Baseball Bat Attacker First Accused Asian Muni Driver of Being COVID-19 Positive

A Muni operator was attacked with a half-size baseball bat after asking three young men to wear masks aboard a Muni bus in the South of Market neighborhood, Wednesday.

But while that incident was widely reported, perhaps less known is when the bus driver asked the young men to wear a mask, one of them spat at the driver and accused the Asian bus operator of having the coronavirus.

That’s according to Transport Workers Union Local 250-A President Roger Marenco, who told KQED that after the assault bus drivers may be more reluctant to enforce mask rules.

It's the latest incident in a spike of verbal and physical assaults against Asian people amid the coronavirus pandemic, which advocacy groups have begun to track since March.

"When he asked them to keep their face coverings on, they said 'they didn't have to' and said the operator 'probably had' (coronavirus) because he was Asian," Marenco said.


The bus operator pulled over at Division and 11th Streets, in South of Market, and opened a side panel on the bus. The bus driver told them to stop and went back on the bus. That's when one of the young men boarded with a baseball bat and struck the driver.

When the driver managed to grab hold of the bat, the man then punched the driver twice in the face.

"They spit at him, they hit him with a bat, they fractured one of his fingers," Marenco said. "What does that do for the operator? It puts them in fear."

Verbal and physical attacks against Asian people have spiked during the pandemic, according to a coalition including the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council, Chinese for Affirmative Action, and the Asian American Studies Department of San Francisco State University, which launched a project called Stop AAPI Hate.

In California between  March 19 and June 30, Stop AAPI Hate tracked 81 physical assaults against Asian people, 64 incidents suggesting "potential civil rights violations" including workplace discrimination and 90 incidents of discrimination against "elderly" Asian Americans.

— Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez (@FitztheReporter)

Protesters Demand ICE Release Detainees, Citing Pandemic

Protesters are calling on Gov. Gavin Newsom to stop transferring undocumented people from state prisons and local jails to immigration detention facilities because of the pandemic.

They gathered at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement building in downtown San Francisco Saturday to demand the release of undocumented immigrants from ICE detention centers across the state.

Immigration activist Judith Garcia says transfers from state prisons and local jails could introduce COVID-19 into immigration facilities.

"They need to stop," Garcia said. "And we need to pressure Newsom and all the politicians to act on it. So these transfers don't keep happening."

On Friday, a federal judge ordered immigration officials to stop sending new detainees to a private facility in Bakersfield with a growing COVID-19 outbreak.


— Shannon Lin (@LinShannonLin)

SF Chinatown Opens Streets to Walkers to Lure Back Shoppers

San Francisco’s Chinatown is trying to regain its usual foot traffic by closing off streets to cars.

For the fourth weekend in a row, the San Francisco Chinatown Merchants Association has closed off three blocks of Grant Avenue, from California to Washington Street, to make outdoor dining and shopping easier.

Eva Lee, with the merchants association, says businesses and shops have suffered the past few months due to the pandemic.

“This is actually a crucial time when we're supposed to get our major business. Summer to us is like Christmas to Downtown," Lee said.

Lee says one upside is that the traditional tourist hotspot has seen more foot traffic from locals this year.


The streets will continue to be blocked off until late September.

— Julie Chang (@BayAreaJulie)

COVID-19 Surge During Staff Shortage at California Women's Prison

One of California's two state prisons for women is experiencing its second surge in COVID-19 cases.

California Institution for Women first experienced a surge of over 150 inmate cases in May. Cases began to subside, but prison officials have now identified 55 new cases in the last 14 days.

Since the first outbreak, the 1,297-inmate facility has had a total of 344 confirmed cases.

One COVID-19 case at California Institution for Women has resulted in a death, according to state data.

Meanwhile, as inmates battle the virus, a shortage of staff forced the facility to change how it serves meals, which started Friday, August 7.


State corrections officials said a shortage of staff means incarcerated women will receive a cold breakfast, in addition to the normal box lunch and hot dinner.

Terri Hardy, a spokesperson with California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) said the prison is operating at 60% of its normal food service staff because some staff have been redirected to “maintain safety and security of the institution.”

Hardy said they are experiencing a shortage because staff are out for various reasons including long-term leave, pre-approved leave, reassignment, medical and/or family leave.

The state corrections department said they anticipate the normal meal schedule to resume Tuesday, August 11.

— Kate Wolffe (@KateWolffe), Lakshmi Sarah (@lakitalki)

Delays as State Officials Face Deluge of COVID-19 Reporting Data

State health officials say there have now been more than 10,000 deaths from the novel coronavirus in California. This comes as Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly gave an update Friday on a technical glitch with the electronic lab reporting system for COVID-19 cases.

Ghaly said a server outage on July 25 led to an extensive backlog of unreported COVID-19 tests results. The state reporting system, known as CalREDIE, suffered another hiccup between July 31 and Aug. 4, during which it failed to receive test results from a major commercial lab.

Ghaly said the CalREDIE reporting system has been challenged by the cascade of COVID-19 data — that it was not built to handle such a high volume. He said the state is accelerating development of a new laboratory reporting system for COVID-19, but he did not indicate when it would be online. New protocols and notifications have been put in place, and servers now have larger capacity. In addition, he said Gov. Gavin Newsom has directed an investigation of what went wrong.

The state plans to sort through the backlog of 250,000 - 300,000 test records — most of them COVID — in the next few days.

Ghaly said the unaccounted-for lab results could be positive or negative and he remains confident the number of new cases is stabilizing.


The backlog has created difficulties for some county public health departments, where officials have described the reliability of COVID-19 data as “flying blind” and hindering their contact tracing abilities.

— Peter Arcuni (@peterarcuni)

COVID-19 Outbreak at Psychiatric Hospital Spurs Lawsuit

Oakland-based Disability Rights California is suing the state to compel it to move people out of a psychiatric hospital that’s battling a COVID-19 outbreak.

About 115 patients and 150 staff have tested positive for the coronavirus and at least two have died at Patton State Hospital in San Bernardino.

“These are individuals who are not being punished for a crime,” said Anne Hadreas, an attorney with Disability Rights California. “They are there to receive treatment, that they cannot be held legally under conditions where they are not reasonably safe.”

Advocates say that similar to jails and prisons, COVID-19 spreads easily in locked psychiatric facilities, but there hasn’t been an effort to reduce those populations. There are currently more than 1,500 patients and 2,000 staff at Patton.

Hadreas says they want patients to be discharged to family or transferred to safer facilities where they wouldn’t live in congregate environments.


Richard Hart, 66, a plaintiff in the suit, was sent to Patton after being found not guilty by reason of insanity for a 1998 crime that didn’t “result in bodily harm.” According to the complaint, Hart had lung cancer last year and is at high risk of serious illness if he contracts the virus.

According to Hadreas, Hart has been deemed “low-risk” and doesn’t need treatment aside from medication and twice-monthly therapy.

“Individuals with mental health disabilities shouldn't be left behind in ensuring that we're creating safe spaces for people who have little means to protect themselves,” Hadreas said.

A spokesperson for the California Department of State Hospitals said it doesn’t comment on pending litigation and is following guidance from the California Department of Public Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other state and local partners in their ongoing COVID-19 response.

— Kate Wolffe (@katewolffe)

California Health Care Workers Urge Senate to Pass Coronavirus Relief Package

Health care workers at 24 Bay Area hospitals held protests Wednesday, calling on their employers and the government to do a better job of handling the coronavirus crisis.

The protests were part of a nationwide effort of more than 200 events, led by nurses, urging the U.S. Senate to pass the HEROES Act. If passed, it would invoke the Defense Production Act and trigger a mass production and delivery of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other medical supplies. It would also mandate the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to establish an emergency temporary standard on infectious diseases.

Zenei Cortez, a registered nurse and president of the California Nurses Association, says health care workers need “optimal” PPE, especially as COVID-19 cases continue to rise.

“We have been protesting and demanding many, many times, and still they have failed us,” Cortez said, “I don't think they're even trying. Nurses continue to put their lives on the line, and so the number of deaths among nurses and other front-line workers continues to go up.”


Employers say they are following guidelines issued by public health experts, and that they’ve had to ration their stockpile of PPE amid a worldwide shortage.

“Our procurement teams have made sure we have had the appropriate PPE to protect our teams today and have stabilized our supply chain for the potential of future surges in this pandemic,” said a Kaiser Permanente spokesperson in a statement. “We could not have achieved this without the diligent work of our staff to follow PPE protocols and conservation efforts.”

Other demands from the health care workers include better staffing and contact tracing efforts by employers, for the government to invest in public health and for the dismantling of structural racism that disproportionately affects the lives of Black, Indigenous, and people of color.

According to the California Department of Public Health, nearly 25,000 health care workers have tested positive for the virus and 131 have died.

— Julie Chang (@BayAreaJulie)

Speaker Pelosi Stumps for Democrats' COVID-19 Relief Package

With extra unemployment benefits having run out for millions of Americans who've lost their jobs because of the coronavirus pandemic, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, said it's critical the federal government pass another relief package.

The Democrat-controlled House passed the HEROES Act about three months ago, but it has not been taken up by the Republican-led Senate, which has its own proposal, the HEALS Act. Negotiations are continuing between the parties and President Trump.

During a virtual discussion with the Public Policy Institute of California, Pelosi said one of the sticking points between the parties is whether to continue paying $600 in additional weekly unemployment benefits to people who lost their jobs because of COVID-19.

"Tens of millions of people have filed for unemployment insurance," Pelosi said. "So we really do need the federal government to put that money in the pockets of the American people."

Pelosi said there's also disagreement about additional money for state and local governments. Republicans are not proposing any new funds, while Democrats have earmarked $1 trillion in additional state and local aid.


The outcome of that negotiation could have a big impact on California. The recently passed state budget includes more than $11 billion in cuts that could be rescinded if California receives more money from the federal government.

— Katie Orr (@1katieorr)