Nursing Homes Are Still the Epicenter of the Coronavirus Crisis

The latest state numbers continue to show that about half of COVID-19 deaths in California are happening within long-term care homes.

Skilled nursing facilities alone have reported more than 800 positive cases of coronavirus in the past week across the state, according to data released by the California Department of Public Health on Wednesday.

Deaths of both residents and workers in long-term care now total nearly 2,000 people — out of the 3,884 Californians who have died from COVID-19 so far.

The latest federal guidelines say that homes can allow visitors again when all workers and residents test negative for the virus for a period of four weeks.

It’s not clear who would pay for all that testing: industry estimates put the cost of frequent COVID-19 testing in nursing homes at $1.8 billion a year, just in California. Federal and state lawmakers have allocated some money for nursing home tests, but nothing yet for the state’s assisted living facilities.

— Molly Peterson (@mollydacious)

Judge Upholds SF Eviction Moratorium

A Superior Court judge has issued a ruling to uphold San Francisco’s eviction moratorium, which was put in place to protect tenants who have fallen behind on rent during the pandemic.

Several real estate and landlord groups filed a lawsuit against the city in June, arguing that the moratorium was unconstitutional and a violation of state law.

Superior Court Judge Charles F. Haines ruled Monday that the moratorium was a permissible use of the city’s powers, and that it doesn’t violate the state’s emergency orders.

“This is a resounding victory for vulnerable tenants in San Francisco,” Supervisor Dean Preston said in a statement. “I have said from the start, we will not stand by and watch thousands of San Franciscans become homeless because of a pandemic they cannot control."

Yet the groups that filed the suit, including the San Francisco Apartment Association, the San Francisco Association of Realtors, Coalition for Better Housing and Small Property Owners of San Francisco Institute, did not immediately rule out an appeal of the decision.

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Those groups argued that the moratorium places an extra burden on small landlords that rely on renters to help them pay their mortgages and other bills. They said they were "disappointed" with the judge's decision.

"Small property owners who have not been able to collect rent since April are struggling with their own mortgages and expenses," the apartment association and other organization wrote, in a statement, "we are reviewing our options moving forward. In the meantime, we remain hopeful that Congress will pass a relief package which includes meaningful financial support for renters and out-of-work individuals."

The ordinance also prohibits late fees and penalties for people struggling to pay rent, but it does not excuse renters from ultimately having to pay it back.

Joseph Tobener, a prominent Bay Area tenants attorney, warned people should pay rent if they can, as any appeal of the superior court decision would place the eviction moratorium on a shaky legal foundation.

"This was always going to be appealed," he said, "that rent might become due sooner than everyone thinks."

— Erika Kelly (@erikakelly100)

West Contra Costa County Unified Teachers Agree to New Rules for Distance Learning

West Contra Costa Unified is the latest Bay Area school district to come to a tentative agreement with teachers unions over how the school day will work for teachers and students under distance learning.

WCCUSD teachers will vote whether to ratify the agreement this week.

The deal calls for teachers to keep to their regular school work hours, beginning at 8:15 a.m. for prep time before students join for a live, 25-minute homeroom session at 10 a.m. That's when attendance will be taken — though students would not need to have their video feed turned on. The school day will end at 3 p.m. and include time for a 40-minute lunch break — enough time for parents or students to pick up grab-and-go lunches.

The lower grades will complete 45-minute instructional blocks with 10-minute “passing periods,” or breaks. Upper grades will meet for four, 55-minute classes. Those blocks can be live or recorded, at the teacher’s discretion.

Senate Bill 98, the education rider in Gov. Gavin Newsom's budget, calls for daily instruction for a minimum of three hours per day for younger grades, and four hours a day for everyone else. But how much of that time teachers needed to spend in live, synchronous contact with students versus recorded lessons has been a big part of negotiations in many districts.

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In the spring, thousands of the district's students didn't show up for distance learning. The first week of school in WCCUSD will be entirely devoted to outreach to students and families in an attempt to make those important connections and make sure everyone has digital connections they need.

— Julia McEvoy (@juliamcevoy1)

2 More San Quentin Inmates Die of COVID-19 Complications

Two more inmates at San Quentin State Prison died over the weekend from complications related to the coronavirus, corrections officials said Monday.

One of the inmates who died, Orlando Romero, 48, had been on death row since 1996 after being convicted of first-degree murder and second-degree robbery crimes committed in Riverside County. California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation officials didn't identify the other man.

Both men died at outside hospitals. Their deaths bring the total number of incarcerated people at San Quentin who have died due to COVID-19 to 21.

Currently, 145 inmates in custody at the prison have active cases of COVID-19. Active cases peaked at San Quentin in early July with about 1,600 inmates testing positive daily.

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The prison has released 53 people infected with coronavirus for treatment. As of Monday, 1,965 inmates have contracted the coronavirus at San Quentin and recovered.

The prison also has the highest number of infected staff with 258 employees testing positive for the virus.

Nearly one-third of the prison's 3,200 inmates, or 971 people, have been tested in the past two weeks, according to CDCR officials.

This post includes reporting from The Associated Press.

- Raquel Maria Dillon (@RaquelMDillon)

Newsom Continues to Focus COVID-19 Response on Central Valley

Gov. Gavin Newsom is continuing to focus California's response to the coronavirus on the state's Central Valley, where case numbers continue to grow. During an update Monday, Newsom said while some parts of the state are seeing a stabilization — or even declines — in COVID-19 numbers, the Central Valley is seeing an increase in positivity rates, hospitalizations and the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care.

"Disproportionately, this disease is impacting our diverse communities," Newsom said. "Disproportionately impacting the Latino community. Disproportionately impacting the community in the Central Valley."

Though California's COVID-19 positivity rate is 7%, several counties in the Central Valley — which has a large Latino population — are seeing much higher numbers, including Tulare at 13.9%, Merced at 14.9% and Kern at 24.4%.

"And that's why our targeted interventions disproportionately are focusing on essential workforce, on farmworkers, on critical workforce and hospitality, retail sector and the like, that is being impacted by this disease," Newsom said.

To address the issue, California is using the model it first deployed to help Imperial County following a massive COVID-19 outbreak there. That includes deploying state and federal personnel to help slow the transmission of the disease through investigations and contact tracing, provide support to hospitals and help manage outbreaks. Newsom has announced $52 million to support those efforts in the Central Valley.

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— Katie Orr (@1KatieOrr)

Tenants Groups Protest Oakland Landlord's Federal PPP Loan

Tenants rights groups rallied outside the headquarters of an East Bay property management firm Friday to protest the company accepting as much as $1 million in federal loans.

A group of tenants organizations called the United Front argue many of the Lapham Company’s tenants are on the brink of eviction with no relief in sight.

"I'm a Lapham tenant," said one protester, Kalie Caetano, in a video taken outside Lapham's office.

"We were shocked when we found out Lapham received hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer funds to survive this pandemic. We believe we should be allowed to survive this pandemic, too. That relief needs to be passed on to renters. Cancel rent."

The United Front is a coalition of advocacy and union organizations, including Asian American Pacific Islanders for Civic Empowerment, the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, AFSCME, California Calls and others.

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The United Front is warning there are two weeks left until California’s statewide eviction moratorium expires, and if no action is taken to help tenants, many will soon become homeless.

These tenant activists hope legislators will pass Assembly Bill 1436, authored by Assemblymember David Chiu, D-San Francisco, which would keep that eviction moratorium in place throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Lapham Company manages about 40 multifamily properties and single-family homes across Oakland and Berkeley.

Editor's note: This post has been corrected to reflect Kalie Caetano's proper name spelling. KQED is among the local businesses and media organizations that have received a PPP loan. This helps us continue to provide essential information and service to our audiences during the COVID-19 pandemic.

— Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez (@FitztheReporter)

San Mateo County: Some Indoor Businesses Must Shut or Move Outdoors

Officials in San Mateo County announced Saturday that certain
indoor businesses and activities must shut down or move to outdoor operations beginning today.

The businesses include gyms and fitness centers, churches, hair
salons, barber shops, nail salons and shopping malls.

Officials say this order will be in effect beginning at 12:01 a.m. Sunday.

Businesses offering tattoos, piercings and electrolysis may not be operated outdoors and must close.

The state informed the county Saturday afternoon that, due to
being more than three days on the COVID-19 monitoring list, specific indoor businesses must cease operations unless they can be modified to operate outside or by pick-up.

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— Bay City News

Highschooler's Online Music Lessons Go Worldwide

What started as a pet project born out of boredom during the shutdown is now a full-fledged organization with 170 volunteers offering more than 5,000 lessons to 500 students around the world.

But it's also raising money to help national coronavirus efforts.

"We raised almost thirty thousand dollars for the CDC Foundation," said Julia Segal, an incoming senior at Gunn High in Palo Alto. The Foundation is a non-profit that was created by Congress to support the CDC.

Segal started “Quarantunes” out of her love for music and a desire to contribute to the fight against the pandemic.

But as more people signed up for lessons, Segal realized there was still one major barrier.

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"We're providing these music lessons. But the people that we actually want to be able to pick these music lessons are the people that currently cannot because they don't have instruments," Segal said.

To try and solve that problem, Quarantunes partnered with local music shops to offer free instruments.

"They have these old instruments that they no longer had a use for because they weren't in perfect condition," Segal said. And in return, "we spread the word about their shop."

A Quarantunes’ volunteer picks up the instruments and sends them to the students in need.

Segal says since starting this program she’s recognized her own privileges having parents who can afford to pay for her extracurricular activities.

"I’ve kind of lived in a bubble a little bit, even people that live as close as the other side of Palo Alto, just seeing how drastically different their lives are," Segal said. "It has shown me so much inequity."

Segal says Quarantunes plans to add even more virtual courses including cooking and soccer while she begins her senior year, which, like Quarantunes itself, she'll attend remotely.

— Shannon Lin (@LinShannonLin)