Newsletter: The racial divide on California’s coronavirus crisis


A handful of data points tucked inside the latest statewide survey of Californians offers an important reminder of how race and ethnicity can make an enormous difference when it comes to perception and reality.

In this case, the questions were all about the COVID-19 pandemic. But the survey results were released in the throes of a historic conversation about racial inequality, and the findings are sobering.

In short: California’s communities of color have been hit much harder by this unprecedented public health crisis. And many in these communities want more, not less, protection against the spread of the virus.

More pain felt, more protection wanted

The headline from the latest poll by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California is that there’s broad concern about the health and economic impact of COVID-19. But digging down into the findings, there are stark delineations by race and ethnicity.

The poll found a sizable racial divide in the economic impact of the pandemic shutdown. Asked if anyone in their household had lost wages during the stay-at-home period, 60% of black participants and 66% of those who are Latino said yes. By comparison, only 39% of those who are white had lost wages.

Just under one-quarter of white Californians said they had lost their job during the crisis — compared to almost half of Latino respondents and 35% of those who are black.


How about trouble in paying the rent or mortgage? That rang true for 44% of Latinos and one-third of black respondents, but for only 15% of white Californians.

There were also clear differences in who feels vulnerable to contracting COVID-19. Whereas 48% of white Californians surveyed were concerned, 66% of black and 68% of Latino Californians said they were concerned, along with 64% of Asian Americans. Of those who said they were very concerned, Latino and black numbers were 11 and 12 percentage points higher, respectively, than those of white residents.

So what should happen next? Fifteen percent of white Californians want more coronavirus restrictions, while 27% of black Californians and 37% of Latino Californians want more protections.

The numbers serve as an important reminder for policymakers of how differently today’s events and tomorrow’s plans are seen and experienced by those on different sides of California’s racial and ethnic divides.

Newsom: New police, protest rules

A weekend’s worth of protests sparked by the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minnesota saw large and relatively peaceful crowds in Los Angeles and other cities across the state. And there appears to now be momentum in Sacramento for new, statewide rules for how these events are monitored and how law enforcement officers do their jobs.

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday called for new restrictions on crowd-control techniques and a ban on law enforcement officers from using so-called “carotid holds,” the kind that was used on Floyd during his fatal encounter with police.


“We train techniques on strangleholds that put people’s lives at risk,” Newsom said during a press briefing in Sacramento. “Now, we can argue that these are used as exceptions. But at the end of the day, [a] carotid hold that literally is designed to stop people’s blood from flowing into their brain, that has no place any longer in 21st-century practices and policing.”

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It’s officially Trump vs. Biden

Former Vice President Joe Biden has formally clinched the Democratic presidential nomination, setting the stage for a bruising challenge to President Trump that will play out against the unprecedented backdrop of a pandemic, economic collapse and civil unrest.

Biden seems intent on directly confronting the nation’s long-standing racial divide as the general election campaign begins. “It’s long past time for our nation to deal with systemic racism, including its contributions to growing economic inequality,” he wrote in a Los Angeles Times op-ed.

Trump’s problems with distinguished military veterans, angered by his threat to order troops onto the streets of U.S. cities, continued over the weekend — led by a sharp rebuke from retired Gen. Colin Powell, who said the president has “drifted” away from the Constitution.

Trump, on the other hand, sought Sunday to recast recent events by insisting that “everything is under perfect control.”

Today’s essential politics

— California officials have said counties can begin reopening gyms, day camps, bars and some professional sports by as early as Friday, but the specifics remain unclear.

— Two months after Newsom announced a nearly $1-billion deal with Chinese automaker BYD to purchase respirators, California has yet to receive any of the much-needed N95 masks. And on Friday, state officials gave the company a second extension to deliver on its promise.

— Alarmed at numerous reports that protesters have been seriously injured by rubber bullets fired by police officers, a group of California lawmakers said they will introduce legislation to set clear standards for when the projectiles can be used.

— Newsom gave California counties permission to limit their in-person voting operations for the Nov. 3 election as protection against the spread of the coronavirus — but only if they also offer three days of early voting.

— Trump’s recent decision to halt entry of some Chinese graduate students to the U.S. is sowing broad anxiety in California as universities fear they could lose an essential source of research talent.

— California’s legal marijuana industry faces declining sales despite an initial spike in consumer demand after dispensaries were deemed essential businesses.

— A state judicial watchdog group has decided that Court of Appeal Justice Jeffrey Johnson should be removed from the bench for sexual misconduct, dishonesty and undignified conduct.

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