This week, California is taking its biggest strides yet toward a full reopening, a year after the state became the first in the nation to impose a shelter-in-place order.
For the first time in months, restaurants across the vast majority of California, including in Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego and Orange Counties, are allowed to open indoor dining rooms. Gyms, movie theaters and other businesses have also gotten the green light to operate inside at reduced capacity, as most of the state’s 58 counties are allowed to move to less restrictive tiers in the state’s color-coded reopening framework.
“And we’re going to see even more movement next week,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Tuesday, speaking from an Alameda County elementary school. “We’re going to see more and more business activity, more people back in schools, more energy, more optimism about our state and its future.”
He said that public health officials were still figuring out what a green tier might entail, but that one was in the works. (When he first unveiled the state’s color-coded tier system, the governor said that yellow would be the least restrictive for the foreseeable future — green suggested a level of permissiveness not yet safe to even contemplate.)
[Here’s what to know about the state’s reopening process.]
Mr. Newsom highlighted the state’s relatively low rate of positive coronavirus tests, and how far the numbers have dropped over the past eight weeks, since the state emerged from its deadliest surge.
He emphasized repeatedly that even as the state continues to grapple with confusion over its vaccine rollout, “the only constraint is supply,” and said officials were working to be able to make vaccines available to any adult by May 1, as President Biden has directed.
“Our North Star continues to be equity,” he said. “It’s probably the hardest thing we’re doing.”
Still, Mr. Newsom noted that nearly 13 million doses of the vaccine had been administered already, more than most other countries and the most of any state.
[Track the vaccine rollout across the country.]
The governor’s upbeat assessment came as he faces intense pressure to reopen even more quickly, particularly from supporters of an effort to oust him from office.
Earlier on Tuesday, in a virtual news conference, a group of state lawmakers and county leaders called on the governor to lift all statewide restrictions and instead allow local officials to make their own decisions about pandemic precautions.
Don Wagner, an Orange County supervisor who has been a vocal critic of the governor and the state’s health orders, said Mr. Newsom’s approach hadn’t been effective.
“We’re now one year on from the governor’s initial orders,” he said. “Early on, the governor got a pass — we didn’t criticize him. It was a novel virus.”
But as more information about the coronavirus emerged, and businesses continued to suffer, Mr. Wagner said, the governor should have “let the Legislature make the laws.”
Allies of the governor — including Gray Davis, the only California governor to have been recalled — say that time is on Mr. Newsom’s side.
[Here’s everything you need to get caught up on the recall effort.]
Today is the deadline for recall proponents to submit the roughly 1.5 million signatures necessary to put a recall on the ballot, though county election officials still have until late April to verify the signatures.
This week, Mr. Newsom has formally started his campaign to keep his job with a series of national television interviews, in which he has characterized those leading the charge as anti-immigrant, anti-vaccine extremist Trump supporters.
Nevertheless, Mr. Newsom has acknowledged that proponents are likely to reach the 1.5 million signature threshold.
“The reality is, it looks like it’s going on the ballot, so we’re ready to go,” he said on Tuesday. “But it’s not going to keep me from doing my job.”
(This article is part of the California Today newsletter. Sign up to get it delivered to your inbox.)
Here’s what else to know today
Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the secretary of homeland security, said border officials were expecting to encounter more migrants at the southwest border and its port entries this year than in the last two decades. [The New York Times]
An investigation into the coronavirus response in the Bay Area found case rates for Latino residents that were four times higher than for white residents. [The Mercury News]
A coronavirus outbreak at the Farmer John pork processing plant in Los Angeles County began last February. A year later, many working conditions remain the same and the outbreak never went away. [Mother Jones]
The pandemic is threatening to close several gay bars in Los Angeles. They share the same landlord, but the owners say he isn’t willing to work with them to keep the bars open. [them]
The California Attractions and Parks Association recommended that theme parks limit shouting and screaming on roller coasters to prevent the spread of Covid-19. [Orange County Register]
What sounded like a series of explosions in Ontario was caused by a cache of fireworks that ignited a home, killed two people and led to the evacuation of the area. [Daily Bulletin]
Democrats cheered on Representative Katie Porter as she skewered Trump administration appointees and corporate executives in congressional hearings. But they were less thrilled when she went after the way House Democrats seat members in committees. [Los Angeles Times]
California banned “dark patterns,” or user interfaces that are meant to trick or frustrate people seeking to opt out of the sale of their personal data. [The Verge]
In the mid-1970s, a serial killer called the Doodler sketched gay men in bars before attacking them. A new podcast explores the unsolved mystery. [San Francisco Chronicle]
A Times reporter has followed his neighborhood bar the Hatch in downtown Oakland through the pandemic. This weekend he found that the bar was alive and surprisingly bigger than ever. [The New York Times]
“An opportunity to write about my favorite Vietnamese restaurants felt like a test — not just of my taste and expertise, but of my legitimacy as a Vietnamese person.” The San Francisco Chronicle’s restaurant critic grapples with questions about her own identity and belonging. [The San Francisco Chronicle]
Join The Times for a live event on March 23. Marc Lacey, assistant managing editor, will interview Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland and San Francisco’s mayor, London Breed, about the unpredictable paths that lead us back to the life we once enjoyed.
The event will start with a performance by Wynton Marsalis, whose father, Ellis Marsalis, died from complications of the coronavirus last year, and a virtual memorial will be narrated by the actress Eboni Booth.
Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, graduated from U.C. Berkeley and has reported all over the state, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles — but she always wants to see more. Follow along here or on Twitter.
California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.