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Politics & Government

Gov. Gavin Newsom Hopes California Lawmakers Will Make Worker Protections Permanent

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during his daily coronavirus response update on Friday, July 24.

With state and federal worker assistance set to expire at the end of July, Newsom on Friday discussed efforts to extend protections for essential workers, but stopped short of further executive orders to lock in those measures.

During his Friday COVID-19 briefing, the governor focused on efforts to work with state legislative leaders on bills to extend some of his temporary executive orders. Those include expanded COVID-19 sick pay, worker compensation insurance for essential workers and eviction protections for renters.

As cases and death continue to rise — the state reported 9,718 news cases Thursday and a record 159 deaths — Newsom reiterated that Latino communities make up a large percentage of the state's essential workers and "disproportionately are being impacted by the virus."

Many of those essential workers have not received support to allow them to isolate or quarantine when they feel sick, he said. To combat that, the state is expanding its Project Roomkey program to help essential workers get hotel rooms or other housing to allow them to isolate from family members.

Newsom also introduced a new handbook for employers around worker safety and testing. He said the state will also be starting a public awareness campaign aimed at educating businesses and workers about the new rules.

Many businesses have expressed confusion over the rapidly changing regulations around the stay-at-home orders. Newsom said he takes responsibility, and will work to make new regulations simpler and easier for businesses.

"If I reflect back with objectivity … when we began to reopen the economy we focused so much on when. But we didn't focus on how, especially how to educate," he said.

Still, Newsom said the state will be looking at "strategic enforcement of labor laws," but focus more on education than punishing businesses.

Newsom did not announce any new protections for unemployed workers as the federal $600 of additional benefits are set to expire July 31, but said he had confidence in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi getting a deal done. He also hinted at an announcement next week around the state's embattled Employment Development Department, which has struggled to process 7 million first-time jobless claims since March 12.

The governor once again asked Californians to wear masks whenever they can't distance themselves from others. As the state moved into the weekend, he cautioned against unnecessary travel or gatherings.

Overall, California now has more than 425,000 confirmed cases, surpassing New York for the most of any state earlier this week. The state had two days in a row this week with more than 12,000 new cases, both records.

The state's positivity rate — the percentage of tests that come back positive — is at 7.5% over the past 14 days, and has stayed steady this week. Hospitalizations continue to increase but more slowly, while there was an 11% increase in ICU hospitalizations over the past 14 days.

On Thursday, Bay Area Democratic state Sen. Steve Glazer proposed new lockdown orders — with exceptions for essential trips for food and health care — in counties where the 14-day rate of positive tests exceeds 2% in either that county or its neighboring counties.

Asked about the impact another wave of stay-at-home orders would have on small businesses, Glazer said the economy and public health are “handcuffed together.”

“You can’t have one without the other,” he said. “No business is going to thrive unless we can kill this virus. I recognize the impacts a shelter in place has on people, but that really is the foundation for bringing our economy back.”

But not every lawmaker has approved of Newsom's use of executive power. Republican Assemblymember Kevin Riley of Rocklin posted a 123 page document laying out all of Newson's executive orders, saying it "lays bare the anatomy of one-man rule."

Newsom didn't announce any new executive orders on Friday.

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