Best of AP — Honorable Mention


AP reporting prompts release of California virus data


Sacramento reporter Don Thompson and correspondent Kathleen Ronayne wanted to know the reasoning behind California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s sudden and unexpected lifting of the stay-at-home order for a 13-county region amid a surge in the pandemic. That the state wouldn’t make the data available after days of inquiries struck the pair as the latest example of Newsom not delivering on a promise of transparency during the pandemic.

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Mike Douglass, left, gives Kent Kjestrom a haircut at East J Barbers in Sacramento, Calif., Jan. 21, 2021. Local officials and businesses in the 13-county Greater Sacramento region were caught off guard when outdoor dining and worship services were reopened, along with hair and nail salons, and retailers could allow more shoppers inside. The data behind the the surprise decision was not made available by the state. – AP Photo / Rich Pedroncelli

They proceeded to deliver a story with experts criticizing the secrecy,from public health authorities to government accountability advocates. Their story received enormous attention and was widely cited,intensifying criticism and pressure on the state.

Three days after the story ran,Newsom held a news conference to announce the stay-at-home order was being lifted for the rest of the state’s regions. Under questioning from Ronayne, the state’s health director promised some of the relevant data would be released; later in the day the specific regional projection numbers were revealed to the public for the first time.

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