Weideman Group COVID-19 Update
August 21, 2020

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California cases continue to once again stabilize as the state sees a leveling off of deaths and hospitalizations. State officials continue to urge residents to abide by the physical distancing and mask order to minimize the spread. THESE are the most recent facts released by the Department of Public Health.

Newsom Administration

Governor Newsom leads the state’s response to wildfires that have broken out all over the state as a result of a record-breaking heatwave and continues to lead the state’s COVID-19 response. Amid a scorching heat wave that is now in its second week, hundreds of wildfires are burning across California, forcing tens of thousands of people to evacuate. Major fires in Southern California are coming under control and the state is shifting resources to the blazes raging in Northern California. At least 6 people have died. 

Earlier in the week, California experienced rolling blackouts for the first time in 20 years due to high energy demand brought about by an extreme heatwave statewide. Here is a recap of recent actions and announcements:

  • Energy Executive Order - Governor Newsom signed an executive order to free up additional energy capacity as the state has seen historically high energy demand due to an extreme heatwave. The text of the order can be found here
  • Energy Proclamation -  Governor Newsom issued an emergency proclamation to free up energy capacity and reduce the need for temporary energy service disruptions. The text of the proclamation can be found here
  • Statewide Emergency - Governor Newsom declared a statewide emergency to ensure the vital resources to combat fires burning across the state, which have been exacerbated by the effects of the heatwave and high winds.
  • SCU Complex Federal Support - Governor Newsom announced securing federal support to ensure the availability of resources to suppress the SCU Lightning Complex fire burning in Santa Clara and Stanislaus Counties.
  • Carmel Fire Support - Governor Newsom announced securing a Fire Management Assistance Grant  from FEMA to help to suppress the Carmel Fire burning in Monterey County.
  • Complex Fire Assistance - Governor Newsom federal support from FEMA to ensure the availability of resources to suppress  the LNU Lightning Complex Fire burning in Napa County and the Jones Fire burning in Nevada County.
  • Monterey Fire Support - Governor Newsom announced securing federal support to ensure the availability of resources to suppress the River Fire burning in Monterey County.
  • 19th Amendment Event - First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom hosted the launch of an exhibit celebrating the centennial of the 19th Amendment. 
  • Flu Season - Governor’s Newsom Health and Human Services Secretary, Dr. Mark Ghaly, encouraged Californians to get the flu vaccine as the state continues to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • County Monitoring List - After temporarily suspending the list due to a disruption in state COVID-19 data, the county monitoring list has been updated and currently has 37 counties. These counties represent the majority of the state’s population. 
  • Data Collection Update - After the data collection snafu with the California Reportable Disease Information Exchange (CalREDIE), which is used to collect and aggregate data on COVID-19 positive cases and then shared with the local public health departments, the State released a request for proposals that will enhance the state’s data collection/sharing capabilities. Bringing in an outside organization to help bolster or redesign CalREDIE is intended to significantly minimize the chances of another technical difficulty that led to the underreporting of COVID-19 cases.

California Legislature 

Important Dates:

  • August 31 – Last Day of Session
  • September 30 – Last Day for the Governor to Sign or Veto Bills
  • November 3 – General Election
  • December 7 – 2021-22 Legislative Session Begins

Legislature moves into the last days of session. The highly anticipated appropriations suspense hearings were held Thursday as lawmakers and advocates eagerly awaited the fate of bills in an already unusual and shortened legislative year. High profile bills that made it out of the committees include measures banning the sale of flavored tobacco, requiring DOJ approval of health care system consolidation, state production of generic prescription drugs, increasing regulations on student loan servicing, advancing law enforcement reforms, and expanding the scope of practice for health practitioners. The Assembly and Senate will hold floor sessions, including convening on weekends, to work through the hundreds of bills still pending in their respective floors before the last day of session on August 31st. 

Budget committees to hold informational hearings. The Assembly Budget Subcommittee 4 on State Administration will be holding an informational hearing on Monday to discuss unemployment insurance. A couple of weeks ago, the Assembly Budget hearing held an EDD oversight hearing where the department was heavily criticized for the backlog of nearly 1 million unemployment claims. The department has extended hours, hired additional personnel, and repurposed staff but many Californians are still unable to reach the department or are awaiting their employment benefits.  On Tuesday, August 25th the Assembly Budget Subcommittee 6 on Budget Process, Oversight, and Program Administration will hold an informational hearing on budget trailer bills–there are a number of trailer bills (e.g. Division of Juvenile Justice realignment) still pending in the Legislature. 

COVID-19 Spending

The Department of Finance released a report to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee on state spending on COVID-19. In early March, the Legislature authorized $1 billion in general funds for the Governor to fight COVID-19. To date, the Administration has spent $826.8 million of the monies on pandemic response and $1.4 billion from the Disaster Response-Emergency Operations Account (DREOA), mostly on procuring masks and respirators for industries across the state. The Budget includes $750 million to provide support for counties experiencing revenue losses for realigned programs as a result of COVID-19.  The Governor also declared a budget emergency in June, which allows the state to draw down additional monies from the Rainy Day Fund to round out the budget as well as assist in the state’s COVID-19 response efforts. The budget sets aside $716 million for the Governor to allocate to COVID response in the same manner as the $1 billion the legislature authorized in March.  A full breakdown of the state’s COVID-19 spending can be found here

Regulatory Agencies and Department Actions

Numerous departments provide updates on their efforts to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. Here are some highlights:

  • EDD Disbursement - The Employment Development Department announced it has issued over $67 billion in unemployment insurance benefits since March, and have processed over 10.6 million claims for benefits. 
  • Fire Map Partnership - CalOES has partnered with Google to provide quick accessible information on wildfires when people search for them or use the maps app. 
  • Stay Indoors - The California Department of Public Health is urging Californians in areas near the fires to stay indoors given the poor air quality due to the wildfires across the state. 
  • DMV Expands Health Screenings - The California Department of Motor Vehicles is expanding its health screening questions and temperature checks currently in place for behind-the-wheel drive tests to all customers and employees entering a DMV facility.
  • In-Person Waivers - The state of California is allowing waivers for in-person instruction for small groups of children with special and acute learning needs.

Federal Government

Federal negotiations on a stimulus package continue to be at a standstill.  President Trump issued an executive order to extend some of the CARES Act protections after congressional negotiations have not borne fruit. The plan to originally extend unemployment benefits by $400 required the state to contribute 25%, after push back from financially struggling states the President said he’d remove the provision and lower the benefit to an additional $300. Governor Newsom stated in a press conference that the state is actively working on the application and hopes the it will be among the first cohort that receives the additional funds. Below is a recap of additional federal actions: 

  • Postmaster General Delays Changes - Amid criticism of the recent changes to the United States Postal Service the Postmaster General has agreed to halt changes to the agency’s operations until after the November Election.
  • FDA Regulation Stopped - The Trump Administration has barred the FDA from regulating some laboratory tests. 
  • Postal Service Relief - The House of Representatives will vote on a $25 billion package to rescue the Postal Service amid allegations the administration is dismantling it.
  •  HUD Extends Foreclosure Ban - The Department of Housing and Urban Development announced it will extend the ban on foreclosures through the end of the year.

 

Local Action

Local governments continue to take actions they deem appropriate given their unique circumstances. Here are some highlights:

  • Rental Assistance in Sacramento - The City of Sacramento is set to spend about $4.7 million in federal funding to help keep people in up to 1,000 households from becoming homeless during the pandemic.
  • San Diego Reopens Some Schools - San Diego County has approved the reopening of 19 schools that have obtained a waiver for in-person instruction. 
  • LA Schools COVID Testing - The Los Angeles Unified School District announced that it is launching an ambitious coronavirus testing and contact tracing program for all students, staff and their families
  • LA County See Minority Mortality Decline - Los Angeles County is seeing a decline in the mortality rate in Black and Latino populations as COVID-19 has disproportionately affected them. 
  • Tahoe Mask Violation Fines - The City of South lake Tahoe has approved a fine for individuals that violate the mask order. 

Resources

  • California Coronavirus Response website can be found here
  • California Department of Public Health guidance documents can be found here
  • California COVID-19 risk screening and testing can be found here
  • California Local Public Health Authority information can be found here
  • Center for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 updates can be found here
  • Looking for ways to help your community? Visit this site here