Newsom Addresses Floyd Killing, Counties Reopening

During his briefing on Friday, Gov. Gavin Newsom delivered an emotional response to the killing of George Floyd, and continuing protests in Minneapolis and around the country. Floyd was killed on May 25 by a police officer who has now been arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.

Newsom choked back tears as he shared his children’s reactions to posts on social media about Floyd's death. In anticipation of possible protests over the weekend, the governor urged Californians to express themselves “thoughtfully and gently, but forcefully.”

Turning to the pandemic, the governor repeatedly stressed that although state officials have issued guidance on how California should reopen, the pace of reopening will be determined by officials at the local level.

“We put out the how, counties decide when,” said Newsom.

Newsom also said that 1.8 million people in California have been tested for the coronavirus so far, adding that the state has gone from performing around 2,000 tests a day, to over 50,000.

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The governor gave a breakdown of positive cases and deaths by race, showing that 54.6% of cases, and 38.5% of deaths, were among Latino residents, while Latinos make up 38.9% of California's population, according to state data.

— Alexandra Hall (@chalexhall)

SF to Help Homeless People in Hotels Pay for Permanent Apartments

San Francisco leaders announced plans Thursday to move roughly 200 homeless people living in COVID-19 emergency hotels into vacant apartments, seeking to help permanently house them by the end of the year.

The decision comes as city officials fear a tide of homeless people hitting the streets after they have to leave the temporary hotel accommodations that the city made available at the start of the pandemic. About 1,800 homeless people are currently staying in hotels, according to city data, an arrangement that is planned to sunset at the end of the city's declared emergency.

Mayor London Breed announced the new strategy, called a "flex pool"—  a joint effort between the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing and philanthropic partners, like the Tipping Point Community, Dignity Health and others, to house tenants for their first 18 months of rent with philanthropic funding.

Tenants will contribute 30% of their income toward their rent, and also would be provided supportive services to help them stay housed.

"Even as we have implemented emergency responses to COVID-19, we have remained focused on long term solutions to homelessness, particularly more housing," Breed said in a statement, calling the program an "innovative and cost-effective way to get our unhoused residents out of temporary shelters, off the streets, and into permanent homes."

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In a separate statement, Breed's office said it may actually be less expensive to lease apartments for homeless people than to pay nightly hotel rates.

The Mayor's Office said it would "build on the effort" to help other homeless people in the future.

Jennifer Friedenbach, director of the Coalition on Homelessness, criticized the plan to end rental subsidies after just 18 months as arbitrary and said it would lead to many people going right back onto the streets.

"The only time the subsidies should be over is when they make enough income to pay rent on their own," she said.

— Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez (@FitztheReporter)

SF Mayor London Breed Tests Negative for COVID-19

San Francisco Mayor London Breed said Thursday she has tested negative for COVID-19.

The test results came after Breed announced on Wednesday that she would limit public appearances after attending an event where someone who had tested positive for COVID-19 was also in attendance.

Breed said she would take another COVID-19 test next week to confirm she's not infected with the coronavirus.

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The mayor also said she would continue to follow the guidance of city health officials, and in a Twitter thread implored others to do the same.

"Obviously going to events when you know you're COVID-positive is reckless," she said. "Don't be selfish. No one is immune from COVID-19."

This post has been updated.

— David Marks

Sonoma County Expands Antibody Testing to Include Essential Workers 

Sonoma County officials have now expanded testing for COVID-19 antibodies to residents who are or have been essential workers during the coronavirus pandemic. This includes grocery store workers, in-home support services caregivers, construction workers, utility workers and child care providers.

The county is adding essential workers to a list of others for whom antibody tests are available: first responders, police and fire personnel, and health care workers. The tests are also available to residents who tested positive for COVID-19 at least three weeks ago, and their close contacts.

The blood test identifies if COVID-19 antibodies are present in the body, and indicates that an individual was at some point infected with the virus. Testing positive for antibodies does not mean someone is immune to the coronavirus.

Those who fall into the above categories and wish to schedule an antibody test should call (707) 565-4667.

— Laura Klivans (@lauraklivans)

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Napa County COVID-19 Spike Brings State Scrutiny, Business Closures

California health officials added Napa County to the state's COVID-19 watchlist on Wednesday, after the coronavirus' spread there increased its pace in recent days and forced the closure of bars, wineries and indoor dining.

Napa joined a list of 26 counties, including Contra Costa, Solano and Marin, that have been flagged for having increased disease transmission or a rise in hospitalizations over three consecutive days. The list has grown longer in recent weeks, as the spread of the virus continues to rise in California.

Under the state's "targeted engagement" program, the California Department of Public Health will work with hot spot counties to develop disease mitigation plans, and provide technical assistance.

"A number of these counties didn’t come kicking and screaming, in fact [they] reached out to us in anticipation that they were likely to enter onto the list," said Gov. Gavin Newsom, at a Wednesday press briefing. "We are very proactively working with them, and engaging them on making sure that we are all working together on the technical assistance and helping them support and prepare for the modifications in their counties."

In Napa County, modifications to the restaurant and retail sectors are already underway.

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On Tuesday, the county announced it was ordering the closure of bars, along with indoor service at businesses including restaurants, wineries and movie theaters.

Those businesses must close by 12:01 a.m. on Thursday, and stay shuttered until at least July 30.

The rise in Napa County cases can be attributed to "family and community gatherings, increased community transmission, increased transmission among the Latino population within crowded household settings, and disproportionate impact on agricultural workers," according to the state Department of Public Health.

Increased COVID-19 transmission has led to a daily average of 122 new cases per 100,000 residents in Napa County over the past two weeks — above the state's target of 100 or fewer cases per 100,000 residents.

- Guy Marzorati (@GuyMarzorati)

Santa Clara Gets State OK to Continue Outdoor Dining Service

Santa Clara County received state approval Tuesday for a variance allowing some business sectors to reopen and restaurants to continue outdoor dining service.

The Santa Clara County Public Health Department worked closely with the state over the weekend after the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control gave notices to restaurants in Morgan Hill, Gilroy and San Jose to cease outdoor dining.

The notices left many city and county officials confused because they thought outdoor dining was allowed. The county Public Health Department submitted the variance application Monday night.

"The state's rapid response will save thousands of jobs and hundreds of businesses at risk of permanently closing during this unprecedented health and economic crisis," San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said in a news release. "This variance will allow more families to support themselves while businesses comply with strict safety guidelines — saving livelihoods and lives."

The approved variance application also means the new local health order announced by the Santa Clara County public health officer last week will go into effect on July 13.

The new order allows businesses to reopen if they can adhere to strict and consistent guidelines. The first guideline requires businesses to fill out the new version of the social distancing protocol through the county's online web portal before July 13.

The plan also sets capacity limits, requiring no more than one worker for every 250 square feet of space and no more than one customer for every 150 square feet of space open to the public. It also requires employers to report COVID-19 positive cases at work sites.

— Bay City News

Stanford Launches Outpatient Trial For Antiviral Drug

Researchers at Stanford began enrollment this week for a new study of an oral antiviral medication to treat people recently diagnosed with COVID-19 on an outpatient basis.

The double-blind, placebo-controlled trial will use a drug called favipiravir, which was first approved to treat influenza in Japan. Study researchers say they hope it will be able to reduce the severity and duration of symptoms, and the viral shedding that enables people to spread the novel coronavirus.

“We hope that this drug can help to reduce transmission within families, groups and schools,” said study investigator Dr. Aruna Subramanian in a statement. “Plus, it would be really nice to have pills that can be given early on to make people get better faster.”

Favipiravir has been approved to treat COVID-19 in Russia, China and India, but has not been authorized by the FDA for use in the United States. Researchers say the drug works by blocking the virus' ability to replicate itself, and is likely more effective the earlier it's taken.

People who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 within the past 72 hours can enroll in the study by emailing treatcovid@stanford.edu.

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Participants will receive a 10-day course of either favipiravir or a placebo and will be evaluated for health outcomes over four weeks. Study findings are expected later this summer.

— Peter Arcuni (@peterarcuni)

SF Hits Brakes on Reopening Plans, Postpones Indoor Dining and Outdoor Bar Service

San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced Tuesday that the city is hitting the brakes on its next planned phase of reopening, which would have allowed indoor restaurant dining and outdoor bar service to resume on July 13.

“This is not a decision that we are approaching lightly,” Breed said during a media briefing. “We know that in order to protect public health, we are creating other challenges for small businesses.”

Laurie Thomas, executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, responded in a statement, "Although this is clearly both a disappointment and a financial blow for our industry, our biggest concerns remain with the health of our workers, patrons and residents of the state."

Like many other regions across California, the rate of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in San Francisco has noticeably increased in recent weeks, although not as sharply as in some neighboring counties. Last week, there were 6.1 new cases per 100,000 residents in the city, a rate well above the desired goal of 1.8 cases per 100,000, according to Dr. Grant Colfax, director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

COVID-19-related hospitalizations also rose in the past week by 25%, far surpassing the 10% rate of increase the city is aiming for.

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However, Colfax said hospitals continue to have sufficient capacity, with 35% of acute care beds and 30% of intensive care beds available for potential COVID-19 patients.

Other planned business reopenings in the city also remain on hold, leaving hair and nail salons, indoor museums, zoos, aquariums and outdoor swimming pools shuttered for now.

“The price we pay for moving too quickly is extremely high,” Colfax said. “Remember, this virus has no timeline.”

— Monica Lam (@monicazlam), Marco Gonzales-Siler (@mijo_marco)