Weideman Group COVID-19 Update
May 22, 2020

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California Statistics

As the curve in California continues to flatten and there is significant stabilization, California moves further into Stage 2. The compliance with the stay at home order has given the Governor and public health authorities the confidence to continue reopening the state, but they urge compliance with physical distancing to minimize the surge in positive COVID-19 cases.

THESE are the most recent facts released by the Department of Public Health.

Newsom Administration

Governor Newsom focuses on a methodical safe reopening. Here is a recap of recent actions and announcements:

  • California Connect - Governor Newsom launched California Connect, a contact tracing program and public awareness campaign. This tool will allow the 10,000 contact tracers California is training to connect Californians with confidential testing. A public awareness campaign will reach out across the state in multiple languages through TV, radio, print and social media to inform citizens about the program with accurate information. More information can be found here.
  • New Regional Variance Guidelines - Governor Newsom announced new criteria for regional variances where he estimates that approximately 53 of the 58 counties would meet the self-attestestation to further reopen in Stage 2. Detailed variance guidelines can be found here. Some of the key metrics include: 

     - A maximum of 5% hospitalizations over 7 days

    – Test positivity rate of no more than 8%

    – 15 contact tracers per 100,000 population

    – Testing capacity of 1.5 tests per 1,000 people

    – Plans to reinstate shelter-in-place orders if necessary

  • Tribal Casinos - Governor Newsom has asked tribal governments to reconsider the timing around reopening,  recommending that casinos not reopen until at least June 8. With multiple casinos set to reopen sooner, the Administration has expressed concerns about the potential to put patrons at risk. Sovereign Nations are adopting physical distancing protocols and other precautionary measures to ensure their members, employees and patrons are protected. 

  • Business & Jobs Recovery Task Force Letter -  Governor Newsom’s Task Force on Business and Jobs Recovery sent a letter to congressional leaders urging them to act on the Western States Pact ask of $1 trillion in direct relief to state, local and tribal governments. A copy of the letter can be found here

  • Omnibus Executive Order - Governor Newsom signed an omnibus executive order that extends certain deadlines and waives various requirements. Below are some of the highlights from this order:

    – Eases the strain on domestic violence service providers by waiving the 10% cash or in-kind matching requirements for state grants awarded to these organizations.

    – Waives the deadline to verify grade point average and waives certain certification requirements and selective service registration verification for Cal Grant applicants.

    – Suspends programmatic deadlines for entities that receive funding from the Energy Commission for the development and deployment of new technologies that support the state’s clean energy and decarbonization goals.

    – Extends the timeframe for local governments to submit claims for reimbursement to the State Controller’s Office.

    – Text of the executive order can be found here

  • Film and TV Roundtable - Governor Newsom and his Business and Jobs Recovery Task Force hosted a listening tour with leaders from the film and television industry to discuss resuming production in California. Guidelines for production are expected to be released Monday. A video of the roundtable can be found here

  • California Leaders Call for Relief - Governor Newsom was joined by California leaders from an array of industries in calling on the federal government to pass the HEROES Act and urging them to allocate $1 trillion in direct relief to state, local and tribal governments. Industry leaders joining the Governor included firefighters, nonprofits, labor, health providers, local governments and more. Regulatory Agencies and Department Actions

Regulatory Agencies and Department Actions

Numerous departments navigate the reopening. Here are some highlights:

  • Imperial County Medical Assistance - CalOES announced that the state is sending emergency supplies and medical assistance teams to Imperial County to handle an increase in advanced-illness patients and prepositioning throughout the region. 
  • Alternative Care Sites - CalOES announced that the alternative care sites set up across the state to help with a surge in COVID cases will be placed into a “warm shutdown”. The state will remain in control of these sites, which includes Seton Hospital, Sleep Train Arena and the USNS Mercy, for several months in case a second surge does occur. Thanks to compliance with stay at home orders, these sites were minimally utilized.
  • New Visitor Guidelines for State Parks - CalOES and the Department of Parks and Recreation announced an easement on restrictions at state parks and beaches. The Department of Parks and Recreation released new guidelines for people to begin to enjoy California’s state parks safely. Their resources center with details can be found here
  • CDE Convenes a Meeting with School Districts - Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond convened a meeting with all of California’s school districts to discuss reopening. Aside from stating that PPE (i.e. masks) will be required to physically reopen, the CDE deferred on a number of other issues and indicated they will soon be releasing detailed guidelines.
  • UC Campuses Reopening - University of California President Janet Napolotano announced that University of California campuses will be reopening this fall under a hybrid style of learning. The UC Regents also decided they will no longer be requiring applicants to take standardized tests like the SAT and ACT. 
  • Attorney General Supports the SAFR Act - California Attorney General Xavier Becerra signed on to a letter of 52 Attorneys General urging Congress to pass the Safeguarding America’s First Responders Act of 2020 (SAFR Act) to provide relief to families of first responders that have passed away due to COVID-19. 
  • Community Colleges to Remain Online this Fall - Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley of the California Community Colleges is encouraging campuses to remain online during the fall. Approximately 2.1 million students attend California community colleges, making them a likely vector for the spread of COVID-19. 

 California Legislature

Important Dates:

  • June 15 – Budget Must Be Passed
  • June 19 – Assembly House of Origin Deadline
  • June 19 – July 13 -  Assembly Summer Recess
  • June 26 – Senate House of Origin Deadline
  • July 2 – July 13 -  Senate Summer Recess
  • August 31 – Last Day of Session

The California Legislature is in full swing and holding budget and policy hearings. Assembly and Senate budget subcommittees are holding overview hearings diving into the Governor’s revised budget proposal. Working to meet the fast approaching deadline of June 15th to pass a balanced budget, a number of Senate Budget Subcommittees will be meeting over the Memorial Day weekend. This accelerated deliberation process will lead up to the full Budget Committees releasing their respective spending plans in relatively short order. We have heard that the Legislature is planning to block a number of the Governor’s proposed spending reductions that have been proposed as “trigger cuts” until there is more clarity surrounding the amount of federal funding that may be flowing to states. Once each house’s spending plans are finalized, the differences will be reconciled against the Governor’s proposal and a final balanced budget will be voted on and sent to the Governor by June 15th. We expect there will be remaining budgetary activity after June 15th to pass a Budget Bill Jr and additional budget trailer bills that will likely last through the end of August. 

Assembly Speaker Rendon to convene a Committee of the Whole. All Assemblymembers will meet in a committee format, known as Committee of the Whole, to hear testimony and provide comments on the state budget, but will not vote on any items. Main witnesses, including representatives from the Legislative Analyst’s Office, will testify and take questions in the Assembly Chamber while additional witnesses will appear via videoconference. A live webcast will be available on the Assembly’s website. Speaker Rendon stated, “The coronavirus crisis has put us in a double-bind when it comes to passing the state budget by its constitutional deadline. The health crisis has limited our ability to meet, while the impact of the pandemic has created unprecedented changes in our revenue resources and spending needs. This process will allow all members of the Assembly the opportunity to perform our duties efficiently, based on a common understanding of the problem and potential resolutions before us.”

Senate unveils their Senate Housing Production Package.  Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins unveiled the Senate’s Housing Production Package  aimed at boosting affordable housing construction. The package includes bills that streamline CEQA for specific housing and relaxing zoning ordinances. Here is a summary of the package:  

  • SB 902 (Wiener) – Allows local governments to pass a zoning ordinance that is not subject to CEQA for projects that allow up to 10 units, if they are located in a transit-rich area, jobs-rich area, or an urban infill site. 
  • SB 995 (Atkins) – Expands the application of streamlining the CEQA process to smaller housing projects that include at least 15 percent affordable housing. It also would broaden application and utilization of the Master Environmental Impact Report (MEIR) process, which allows cities to do upfront planning that streamlines housing approvals on an individual project level. The bill would extend and expand a program that has generated 10,573 housing units and created nearly 47,000 jobs since 2011.
  • SB 1085 (Skinner) – Enhances existing Density Bonus Law by increasing the number of incentives provided to developers in exchange for providing more affordable housing units.  
  • SB 1120 (Atkins) – Encourages small-scale neighborhood development by streamlining the process for a homeowner to create a duplex or subdivide an existing lot in all residential areas. Such applications would be required to meet a list of qualifications that ensure protection of local zoning and design standards, historic districts, environmental quality, and existing tenants vulnerable to displacement. 
  • SB 1385 (Caballero) – Unlocks existing land zoned for office and retail use and allow housing to become an eligible use on those sites. It also would extend the state’s streamlined ministerial housing approval process to office and retail sites that have been vacant or underutilized for at least three years.

Senator Melissa Melendez is sworn in. Former Assemblymember Melissa Melendez was sworn in this week as the new Senator representing Senate District 28.  Senator Melendez will serve as Vice Chair of the Senate Health Committee and will serve as a member of the Committees on Budget and Fiscal Review, Human Services, Transportation, and Budget Subcommittee 3 on Health and Human Services.

Federal Government

HEROES Act stalls in the Senate. After the House of Representatives passed a sweeping $3 trillion dollar package that would provide Americans an additional $1,200 stimulus and relief to state, local and tribal governments affected by the COVID-19 induced recession. Senate Republicans declared the bill dead on arrival. While this particular bill might be dead, there is still a possibility of another negotiated stimulus bill that will be approved by Congress and supported by President Trump. Here are some additional highlights of actions taken at the federal level:

  • SAFR Act - The U.S. Senate passed the Safeguarding America’s First Responders Act of 2020, a bill to extend benefits to survivors of first responders that lose their lives to COVID-19. The bill is awaiting passage in the House of Representatives. 
  • CDC Guidelines for Reopening Public Accommodations - The Center for Disease Control and Prevention released detailed guidelines for measures for businesses in various sectors to reopen with modifications taken to ensure the safety of the public. 
  • CDC Considerations for Schools - The Center for Disease Control and Prevention issued new considerations for schools to take into account before reopening. These include assessing risk factors, promoting behavior that reduces spread, and frequent cleaning and disinfection of surfaces. 

Local Action

With stay-at-home requirements continuing to ease, local governments continue on their journey of reopening. Every city and county is going at their own pace with reopening and some continue to go beyond the statewide order by requiring face masks in public spaces. Here are some highlights:

  • Counties Get the Green Light - 40 of 58 counties have received the green light from the state to move deeper into phase 2, including opening retail and dine-in for restaurants. While the state has given the okay, local decisions will still determine just how far businesses can reopen. 
  • Sacramento and Surrounding Counties - Numerous counties, including Sacramento, have taken steps to reopen at their own pace. 
  • Santa Clara Requires Masks - Santa Clara County requires face covering when out in public. 
  • LA County Milestone - Los Angeles county has hit its lowest level of coronavirus transmission rates since March. 

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