Weideman Group COVID-19 Update
August 28, 2020

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The spread of COVID-19 across California and the country is impacting everyone’s personal and professional lives. To ensure you are receiving the most up to date and pertinent information, Weideman Group is closely monitoring actions being taken by the state (Governor, Legislature, regulatory agencies) and the federal government. We will be sharing the most significant COVID-19 information with you on a periodic basis. Here is a summary of important information from this past week. 

Governor Newsom announces new tiered system for county monitoring. Friday afternoon, Governor Newsom announced the release of the Blueprint for a Safer Economy, a color 4 tiered system to guide county modifications as the state looks to reopen. Counties will move through the system based on their rate of coronavirus cases and the percentage of positive tests. Previously, the state used several other metrics, like hospitalizations and testing capacity, to determine whether counties could reopen. The first assessment will be taking place on September 8. Additionally, the state has refreshed the covid19.ca.gov website where Californians can search the status of their counties and sector allowance under their current tier. The tiers are as follows: 

Tier 1: Widespread (Purple)

  • Most non-essential indoor business operations are closed
  • More than 7 daily new cases per 100,000 people
  • More than an 8% positivity rate
  • Currently 38 counties
  • Represents 87% of the state’s population

Tier 2: Substantial (Red) 

  • Some non-essential indoor business operations are closed
  • 4-7 daily new cases per 100,000 people
  • Positivity rate between 5-8%
  • Currently 9 counties
  • Represents 12% of the state’s population

Tier 3: Moderate (Orange)

  • Some business operations are open with modifications
  • 1-3.9 daily new cases per 100,000 people
  • Positivity rate between 2-4.9%
  • Currently 8 counties
  • Represents 1% of the state’s population

Tier 4: Minimal (Yellow) 

  • Most business operations are open with modifications
  • Less than 1 daily new cases per 100,000 people
  • Positivity rate less than 2%
  • Currently 3 counties
  • Represents 0.1%% of the state’s population

California Statistics

California cases continue to decline as the state sees a leveling off of deaths and hospitalizations. New cases of COVID-19 and hospitalizations from the virus in California continued to decline in the latest data released by state and local health departments, and even the hardest-hit regions appeared to be on the mend. 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 continues to lead the state’s response to the multiple wildfires burning all over the state and the state’s COVID-19 response. Following the ongoing extreme weather events, 730 wildfires are burning across California, forcing tens of thousands of people to evacuate. At least 7 people have died, over 2,100 structures have been destroyed and 1.4 million acres have burned. Here is a recap of recent actions and announcements:

  • Testing Partnership - Governor Newsom announced a new partnership with PerkinElmer to increase the state’s testing capacity and turnaround time for tests. This new partnership will allow California to process up to an additional 150,000 tests a day with a contractual turnaround time of 24-48 hours. The goal is to stand up a lab facility and begin processing tens of thousands of additional tests by November 1st and run at full capacity by March 1, 2021. The contract allows an out for the state if new better testing technology comes to market. 
  • CDCR Secretary - Governor Newsom announced the retirement of California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Secretary Ralph Diaz and that Kathleen Allison be taking over as Secretary of CDCR effective October 1. 
  • Election Executive Order - Governor Newsom signed an executive order that extends the deadline for county election officials to count and verify signatures submitted for initiative petitions seeking to qualify for the November 2022 election. This will give local governments the needed flexibility to focus on the upcoming November General Election. The text of the executive order can be found .
  • 19th Amendment Anniversary - First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom and California Legislative Women’s Caucus leadership lit up the State Capitol in suffrage colors in honor of the 19th Amendment’s centennial.
  • Pharmacist Executive Order - Governor Newsom issued an executive order that will allow pharmacists and pharmacist technicians in California to administer CLIA-waived COVID-19 tests to increase the availability of testing in the state. This action represented a major victory for Weideman Group client CSHP. The text of the executive order can be found here.
  • COVID-19 Executive Order -  Governor Newsom issued an executive order that: 1. Allows certain adoption paperwork to be done remotely and waives the requirement that other acts related to the process occur in person. 2. Increases the income-eligibility threshold for the Community Service Block Grant. 3. Waives the time limit to allow individuals to continue receiving CalWORKS benefits. 3. Allows the Franchise Tax Board to share tax return information with the Department of Social Services to inform individuals of recovery rebates available to them through the federal CARES Act and 4. Increase health care capacity of home health agencies and pediatric day health and respite care facilities. The text of the executive order can be found here.
  • Major Disaster Declaration -  Governor Newsom announced that he has secured a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration for the wildfires burning in California. This declaration provides federal support to bolster the state’s response to wildfires.
  • Newsom Opposes New CDC Guidelines - Governor Newsom announced that California will not abide by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s newly released COVID-19 testing guidelines. At a press conference, the Governor stated that the new guidelines were not acceptable and California would not be adhering to them. CDC has since modified its guidelines.
  • School Cohort Guidance - Governor Newsom announced last week of pending new guidelines for specific school cohorts and the California Department of Public Health released these guidance. The guidance outlines the precautions that must be taken into account for cohorts of 14 students or less for  in-person education and childcare settings. The guidance can be found here.
  • CalOES Appointments - Governor Newsom announced the appointment of a new Chief Deputy Director of Policy and Administration and a new Deputy Director of Planning, Preparedness, and Prevention to the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. These come at a time when CalOES is taking lead roles in responding to the fires and pandemic.
  • FEMA Supplemental Benefits - Governor Newsom announced that Californians who have been out of work will soon start receiving an additional $300 in supplemental unemployment insurance benefits. This comes after the additional $600 in benefits from the CARES Act expired. The $300 will be retroactive to August 1.   

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 an unprecedented end of session.  A recent COVID-19 outbreak in the Legislature, where Senator Brian Jones tested positive, forced the Senate to cancel Wednesday’s floor session and to take extra precautions to ensure the health and safety of legislators and staff.  All Senators and staff that came in contact with the Senator will be tested and the Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins announced the Senate will allow its members to vote remotely as they quarantine at home, despite serious concerns expressed about the validity of remote voting from the Assembly. Even with this delay, the Senate met on Thursday to make progress on the hundreds of bills that are still pending action. The Assembly and Senate are scheduled to meet over the next few days, including the weeknd, to work through the hundreds of bills on their respective floor before the last day of session on August 31st. However, serious disagreements between the houses continue to mount, which has the potential to affect the fate of numerous bills.  

Assembly Budget Committee holds hearing on pending trailer bill.  On Tuesday, the Assembly Budget Subcommittee 6 on Budget Process, Oversight, and Program Administration held an informational hearing on a number of recently amended budget trailer bills. These include budget bills on education finance, the realignment of the Division of Juvenile Justice, criminal administrative fees, and cannabis. The Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee was set to meet Thursday afternoon, but the meeting was canceled due to precautions after Senator Jones tested positive for COVID-19. The Senate must hold an informational hearing on the trailber bills before they are brought up for a full vote of the house. 

Assembly Budget Committee holds unemployment oversight hearing. The Assembly Budget Subcommittee 4 on State Administration held an informational hearing on Monday on the Employment Development Department and unemployment insurance. At a previous oversight hearing, EDD was heavily criticized for the backlog of nearly 1 million unemployment claims. EDD Director Hilliard stated that the department plans to combine their call centers to make it easier for claimants to get help, will be staffed with 3,700 employees, and that they will begin issuing $300 weekly benefits from the federal government in September. The Governor’s Strike Team is scheduled to make recommendations on how to improve the EDD functions by September 12. 

Legislature introduces the Wildfire Prevention and Community Resiliency Act of 2020. In a last minute attempt to move a wildfire response measure, a cohort of legislators introduced AB 1659 that would fund current and future wildfire and climate risk efforts. The Wildfire Prevention and Community Resiliency Act of 2020 includes fund streams and allocation provisions such as the following: utility-based fee designed to raise at least $2.5 billion for wildfire and climate related investments, $500 million towards firefighter training and other immediate response needs, and extends an electrical customer fee until 2045. This bill will have to go through policy committees and floor votes in both houses before the end of session on August 31st. Even though it’s an uphill battle, there is an appetite in the Legislature to take action on this issue given the current state of affairs on the wildfire and climate front.

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:

  • SBA Disaster Loans -  The deadline is approaching for SBA federal disaster loans for property damage caused by the Niland Fire in Imperial County that occurred June 28-29, 2020.
  • FEMA Assistance - Victims of California wildfires can apply for federal financial assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. 
  • School Waivers - More than 100 California schools, districts received waivers to reopen classrooms. Many of these are in extremely rural counties.
  • UC Gathering Enforcement - UC students could face discipline for gatherings that violate health regulations, top leaders of the University of California system warned this week.
  • State Auditor to Oversee Federal Money - The California State Auditor is invoking a state law that allows the office to keep a close watch on how 18 agencies spend the $71 billion in federal money. The auditor noted there is a high possibility of  agencies and departments misusing the funds.

Federal Government

Federal negotiations on a stimulus package continue to be at a standstill. With both houses on recess, no progress has been made on the stimulus front. On Thursday, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi met with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, marking the first time stimulus discussions have resumed in weeks. Pelosi signaled she is willing to come down to a $2.2 trillion package. Below is a recap of federal actions: 

  • Federal Reserve Action - The Federal Reserve signaled they will be taking action to keep interest rates low as the country still deals with the economic consequences of this pandemic.
  • Relaxed CDC Guidelines - The CDC released updated guidelines stating that persons who have recently been exposed to a person known to have COVID-19 do not need to be tested if they are not experiencing any symptoms. Those guidelines created some controversy that led to updates by the CDC.
  • Tighter Federal Guidelines on Meals - Tighter federal rules on school meals could end free meals for thousands of California students.  

Local Action

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

  • Orange County Removed From Watch list - Orange County has been removed from the state’s county monitoring list. Orange County previously defied the Governor’s stay-at-home order and was a hard hit county early on in the pandemic. 
  • Sacramento Small Business Relief - Nearly 1,400 small businesses receive loans totaling $89 million, representing most of the federal aid received by the county.
  • L.A. County Reports Newborn COVID-19 Cases - Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer reported that 1,200 pregnant women and girls between the ages of 14 and 52 have tested positive for the virus and two have died of complications. Of the 193 babies who were tested at birth, eight were positive.
  • San Diego School Waiver Limit - San Diego County stopped receiving school reopening waiver applications because they anticipate all schools in the county will be allowed to reopen early next week  if the county keeps its COVID-19 rate down.

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