But Dixon said she is concerned that the speed with which vaccine credential systems are being developed has precluded any transparent process for public involvement in their designs. Dixon also said she is concerned that any digital platforms for vaccine credentialing would put individuals’ privacy at risk because identities will be linked to health data or behaviors that could be exploited by unscrupulous companies and governments.
It’s unclear exactly which verification systems will be put to use where. But for now, in the current absence of a California-wide system, some residents have been showing their physical vaccination cards, photos of the cards or vaccine records on apps such as the CVS Pharmacy app to enter places such as the fully vaccinated sections at San Francisco Giants games at Oracle Park, nursing homes for visits and more. The cards are easy to damage or lose, though, and proponents of a vaccine verification system say the current situation needs to be improved.
“I think it’s unfortunate we don’t have more political leadership doing this,” Swartzberg said. “Ideally it’s an activity the state should take on.”
There may be light at the end of the tunnel, Gov. Gavin Newsom acknowledged Tuesday, but it’s a very, very dark tunnel.
California has placed an order for 5,000 additional body bags and has 60 53-foot refrigerators on standby at hospitals around the state. This comes as daily coronavirus deaths are four times higher than they were one month ago.
To combat this third and biggest surge of COVID-19, California is establishing medical overflow facilities and upping intensive care staffing.
The first 33,150 doses of the Pfizer vaccine have arrived in California and more are on the way this week, Newsom said. If the Moderna vaccine is authorized, Newsom anticipates the state will receive 2.1 million doses of both vaccines by the end of the month.
The first phase of vaccinations (called Phase 1A) includes health care workers and residents at long-term care settings, which is a population of about 3 million people. Phase 1B is a larger group of people, about 8 million Californians, and includes farm workers, grocery workers and teachers. Who among those 8 million is next in line is actively being discussed by the state, Newsom said.
It’s been “a very optimistic 48 hours,” the governor said, however the arrival of the vaccine is too little too late to help combat this winter surge of cases and hospitalizations.
The state saw 32,326 new COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours and intensive care units are starting to become overloaded.
As a region’s ICU capacity drops below 15%, it is required to implement a stay-at-home order.
The latest ICU capacity by region is:
Bay Area: 15.8%
Greater Sacramento: 14.9%
Northern California: 29.8%
San Joaquin Valley: 1.6%
Southern California: 1.7%
Here is Governor Newsom’s 1-hour 20-minute news conference on 12/15/20:
SACRAMENTO — Vast swaths of California will fall under new shutdown orders in the coming weeks after Gov. Gavin Newsom announced additional restrictions Thursday to try to slow the coronavirus surge in areas where intensive care unit capacity is dwindling.
Newsom said he was “pulling the emergency brake” to help California through a third surge of the pandemic, one he hoped would be a final ordeal before a coronavirus vaccine becomes widely available after the winter months.
“The bottom line is if we don’t act now, our hospital system will be overwhelmed. If we don’t act now, we’ll continue to see a death rate climb, more lives lost,” Newsom said during a news briefing. But, he added, “There is light at the end of this tunnel. We are not in a permanent state.”
The orders, which do not immediately impact the Bay Area, will close personal care services such as hair and nail salons, playgrounds, bars and wineries, movie theaters, museums and zoos in places where fewer than 15% of intensive care unit beds are available across an entire region. ICU capacity will be tracked in five regions: Bay Area, rural Northern California, Greater Sacramento, San Joaquin Valley and Southern California, stretching from San Luis Obispo to the Mexican border.
Retailers, grocery stores and other businesses in those regions that are allowed to remain open will have to operate at 20% capacity, and restaurants will be able to offer only takeout or delivery. No outdoor or indoor dining will be allowed. Schools that have received a waiver to reopen can continue to offer in-person classes.
The orders will remain in effect for at least three weeks after the state imposes them and can be lifted only if the available ICU capacity in the region is projected to rise above 15% again within four weeks after that. At that point, counties in the region will return to one of the state’s current color tiers, with associated restrictions, based on their individual case rates.
Dr. Grant Colfax, director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health, said Thursday that the city is considering issuing orders similar to the new state edict even before the city hits the 15% ICU mark. Alameda County public health officials Thursday indicated they may follow that same path, issuing stronger restrictions before the state takes action.
“Everything is on the table at this point,” Colfax said. “It is likely that we will take additional steps consistent with the governor’s orders soon.”
As of Thursday, the Bay Area region had 25.3% of its ICU beds available, the state said.
Whether San Francisco or other Bay Area counties move faster than the state prescribes depends on the trajectory of hospitalizations and case rates across the region, Colfax said. At the current rate, the city will run out of ICU beds on Dec. 26, Colfax said.
“And that’s without accounting for what we expect from Thanksgiving,” he said. “We are doing relatively well compared to the rest of the state, but the virus is spreading like wildfire across the state, and if we run out of beds, whether it’s San Francisco or Santa Clara (County), there is not going to be capacity to put people in beds outside the region.”
The state is also reinstating a ban on all nonessential travel statewide, a move intended to reduce mixing between households and discourage family gatherings ahead of the holidays. It includes an exemption for outdoor exercise.
“Today’s message is not about how do we mix safely,” said Mark Ghaly, secretary of California’s Health and Human Services Agency. “It’s about how we reduce our mixing altogether — staying at home unless it is absolutely essential.”
Newsom said the Bay Area will probably fall below the ICU threshold for new shutdowns by mid-December. The state defined Bay Area in this matter as San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Sonoma, Marin, Napa, Solano, Santa Cruz and Monterey counties.
Other parts of the state are expected to come under the stay-at-home order even sooner.
The moves come as California struggles with a dramatic rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, which has already forced Bay Area counties to crack down on community activities. Much of the state and every Bay Area county except Marin have instituted curfews prohibiting nonessential activity between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.
As of Thursday afternoon, the nine-county Bay Area had recorded 158,554 cases and 1,996 deaths since the pandemic began. The numbers have exploded over the past month.
The region averaged nearly 1,600 new cases per day for the week that ended Nov. 29, an increase of more than 33% over the previous week, according to a Chronicle data analysis. The Bay Area set an ignominious record in November, averaging 1,158 new cases a day, an average that increased to 1,500 a day over the last two weeks of the month. That’s compared to 480 new cases a day in October. The previous high for a month was 1,061 per day in August.
On Monday, following the Thanksgiving holiday, the Bay Area reported 2,500 cases, by far the most in a single day since the start of the health crisis.
Peter Chin-Hong, a professor of medicine and infectious diseases at UCSF, said Newsom’s order was not as drastic as it could have been. He said the governor could issue blanket restrictions but suspects he limited the order to preserve the economy.
Still, he said, the fact that there are hospitals in California with less than 15% capacity in their intensive care units is disturbing.
“For me it illustrates very loudly that this third surge in California is very different than the other two,” Chin-Hong said. “There is no room for complacency. I’m scared. Now everybody is hurting, so there is no give in the system.”
The surge is happening in every Bay Area county, but Chin-Hong said Santa Clara County is likely to be the hardest hit by the regulations, at least right away.
With nearly 2,000 COVID-19 patients in hospitals, only 44 ICU beds are available countywide, officials said. Dr. Sara Cody, the county health officer, said the county is in danger of running out of beds if the current trend continues.
One indication of Santa Clara County’s trouble is the fast-spreading outbreaks at long-term care facilities.
Dr. George Han, the county’s deputy public health officer, said Thursday that 151 people recently tested positive at the Amberwood Gardens skilled nursing center. Sixty have tested positive since Nov. 23, including four staffers, at San Jose’s Boccardo Reception Center. Fourteen tested positive there Wednesday.
Han said the infected residents and those with exposure were put up in hotels. It was the county’s first large-scale outbreak at a homeless shelter, but it wasn’t the only one. Seven people have tested positive since Nov. 18 at South Hall, a shelter in San Jose.
“We have seen an increase recently in all these settings,” said Han, who attributed the increase to a rise in cases throughout the community. “It is more dangerous right now in our community than at any other point in the pandemic.”
In an attempt to quell the spread, Santa Clara County issued a travel directive Monday requiring a 14-day quarantine for people who travel into the county from a distance greater than 150 miles.
The disease is rampant in San Francisco, which reported 209 new infections on Thursday, a count not seen since the summer surge in July. It brought the total cases in the city to 16,001 since the start of the pandemic. The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in San Francisco has increased 45% in the past week, and cases have more than quadrupled over a month.
The daily average of new cases in California climbed above 15,000 in the past week, Newsom said, and the number of deaths is rising again, as well. The state saw back-to-back days of more than 100 deaths this week, including 113 on Wednesday, the governor said. A month ago, the daily total was 14 deaths.
Newsom said that without further public health interventions, the state could run out of capacity in intensive care units by Christmas Eve if the surge continues at its current rate. About three-quarters of ICU beds are full, nearly 25% with COVID-19 patients.
Restaurant owners were relieved that Newsom did not shut down outdoor dining statewide at once, an option the governor could have considered.
“I was prepared for the worst, but I’m relieved that the governor made some concessions for restaurants to allow us to try to stay afloat,” said Rocco Biale, the owner of Rocco’s Ristorante Pizzeria in Walnut Creek. “It’s a break for the restaurant industry. Let’s see how long it can last.”
Los Angeles County and the city of Los Angeles adopted their own modified stay-at-home orders this week, largely prohibiting people from gathering outside their immediate households but allowing retail businesses, parks, beaches, golf courses and tennis courts to remain open.
Republican leaders immediately slammed the new order as excessively harsh and questioned the scientific rationale behind the move.
“Gov. Newsom continues to disrupt life as we know it without releasing the full data behind his decisions or showing the impact his actions are having on our lives,” state Senate Republican Leader Shannon Grove of Bakersfield said in a statement. “The governor owes the state leadership that is committed to transparency and accountability.”
Recognizing that frustration has mounted across the state with his quickly changing restrictions, Newsom practically begged Californians to take the latest order seriously.
“This is the time, if there was any doubt, to put aside your doubt,” he said, “to put aside your skepticism, to put aside your cynicism, to put aside your ideology, to put aside any consideration except this: Lives are in the balance. Lives will be lost, unless we do more than we’ve ever done.”
San Francisco Chronicle staff writers Erin Allday and Michael Williams contributed to this report.