Solano County on State's COVID-19 Watch List after Spike in Hospitalizations

A recent increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations has landed Solano County on the state of California's list for "targeted engagement," to slow further spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on Monday.

While cases of the coronavirus and hospitalizations are on the rise throughout California, the state is zeroing in on counties experiencing the most acute spikes.

"Being on the county monitoring list brings with it additional attention and focus, additional assistance, some additional resources at the state level," said Mark Ghaly, secretary of California's Health and Human Services Agency.

Ghaly hopes the designation "really galvanizes the response at the county level in order to ... make sure that spread does not increase so rapidly."

Nineteen counties have been placed under increased monitoring by the state, covering nearly three quarters of California's population. On Monday, Glenn, Merced and Orange counties were added along with Solano.

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In Solano County, hospitals have seen a 23% increase in their three-day average of COVID-19 patients. The spike has been attributed in part to a jump in infections among dozens of North Bay farmworkers, many of whom work in Napa and Sonoma, but reside in Solano County.

State and county health officials have identified a list of steps to improve virus mitigation, including working with vineyard management companies to implement physical distancing measures and enlisting Spanish interpreters to educate workers on public health guidelines.

Highly Rated California Nursing Home Hit Hard by Coronavirus

A Northern California nursing home hit hard by a deadly coronavirus outbreak is a highly rated facility. But even with a good track record, it wasn’t prepared to combat the coronavirus when it arrived.

It is the deadliest nursing home outbreak in Northern California and among the worst COVID-19 clusters in the state.

At least 17 people died and dozens of staff members got infected after a housekeeping employee tested positive April 2 and was the first confirmed to have the virus at Stollwood Convalescent Hospital, a nonprofit nursing home in Woodland that received high marks from inspectors and a national accreditation bureau, the Sacramento Bee reported Saturday.

“We put him there thinking he would be safe,” said Donna Scully, whose 71-year-old father was the fifth person at the facility to have died from COVID-19 complications. “And he wasn’t.”

Interviews and emails reviewed by the newspaper reveal nursing home and county health officials struggled behind the scenes to curb the virus. The documents detail a frantic, sometimes slapdash effort to ramp up testing at the nursing home and roll out ever-changing rules from California’s health department.

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Although the outbreak at Stollwood seems over — no one has died in more than a month — CEO Sean Beloud said he still struggles to understand how the virus found its way into the facility. He said the staff followed every guideline that was put forth to prevent the spread of the disease.

Associated Press

Fremont Plans to 'Fully Distance' School in the Fall, Will Go Virtual

When school resumes in the fall, students of Fremont Unified School District won't be immediately returning to campus.

The school year is set to begin with a “fully distance model” in which instruction will be conducted virtually.

Three out of five members of the Fremont  Board of Education voted on Friday to allow students back into classrooms only when Alameda County goes seven days with no new cases of COVID-19.

But two board members expressed concerns for students who may not have reliable access to technology or parents who can stay home to look after them, including board president Desrie Campbell.

“I want to make sure that we’re doing distance learning equitably across the district, and that there are some students and some families that it's not going to work for," Campbell said.

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The board plans to look at groups of students who may qualify for exemptions. School districts have been closely monitoring their county’s number of COVID-19 cases to plan for the fall.

Alameda County was added to the state’s monitoring list Sunday citing “elevated” increases in viral transmissions.

— Julie Chang (@BayAreaJulie)

Revised Health Order for Contra Costa County Includes Stricter Rules on Face Coverings

Contra Costa County is reversing some of its reopening plans. Starting Monday, indoor religious services will be prohibited again, and there will be stricter rules around wearing face coverings.

The county saw an 8% spike in positive COVID-19 cases over the past eight days.

As a result, the county’s health director updated the health guidelines to minimize the spread of the virus. Indoor religious services will be temporarily banned again.

Outdoor services can continue as long as people keep their faces covered and maintain social distance — including during all outdoor activities.

For dining, patrons will be required to wear face coverings at all times except when eating and drinking at their table and masks will have to be worn when ordering or waiting for food.

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Contra Costa is currently on the state’s list of counties being monitored due to increasing numbers of COVID-19 patients in local hospitals. Further information on the health order can be found here.

— Julie Chang (@BayAreaJulie)

California Plans to Release 8,000 People in State Prisons by August

Roughly 8,000 people incarcerated in state prisons in California could be eligible for early release by the end of August, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation announced Friday.

The decision comes amid a devastating COVID-19 outbreak at San Quentin State Prison and other facilities, with Gov. Gavin Newsom facing mounting pressure from advocates, lawmakers and federal judges to quickly reduce the prison population to enable physical distancing and quarantine efforts. The move would be in addition to the 10,000 incarcerated people who have already been released from California prisons since the start of the pandemic, according to CDCR.

"These actions are taken to provide for the health and safety of the incarcerated population and staff," CDCR Secretary Ralph Diaz said in a statement. “We aim to implement these decompression measures in a way that aligns both public health and public safety."

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Since May, when a group of prisoners was transferred to San Quentin from the California Institution for Men in Chino, more than 1,600 people incarcerated in the Marin County prison have tested positive for the virus, and at least seven have died. Across California, nearly 6,000 people incarcerated in state prisons have contracted the virus.

Those eligible for early release must have 180 days or less to serve on their sentences and be considered low-risk of violence, in what Newsom promised would be a "very methodical process." They also cannot currently be serving time for any violent crime, including domestic violence, or for an offense that requires registration as a sex offender.

As many as 4,800 incarcerated people — of the 8,000 target — could be eligible for release by the end of July, CDCR said.

"This is a positive step to address the COVID-19 humanitarian disaster unfolding in our prison system, and I’m appreciative that the Governor and prison officials are taking this horrific situation seriously," said state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, in a statement. "With that said, more work remains. California’s prisons were overcrowded and in urgent need of reduction before the pandemic, and that need is now even more acute."

— Matthew Green (@MGreenKQED)

Giants Star Catcher Buster Posey Out This Year Over Coronavirus Concerns

Giants star catcher Buster Posey became the latest big-name player to skip this season because of concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.

Announcing his decision Friday, the six-time All-Star said his family finalized the adoption of identical twin girls this week. The babies were born prematurely, and Posey said after consultations with his wife and doctor he decided to opt out of the season.

Posey had already missed three practices in San Francisco while dealing with a personal issue.

The 2012 NL MVP and three-time World Series champion joined a growing list of other Major League Baseball players who have decided not to take part in this year's curtailed 60-game season, including Dodgers pitcher David Price, Washington first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, Colorado's Ian Desmond, Arizona pitcher Mike Leake.

Posey, 33, said it was difficult to miss an entire season but that this was the best decision for his family.

"These babies, being as fragile as they are for the next four months minimum, this wasn't ultimately that difficult a decision for me," he said.

Posey hit .455 in exhibition games this year before spring training was halted March 12 because of the virus outbreak.

The Major League Baseball season is scheduled to start on July 23, with two games set for opening day, including a match-up between the Giants and the Dodgers in Los Angeles.

— Josh Dubow, Associated Press

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