Weideman Group COVID-19 Update
October 23, 2020

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California Statistics

Positivity testing rates remain low as other states see an increase of cases. New cases of COVID-19 and hospitalizations from the virus in California continue to decline in the latest data released by state and local health departments at a time where much of the rest of the country is experiencing rapid growth. In fact, the United States set a daily record for Coronavirus cases yesterday as the number soared beyond 77,000. THESE are the most recent facts released by the Department of Public Health.

Newsom Administration

COVID-19 vaccine at top of mind for Governor Newsom. Governor Newsom made two major announcements this week regarding the plans to distribute the first round of vaccines that will be made available to California. He announced the creation of the Scientific Safety Review Workgroup tasked with ensuring the safety of an FDA approved COVID-19 vaccine before it is distributed in California, and that California has submitted their COVID-19 Vaccination Plan to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention that outlines how the state will be handling the distribution and administration of the vaccine as quickly as possible.  Below is a recap of additional actions and announcements from the administration:

  • Project Homekey Awards - Governor Newsom announced an additional $81.4 million in project Homekey Awards for 6 projects. 
  • Theme Park Guidance - Governor Newsom announced that the California Department of Public Health has released the long awaited guidance for the reopening of theme parks. The ability to reopen is tied to a county’s tier status and dictates limited capacity. The full guidance can be found here. Disneyland, Universal Studios and Knott’s Berry farm have called the guidance unworkable and indicated it will prevent them from opening before early 2021 in a best case scenario.  
  • Disaster Declaration Expansion - Governor Newsom announced that three additional counties – Napa, Shasta and Sonoma – have been added to the Major Disaster Declaration, initially approved by the White House on October 16. This will allow these counties to receive additional resources to address the impacts of the wildfires.
  • CHP Commissioner - Governor Newsom announced that California Highway Patrol Commissioner Warren Stanley will be retiring and he is appointing CHP Deputy Commissioner Amanda Ray to be the next Commissioner. Commissioner Ray will be the first woman and second African American to hold this post. 
  • County Status - Every week the state updates the list of counties on the 4 colored tiers that allow for various degrees of modified business operation as part of the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy. This week, there was significant movement of counties into less restrictive tiers, which will allow additional sectors to open back up. The most recent updates leave the counties’ tier status as follows:

Purple: 12 counties

Red: 23 counties

Orange: 14 counties

Yellow:  9 counties

Budget

DOF Finance Bulletin - The California Department of Finance released their October finance bulletin that breaks down the labor market conditions, building, real estate, and monthly cash reports for the month of September 2020. In a bit of good news, the September revenues came in $4.164 billion above the Budget Act forecast of $9.806 billion.  

JLBC Funding Approval - The  Joint Legislative Budget Committee announced they have approved the Governor’s request of $200 million in federal CARES Act Relief Funds. These funds will be going towards childcare, food banks, and diaper banks–all safety net programs the Legislature was urging the Governor to augment funding for. The JLBC also concurred with a previous allocation of $200 million towards Project Homekey.

CRF Quarterly Report - The California Department of Finance released the quarterly report for the Coronavirus Relief Fund. California received a total of $15.3 billion from the CARES Act. The report breaks down the CRF distributions by counties, cities, colleges, local education agencies and Project Homekey.

California Legislature 

Important Dates:

  • November 3 – General Election
  • December 7 – 2021-22 Legislative Session Begins

Members of the Legislature are using the interim recess to hold numerous hearings on timely issues affecting Californians. Below is a brief recap:

  • The Assembly Budget Subcommittee 3 on Resources and Transportation held an informational hearing on wildfire mitigation measures. On hand to testify were representatives from the Legislative Analysts’ Office, the Native Plant Society, and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Topics discussed included funding levels for mitigation efforts, factors that affect mitigation needs, and CalFire’s fire prevention funding. 
  • The Senate Health Committee held an informational hearing on the Affordable Care Act and the potential implications of weakening or repealing the ACA. On hand to testify were representatives from Covered California, the Department of Health Care Services, the Legislative Analysts’ Office, the Attorney General’s Office, health care systems, advocates from consumer groups and individual consumers from all around California. California was the first state to embrace the ACA and the weakening or removal of the law could have grave implications for health care delivery in the state. 

Upcoming legislative hearings. The Assembly and Senate have several legislative hearings scheduled during the interim. Here’s a list highlighting some of the currently scheduled hearings:

  • Monday, October 26 – The Senate Special Committee on Pandemic and Emergency Response will hold an oversight hearing on K-12 distance learning
  • Tuesday, October 27 – The Assembly Budget Subcommittee 2 on Education will hold an informational hearing on safely reopening public schools 
  • Tuesday, October 27 – The Assembly Health Committee will hold an informational hearing on health care affordability
  • Wednesday, October 28 – The Assembly Budget Subcommittee 6 on Budget Process Oversight and Program Evaluation will hold an informational hearing on COVID-19 in skilled nursing facilities
  • Friday, November 6 – Senate Committees on Banking and Financial Institutions and Governance and Finance will hold a joint informational hearing on a state bank
  • Monday, November 9 – The Assembly Natural Resources Committee will hold an informational hearing on expanding the use of prescribed fire including cultural burning to reduce California’s wildfire risk 
  • Tuesday, November 10 – The Assembly Committee on Health will hold an informational hearing on health information exchange
  • Tuesday, November 17 – The Assembly Health Committee will hold an informational hearing on health care industry consolidation and its impact on California’s health care prices
  • Tuesday, November 17 – The Committee on Labor and Employment will hold an informational hearing on safeguarding our frontline workers during COVID-19

Regulatory Agencies and Department Actions

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

  • DCA Waiver - The Department of Consumer Affairs issued a waiver on license renewal requirements for those expiring between March 31, 2020 and December 31, 2020 for professions under Division 2 of the Business and Professions Code, which includes pharmacists and doctors of chiropractic.
  • Expanded Personal Care Services -  The California Department of Public Health announced updated guidance that allows personal care services such as massage and tattoo parlors to open in all tiers, including purple. The guidance can be found here.  
  • PUC Limits Backup Power Program - The California Public Utilities Commission voted to limit a program that offers rebates to homeowners that install back-up battery systems for public safety power shutoffs. The program was designed for low income residents, but did not have an income cap which caused higher income customers to take advantage of the rate-payer funded program. 
  • Wildfire Food Benefits - The California Department of Social Services announced that individuals and families impacted by wildfires in Butte, Napa and Sonoma counties may be eligible to receive Disaster CalFresh food benefits as part of continuing disaster recovery efforts.
  • Wildfire Prepositioning - The Governor’s Office of Emergency Services announced that it has prepositioned resources in 11 counties ahead of possible wildfire outbreaks. 
  • Expanded Recovery Assistance - The October 16 Major Disaster Declaration allows for new lines of  federal assistance for individuals impacted by fires that occurred in early September in Fresno, Los Angeles, Madera, Mendocino, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Siskiyou counties. 
  • Assistance Tips - The Governor’s Office of Emergency Services released tips for victims of wildfires for receiving assistance from FEMA. 
  • Pandemic Response Numbers - The Governor’s Office of Emergency Services released updated figures on the distribution of PPE and support programs for the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • SBA Disaster Loan Expansion - An amendment to the disaster declaration has allowed for the expansion of low-interest disaster loans in three additional counties. 
  • Remote FEMA Inspections - FEMA is now conducting remote inspections for victims of wildfires. Before FEMA can issue any monetary awards to help wildfire survivors repair or replace damaged homes, the agency requires a home inspection. This new practice allows for compliance with COVID-19 safety precautions. 

Federal Government

Talks continue on stimulus package. The Senate rejected a slimmed down $500 billion relief package that Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell championed. Senator McConnell has signaled multiple times he will not bring a large stimulus package to a vote on the Senate floor. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been negotiating with the Administration on a larger stimulus package that does not have the support of Congressional Republican leadership.  It appears more and more likely that any new relief package will not occur until after the General Election. Below is a recap of additional federal actions: 

  • Supreme Court Nominee - The Senate Judiciary Committee voted to approve Judge Amy Coney Barrett for the vacant Supreme Court seat. Earlier today, Senator Chuck Schumer forced the Senate into a rare closed session with no cameras or press over the Barrett nomination. The matter now moves to the floor of the full Senate, where Barrett is expected to be confirmed.

Local Action

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

  • Sacramento Relief Program - Sacramento County and the Sierra Health Foundation are partnering to offer Sacramento residents monetary relief from $1,000 to $3,000.  
  • Yolo County Cap - Yolo County has put a cap on the number of people allowed at social gatherings.
  • Marin Suspends In-Person Class - Marin High School has suspended in-person learning following a large party of students which could have been a possible super spreader event.  
  • LA County Schools Partially Reopen - Schools in Los Angeles County will be permitted to bring back up to 25% capacity students for students with special needs that require in-person attention.

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