September 30, 2020

Coronavirus in California: Newsom Issues New Guidelines for Salon Services

ImageAnthony Milinkovich waited for his turn for a haircut, outside George's Barber Shop last week in San Pedro.
Credit…Ashley Landis/Associated Press

Good morning.

(This article is part of the California Today newsletter. Sign up here to receive it by email.)

First, we have an update on the pandemic:

On Monday, Gov. Gavin Newsom provided a snapshot of a state in flux a week after he announced the biggest statewide reversal yet of plans to lift restrictions in California, which has the world’s fifth-largest economy.

While across the state, new cases seemed to have slightly slowed in their alarming growth in recent weeks, with a positivity rate that has held steady at 7.4 percent, Mr. Newsom cautioned in his online news briefing that regions were feeling the effects unevenly.

“These numbers are statewide aggregate, but none of us live in the aggregate,” he said. “It’s a very different picture you can paint depending on where you live in the state.”

He mentioned that intensive care units in some smaller counties, including Placer County, northeast of Sacramento, and San Benito County, between Salinas and Fresno, had become troublingly full, even while the state as a whole has some extra capacity.

While just nine people were reported to have died in the state from Covid-19 on Sunday, Mr. Newsom exhorted Californians to keep the numbers in perspective: On average, 91 Californians have died from the virus per day over the past week.

According to The Times’s database, the state officially has had more than 400,000 known cases.

[Track coronavirus cases by California county with The Times’s map.]

Still, California’s struggle to contain the virus illustrates the complexity of the task, even in a state whose leaders and residents initially showed a willingness to abide by public health orders and to take what Mr. Newsom has repeatedly described as a science- and data-driven approach to restrictions.

When Mr. Newsom announced that a wide range of businesses, including restaurants and “personal care services” would have to once again shut down in most counties unless they could operate outdoors, he said that barber shops and salons encountered barriers to shifting their work outside, because of the chemicals stylists use.

So, he said, the state released updated guidelines for such businesses to adapt.

And although the state rules around when schools will be allowed to reopen don’t currently include guidelines for moving learning outside, he said, “I’m open to argument.”

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Updated 2020-07-21T11:44:22.798Z

Still, Mr. Newsom has been criticized for, as The Los Angeles Times reported, allowing counties to reopen businesses even when they weren’t meeting the state’s own testing and contact-tracing targets.

On Monday, he defended the state’s reopening processes and emphasized California’s relative early success in stemming the virus’s spread. Now, he said, the goal is to “sharpen the focus.”

[If you missed it, read about Mr. Newsom’s order that many businesses again shutter.]


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Credit…Jeff Chiu/Associated Press
  • Oakland restricted car traffic on some streets to make more outdoor space for residents and Los Angeles expedited permits for outdoor dining — both things that would have taken a lot longer if it weren’t for the pandemic. But that speed has highlighted whom the city-planning process has always benefited and whom it has left out. [The New York Times]

  • Explore a detailed map of where people are wearing masks in the United States. [The New York Times]

  • President Trump threatened to send federal law enforcement agents into more cities in addition to Portland, Ore. Oakland, which he said “is a mess,” was one of them. Governor Newsom said California would reject their presence. [The New York Times]

  • Black Californians have been priced out of big cities on the coast. They’ve found bigger homes and better schools in inland suburbs. But racism and discrimination have followed. [CalMatters]

  • If you missed it, the rabbi who was among those shot at the Poway synagogue he led last year has pleaded guilty in years of elaborate fraud schemes. [The San Diego Union-Tribune]

  • On the surface, the United Farm Workers and the Black Panthers might have appeared to be at odds, a historian wrote in an opinion piece. But their alliance was effective for both, and the Strike for Black Lives on Monday carried on the legacy. [The Washington Post]

  • “I don’t know how to explain why or what made ‘Clueless’ what it was, but I know it happened.” Alicia Silverstone talked about the film — 25 years later. [Vogue]

  • The Lassen Wolf Pack, California’s only known wolf family, has grown again. [Redding Record Searchlight]


Credit…Apu Gomes/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

When it was announced in April that Lenny Mendonca had resigned as the governor’s chief economic and business adviser and chair of the California High Speed Rail Authority for family and personal reasons, I quietly assumed he’d been let go.

For many people in the corporate world, especially men, leaving a job to attend to one’s family has become a kind of efficient shorthand.

Mr. Mendonca was aware of that. He mentioned it in the column he wrote for CalMatters this month explaining in more detail why he stepped down.

“Three weeks before my resignation, I had an emergency overnight stay at the hospital,” he wrote. “After a battery of tests, I received a diagnosis of severe depression and anxiety.”

He dug back into the pandemic response, “against medical advice,” but Mr. Mendonca soon realized he couldn’t keep doing his job. He was barely sleeping; his local businesses and family needed attention.

So, he resigned and for the past three months, he wrote, he’s been in recovery. He’s been hospitalized and gotten counseling.

“This thing hit me like a freight train,” Mr. Mendonca told me shortly after the column was published. “I’d never experienced anything like it before.”

As the pandemic swallows up time and mental energy, Mr. Mendonca said he wanted to share his story precisely because he knows it’s common. But it’s exceedingly rare for people with power to speak up.

Seeking mental health care is stigmatized in a way that any other type of health care isn’t. Mr. Mendonca said he saw this when he broke his leg mountain biking; people wished him a speedy return.

“If you have a mental health issue, it’s like, ‘Oh, I don’t know whether this person’s OK to come back,’ and we really need to change that culture,” he said.

Mr. Mendonca said he recognized his privilege, as a white man who has had a successful career as a management consultant. Taking time to seek mental health treatment is a luxury many people of color and women can’t afford.

From an economic perspective, he said, that’s not good.

“We just massively threw challenges and stress and anxiety on top of a huge portion of the population,” Mr. Mendonca said.

The fixes involve broad policy changes aimed at making work sustainable for everyone, he said. In addition to providing more pandemic aid, workers must have access to paid family leave. Leaders must encourage them to take it.

Still, he said, the pandemic has put mental health front and center in a way it hasn’t been before. And Mr. Mendonca hopes the conversation will continue.


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Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, went to school at 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.