Live Updates: COVID-19 Spread In Bay Area Far Earlier Than Thought

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Latest: The first known COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. happened in Santa Clara County, in early February...Five Bay Area Counties are now enforcing face coverings...CHP outlaws rallies at the state Capitol...San Francisco expands free coronavirus testing...More below...


California Will Train An 'Army' of Contact Tracers (Wednesday, April 22, 3:33 p.m.)

California public health officials and hospitals are preparing to train what Gov. Gavin Newsom called an "army" of 10,000 "contact tracers," he announced at a press conference on Wednesday. They will play a vital role after the state is reopened in identifying, and following, any future coronavirus outbreaks.

That's a major lift, albeit one health officials say is necessary. On April 10 — a mere two weeks ago — the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials sent a letter to Congress saying there are 2,200 contact tracers across the entire U.S.

After an individual tests positive for COVID-19, contact tracers perform the labor-intensive work of calling all of the person’s friends, co-workers, relatives or even servers they may have interacted with at a restaurant to see if they are sick and recommend testing.

Public health officials say a larger, trained network of contact tracers will be absolutely vital after the statewide stay-at-home order is lifted. Without a vaccine or reliable therapy, officials say, the risk of a "second wave" of coronavirus infections remains a grave threat.

--Kevin Stark (@starkkev)


San Francisco Expands Free Testing For Workers and Residents (Wednesday, April 22, 3:15 p.m.)

San Francisco Mayor London Breed has made coronavirus testing more widely available to thousands of local residents and workers.

At a press conference on Wednesday, she teamed up with Public Health Director Dr. Grant Colfax to announce that a city-run test site on Piers 30-32 will now be open to all essential workers who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, as well as any resident who has no access to testing elsewhere.

"Your immigration status or lack of insurance: nothing should be a barrier to you getting tested," said Mayor Breed. She added that the category of essential workers "Does only mean people who work in the health care industry or in public safety -- it also means our grocery store clerks, our janitors."

San Francisco has made testing available to city-employed workers for several weeks. A growing number of community clinics have also been opening to neighborhood residents who require testing. There are 26 testing sites open across the city, according to Dr. Colfax. But testing supplies remain scarce, and not everyone who requests a test can get one.

"My vision is that everyone in San Francisco has universal access to testing," he said on Wednesday. "Today, anyone with any symptom consistent with COVID-19, or anyone in close contact with a COVID-19 case, even if they do not have symptoms, will be eligible for testing."

According to city officials, symptoms of COVID-19 are defined as fever, unexplained cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, chills, headache, body aches, fatigue, diarrhea, runny nose, congestion, and loss of sense of smell or taste.

Call 311 to be screened for testing.

--Julia Scott (@juliascribe)


Hospitals Can Resume Scheduling Essential Surgeries (Wednesday, April 22, 12:59 p.m.)

In a modest move to relax statewide shelter-in-place orders, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday that hospitals can resume scheduling essential surgeries.

He defined essential surgeries as scheduled surgeries that are needed for serious health problems, like heart valve repairs.

"These are not surgeries that are cosmetic," Newsom said. "These are important medical procedures that, if not attended to, become crises, and ultimately burden the rest of the healthcare system."

The governor said his decision was based upon an assessment of the ability of the hospital and health systems to handle surges.

"California has been hard at work to build up sufficient surge capacity to handle an increase in hospitalizations. Because of this progress, we are encouraging hospitals and health care systems to begin to reintroduce medical care delayed due to #COVID19," Newsom's office tweeted.

The governor also said he has directed the Santa Clara county coroner's office to review autopsy records as far back as December to determine whether there were earlier deaths related to COVID-19. This comes on the heels of a report that the first known coronavirus deaths in the U.S. occurred on Feb. 6 in Santa Clara County, several weeks earlier than first thought.

— Monica Lam (@monicazlam)


Adding a Nylon Stocking Layer Could Boost Protection From Cloth Masks: Study (Wednesday, April 22, 12:44 p.m.)

Researchers at Northeastern University have found that adding an outer layer made from nylon stockings to a homemade face covering can boost its ability to filter out small particles in the air by creating a tighter seal between the mask and the wearer's face. In some cases, that extra nylon layer helped homemade cloth masks match or exceed the filtering capability of medical-grade surgical masks.

"It really improved the performance of all of the masks, and it brought several of them up and over the baseline mask we were using, which was a 3M surgical type mask," says Loretta Fernandez, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Northeastern University, one of the scientists who conducted the research.

Researcher Loretta Fernandez of Northeastern University wears a homemade face mask without and with an extra outer layer made from nylon stockings (right). The added nylon outer layer significantly boosted masks' ability to filter out small particles, her research found. (Loretta Fernandez via NPR)

Even the surgical mask performed better in their study: Testing showed it went from blocking out 75% of small particles to 90% with the addition of a pantyhose overlayer. An N95 respirator, by comparison, is designed to block out at least 95 percent of small particles when worn properly.

"Adding a layer that keeps the mask tight to the face is going to improve the function of any of these masks," Fernandez explains, "because how well they protect us is not only a matter of what material we're using to do the filtering but also how well [the mask] seals to the face, so that we're trying to avoid air making it around the mask into our breathing zone." The pantyhose layer, she says, helps creates a tighter seal around the face to reduce how much air leaks around loose edges — similar to the seal on an N95 respirator.

The research has not yet been peer-reviewed, but it was posted Wednesday on the scientific preprint site medRxiv and on the university's website in the interest of sharing information quickly. Scientists who reviewed the study at NPR's request praised it as vitally needed work.

Read the full story on NPR's Goats and Soda blog.

--Julia Scott (@juliascribe)


California Highway Patrol Bans Rallies Due to Coronavirus (Wednesday, April 22, 11:40 a.m.)

The California Highway Patrol said Wednesday that it is temporarily banning rallies at the state Capitol in Sacramento and other state facilities because of the pandemic.

The change in policy came after hundreds of protesters gathered on the Capitol grounds in Sacramento on Monday, many without wearing masks or following recommendations to remain more than six feet apart to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The same group had planned additional rallies in coming days against Gov. Gavin Newsom’s orders that people remain at home except for essential activities. Additional similar rallies have been happening across California and the nation, with more planned.

"In the interest of public safety and the health of all Californians during the COVID-19 pandemic, effective immediately the California Highway Patrol will deny any permit requests for events or activities at all state facilities, to include the State Capitol, until public health officials have determined it is safe to gather again," the CHP said in a statement.

The CHP said it was caught by surprise when protesters ignored public safety recommendations.

The event permit "was issued with the understanding that the protest would be conducted in a manner consistent with the state's public health guidance. That is not what occurred, and CHP will take this experience into account when considering permits for this or any other group," it said.

At least 100 vehicles circled the Capitol, but another 200 or more protesters marched together.

The protest was organized by a group called Freedom Angels, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

— The Associated Press


Five Bay Area Counties Begin Enforcing Face Coverings (Wednesday, April 22, 10:40 a.m.)

Five Bay Area counties began enforcing the use of face coverings in essential businesses and on public transit Wednesday. In Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, and San Mateo counties, people can be refused service or even cited for not covering their nose and mouth with a mask or cloth when conducting essential business.

Children under the age of 12 are exempt from wearing a mask, while children under 2 years old are advised not to wear masks because of the risk of suffocation.

Sonoma County’s face mask order went into effect last Friday.

Last week, California Gov. Gavin Newsom indicated that he is considering a statewide order to wear face masks, but has yet to issue a directive.

— Monica Lam (@monicazlam)


Recently Released State Prisoners Are Testing Positive for COVID-19 (Wednesday, April 22, 9:45 a.m.)

At least three former prison inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 soon after they were released from the California Institution for Men (CIM) in San Bernardino County, raising concerns that the largest outbreak in a state prison could spread to the communities where people return upon release.

CIM in San Bernardino has consistently housed the largest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 64 inmates testing positive as of Tuesday. Over 1,200 inmates at the prison are in quarantine after being exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19, according to a status report filed in federal court.

The virus has also spread to 23 staff at the prison.

News of the three cases emerged within days of CDCR announcing the first inmate to die from COVID-19 on Sunday.

The 60-year-old man, who also has not been identified, was also incarcerated at CIM.

Roughly 700 state prisoners have been tested, a small fraction of the more than 110,000 people currently incarcerated around the state. Of those, 151 were found to have COVID-19.

Read the full story from KQED's Julie Small here.

--Julia Scott (@juliascribe)


First COVID-19 Deaths in the U.S. Happened in Santa Clara County, Autopsies Reveal (Wednesday, April 22, 8:32 a.m.)

The first known COVID-19 deaths in the United States occurred in Santa Clara County, and far earlier than thought, according to autopsy reports released by officials late Tuesday.

In a statement, Santa Clara County Public Health said the first known COVID-19-associated death in the country happened on Feb. 6. Up to this point, it was believed that the first reported COVID-19 death in the United States occurred in Washington State on Feb. 29.

The newly identified cases occurred before what was initially thought to be the first reported death in the county on March 9.

County officials performed autopsies on the two Santa Clara County individuals who died in February and sent tissue samples from both cases to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Confirmation from the CDC that the samples were positive for the coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, came back Tuesday.

County officials said the people died at a time when testing for COVID-19 was restricted to those with a history of travel or who went to the doctor for specific symptoms. They had no known travel history to China, suggesting that they had contracted the coronavirus through community transmission. This suggests the virus was circulating in California far earlier than experts thought.

-- KQED and wires


San Francisco Launches a Slow-Streets Program to Support Social Distancing (Tuesday, April 21, 4:09 p.m.)

San Francisco is the latest Bay Area city aiming to reduce traffic on some streets — and make more room for walkers and runners — under the current stay-at-home orders.

San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) Director Jeffrey Tumlin says the "Slow Streets" program is designed to help pedestrians follow current coronavirus health guidelines.

“We identified some low-volume, residential streets that we could quickly transform...to make sure that people can walk or jog safely, while also maintaining social distance,” explains Tumlin.

A map of San Francisco's new "Slow Streets" program. (Courtesy of the San Francisco MTA)

The project will begin later this week on short segments of 41st Ave. in the Sunset neighborhood, and Page St. in the Haight-Ashbury district. Unlike the car-free Market Street transition a few months ago, this program will allow continued residential and delivery traffic at low speed.

"While traffic congestion has dropped, it is still difficult for people to maintain physical distance on many sidewalks," wrote Mayor London Breed in a statement. "The most important thing that people can do right now is to remain inside as much as possible. But when they do have to go outside for essential trips, this program will help people keep six feet of distance from others."

Oakland is currently expanding a similar effort launched earlier this month.

-- Annie Berman


SF Public Defender Will Take ICE to Court Over Crowded Detention Centers Amid Pandemic (Tuesday, April 21, 3:20 p.m.)

Immigrant advocates and San Francisco’s public defender are suing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to substantially reduce the population at two detention centers in California, saying it’s the only way of protecting detainees from coronavirus.

This is the first class action lawsuit filed on behalf of the more than 400 people detained by ICE at the Yuba County Jail and a facility in Bakersfield.

None has yet been diagnosed with COVID-19, but advocates say that — unless ICE can reduce crowding — it’s just a matter of time.

“Despite consensus among public health experts that these conditions will lead to an outbreak of the deadly coronavirus, ICE has consistently failed to take necessary steps to protect the health of the people detained,” said San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju in a press release. “We cannot sit and watch our clients suffer in these outrageous conditions — we have to use whatever legal tools we have to protect them.”

More than 200 ICE detainees have tested positive across the country.

The lawsuit comes just a day after a federal judge in Los Angeles ordered ICE to consider releasing every high-risk person in its custody nationally.

ICE did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

-- Tyche Hendricks (@TycheHendricks)


State Officials Call on Healthy Californians to ‘Meet the Moment’ By Volunteering (Tuesday, April 21, 1:29 p.m.)

Officials are calling on healthy California residents to go out and volunteer in their community — including making masks, answering 211 calls and giving blood.

The program, called Californians For All, is aimed to help connect residents with volunteer opportunities that meet their preferences. It was created with a statewide coalition of nonprofits, including the American Red Cross and the California Association of Food Banks.

“If you’re healthy, and you can make a difference in your community, we need you at food banks, we need you giving blood, we need you delivering meals, and we need you joining us,” said Josh Fryday, California’s Chief Service Officer, who is leading the initiative. “If you want to stay at home to be safe, you can still make an enormous difference.”

The state saw a 7.4% increase of positive daily cases as of Monday, and 5% increase in the total number of deaths.

Newsom also noted that over 2,634 hotel reservations have been made to allow caregivers to allow them “to shower, to change, to decompress” before returning home. Newsom said these reservations allow workers to keep their families safe as they do this essential work.

The governor said he would provide more information about testing — particularly among the homeless population — and increased testing sites at Wednesday’s briefing.

Localities Reopening

In response to some local governments reopening portions of their cities and counties, Newsom said localities are allowed to reopen spaces so long as they don’t convene large groups. He said the state is trying to create more clarity in the process, but cautions local officials not to open things up too soon.

“Practicing physical distancing has worked to keep those [case] numbers relatively modest, in terms of growth,” said Newsom. “But if we pull back too quickly, those numbers will go through the roof.”

Hospitals Holding PPE

The California Nurses Association has alleged that hospitals are stockpiling personal protective equipment (PPE) in case of a massive influx of cases — resulting in nurses being improperly protected.

Newsom said he’s heard those allegations.

“Give me the CEO’s cell phone," he said. "and I’ll call, because that is an outrage.”

The governor said he’s hopeful that the state will see millions more units of PPE, and can distribute it soon.

— Michelle Wiley (@MichelleEWiley)


Scripps National Spelling Bee Finals Are Canceled Due To Coronavirus (Tuesday, April 21, 11:31 a.m.)

The Scripps National Spelling Bee will not hold its popular finals event this year, calling off a showdown of the country's best young spellers due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It's the first time the spelling bee has been canceled since World War II.

The finals had originally been scheduled to be held in Maryland in late May, but organizers postponed the event last month, saying they hoped to reschedule the showcase event for later this year.

"The Bee has determined there is no clear path to safely set a new date in 2020," organizers said in an update Tuesday.

Spelling bee officials say there is still too much uncertainty about when public gatherings can safely resume in the U.S., which is reporting far more coronavirus cases than any country in the world.

Read the full story from Bill Chappell at NPR News.


State Lists Don't Reveal All the Senior Care Homes With COVID-19 Outbreaks (UPDATED Tuesday, April 21, 10:44 a.m.)

Over the past few days, Santa Clara County began to publish counts of cases, hospitalizations and deaths related to four kinds of group-living situations: nursing homes, assisted living, independent living and board and care homes. According to health officials, residents are more vulnerable to disease and death in those places.

Almost all of the county’s cases have happened in skilled nursing facilities — where the sickest patients live. And of those nursing homes, about 40% countywide are reporting outbreaks. No other Bay Area county is currently publishing this much detail about care homes. However, Santa Clara does not report the names of facilities seeing outbreaks of COVID-19

This comes as more than 21 percent of nursing homes in California are now reporting cases of COVID-19, according to new lists state officials made public Monday, following a promise by the governor. The California Department of Social Services released some limited information about cases and deaths at adult and residential care facilities. Together, the lists — among the most comprehensive in the nation — still offer only a partial picture of institutional outbreaks of the coronavirus.

Among more than 7,400 assisted living facilities, the newest list includes information only for facilities with more than six residents.

Among 1,244 skilled nursing facilities statewide, a list released over the weekend shows cases, but not deaths. Characterized as “a point-in-time snapshot,” it includes only nursing homes who reported cases within one 24-hour period. No facilities from Fresno or Kern counties appear on it, even though each of their health departments report that cases are surging countywide.

Read the full story from KQED's Molly Peterson here.


Cal State Fullerton Announces Plans For A Virtual Fall. Will Other Colleges Follow? (Tuesday, April 21, 9:35 a.m.)

On Monday, California State University, Fullerton announced it was planning to begin the fall 2020 semester online, making it one of the first colleges to disclose contingency plans for prolonged coronavirus disruptions.

"Our plan is to enter [the fall] virtually," said Pamella Oliver, the schools provost, at a virtual town hall. "Of course that could change depending on the situation, depending on what happens with COVID-19. But at this point that's what we're thinking."

The public institution in Southern California also said it hopes to resume in-person learning when it's safe to do so.

Oliver asked faculty to start planning for fall virtual classes now, citing the pain felt this spring when the university was forced to transition to online classes. "Having to jump quickly, without having in-depth plans," she said, "added to the difficulty."

Colleges and universities moved spring classes online, and many also closed campuses in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Schools are now grappling with how long the disruptions will last, and what the fall semester will look like, but many have been hesitant to announce their fall plans publicly.

College enrollment was already on a downward trend before the pandemic, making it a competitive field for college recruiters — every student they sign up counts. The big question is: Will students still enroll if college is all online? And will colleges that were already in dire financial straits survive the outbreak?

-- NPR News


What You Need to Know Today About the Virus Outbreak (Tuesday, April 21, 9:03 a.m.)

WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY:

— Countries across Europe and beyond — joined in the U.S. by a cascade of states — moved to gradually reopen amid warnings that acting too quickly could enable the virus to come back with a vengeance. That includes Spain soon to allow children out of their homes for brief periods and the planned reopening of the Copenhagen amusement park that inspired Walt Disney.

— Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer says agreement has been reached on major elements of a nearly $500 billion coronavirus aid package for small businesses, including additional help for hospitals and virus testing. Schumer said the breakthrough came after post-midnight talks among Democratic and Republican leaders, along with Trump administration officials that included White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

— An Associated Press investigation has found companies with thousands of employees, past penalties from government investigations and risks of financial failure even before the coronavirus walloped the economy were among those receiving millions of dollars from a relief fund that Congress created to help small businesses through the crisis. The Paycheck Protection Program was supposed to infuse small businesses with $349 billion in emergency loans that could help keep workers on the job and bills paid on time. But the AP found that at least 75 companies that received the aid were publicly traded and some had market values well over $100 million.

Oil’s chaotic collapse deepened, and stocks around the world dropped as markets remain upside down amid concern that global economy incapacitated by the virus outbreak doesn’t need to burn as much fuel. The S&P 500 was down nearly 1.5% after the first half hour of trading, following larger losses across Europe and Asia.

U.S. sales of existing homes cratered 8.5% in March, according to the National Association of Realtors. The decrease was the steepest since November 2015.

Read the full roundup from Associated Press.


Anti-Lockdown Protests Spreading as Crowds Converge on State Capitol(Monday, April 20, 7:57 p.m.)

Hundreds of protesters lobbying to ease Gov. Gavin Newsom's tight stay-at-home orders rallied around the California Capitol on Monday, even as Newsom continued to urge restraint, saying the worst thing state leaders could do is "make a decision that's based on politics and frustration."

He outlined his approval for some counties to gradually relax some restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

Newsom said he approved a plan by Ventura County in Southern California to reopen golf courses and parks, which on Monday prompted the top health official in neighboring Los Angeles County to implore residents not to flood those locations as warmer temperatures arrive this week and bring with them the lure of parks, beaches and other outdoor places.

"There is a cap in terms of the loosening," Newsom said, praising Ventura County officials for consulting with his office before their announcement. "They do not go beyond those state orders."

Read the full story from KQED and AP.


Map Tracks San Francisco COVID-19 Cases by Zip Codes (Monday, April 20, 3:55 p.m.)

San Francisco officials today unveiled a new way to track COVID-19 across the county.

The San Francisco COVID-19 Data Tracker website now has a new map, which shows where the highest infection rates have been, according to zip code.

So far the areas with the highest number of cases include the South of Market Street (SOMA) neighborhood and Bayview/Hunter’s Point.

Screen shot: SF C-19 Tracker map
San Francisco has released a map showing the city's COVID-19 infections by zip code. (San Francisco Dept. of Public Health)

"This virus has woven an exceptionally cruel path through our city’s most vulnerable," said Sheryl Evans Davis, executive director of the city's Human Rights Commission. But the city's director of public health, Dr. Grant Colfax, said the hotspots on the map tend to track predictable risk factors such as crowded conditions or neighborhoods where residents tend to have "insufficient support."

He hastened to point out that despite the varied rates of infection shown on the map, "no zip code or neighborhood is inherently safer than another." As an example, Colfax pointed to the 94107 zip code, which shows a high infection rate largely because of one homeless shelter where a large outbreak occurred.

To see COVID-19 cases by county, check out KQED's California COVID-19 tracker.

Police chief William Scott said while San Franciscans have been "largely compliant" with the public health order to shelter at home, police have issued 16 citations to repeat-offenders, as well as 67 "formal admonitions," meaning warnings in which a incident reports were filed.

-- Michelle Wiley


Watch Latest From SF Mayor London Breed (Monday, April 20, 1:03 p.m.)


State, Businesses Attack 'Digital Divide' for Housebound Students (Monday, April 20, 12:50 p.m.)

During his Monday press conference, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Californians are beginning to flatten the viral curve, but clarified that “we’re not seeing that downward trend that we need” to begin easing physical-distancing orders.

With 42 deaths in the past 24 hours, he said California has lost 1,208 lives since the pandemic began. Hospitalizations increased by 1.9% and the state saw a 2.8% increase in ICU intakes in the last day reported.

In response to protests that have been taking place demanding the state be reopened, Newsom said he understands the anxieties of all Californians but the state “must have a health-first focus if we’re gonna come back economically.”

“We share exactly the same desires and goals to reopen the economy,” said Newsom. But “science, health must be the determination,” rather than politics.

Newsom said he would provide more clarity about how Californians could begin to exit isolation during his briefing on Wednesday, with a particular focus on testing progress, tracing and tracking the virus and isolation and quarantine.

Disparities in Care

To address disparities, particularly along racial and ethnic lines, Director of the Department of Public Health Dr. Sonia Angell said that the state is working closely with urban areas to understand the impact.

“We know that these communities have a higher burden of illness," said Angell. "That’s a reflection of poverty and racism and other things that we know have resulted in an inequitable distribution of disease."

Angell said the state is looking closely at every step — from testing to care — to determine where the disparities lie.

The governor said he will be meeting with the Black Caucus and the African-American advisory committee this afternoon to discuss the issue and find more strategies to address it.

Digital Divide

First partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom also announced that 70,000 students across the state will receive laptops and tablets starting this week to help bridge the "digital divide." Those tools are a result of business partnerships that help parents across the state address challenges with distance learning.

“We all know that education is fundamental to opportunity. And so our mission will not end until every child in California has what they need to continue learning while physically distanced,” said Siebel Newsom.

Gov. Newsom also announced that $25 million would be provided to create wifi hotspots to support digital learning. State Superintendent Tony Thurmond announced a new statewide task force aimed at closing the digital divide would meet soon. Meanwhile the city of Sacramento will be equipping seven school buses as mobile hotspots to provide more widespread access. Newsom said if that program is successful, it could be rolled out statewide.

Read more on the digital divide from KQED's Julia McEvoy.

-- Michelle Wiley (@MichelleEWiley)


White House: Data On COVID-19 And Race Still Weeks Away (Monday, April 20, 11:00 a.m.)

The Trump administration is having to backtrack on when it can provide data on the race of COVID-19 patients.

Right now, there's no clear national picture of how the coronavirus is affecting people of different races. Some states are releasing this information, and there's some data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What little data there are is concerning. For one, African Americans represent a third of all deaths from COVID-19, even though they represent only 13% of the national population.

A fuller national picture of how COVID-19 affecting people of different races was promised by the Trump administration at the press briefing of the White House Coronavirus Task Force on April 7, specifically from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS.

THE PRESIDENT: Why is it that the African American community is so much, you know, numerous times more than everybody else? And we want to find the reason to it. And Dr. Fauci, [CMS Administrator] Seema [Verma], both of them and others are working on this, and they're going to have very good — I would say over the next — in less than a week —

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Two days.

THE PRESIDENT: — I think you're going to have very good statistics.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Two days.

THE PRESIDENT: Couple of days.

Now, CMS Administrator Verma says those data won't be released until early May. She spoke on a teleconference with reporters on Monday.

Her explanation? COVID-19 only got its own claims code on April 1, and the administration need a month's worth of claims data to provide a meaningful look at the race of COVID patients.

She said that with health care providers — especially those who are currently overwhelmed — there is often a lag between when they treat the patient and when they submit claims. "We are just starting to get that information in," Verma said. "What we saw in the first week wasn't significant enough or we think it would have been misleading to put that data out."

But, she added, "you'll be seeing a comprehensive analysis of our claims data starting in early May, based on the first month of claims data that we do have."

-- NPR News


Singapore Sees Surge in COVID-19 Cases, Now Has Highest Number In Southeast Asia (Monday, April 20, 10:44 a.m.)

Singapore today recorded 1,426 new COVID-19 infections, bringing its total to more than 8,000 in a population of nearly 6 million people. It now has the highest number of reported cases in Southeast Asia.

A little over a month ago, the prosperous city-state won praise as a model of how to control the spread of the virus without lockdowns. Mass testing, quick hospitalization of those infected, aggressive tracing and quarantining of those in contact with infected people helped keep numbers down.

In mid-March, infections started increasing. The city responded by tightening entry restrictions and imposed a partial lockdown and strict edicts on social distancing.

While the number of infections among Singaporean citizens or residents remains low, there has been a surge in transmission among foreign workers over the past two weeks.

Last week, authorities announced they would put all dormitories housing foreign workers — some 300,000 people, mostly from Bangladesh, China and India — under near-total lockdown. In the days that followed, Singapore reported 728 new cases —almost all of them migrant workers.

Over the weekend, the numbers kept climbing. Among the cases reported Monday, 18 are Singaporeans or permanent residents, according to Reuters.

Read the full story from NPR's Michael Sullivan.


How Can California Fight Wildfires in the Middle of a Pandemic? In a Few Months, We'll Likely Find Out (Monday, April 20, 9:59 a.m.)

No one knows exactly how this coming fire season will shake out, but experts and fire officials agree the COVID-19 pandemic will make an already hard job much tougher.

Fire agencies and emergency managers are now planning how they'll fight wildfires, issue evacuation orders, set up shelters and handle power shutoffs in the face of the massive challenge of simultaneously coping with a highly infectious disease.

"We've never fought fire in a pandemic," said Jim Whittington, an expert in wildland fire response. "We don't have any sort of lessons from [the flu pandemic of] 1918. So this is going to be a learning experience, and we're going to have to err on the side of firefighter and public safety. And we recognize that there's probably going to be some Catch-22s in our future."

One of the biggest impacts could be a strain on the mutual aid system. In normal times, agencies provide support to each other during disasters. But when the crisis is so widespread, that system could become strained.

Read the full story from KQED's Danielle Venton.


What You Need to Know Today About the Virus Outbreak (Monday, April 20, 9:11 a.m.)

The Trump administration is finally acknowledging the plea of governors for help. Vice President Mike Pence leads a teleconference with the nation’s governors in response to calls for a national testing strategy to help secure in-demand supplies like testing swabs and chemical reagents.

Stocks fell in early trading on Wall Street, with energy stocks hammered by the latest collapse in the price of oil. The S&P 500 was down 1% after the first 15 minutes of trading, ahead of a busy week where dozens of CEOs at the biggest U.S. companies are scheduled to show investors how badly the coronavirus outbreak hurt profits in the first three months of the year.

Nations around the world are taking advantage of their flattening coronavirus infection curves to tentatively ease lockdowns, offering plenty of options for U.S. lawmakers and communities to consider. The plan is to open up while maintaining enough social social distancing to prevent new flareups of the virus.

Read the full roundup from Associated Press.


Hand Sanitizer for the People: The Allyship of an Actor and PhD Student (Sunday, April 19, 6:45 p.m.)

Jamal Trulove and Elina Kostyanovskaya were both working in different ways to serve marginalized communities in the Bay Area before the coronavirus hit.

Trulove, an actor, activist, and S.F. resident notable for his role in “The Last Black Man in San Francisco,” is focused on the criminal justice system: he spent over six years in prison before being acquitted in a 2015 retrial. (He received a $13.1 million settlement for being framed by police for murder.)

Kostyanovskaya, a PhD candidate in the Developmental and Stem Cell Biology at UCSF, has worked as an organizer on issues of housing and justice.

The dire need for supplies like masks and hand sanitizer has now forged an alliance between the two. They, along with a group of volunteers, have been producing and distributing hand sanitizer to incarcerated people and low-income neighborhoods in the Bay Area since mid-March, working to get crucial supplies to those who need them the most.

Trulove said at the beginning of the crisis, he looked for hand sanitizer and face masks in many local stores without any success. For many low-income people, he said, there's a lot more to worry about with coronavirus. (Full Story)

--Lakshmi Sarah


21 percent of the state’s nursing homes are reporting cases of COVID-19 (Sunday, April 19, 6:00 p.m.)

More than 21 percent of the state’s nursing homes are reporting cases of COVID-19, according to a new list released by the California Department of Public Health on April 18. Coronavirus has sickened thousands of workers and residents at care facilities around the state.

Advocates have sought to know where those hotspots are because they said people need to make informed choices. Attorney Mike Dark with California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform says the newly released list is likely very incomplete. Fresno and Kern counties do not appear on it — though other big cities all report outbreaks, and the numbers are self-reported. Dark says state regulators have cut back on in-person visits to call facilities instead.

“One reason why these numbers that the state has aggregated are so unreliable is that there is literally no one else to confirm just how high the toll of the sick and the dying really is,” Dark said. Hundreds of thousands more Californians are in assisted living facilities: those outbreaks aren’t included on this list.

--Molly Peterson


Fast Decisions in Bay Area Helped Slow Virus Spread (Sunday, April 19, 4:00 p.m.)

On the morning of March 15, as Italy became the epicenter of the global coronavirus pandemic, a half dozen high-ranking California health officials held an emergency conference call to discuss efforts to contain the spread of the virus in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The tight-knit group of Bay Area doctors organized the call to discuss a consistent policy on public gatherings for the region’s 7 million people, which then had fewer than 280 cases and just three deaths. Soon, though, the conversation focused on the potentially catastrophic emergency on their hands and how stay-at-home orders could slow the advance of the virus.

Many factors have fueled the speed of the disease spread throughout the world. But that three-hour call and the bold decisions to come out of it were central to helping California avoid the kind of devastation the virus wrought in parts of Europe and New York City, experts say.

“It was obviously spreading like wildfire under our noses and literally every minute we did not take aggressive action was going to mean more and more death,” said Dr. Scott Morrow, health director for San Mateo County, just south of San Francisco and home to Facebook.

The doctors who met that day are members of the Association of Bay Area Health Officers, a group born out of the AIDS epidemic that ravaged San Francisco in the 1980s. The group usually meets a half-dozen times a year and has tackled other global threats such as Ebola and swine flu.

It’s impossible to quantify how much those orders helped or truly compare states or countries because of other potential factors such as population density, international travel and the number of tests being conducted in each place. However, experts in disease control say the Bay Area’s early intervention clearly played a significant role in slowing the speed of infection throughout California.

On March 15, California reported 335 cases and six deaths. As of Sunday morning, the state had confirmed more than 30,800 cases and nearly 1,150 deaths. The slowing rate of infection, at 73 per 100,000 residents as of Friday, and deaths is one one of the reasons Newsom says the state can contemplate reopening businesses.

The area is now reaping the benefit of putting stringent recommendations in place “very, very early,” said Robyn Gershon, a clinical professor of epidemiology at New York University’s School of Global Public Health.

“In New York, by the time social distancing came we already had many, many people sick. Without tests, without a vaccine, your only tool is having people not contact each other,” Gershon said.

Officials have contemplated why San Francisco Bay Area residents have largely complied.

San Francisco residents generally are willing to comply with such things “when shown the science, when shown the data about what can be accomplished,” said Dr. Susan Philip, director of disease prevention and control at the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

In the month since, Bay Area residents have largely continued to heed the mandate, quickly understanding the concept of “flattening the curve” to slow the rate of infection and avoid overwhelming hospitals.

“The timing of instituting the stay-at-home order is very, very critical in blunting the epidemic,” said Lee Riley, a professor of epidemiology and infectious diseases at the University of California Berkeley. He warned, though, that complacency could ruin any initial success, noting “we need to remain vigilant.”

Still, a challenge looms for the Bay Area doctors who continue to talk to each other twice a week: How to lift the shelter-in-place orders without creating a second surge.

“We’re going to be relying on the same kind of partnership that we relied upon for the first stage of this to help us through,” Willis said.

--The Associated Press


Some Sexual Assault Victims Collect Own Evidence Amid Pandemic (Saturday, April 18, 5:00 p.m.)

Fears of getting infected with the coronavirus have prompted authorities in Northern California to allow some sexual assault victims to collect evidence with a nurse directing them in the hours long process through a video call.

The temporary measure put in place in Monterey County after shelter-in-place orders were issued last month to stop the spread of the virus raises issues of evidence contamination and other problems that would be challenged in court, defense attorneys said.

Monterey County Deputy District Attorney Lana Nassoura said Thursday the temporary measure doesn’t apply to victims of sexual assault who are children or who have been injured and is allowed when the victim is comfortable and able to conduct the forensic examination on themselves.

“The last thing we want is a victim not reporting the assault to law enforcement because they’re worried about getting sick, so we wanted to give them an option to be able to do that without those concerns,” Nassoura said.

She said the measure also aims to protect the nurses who normally conduct the prolonged examinations in small rooms and who lack the proper equipment to protect them from exposure to the virus.

So far two sexual assault victims have collected the evidence in their cases, one on April 5 and the other one Monday, Nassoura said.

In one of the cases, the victim was exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms. The victim hadn’t yet received results from their coronavirus test, and officials offered the victim the virtual self-examination to protect personnel.

The examination was done through a Zoom video call “because of concerns that the victim might be infected and to not postpone the examination because it’s best to collect evidence as close in time to the assault as possible,” Nossoura said.

Nossoura said the “temporary protocol” starts when a police officer drops off a rape test kit outside the victim’s residence and then waits in his patrol car. Once the victim retrieves the kit and goes inside, they both join a Zoom video call along with a forensic nurse and a victim advocate.

As it’s done during a normal examination, the nurse interviews the victim and after the officer takes the victim’s statement, the officer and the advocate leave the call. The nurse then directs the victim on how and what evidence to collect.

After the victim places the kit outside their door, the officer collects it and takes it to a forensic lab for analysis. The nurse then offers the victim to do a video call with just the victim advocate, who can offer counseling.

The way the evidence is collected could lead to cross-contamination and would raise reasonable doubt, criminal defense attorney Mark Reichel said.

“It is absolutely fraught with danger because when you have a dispassionate law enforcement officer collecting evidence and replace that with the victim who then manufactures the most critical evidence, that’s going to cause reasonable doubt,” Reichel said.

“If you want to frame someone, it’s easy to get their DNA onto a swab where you do a sex assault kit, and say, ‘Oh, look, here’s their DNA,’ ” he added.

Nossoura disagreed and said the chain-of-custody protocols are in place throughout the process and the collection of evidence is observed by a nurse in real time.

“This isn’t a situation where someone goes to a pharmacy and picks up a kit, goes home and does it themselves and then drops it off at the police station,” she added.

--The Associated Press


California’s Attorney General Defends Virus Shutdowns (Saturday, April 18, 2:30 p.m.)

What would normally be broad constitutional protections for freedoms of assembly, religion — even buying guns — may be curtailed when they endanger others during the coronavirus pandemic, California’s top law enforcement officer said in an interview.

The state has been sued over all three during its shutdown as government officials pick winners and losers in deciding which businesses and activities can operate and which can’t.

But in an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday, Attorney General Xavier Becerra said officials have broad authority to do what they think is necessary to slow the spread during the virus pandemic, even if that trumps normal fundamental freedoms.

“The Constitution remains in place,” Becerra said. “The Constitution — U.S. and our state constitution — has provisions in it that address emergencies like this. And so I don’t think there’s any doubt that for the protection of people’s not just their health but their lives, our government must take actions which protect our communities and the individuals in those communities.”

Three Southern California churches this week sued Gov. Gavin Newsom and other officials including Becerra, saying the state’s social distancing orders violate the First Amendment right to freedom of religion and assembly.

A lawsuit last month by libertarian economist and actor Ben Stein argues that California’s unprecedented stay-at-home orders have effectively created a “soft police state” that put 40 million residents under the equivalent of indefinite house arrest, violating guarantees of freedom of assembly.

And several groups representing gun owners or buyers have filed multiple lawsuits alleging that some officials are restricting Second Amendment and other constitutional rights.

People still have the right to practice their religion, Becerra said, but “no one is entitled to endanger the life of someone else simply so that he can extend the exercise of his or her religion beyond means that would now start to imperil the health and life of another person.”

Attorney Harmeet K. Dhillon, a Republican Party official and chief executive of the nonprofit Center for American Liberty that filed the religious freedom lawsuit, said officials could require congregants to wear masks and stay a safe distance apart, the same as for other essential activities such as shopping for groceries.

But they can’t halt such gatherings entirely, she said.

“It’s a disappointingly shallow response to a very complex question involving a fundamental right,” she said of Becerra’s reasoning. ”It’s not his place to tell us how to worship.”

--The Associated Press


Gov. Gavin Newsom Says ‘Project Roomkey’ Making Progress (Saturday, April 18, 1:30 p.m.)

Flanked by San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and Santa Clara Supervisor Cindy Chavez, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that the state has made significant progress on its plan to help house homeless individuals during the COVID-19 crisis.

Dubbed “Project Roomkey,” Newsom said the state has recently procured 5,025 rooms in 19 counties in partnership with hotel chain Motel 6. This brings the total amount of rooms available for the homeless to 16,000, above the plan’s intended goal.

The governor said that the rooms will be prioritized for those who have tested positive for coronavirus, who have been living close to individuals who’ve tested positive, the elderly and those with immunocompromised.

Earlier this week, San Francisco’s largest homeless shelter, MSC South Navigation Center, saw a large COVID-19 outbreak. Ninety-five guests and 10 staff have tested positive, which represents nearly 10% of the city’s total cases.

The Motel 6 rooms are being paid for by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), according to Newsom, since many city governments are struggling with their own budgets.

Newsom, Liccardo and Chavez also suggested that the state could utilize “Project Roomkey” spaces after the COVID-19 pandemic is over to help combat homelessness.

“We should take advantage of this effort and look at the prospect of potentially procuring these sites into the future,” Newsom said. “We have organized, with Motel 6, some language that would allow, beyond this pandemic, to consider these sites as a broader portfolio to provide some permanency to those in need.”

--Gabriel Greschler (@ggreschler)


Stanford Study Suggests COVID-19 Is Much More Widespread Than We Realize (Friday, April 17, 5:30 p.m.)

Preliminary results from a Stanford University study suggest a large number of coronavirus cases have gone undetected.

Researchers at Stanford recently tested more than 3,000 Santa Clara County residents for COVID-19 antibodies. COVID-19 antibody tests can reveal people who have had the virus, even if they didn’t have symptoms or couldn’t get tested.

Based on the test results, the study projects that the number of infections in Santa Clara County could be 50 to 85 times greater than the number of confirmed cases. In population terms, this means somewhere between 2.5% to 4% of Santa Clara County residents have been infected with the coronavirus.

The new study -- which was conducted using skin-prick blood tests -- has yet to be peer-reviewed. But the authors say this type of testing can give a more accurate picture of how widespread infection actually is in a community, and help officials make decisions about social distancing policy going forward.

Similar studies are underway, or in the works, in Los Angeles, Solano County and one in Major League Baseball.

--Peter Arcuni (@peterarcuni)


UC Davis Study Adds to Hope for Remdesivir (Friday, April 17, 5:15 p.m.)

A majority of severely ill patients hospitalized with COVID-19 improved after receiving the antiviral medicine remdesivir, UC Davis Health found during a short clinical study, the results of which were announced on Friday.

The study included 53 COVID-19 patients aged 23 to 82 who were admitted to hospitals in the U.S., Europe, Canada, and Japan from January 25 through March 7.

Each patient received a 10-day course of remdesivir on a compassionate-use basis (in which a new, unapproved drug is used to treat a seriously ill patient when no other treatment is available). Data was collected on follow-up care through March 30.

The preliminary results, which were published April 10 in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that 18 days after receiving the first dose of remdesivir, more than half of the patients who were on ventilators were taken off the machines, and nearly half of all patients, were discharged from the hospital. After 28 days, 84% had been discharged or shown marked improvement.

However, 13% of the patients — seven out of 53 — died after completing remdesivir treatment due to the severity of their disease.

The findings echoed similar results this week in another clinical study conducted by the University of Chicago. That study also suggested rapid recoveries from COVID-19 fever and respiratory symptoms, STAT found.

Patients who required invasive breathing devices, such as a ventilator, improved less than those who received oxygen support with a face mask or another noninvasive approach. Patients aged 70 and older also showed less improvement compared to patients younger than 50. Risk of death was also higher among older patients.

“While the overall results are promising, remdesivir is not yet licensed or approved anywhere globally… We await the results of [a] larger randomized clinical trial that is underway,” said UC Davis professor and chief of infections diseases Stuart Cohen in a statement.

— Monica Lam (@monicazlam)


Oakland Will Lead COVID-19 Racial Disparities Task Force (Friday, April 17, 4:55 p.m.)

The coronavirus may infect people from all walks of life... but it affects some communities and racial groups more profoundly than others.

Recent data from the California Department of Public Health shows that black Californians are dying of COVID-19 at twice the rate of other groups, relative to the size of the black community in the state.

Now Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf is leading a task force to address health disparities revealed by the coronavirus pandemic in vulnerable communities of color.

The COVID-19 Racial Disparities Task Force will look for ways strategically target prevention programs in vulnerable Bay Area communities of color that are most at risk of contracting the disease, and develop culturally-appropriate long-term policy and legislative solutions.

Schaaf is co-chairing the task force with Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan, Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), and Dr. Tony Iton, Senior Vice President for Healthy Communities at The California Endowment.

"This [task force] is the result of the absence of good policy that could protect folks and do a better job of not making them so socially vulnerable. Not only have we seen it before, but we will see it again," he told KQED.

--Karishma Patadia, with reporting from Julia Scott


California Death Toll From Coronavirus Rises Above 1,000 (Friday, April 17, 3:20 p.m.)

California hit more than 1,000 deaths linked to the coronavirus on Friday, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Los Angeles County has had the most deaths with 457. The state has continued to see new virus hot spots, despite the governor’s proclamation that California has bent the "curve" of new cases.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has said the state won't ease a stay-at-home order until he sees consecutive weeks of declining hospitalizations related to COVID-19 and testing is widespread. He wants to be able to test over 25,000 people a day, but the state has lagged behind in establishing a robust testing operation.

Officials say it is unlikely large gatherings of hundreds and thousands of people can resume before a vaccine is available. Newsom has said restaurants will likely reopen with smaller occupancies, and face coverings might be routine in public once the state starts allowing nonessential businesses to reopen.

To reopen public life, testing would need to be easily accessible to all individuals showing symptoms and for people who come in contact with positive cases, Newsom said.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

--The Associated Press


New SF Discount Ride Program Helps Seniors and Taxi Drivers, Too (Friday, April 17, 3:00 p.m.)

On Friday, San Francisco officials took some steps toward addressing the unintended impacts of lost Muni service on all of the neighborhoods affected by the Municipal Transportation Agency's decision earlier this month to suspend service on a number of bus lines.

"We know we left parts the city behind," said Jeffrey Tumlin, Director of Transportation for SFMTA, at a press conference.

Specifically, seniors and people with disabilities who used to count on Muni to access essential services. On Friday, Tumlin and Mayor London Breed announced a new "essential trip" card that works like a debit card and will give qualifying residents an 80% discount on all taxi rides to reach the grocery store, pharmacy and other essential services.

The discount card will also be helpful to taxi drivers "who have been hit hard by this crisis," said Tumlin. He said the city had partered with San Francisco's taxi fleet on the service, and will make sure that taxi drivers have masks and access to a cleaning service to disinfect their cars.

Residents over 65 and those with disabilities can visit SFMTA/covid or call 311 to enroll in the program.

Tumlin also described new "passenger caps" on Muni buses to ensure physical distancing, which heavily limits the number of riders at one time. For 30-foot buses, the limit is 15 passengers; for 40-foot buses, the limit is 20 passengers; and for 60-foot buses, the limit is 30 passengers at a time.

Teams of MTA workers in yellow vest are fanning out to the city's most popular bus stops to ensure passengers are standing six feet apart as they wait for the bus... and to make sure they're wearing face coverings, per San Francisco's new directive on Friday.

"What this means is you may be passed up by our drivers if the bus is already full. It may also mean you may be passed up if you're not wearing a face covering," said Tumlin. "Please be patient and wait for the next one."

Other news on Friday:

  • San Francisco has 1,058 confirmed cases of coronavirus, and 20 deaths.
  • At MSC-South, the city's largest homeless shelter which is coping with a serious COVID-19 outbreak, 95 guests and 10 staff have now tested positive.
  • At Laguna Honda, 19 people have tested positive -- 15 staff members and four residents.

--Julia Scott (@juliascribe)


Tom Steyer to Lead California Economic Recovery Task Force (Friday, April 17, 2:10 p.m.)

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Friday the formation of a new task force to guide the state’s eventual economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. Its co-chair will be Tom Steyer, the billionaire and environmental activist who ran an unsuccessful presidential campaign against President Trump.

The governor's Task Force on Business and Jobs Recovery will include four former governors, Democrats Gray Davis and Jerry Brown and Republicans Arnold Schwarzenegger and Pete Wilson. The task force’s approximately 80 members also include former chair of the Federal Reserve Janet Yellen, the international president of labor union SEIU Mary Kay Henry, and California Community Foundation’s CEO Antonia Hernandez.

At Friday's press conference, Steyer emphasized the need to focus recovery efforts in communities that have been most affected by COVID-19’s economic impacts.

"Resource-starved communities have been hit the hardest by this and are suffering the most, and disproportionately," Steyer said. "Any equitable recovery plan is going to have to put those communities front and center."

Another member of the task force, PolicyLink founder Angela Glover Blackwell, added that the recovery effort is an opportunity to examine economic and racial inequality and close the income gap.

"We cannot go forward as a nation divided between the haves and have nots," she said. "We need to demonstrate for the nation that it is possible to have a recovery that is transformative and imaginative and radical."

Still, the task force boasts a hefty line-up of corporate names, including Disney's executive chairman Bob Iger, Apple CEO Tim Cook, and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff.

At the press conference, Iger said, "At the Walt Disney Company we really have two priorities: getting our people back to work — as thousands have been furloughed by this business shutdown — and offering our guests and customers great entertainment experiences."

"I agreed to join this commission to contribute what we at Disney have learned and what we will be doing, but also to learn from others to help Disney get back to business," Iger added.

The governor warned that any "reset" of the economy would put public health and safety considerations at the forefront.

"We're going to do this thoughtfully and judiciously," Newsom said, adding that his decisions would be based on health and science data. "We're not going to get ahead of ourselves."

Newsom said that the task force would soon convene meetings.

— Monica Lam (@monicazlam)


California Unemployment Rate Soars, But Worst Is Yet to Come (Friday, April 17, 12:54 p.m.)

California lost nearly 100,000 jobs in March, signaling a sudden end to a record 10-year streak of job growth because of a coronavirus outbreak that has shuttered nonessential businesses and sent more than 2.7 million residents to the unemployment office.

The unemployment rate in the nation's most populous state is now 5.3%, a 1.4 percentage point increase that is the largest rate increase on record since 1976, when state officials began using the current formula for tracking job losses.

Still, the numbers are just a glimpse of the pain people are already suffering. The job losses were based on a survey taken the week that included March 12. That was one day after the NBA suspended its season and Gov. Gavin Newsom banned gathering of more than 250 people, prompting the closure of Disneyland and other California icons.

Most of the state's job losses occurred after that date, accelerating once Newsom ordered bars and restaurants to close their dining halls and told everyone to stay at home except for buying groceries or other essential tasks.

Michael Bernick, an employment attorney at the law firm Duane Morris and a former director of the state Employment Development Department, said it's very likely California’s unemployment rate during the "Great Lockdown" will be well over 12.5% — which is the highest it ever got during the Great Recession last decade.

"These numbers indicate only a small part of the devastation," Bernick said.

California posted job losses in six of the state’s 11 industry sectors. More than 67% of the losses came in the leisure and hospitality industry, which includes restaurants. Other services, which include things like mechanics and salons, lost 15,500 jobs while construction — which state officials had deemed an essential service exempt from the stay-at-home orders —- lost 11,600.

Friday's jobs report from the state Employment Development Department mark the end of an historic run of job growth in the Golden State. Since 2010, California added more than 3.4 million jobs, accounting for 15% of the nation's job growth as it emerged from the Great Recession.

--Adam Beam, The Associated Press


San Francisco Mandates Face Coverings (Friday, April 17, 12:00 p.m.)

San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced a new health order Friday that requires all city residents and employees to wear face coverings when they are visiting essential businesses, like grocery stores or medical offices, and on public transportation, like Muni.

Muni and BART workers who interact with the public will also be obliged to wear face coverings or masks, if they aren't already.

Mayor Breed said the new measures, which take effect at midnight on Friday, will "help save lives."

"Today's order is part of our broader strategy to protect public health and slow the spread of the coronavirus in our community," she said in a prepared statement. "As we look to a future in which we can begin to ease the stay home order, we know that face coverings will be part of that ... and we want San Franciscans to become more comfortable with this new normal."

On Friday, Marin, Alameda and Contra Costa counties issued similar face-covering mandates – also set to begin next Wednesday – and San Mateo County officials were expected to follow suit. The move comes after Sonoma County announced its face covering requirement earlier this week, which went into effect today. The city of Fremont on Thursday also began requiring customers and employees at essential business to cover their faces.

San Francisco started recommending the use of face coverings on April 2, and many residents are already in the habit of using them. But from now on, anyone out of compliance can be fined, according to the press release. And businesses will be obliged to refuse service to anyone not wearing one.

Enforcement of the order begins at 8:00 a.m. on Wednesday, April 22.

Residents are not obliged to wear face coverings when out exercising, but should keep one handy just in case they need to put it on. Friday's order does not replace existing requirements to shelter in place and maintain physical distancing. Children under 12 are exempt from the health order.

Officials specified that an appropriate face covering can include a homemade cotton mask, a bandanna or a neck gaiter.

Read the full story from KQED's Matthew Green here.

--Julia Scott (@juliascribe)


Senators Want to Know if ICE Detainees Were Pepper Sprayed After Requesting Masks (Friday, April 17, 10:17 a.m.)

California Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris are calling for an investigation into reports that detained women at federal immigration facility Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego were pepper sprayed and handcuffed by guards after demanding protective masks to ward against the spread of coronavirus.

Immigrant advocates told KQED that the incident allegedly began after some female detainees cut up T-shirts to use as improvised masks, and were then told by guards that they would have to sign liability release forms if they wanted real masks.

The form was provided in English only, and when one person translated its meaning, the women refused to sign, according to attorney Ian Seruelo, who represents one of the women. Seruelo said his client told him a commotion ensued.

“That’s when they called in the male, stronger guards and pepper sprayed them,” said Seruelo. “[My client] said she was able to cover her face. She was handcuffed and taken to isolation. She saw two others handcuffed as well.”

The allegation comes amid mounting calls from public officials and advocates to release people from federal immigration detention facilities to help stem the spread of coronavirus.

Seventeen detainees at the Otay Mesa facility have already tested positive for COVID-19, along with 14 staff members from both U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and private prison operator CoreCivic — far more cases than at any other ICE facility.

CoreCivic denied that staff used force and said in a statement, “regarding the pepper spray claim, those allegations are patently false.” The company added that no signed waiver will be required to receive a mask, and that all detainees have been issued face masks.

Read the full story by Tyche Hendricks.

-- Monica Lam (@monicazlam)


Newsom Projects $7B in Coronavirus Spending (Friday, April 17, 9:45 a.m.)

California Gov. Gavin Newsom expects to spend up to $7 billion this year battling the coronavirus and the economic disruption it has unleashed as state budget experts warned lawmakers on Thursday to prepare for revenue loss akin to the Great Recession.

The news came Thursday as state lawmakers held their first oversight hearing of the more than $2 billion Newsom has already spent, questioning administration officials about a nearly $1 billion contract with a Chinese-owned company to provide up to 200 million masks per month.

Lawmakers from both political parties were upset the administration has yet to release details of the contract, with Republican state Sen. Jim Nielsen saying he was not confident the masks would ever arrive.

"We cannot just be throwing out a false hope to people," he said.

Tina Curry, chief deputy director for the Governor's Office of Emergency Services, said there is so much demand for the masks state officials are afraid their supply could be disrupted if they release too many details.

Unemployment data reflecting the coronavirus restrictions won’t be available until next month. But Legislative Analyst Gabriel Petek said the number of people who have filed for unemployment benefits — more than 2.7 million as of Wednesday — indicate between 12% and 15% of Californians have lost their jobs.

"The pace of job losses that we are seeing, caused by an abrupt halting of economic activity, make it clear the economy has entered a recession, and possibly a quite severe one," he said, adding the experience could be similar to the Great Recession a decade ago and that the Legislature should prepare for a "very substantial" decline in revenue.

The $7 billion Newsom plans to spend does not include other increased costs for things like Medicaid and other social safety net programs that have been affected by the virus. So far, the money Newsom has spent came from an emergency reserve fund and $1 billion the state Legislature gave to him just before they recessed on March 16.

Vivek Viswanathan, chief deputy director for budget at the California Department of Finance, said they expect the federal government to reimburse up to 75% of the state's coronavirus spending because of President Donald Trump’s major disaster declaration.

It’s unclear how Newsom wants to spend this money. Viswanathan said the administration would have more details when it updates its budget proposal next month.

--Adam Beam, The Associated Press


Over 40% of California Workers Face Unemployment Risk: Study (Friday, April 17, 9:20 a.m.)

More than 40% of California's workforce — many of whom were already in precarious financial positions — are at high risk of unemployment due to the coronavirus pandemic.

That's according to a new report from the Economic Roundtable, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit group that profiled the state's workforce using federal census and economic data.

The report underscores that the burden of unemployment is "unequally distributed," resting most heavily on "young adults, Latinos and workers in restaurant, hotel, personal care and janitorial jobs."

While these findings may come as little surprise given the staggering surge of new statewide unemployment claims in the last month, the report is intended to serve as a kind of atlas to highlight where workers currently stand and help the state determine where to allocate resources, said Daniel Flaming, president of the Economic Roundtable and one of the report's authors.

"The economic downturn has been so sudden that there's a lot of chaos. There's truly high levels of uncertainty of where it's all going to lead and when it's going to end and how far down the floor is," Flaming explained. "So we're not trying to make a prediction of how many jobs will be lost. But we think it's important to understand who is most vulnerable and where we can find them."

And things could get worse, the report's authors caution, emphasizing that as "many more workers in high-risk jobs will become unemployed in the coming months as demand for goods and services by both businesses and workers continues to shrink."

Read the full story by KQED's Michelle Wiley here.

--Julia Scott (@juliascribe)


Marin County Will Require Face Coverings (Thursday, April 16, 6:05 p.m.)

Marin County health officials plan to issue an order on Friday requiring masks or face coverings to be worn when interacting with others in the community. The order will go into effect next Wednesday, April 22nd.

Marin County Health Officer Matt Willis says this will help prevent the spread of COVID-19 among people who may be contagious, but aren't showing symptoms.

"We really need to send the strongest possible signal that as we consider loosening some of the elements of shelter in place, we need to limit the spread of disease that might occur as we're having more social interactions," he told KQED.

Willis says scarves and handkerchiefs are appropriate face coverings. The more protective N95 masks should be reserved for medical workers.

The order does not apply to children under six, nor people who need to leave their face uncovered in order to communicate... or for medical reasons.

Sonoma County issued a similar order on Wednesday. Other Bay Area counties are expected to join in soon.

--Alice Woelfle (@turfstarwolf)


Trump Gives States Three-Phase Plan For Reopening Economy (Thursday, April 16, 4:28 p.m.)

President Donald Trump gave governors a road map Thursday for recovering from the economic pain of the coronavirus pandemic, laying out a phased approach to restoring normal activity in places that have strong testing and are seeing a decrease in COVID-19 cases.

The new guidelines are aimed at easing restrictions in areas with low transmission of the coronavirus, while holding the line in harder-hit locations. They make clear that the return to normalcy will be a far longer process than Trump initially envisioned, with federal officials warning that some social distancing measures may need to remain in place through the end of the year to prevent a new outbreak.

Read the guidlines here.

Places with declining infections and strong testing would begin a three-phased gradual reopening of businesses and schools — each phase lasting at least 14 days — to ensure that infections don't accelerate again.

In phase one, for instance, the plan recommends strict social distancing for all people in public. Gatherings larger than 10 people are to be avoided and nonessential travel is discouraged.

In phase two, people are encouraged to maximize social distancing where possible and limit gatherings to no more than 50 people unless precautionary measures are taken. Travel could resume.

Phase three envisions a return to normalcy for most Americans, with a focus on identification and isolation of any new infections.

Those most susceptible to the respiratory disease are advised to remain sheltered in place until their area enters the final phase — and even then are encouraged to take precautions to avoid close contact with other people.

Governors, for their part, have been moving ahead with their own plans for how to safely revive normal activity. Seven Midwestern governors announced Thursday they will coordinate on reopening their economies. Similar pacts were announced earlier in the week in the West and Northeast.

Two in three Americans expressed concerns that restrictions meant to slow the spread of the virus would be eased too quickly, according to a Pew Research Center survey released Thursday.

--The Associated Press


Gilead's Trial Data Suggests Rapid Recovery in COVID-19 Patients (Thursday, April 16, 3:22 p.m.)

A Chicago hospital treating severe COVID-19 patients with Foster City-based Gilead Sciences’ antiviral medicine remdesivir in a closely watched clinical trial is seeing rapid recoveries in fever and respiratory symptoms, with nearly all patients discharged in less than a week, STAT has learned.

Remdesivir was one of the first medicines identified as having the potential to impact SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, in lab tests. The entire world has been waiting for results from Gilead’s clinical trials, and positive results would likely lead to fast approvals by the Food and Drug Administration and other regulatory agencies. If safe and effective, it could become the first approved treatment against the disease.

University of Chicago Medicine recruited 125 people with COVID-19 into Gilead’s two Phase 3 clinical trials. Of those people, 113 had severe disease. All the patients have been treated with daily infusions of remdesivir.

“The best news is that most of our patients have already been discharged, which is great. We’ve only had two patients perish,” said Kathleen Mullane, the University of Chicago infectious disease specialist overseeing the remdesivir studies for the hospital.

The outcomes offer only a snapshot of remdesivir’s effectiveness. The same trials are being run concurrently at other institutions, and it’s impossible to determine the full study results with any certainty. Still, no other clinical data from the Gilead studies have been released to date, and excitement is high. Last month, President Donald Trump touted the potential for remdesivir — as he has for many still-unproven treatments — and said it “seems to have a very good result.”

In a statement Thursday, Gilead said: “What we can say at this stage is that we look forward to data from ongoing studies becoming available.”

Asked about the data, Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, described them as “encouraging.”

“The severely hit patients are at such high-risk of fatality. So if it’s true that many of the 113 patients were in this category and were discharged, it’s another positive signal that the drug has efficacy,” he said, adding that it will be important to see more data from randomized controlled studies.

Gilead’s severe COVID-19 study includes 2,400 participants from 152 different clinical trial sites all over the world. Its moderate COVID-19 study includes 1,600 patients in 169 different centers, also all over the world.

KQED has the full story from STAT here.

--Julia Scott (@juliascribe)


Newsom Announces 2 Weeks Paid Sick Leave For Food Chain Workers (Thursday, April 16, 2:37 p.m.)

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order Thursday to mandate two weeks of supplemental paid sick leave for a broad swath of workers in the California food industry — from people who grow and harvest food to those who pack, deliver, cook and serve it.

“We don't want you going to work if you're sick,” Newsom said. “If you're sick, it’s okay to acknowledge it. And it's okay to let your employer know and still know that you're going to get a supplemental paycheck for a minimum of two weeks.”

The additional sick leave would cover full-time and regular workers at companies with 500 or more employees if the worker is sick or needs to self-isolate because of COVID-19.

In announcing the move, Newsom noted the importance of keeping California’s food chain intact.

“Grocery lines are also the front lines in this pandemic,” he said. The food sector “by definition is essential to our livelihoods and our capacity to meet just basic needs.”

The governor said he worked closely on the order with United Food and Commercial Workers, which represents many grocery workers, as well as the California Grocers Association.

“The top priority of every grocery store has always been the health and safety of our employees and our shoppers, which has taken on obviously an increased importance during this public health crisis,” said California Grocers Association President Ronald Fong during Thursday’s press conference.

The executive order also mandates that employees be allowed to wash their hands every 30 minutes, or more frequently, if needed.

-- Monica Lam (@monicazlam)


Thousands of Bay Area Surgeries On Hold (Thursday, April 16, 1:59 p.m.)

When COVID-19 started rapidly spreading, hospitals throughout the country canceled elective surgeries to free up hospital beds and conserve protective equipment like masks and gowns. Surgery departments canceled everything from cosmetic procedures like tummy tucks and gastric bypasses to brain surgeries and organ transplants. In the Bay Area, all in-person care is delayed for all but the most worrisome cases.

"We shut down the O.R. almost lock, stock and barrel," said Dr. Philip Theodosopoulos, a UCSF neurosurgeon.

In mid-March, he says, nearly 2,000 procedures at UCSF medical center were canceled in order to prepare for a surge of COVID patients.

"These include cancer, aneurysms; include things that cause ischemia to the brain and to the body. This is not just brain surgery. This is all surgery."

Sassy Outwater-Wright is one patient who has had to wait. A rare cancer, called retinoblastoma, attacked her eyesight when she was a baby, causing her to lose her vision. Today the Berkeley resident runs an advocacy organization for the blind and visually impaired. She goes to the doctor a lot.

"We've kind of been playing whack-a-mole with tumors for the past 12 years," said Outwater-Wright, a tall, 37-year-old redhead. "They get one; the other one starts growing. The other one needs attention; they get that one."

There's another tumor in her head right now. She was scheduled to have it removed, until her doctors determined it wasn't safe to open her skull during a pandemic. Outwater-Wright was told the infection risk was too high.

The procedure is on hold. Her tumor isn't. She lies awake at night, weighing the risks.

"The threat to my life from a tumor that's sitting in my head versus the threat from a virus that's loose in a hospital," she said. "And nobody can weigh those odds."

Others will have to wait, as large medical facilities like Stanford Health and Kaiser Permanente have yet to start rescheduling elective surgical procedures.

Dr. Theodosopoulos of UCSF estimates it will take about six months for the surgery department to catch up on all the procedures that were put on hold. That's assuming another wave of COVID-19 cases don't emerge and create a further backlog.

KQED's Lesley McClurg has the full story here.

--Julia Scott (@juliascribe)


New UCSF COVID-19 Test Delivers Results In Under An Hour (Thursday, April 16, 1:19 p.m.)

Scientists from UCSF and Mammoth Biosciences have developed a rapid COVID-19 test that can give results in under an hour.

The SARS-CoV-2 DETECTR, as it's called, is among the first to use CRISPR gene-targeting technology to diagnose the novel coronavirus. The test hones in on two sequences in the virus's genome to identify it. Results are ready in about 45 minutes.

UCSF says it can be performed in virtually any lab with off-the-shelf reagents -- bypassing some of the supply chain problems that have plagued COVID-19 testing in the U.S.

Researchers at the university are currently in the process of submitting the test to the FDA, to get approval before widespread use. They hope the new test could help alleviate California’s testing backlog.

--Peter Arcuni (@peterarcuni)


California Traffic Collisions, Deaths Are Way Down (Thursday, April 16, 12:16 p.m.)

Shelter-in-place orders have led to an extraordinary decrease in driver injuries and deaths across the state, according to a new report from the UC Davis Road Ecology Center.

Overall, collisions -- especially injury and fatality collisions -- are down by 50% across the state. In raw numbers, that amounts to roughly 15,000 fewer collisions per month and 6,000 fewer injuries or fatal accidents.

The report, released Thursday, assessed state highways and major roads patrolled by the California Highway Patrol between February 27 and April 11.

“The reduction in traffic accidents is unparalleled,” says the report. “There is no equivalent in our recent transportation history to such large changes in vehicle movement on our state and local roads.”

The traffic and fatality reductions are actually a cost-saving measure for California. The changes save the state $40 million per day, or roughly $1 billion over the three weeks in question.

However, highway drivers are speeding a bit more -- the report noted an increase of 4 MPH on urban highways.

--Julia Scott (@juliascribe)


2.8 Million Californians Have Filed For Unemployment (Thursday, April 16, 10:32 a.m.)

Some 660,000 Californians were among the 5.2 million Americans who filed unemployment claims last week, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's most recent report. That pushes the total number of claims filed by Californians over the past month to over 2.8 million, as the economic toll of the coronavirus pandemic rocks the state.

The report, which covers the week ending April 11, shows the number of California's claims to be far ahead of every other state. New York was a distant second, with about 396,000 unemployment claims filed last week.

--Monica Lam (@monicazlam)


ICE Releases Hundreds As Coronavirus Spreads in Detention Centers (Thursday, April 16, 10:01 a.m.)

Several hundred immigrants have been released from U.S. detention centers amid concerns that the coronavirus is spreading rapidly through some facilities.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement says it has released nearly 700 detainees after evaluating their "immigration history, criminal record, potential threat to public safety, flight risk, and national security concerns."

Most detainees were released by ICE, often with electronic ankle monitors to make sure they show up to later court dates. Some were ordered released by federal courts after immigration attorneys filed a flurry of habeas corpus lawsuits. The suits allege it was unconstitutional to detain immigrants on civil violations during a pandemic.

Nationally, there are about 90 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among ICE detainees and more than 20 cases among detention center employees, according to the agency.

ICE says it is taking safety precautions. To increase social distancing, detainees are locked in their cells for as long as 23 hours a day to reduce the amount of time they spend in communal areas. Those who are sick or who have been exposed to the virus are quarantined in separate units.

While the releases are notable, they fall short of what advocates and attorneys are demanding: the release of the vast majority, if not all, people in ICE custody.

John Sandweg, former acting director of ICE during the Obama administration, has said that ICE should parole any detainees who, based on their criminal history, do not pose a safety or flight risk.

Meanwhile, ICE says it is trying to reduce the population of all detention facilities. About 32,300 people are currently being held by ICE, the lowest number during the Trump administration.

--Matt Katz, NPR


California Freshwater Fishing Season May Be Delayed (Thursday, April 16, 9:36 a.m.)

The California Fish and Game Commission adopted a regulation on Wednesdsay to give state wildlife officials the authority to delay sport and recreational fishing during the coronavirus pandemic, due to concerns that out-of-towners could spread the disease in rural areas.

The new regulation, pending state approval, would allow officials to delay recreational fishing through the end of May in counties or on waterways where crowds gather to fish.

Trout fishing in the Eastern Sierra was slated to begin on April 25th. The season opener can draw thousands to the region's rivers. Which is why health officials from Mono, Inyo and Alpine counties, asked Fish and Game to consider delaying the season.

"We're very concerned about people from other areas in California and other states bringing COVID-19 into Alpine County. At this time we only have one positive case and we’d like to keep it that way," Nichole Williamson, with Alpine County's Public Health Department, told the commission.

--Peter Arcuni (@peterarcuni)


Hayward Nursing Home Where 13 Died From Coronavirus Is Under Investigation (Wednesday, April 15, 6:56 p.m.)

The Alameda County district attorney is investigating a Hayward nursing home where a fatal outbreak of coronavirus has sickened 67 people and killed 13.

A spokeswoman for the D.A. wouldn’t specify when the investigation into Gateway Care and Rehabilitation Center began, but word of the outbreak at the facility first came over a week ago.

Not long afterward, two men whose wives work at Gateway and had tested positive for COVID-19 told a local television station that their supervisors were pressuring them to continue to work.

County health officials have said they are advising Gateway on controlling the spread of the virus. The family of one of the residents who died, Costell Akrie, called for an inquiry into the nursing home earlier this week.

"The family is certainly encouraged that the district attorney is looking at Gateway and in particular the people who have been injured and hurt,” said Burris Law Group attorney Adante Pointer, who represents the Akrie family. “We believe based on the information that’s out there that Gateway operated with reckless disregard for the health and safety of the patients and its staff.”

Pointer noted that the number of cases and deaths at the nursing home continues to rise.

Gateway did not respond to multiple calls for comment.

--Molly Peterson (@Mollydacious)


Highland Hospital Fired Nurse Who Raised Concerns About Protections (Wednesday, April 15, 5:50 p.m.)

A nurse at Oakland's Highland Hospital who raised concerns about a shortage of protective gear was fired Monday, according to the nurse's union.

Two weeks ago, a photo of Saber Alaoui wearing a trash bag at work because he said the hospital was short on protective gowns was widely circulated on social media. Now union representative John Pearson said he thinks the firing was meant to intimidate other staff from speaking out.

"They've basically been telling us to stop bringing up safety problems. And that's not okay," Pearson said. "We're seeing that the situations we're put in now are literally us spreading disease and infection because our hospital is telling us it's okay to violate all these basic standards of care."

Terry Lightfoot, director of public affairs for Alameda Health System, of which Highland Hospital is a part, told KQED that "the managers who made the decision were not aware of any role that the employee may have played in raising concerns about availability of PPE (personal protective equipment), which is what Pearson first suggested was the cause for the termination."

He added that the union's allegations "are false and reflect an ongoing agenda to conflate labor negotiations with a health crisis."

Lightfoot added that the hospital continues to provide its staff with appropriate PPE based on the guidelines given by CDC and Cal OSHA.

Pearson said the union will be fighting the firing in court.

--Monica Lam (@monicazlam)


Black Californians Dying In Disproportionate Numbers (Wednesday, April 15, 5:16 p.m.)

Black Californians "represent a disproportionately higher number of [coronavirus] deaths compared to their representation in California’s population," according to data released Wednesday afternoon by the California Department of Public Health.

Six percent of Californians are African American. Yet they account for 12 percent of coronavirus deaths so far, according to the data. Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders are "another group of heightened concern," said a statement from CDPH.

These data are incomplete; they only account for 65 percent of COVID-19 cases and 87 percent of deaths statewide.

Bay Area religious leaders along with other black pastors nationwide are calling for the state and federal governments to do more to address the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on black people.

Bishop Yvette Flunder of City of Refuge-United Church of Christ in Oakland joined a group of pastors on Wednesday calling for better racial data on the pandemic, and better access to treatment for black communities.

Flunder thinks many black people aren't calling their doctors or trying to get tested because they're worried about medical costs.

"When they get in the hospital, often the first question they ask is 'How much is this going to cost, and who's going to pay for it?' They're accustomed to being in a situation where some treatment is given to them -- and then, later on down the line, there's an enormous, massive bill," Flunder said.

Pastor Amos Brown of Third Baptist Church in San Francisco says the black community lacks access to testing and medical treatment.

Democrats in Congress introduced legislation on Tuesday requiring federal health officials to regularly post information on coronavirus infections and deaths broken down by race and ethnicity.

-- Shannon Lin (@linshannonlin) and Julia Scott (@juliascribe)


Sick Leave Almost Nonexistent for Grocery Workers: Survey (Wednesday, April 15, 4:45 p.m.)

A majority of essential workers in California lacked paid sick leave before the pandemic, a new study has found. In fact, most grocery and retail employees working on the front lines amidst the coronavirus have limited access to sick leave.

Kristen Harknett, a professor in UCSF's Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, surveyed 30,000 grocery and retail workers around the country. Just eight percent of those surveyed had at least 14 days of leave, the recommended minimum time to self-quarantine.

"It's scary," said Harknett. "Workers are in an extremely precarious position on a good day. But then you layer onto that an enormous public health crisis and it’s just a recipe for disaster."

The federal CARES Act grants extra sick leave, but only to about 25 percent of workers -- because companies with fewer than 50 workers and more than 500 workers are exempted. That means the vast majority of Americans who can't work fropm home still have to choose between working sick or not working at all.

-- Sam Harnett (@SamWHarnett)


SF Pilots New Regional Contact Tracing Program (Wednesday, April 15, 2:58 p.m.)

San Francisco has begun scaling up a major effort to conduct contact tracing on every Bay Area resident who has tested positive for COVID-19, public officials said on Wednesday.

Mayor London Breed and Department of Public Health Director Dr. Grant Colfax announced the pilot program in conjunction with University of California, San Francisco and software company Dimagi. The app-based system will record the symptoms of COVID-positive patients and offer them support, then reach out to their contacts to do the same.

Trained workers will text or phone every contact, as well as arrange for coronavirus testing as needed. They will also keep in touch with contacts to monitor their condition, and share advice on how to stay safe at home. The information will all be anonymized and will not be reported to any other public agency.

"Our goal is to chase down all those people... and either get them into quarantine, or give them the relief that they are not infected," said Mayor Breed.

Around 50 volunteer nurses, UCSF medical students, and city librarians have been trained to provide support through the app, and Dr. Colfax said that 150 people would be trained soon.

"This will require an unprecedented number of personnel to respond every time a new case is registered," said Dr. Colfax. "We hope thousands of people can be in this workforce to get people the help they need who may have been exposed to the coronavirus."

The program is in a testing phase and is currently available in English and Spanish. It will eventually be available in Tagalog, Cantonese and Mandarin.

Dr. Colfax did not put a time frame on the app's rollout, but he was at pains to emphasize that it will be available to everyone, whether or not they have a smartphone or access to the internet. He said the biggest determinant of success will be whether public officials and health workers can "earn the trust of the communities most impacted."

Other news on Wednesday:

  • San Francisco has 1,113 reported cases of coronavirus, and 17 deaths.
  • Tests are still still hard to come by, and are being reserved for those in the greatest need. The issue is a shortage of specialized swabs and the medium needed to keep the swabs stable until they reach the lab for testing, said Dr. Colfax. "The supply chain is extremely unstable. We don't know what we can expect," he said on Wednesday.
  • At MSC-South, the city's largest homeless shelter which is coping with a serious COVID-19 outbreak, 92 guests and 10 staff have now tested positive.
  • At Laguna Honda, 18 people have tested positive -- 14 staff members and four residents.
  • 4/20 celebrations are definitely canceled. "We will be out in force. If we have to cite you, we will," said San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott.

-- Julia Scott (@juliascribe)


Newsom Announces Financial Relief for Undocumented Californians (Wednesday, April 15, 2:22 p.m.)

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday a first-of-its-kind fund for undocumented Californians impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. The new initiative combines $75 million in state funds with $50 million from philanthropic sources to provide “direct disaster assistance” to undocumented immigrants, most of whom don’t qualify for state unemployment benefits and aren’t covered by the federal coronavirus relief act.

Approximately 150,000 undocumented Californians can expect to receive a one-time payment of $500 per individual or up to $1000 per household, according to the governor’s executive order.

“Ten percent of California's workforce is undocumented,” Newsom said, and they are “quite literally putting themselves on the line and helping support this economy and those most in need.”

Newsom noted that many undocumented workers in businesses deemed essential under statewide shelter-in-place orders are “essential to meeting the needs of tens of millions of Californians today.”

He added that community-based organizations would distribute the funds, and that they would not require proof of income level nor other personal information.

As a record 2.7 million Californians apply for unemployment benefits, Newsom also announced Wednesday that he is extending the hours of the Employment Development Department (EDD), which handles unemployment applications. Starting Monday, the EDD’s call center will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week.

Newsom noted that in better times, the call center was only open from 8 a.m. to noon, five days a week.

The governor also directed the EDD to increase the speed of development of work sharing programs, which provide alternatives to layoffs.

“I don't want to get into a national frame right now but I can just say this. I think one of the most significant things we can do in the United States of America is reimagine our unemployment system,” Newsom said.

You can watch Newsom's entire press conference by clicking the link below.

-- Monica Lam (@monicazlam)


WHO Sets 6 Conditions For Ending a Coronavirus Lockdown (Wednesday, April 15, 11:42 a.m.)

For the billions of people now living under some form of stay-at-home or lockdown orders, experts from the World Health Organization have new guidance: We should be ready to "change our behaviors for the foreseeable future," they say, as the agency updates its advice on when to lift COVID-19 lockdown orders.

The question of when to ease shutdowns is a hot topic, as economic output is stalled in many countries — including the U.S., now the epicenter of the global pandemic.

"One of the main things we've learned in the past months about COVID-19 is that the faster all cases are found, tested, isolated & care for, the harder we make it for the virus to spread," said WHO Direct0r-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus via Twitter as the guideline was released. "This principle will save lives & mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic."

Despite all the personal and economic pain the coronavirus has caused, WHO officials say that in many places, it's too soon to get back to normal. And because any premature attempts to restart economies could trigger secondary peaks in COVID-19 cases, they warn that the process must be deliberate and widely coordinated.

"You can't replace lockdown with nothing," Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO's emergencies program, said at a recent briefing. Stressing the importance of a well-informed and committed population, he added, "We are going to have to change our behaviors for the foreseeable future."

Any government that wants to start lifting restrictions, said Tedros of WHO, must first meet six conditions:

1. Disease transmission is under control

2. Health systems are able to "detect, test, isolate and treat every case and trace every contact"

3. Hot spot risks are minimized in vulnerable places, such as nursing homes

4. Schools, workplaces and other essential places have established preventive measures

5. The risk of importing new cases "can be managed"

6. Communities are fully educated, engaged and empowered to live under a new normal

The worldwide number of COVID-19 cases is quickly approaching the 2 million mark, including more than 120,000 people who have died, according to a COVID-19 dashboard created by Johns Hopkins University's Whiting School of Engineering.

-- Bill Chappell, NPR


SF Pride Is Canceled, Carnaval Is Postponed (Wednesday, April 15, 11:05 a.m.)

San Francisco Pride, the world's most prominent LGBTQ+ celebration, announced Tuesday that it is canceling its events this year as California continues to shelter in place to curb the spread of coronavirus.

The annual June gathering draws hundreds of thousands of revelers to downtown San Francisco and has become a cornerstone of the city's tourism and hospitality industries and a huge booster for local LGBTQ+ nonprofits.

SF Pride, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, chose to cancel instead of postpone the 2020 parade for financial reasons, but will be taking some festivities online as part of the worldwide Global Pride livestream.

Also on Tuesday, the organizers of Carnaval San Francisco announced that the Mission District celebration will be postponed "until after the summer."

Read more from KQED.

-- Monica Lam (@monicazlam)


Emirates Airline Debuts 10-Minute COVID-19 Test for Passengers (Wednesday, April 15, 10:42 a.m.)

In a move that could be a step toward making air travel palatable to the public again, Emirates Airline has begun conducing rapid-on site COVID-19 for passengers.

The testing began with passengers on a flight from Dubai to Tunisia on Wednesday. The analysis is a blood test with results within 10 minutes. The airline says it is the first to roll out rapid testing.

Emirates says it is working to scale up testing capabilities and extend it to other flights. It says its testing could also be used to provide confirmation for Emirates passengers traveling to countries that require COVID-19 test certificates.

The testing accompanies other changes on Emirates. Passengers are now required to wear masks throughout boarding and flight. Gone are in-flight magazines, and carry-on luggage isn't permitted – only small items like handbags and briefcases.

Etihad Airways, which is also based in the United Arab Emirates, said last week that it is trialing new kiosks that can monitor the temperature, heart rate and respiratory rate of a person checking in for a flight or dropping a bag. If there are signs of illness, the kiosk will suspend the check-in or drop-off and alert a staff member. The kiosks are being tested at the airport in Abu Dhabi.

"This technology is not designed or intended to diagnose medical conditions," said Etihad's Vice President Hub and Midfield Operations, Joerg Oppermann. "It is an early warning indicator which will help to identify people with general symptoms, so that they can be further assessed by medical experts, potentially preventing the spread of some conditions to others preparing to board flights to multiple destinations."

-- Laurel Wamsley, NPR


How Long Does It Take to Recover From COVID-19? (Wednesday, April 15, 10:27 a.m.)

Around the world, COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to grow each day. Yet, there are also more than 440,000 people globally who have recovered to date.

For those who have had the illness, recovery can be a slow journey. And even after you're feeling better, there can be a period of uncertainty. After days or weeks of isolation, you may be eager to see family again and even step foot into the outer world. But how soon is too soon? And how do you know when you're no longer infectious?

For answers, NPR turned to several experts, including two doctors who both got diagnosed with COVID-19 in mid-March and have since recovered. Rosny Daniel, 32, an emergency department doctor at the University of California, San Francisco, is back on the job and feeling "completely back to normal." And Darren Klugman, 45, a pediatric cardiologist, says he's feeling "100%" and is also back to work after isolating himself away from his family.

Read the full story from NPR's Allison Aubrey.

-- Julia Scott (@juliascribe)


California Schools Will Look Very Different When They Reopen (Wednesday, April 15, 9:35 a.m.)

Staggered school start times. Class sizes cut in half. Social distancing in the hallways and cafeteria. These are a few of the possible scenarios for California schools that Gov. Gavin Newsom laid out as part of a roadmap for reopening the state amid the coronavirus.

"We need to get our kids back to school," Newsom said. "And we need to do it in a safe way."

For schools, the biggest challenge officials will face is how to continue physical distancing among children and adults to ensure that "kids aren't going to school, getting infected and then infecting grandma and grandpa," Newsom said.

That could mean requiring schools to stagger schedules, with some students arriving in the morning and the rest in the afternoon. In the coming weeks and months, officials along with educators and unions will be discussing that idea and other possibilities for keeping campuses safe, he said.

School assemblies, gym class, recess, lunchtime and all scenarios in which students gather in large groups will have to be rethought. School maintenance will need to be overhauled.

"We are entering a new era of education. And whether that's transitional or whether it portends a more permanent change in how we educate students is unclear," said Troy Flint, spokesman for the California School Boards Association.

Flint said the governor's idea of staggering class times would help guide the conversations school districts are having about how to safely reopen.

"Do you need to move to an expanded school day, or school week, or consider weekend classes? Do you need to look at a year-round model?" said Flint.

Education funding cutbacks have already led to teacher shortages and made campus nurses rare, raising questions about how officials might cope with extended days and ensure kids are healthy, said Tony Wold, associate superintendent of the West Contra Costa Unified School District, which includes 55 schools.

"We can't just build new schools overnight. Even if the state gives us more money, where will the teachers come from?” said Wold. "This is probably the most Herculean challenge I have ever seen in public education."

Newsom said he was having intensive conversations with state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond and other education leaders about how to reorganize schools. And any changes in school schedules would have to be negotiated with the powerful teachers' unions.

"(Teachers) are best equipped to drive those conversations and to be a part of that decision-making process and they will ensure whatever plans we end up with work best for their students," said Claudia Briggs, a spokeswoman for the California Teachers Association.

She said teachers have been working with Newsom and Thurmond to figure out how to educate online and they will continue to work with the officials on how to safely reopen schools.

-- Jocelyn Gecker, The Associated Press


Study Warns That Some Social Distancing May Be Needed Into 2022 (Wednesday, April 15, 8:56 a.m.)

A new study by Harvard University researchers suggests that intermittent periods of social distancing may need to persist into 2022 in the United States to keep the surge of people severely sickened by COVID-19 from overwhelming the health care system.

The research, published Tuesday in the journal Science, looked at a range of scenarios for how the virus will spread over the next five years. The variables included whether people who are infected develop only short-term immunity — less than a year — or longer-term protection, and whether any cross-protective immunity is conferred by being infected with related human coronaviruses that cause common colds.

The researchers acknowledge the economic fallout from the response to the virus has been profound.

“Our goal in modeling such policies is not to endorse them but to identify likely trajectories of the epidemic under alternative approaches,” they wrote.

The researchers also acknowledge that social distancing won’t necessarily reduce the number of people who get sick overall, just slow the rate of infection and buy time. Keeping large numbers of people susceptible to the virus by shielding them from infection runs a risk of creating a larger wave of illness later, if controls are eased during a time when the virus transmits more easily, as it is expected to do in the winter, they wrote.

“Pushing bad things out into the future is something we want to do because we should know more about treatments, we may be closer to a vaccine,” said Marc Lipsitch, a leading infectious diseases epidemiologist and senior author of the study.

Another study by Stanford University researchers came to a similar conclusion, that even if sheltering at home ends, social distancing would need to continue until a vaccine can be developed. That study found that if people reduce their social contacts by 71% of their usual activity, it would help control the transmission of coronavirus.

You can read the full story from Stat, the Harvard study, or the Stanford study.

-- Monica Lam (@monicazlam)


Trump Says He Will Halt WHO Funding, Pending Review (Tuesday, April 14, 7:37 p.m.)

President Trump says he will halt U.S. funding of the World Health Organization while his administration reviews the organization's handling of the coronavirus crisis.

"Today I am instructing my administration to halt funding of the World Health Organization while a review is conducted to assess the World Health Organization's role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus," Trump said Tuesday in a briefing at the White House.

"As the organization's leading sponsor, the United States has a duty to insist on full accountability," he said. "One of the most dangerous and costly decisions from the WHO was its disastrous decision to oppose travel restrictions from China and other nations."

It's unclear whether the president has the authority to unilaterally halt funding for an international institution such as the WHO. Congressional Democrats have argued he doesn't.

But The Wall Street Journal reported this week that the White House budget office has concluded Trump has several options to withhold the funds without congressional approval, including ordering agencies to reroute the money to other related purposes.

Read the full story from NPR.


Here's What Has To Happen Before Calif. Can Reopen for Business (Tuesday, April 14, 3:38 p.m.)

California Governor Gavin Newsom said Tuesday that he’ll have to see declines in COVID-19 hospitalizations, ICU placements and deaths before he relaxes any aspects of the statewide lockdown.

“This can't be a permanent state. And I want you to know it's not,” Newsom said at a noon press conference.
But he cautioned that any changes would have to be made “in a precise and targeted and gradual way,” with the right infrastructure in place.

“There’s no light switch here, it’s more like a dimmer,” he said, “toggling back and forth between more restrictive and less restrictive measures.”

Newsom said the state would have to be better prepared to respond to a new surge before he could safely ease restrictions. He outlined six goals for getting there:

- Increased testing, tracing and monitoring of COVID-19
- Greater protections for the most vulnerable, including the elderly, homeless and incarcerated people
- Expanded hospital capacity to handle a new surge in cases
- Production of effective therapies to treat the disease
- Established strategies and guidelines on social distancing for businesses, schools and other public institutions
- The ability to reinstate restrictions if another surge occurs

Newsome declined to give a specific timeline for when the state might reach these goals, but said if the situation continues to improve over the next couple of weeks, he might be prepared to offer something more concrete.

When the criteria are met, the state would issue baseline guidelines for counties to follow -- but counties would have input and flexibility to tailor decisions to their individual circumstance. Newsom said one place to start would be to broaden the definition of “essential” workers, opening the way for more people to return to the workplace.

Asked about President Trump’s statements that the decision to lift restrictions is a federal decision, Newsom responded, “I’m not going there. We just want to get stuff done in California."

'New Normal' is No Normal

“What will the new normal look like?” Newsom said. “Normal it will not be.”

Newsom described changes to how we socialize, work and study, in which individuals assume greater responsibility for protecting themselves and others. He posed a restaurant scenario that might be different in the future; the host takes your temperature before taking you to a table at least six feet from the next party. Your waiter appears to take your order, wearing gloves and a face mask.

Schools, he suggested, might stagger class schedules so that fewer children are on campus at the same time, or at recess or meals together. Newsom said the resumption of large-scale gatherings however was “not in the cards” for some time, based on current assumptions.

-- Julie Small (@SmallRadio2)


Bay Area Airports in Line for Federal Pandemic Funds (Tuesday, April 14, 1:43 p.m.)

The Federal Aviation Administration announced Tuesday it’s dispensing $10 billion in pandemic relief funding to airports across the country, with big checks coming to Bay Area facilities.

San Francisco International Airport will get $255 million in relief funding, Mineta San Jose will get $66 million and Oakland International will get $45 million.Grants ranging from $1,000 up to $323 million — that higher sum for Los Angeles International Airport -- are coming to a total of 188 airports across the state.

In the Bay Area, the recipients include facilities from Cloverdale to Livermore to Half Moon Bay to San Martin. The money is part of last month’s $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and can be used for activities ranging from paying airport workers and utility bills to funding construction projects.

Mineta San Jose spokesman Scott Wintner said the airport will use the money to meet ongoing expenses, including salaries for its 225 employees and payments on past loans the facility has taken out to finance improvements.

Keonnis Taylor, a spokeswoman for the Port of Oakland, which runs Oakland International, said the agency “has made no determination as to exactly how the funds will be applied” to the airport’s operations.

Officials for San Francisco International did not respond to requests for comment on the federal grant.

For commercial airports, award amounts are based mostly on the number of passenger boardings. Smaller general aviation airports are getting money based on their size and traffic.

Airports and the entire commercial aviation industry have seen the same plunge in activity experienced by urban transit, oil companies and other parts of the transportation sector. Bay Area airports have seen a 95% drop in passenger traffic. Wintner, at Mineta San Jose, said that leaves about 500 passengers coming through the airport daily. Oakland’s Taylor said that’s about the same number of travelers arriving and departing the East Bay air terminal every day under the current lockdown.

Last Saturday, the Transportation Security Administration announced that just 94,000 passengers went through airport screenings nationwide, a 96% drop from the same date a year earlier.

-- Dan Brekke (@danbrekke)


San Mateo County Springing Some Inmates to Contain Virus (Tuesday, April 14, 11:20 a.m.)

San Mateo County is releasing more than 130 inmates under a new statewide policy that allows people charged with misdemeanors and most non-violent felonies to post no money for bail.

The Mercury News reports the move resulted from a temporary rule change the state Judicial Council approved last week to help prevent the outbreak and spread of COVID-19 in county jails.

The policy took effect Monday and will remain in effect for 90 days after Governor Gavin Newsom ends the state of emergency in California. District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said county prosecutors had already reduced the population in the jails by an estimated 27%, by agreeing last month to the early release of all inmates with 60 days or less remaining on their sentences.


IMF Warns Of Steepest Recession Since The Great Depression (Tuesday, April 14, 10:27 a.m.)

The coronavirus pandemic is likely to trigger the worst recession since the Great Depression — dwarfing the fallout from the financial crisis a dozen years ago, the the International Monetary Fund warned Tuesday.

It predicts the global economy will shrink 3% this year, before rebounding in 2021. The expected contraction in the U.S. will be almost twice as sharp, the IMF said, with the gross domestic product falling by 5.9% in 2020. The IMF predicts a partial recovery in the U.S. next year, with the economy growing by 4.7%.

"The COVID-19 pandemic is inflicting high and rising human costs worldwide," IMF forecasters wrote in their global outlook, titled The Great Lockdown.

"Protecting lives and allowing health care systems to cope have required isolation, lockdowns, and widespread closures to slow the spread of the virus. The health crisis is therefore having a severe impact on economic activity," the IMF added.

Economists conceded that their forecast is clouded by "extreme uncertainty," with much depending on the path of the pandemic as well as global efforts to contain it.

Read the full story from Scott Horsley at NPR News.


COVID-19 Antibody Testing Ramps Up in California (Tuesday, April 14, 10:01 a.m.)

When infected with a virus or other pathogen, our immune system makes proteins, called antibodies, to fight off the infection. Scientists and health officials say newly authorized blood tests for COVID-19 antibodies may be key to tracking the spread of the virus and figuring out who could return to work.

A growing number of academic and private labs in California have begun running blood — or serological — tests for COVID-19 antibodies, including Stanford University in the Bay Area and USC in conjunction with the LA County Department of Public Health.

Unlike nasal swab tests that detect who currently has the virus, antibody tests can capture those who already had it, but were asymptomatic or couldn’t get tested due to criteria or supply problems.

"That will give a lot more information about penetrance in the community," said Spenser Smith, lab director at ARCpoint Labs of Monterey. The small, private lab began running the skin prick test last week to frontline health workers and other first responders. Tests are available by appointment or referrals from health care providers.

"You just have to poke on the finger, a couple of drops of blood and it kind of looks like a pregnancy test,” he said. “You'll see a little line there denoting it was positive for those antibodies."

Smith says the test looks for two distinct COVID-19 antibodies, one the body produces to fight the virus right away and another that could be important for lasting immunity.

"We're hopeful that once you're exposed, you'll be immune, at least for the season," he said.

Read the full story from KQED's Peter Arcuni.


San Francisco Struggles with Outbreak Among Homeless (Tuesday, April 14, 9:27 a.m.)

San Francisco’s largest homeless shelter is now the epicenter of the city’s coronavirus outbreak, with ninety-one people testing positive. That represents nearly 10% of the total COVID-19 cases city-wide.

City officials said Monday that all of the residents from the MSC South Navigation Center moved to hotel rooms over the weekend.

As of Sunday, there were 750 homeless people staying in hotel rooms with more expected to move in. On Tuesday, San Francisco supervisors ar expected to vote this afternoon on an emergency plan to move thousands more homeless people into the city’s vacant hotel rooms.

But Jennifer Friedenbach, director of the non-governmental Coalition on Homelessness, said she’s frustrated city officials waited so long to move people out of shelters.

"That was exactly what we were advising against," says Friedenbach, "because of the level of vulnerability among the population."

San Francisco now has more than 2,000 hotel rooms available for first responders and people experiencing homelessness but officials estimate they will need a total of about 7,000.

-- Erin Baldassari (@e_baldi)


What You Need to Know Today About the Virus Outbreak (Tuesday, April 14, 9:05 a.m.)

Governments battling a virus that has crossed borders with breathtaking speed pinned their hopes Tuesday on tests, technology and a coordinated approach to ease the tight restrictions on movement that have slowed the outbreak but strangled the global economy.

While the European Union looked into creating a COVID-19 smartphone app that could function across the bloc, governors on both U.S. coasts pledged to work together as they planned an easing of the confinement of millions. The main concern is to avoid a resurgence by the virus.

Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund said the world economy, battered by the coronavirus, will suffer its worst year since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The IMF expects the global economy to shrink 3% this year before rebounding in 2021 with 5.8% growth, though it acknowledges prospects for a rebound next year are clouded by uncertainty.

Read the full roundup from Associated Press.


BART 'Coming Up Empty' in Procuring PPE for Its Workers (Monday, April 13, 4:11 p.m.)

BART is one of the many public agencies trying to find protective masks for its essential workers during the coronavirus pandemic. And it’s having a hard time finding enough to go around.

BART police officers, station agents and the workers who clean trains and stations are all in line for protective N95 masks. Tamar Allen, BART’s assistant general manager for operations, told the district’s board of directors during a meeting last Thursday that the agency’s “burn rate” — the number of masks it needs every month is about 20,000. That number pales by comparison with the millions of masks sought for hospital workers and other front-line emergency and medical personnel across California. But Allen said the district’s search for the protective devices has been fruitless.

“Masks in any quantity at this point are nearly impossible to get,” she said in response to a question from eastern Contra Costa County board member Mark Foley. She added that the agency is even having trouble finding less protective coverings for workers.

“We have ordered bandanas, which have not arrived, and we have no estimated date for their arrival, so that we can make our own masks,” Allen said. "So we’re leaving no rock unturned. We’re really beating the heck out of this, and we’re just coming up empty."

Other agency officials said during the meeting that they’re hoping to take advantage of an offer from Shanghai Metro, the agency that runs transit in the Chinese metropolis, to send a supply of masks. BART General Manager Bob Powers told the board his staff has been in contact with Shanghai officials two or three times to figure out how to get the masks from China to the Bay Area.

“They are still working through logistics and a timeline, and we will keep the board apprised of that,” Powers said.

-- Dan Brekke (@danbrekke)


Newsom to Announce Plans for Reopening Parts of Economy (Monday, April 13, 3:20 p.m.)

Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday that COVID-19 in California was “growing, but in a moderate way,” clearing the way to reopen parts of the economy, a plan he promised to unveil on Tuesday.

The total number of confirmed cases of infection reached 22,348 on Monday, with 3,015 people hospitalized and 1,178 patients in the ICU, less than a 3% increase over the day prior.

“These are just proof points that things seem to be stabilizing,” the governor said at his noon press conference. “The curve is being bent because of you and because of your willingness to continue to stay at home."

Newsom cautioned, however, that the resucitation of the economy would be slow and methodical.

“It's a vexing prospect for every governor across this country” he said, “to figure out a way of doing this where we don't invite a second wave, where we don't let down our guard and we don't put ourselves in a position where we regret moving too quickly.”

Meanwhile, Newsom and governors Jay Inslee of Washington and Kate Brown of Oregon released a joint statement announcing a "shared vision" for returning to normalcy.

"COVID-19 has preyed upon our interconnectedness," the release said. "In the coming weeks, the West Coast will flip the script on COVID-19 – with our states acting in close coordination and collaboration to ensure the virus can never spread wildly in our communities.

"We are announcing that California, Oregon and Washington have agreed to work together on a shared approach for reopening our economies – one that identifies clear indicators for communities to restart public life and business."

The joint statement said the states "need to see a decline in the rate of spread of the virus before large-scale reopening, and we will be working in coordination to identify the best metrics to guide this."

Initiative to Protect Kids

Newsom also announced on Monday a $42 million allocation to protect 86,500 youth in California, including more than 60,000 foster children and children in the care of California's Child Protective Services. Newsom said referrals are down from school employees, who are often the ones to flag children who are at risk.

"What is not down is our guard," Newsom said. The Governor said the cash infusion from the state would increase the number of in-home visits social workers can make. Some of the funds will be used to extend the time foster youth can stay in the program. Newsom said about 200 young people age out of the program every month, but would be allowed to stay on longer with their placement families during the pandemic.

Kimberley Johnson, who heads the California Department of Social Services, which oversees the state’s county-run child welfare system, said some of the money will also pay to provide children with laptops and cell phones so they can access the services they need.

-- Julie Small (@SmallRadio2)


Bay Area Pollution Way Down, Air District Estimates (Monday, April 13, 2:18 p.m.)

The Bay Area’s grueling commute has all but disappeared as millions of people stay home at the order of public health officials seeking to slow the spread of this coronavirus.

As millions of cars sit parked on the street or collect dust in garages, and public transit agencies drastically reduce service, researchers with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District say there's some indication that regional air pollution is way down.

“Traffic is the top contributor to air pollution in the Bay Area,” Kristine Roselius, a spokeswoman for the agency, said in an email. “Reducing the number of cars and trucks on our roads can have a significant, positive effect on our air quality.”

Researchers at the agency took early reports estimating bridge traffic was down by 70% and used them to calculate a corresponding reduction in pollution.

The district's numbers show a potential 20% reduction in fine particulates and a 38% drop in nitrogen oxides. Carbon dioxide emissions, the leading driver of climate change, would be down 26%.

Read the full story from KQED's Kevin Stark.


Port Volume Remains Depressed as Shipping Lags (Monday, April 13, 12:58 p.m.)

Global trade is down and that’s having an impact on business at the Port of Oakland.

Loaded box volume dropped more than 7% in March. Likewise the number of ships calling at Oakland last month declined almost 11% from March of last year.

The port says that’s evidence that the international effort to stop the spread of COVID-19 has slowed containerized freight transport. As so many products come from China, shipping was quick to feel the effects of restrictions put in place there, but ports on this side of the Pacific are seeing a lagged effect.

The Port remains fully operational despite a shelter-in-place order mandated by Alameda County. It and its supply chain partners have been declared critical infrastructure in the coronavirus fight.

-- Kate Wolffe (@katewolffe)


Leon Panetta Gives Trump Administration a "D+" Grade for Virus Response (Monday, April 13, 12:42 p.m.)

A seasoned cabinet-level veteran is giving the Trump administration a "D+" grade for its response so far to the pandemic.

Leon Panetta, who was White House Chief of Staff under Bill Clinton and Secretary of Defense under Barack Obama, gave his assessment Monday to the NPR program Here & Now.

Among his criticisms, Panetta said President Trump has taken too high a profile at his daily briefings, rather than leaving them largely to the health care officials present. Panetta said the briefings, in addition to going on far too long, have "not been very helpful."

Panetta said more emphasis is needed on what he called the "Three Ts: testing, tracking, and treatment.

"There just has to be a lot more testing going on," he told program host Jeremy Hobson.

Panetta also assailed the Pentagon's handling of an outbreak of coronavirus aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, a debacle that led to the resignation of the acting Navy secretary.

"It was irresponsible," said Panetta of the hair-trigger dismissal of the ship's captain after the latter circulated a letter describing the threat to his crew and recommending the temporary relocation of most of the ships' complement. Panetta said the Navy should have at least done a formal investigation before relieving the skipper of his command.

"Judgment has to be based on the facts," said Panetta, "it can’t be based on fears" [of how the president might react]. Panetta said he's concerned that U.S. adversaries around the world will seek to leverage the crisis to exploit weaknesses in the nation's defense readiness.

"Those adversaries are going to be watching," said Panetta. "We are in a very vulnerable stage."

Read details and hear the full recorded interview at Here & Now.


Amid Pandemic, State Releases Thousands of Prisoners — But Will They Have Support at Home? (Monday, April 13, 10:48 a.m.)

Thousands of inmates released early from California prisons and jails face extra challenges as they re-enter society during a pandemic.

California prison officials were expected to complete the release of 3,500 inmates by Monday, according to a spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The move, to fight the spread of COVID-19, comes after county jails throughout the state released thousands of inmates to reduce exposure to the virus. Local community organizations want the state to help bolster resources to find housing, healthcare and jobs for formerly incarcerated people.

Read the full story from KQED's Marisa Lagos.


A Month After Emergency Declaration, Trump's Promises Largely Unfulfilled (Monday, April 13, 10:22 a.m.)

One month ago today, President Trump declared a national emergency.

In a Rose Garden address, flanked by leaders from giant retailers and medical testing companies, he promised a mobilization of public and private resources to attack the coronavirus.

"We've been working very hard on this. We've made tremendous progress," Trump said. "When you compare what we've done to other areas of the world, it's pretty incredible."

But few of the promises made that day have come to pass.

NPR's Investigations Team dug into each of the claims made from the podium that day. And rather than a sweeping national campaign of screening, drive-through sample collection and lab testing, it found a smattering of small pilot projects and aborted efforts.

In some cases, no action was taken at all.

Target did not formally partner with the federal government, for example.

And a lauded Google project turned out not to be led by Google at all, and then once launched was limited to a smattering of counties in California.

Read the entire team report from NPR News.


What You Need to Know Today About the Virus Outbreak (Monday, April 13, 9:46 a.m.)

The coronavirus pandemic has thrown millions out of work and devastated economies worldwide, and governments are struggling with the delicate balance between keeping people safe from a highly contagious virus and making sure they can still make a living or even have enough to eat.

The United States’ top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, says the economy in parts of the country could have a “rolling reentry” as early as next month, provided health authorities can quickly identify and isolate people who will inevitably be infected.

Fauci also said that earlier mitigation could have saved lives but that knowing when to take such steps is “complicated.” Those comments seemed to draw the ire of President Donald Trump.

WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY:

New York City is in danger of running out of swabs for COVID-19 tests and should test only hospitalized patients, the city health department said in a memo to health care providers over the weekend.

— Blood tests for the coronavirus could play a key role in deciding whether millions of Americans can safely return to work and school. But public health officials warn that the current “Wild West” of unregulated tests is creating confusion that could ultimately slow the path to recovery.

— Voters may be seeking solace, as well as solutions, in this year’s presidential race, one still being reshaped by the unprecedented public health and economic turmoil of the coronavirus pandemic.

— The notion of decision fatigue has been around a long time — long before the coronavirus. But with many previous insignificant decisions, the ramifications from mistakes were often low. Now, though, the most fleeting of daily choices — no matter where you are — have taken on the most monumental of potential consequences.

— As countries across Europe have restricted the movement of their citizens, Sweden stands out for what the country’s chief epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell, calls a “low-scale” approach that is “much more sustainable” over a longer period. The softer approach means that schools for younger children, restaurants and most businesses are still open, creating the impression that Swedes are living their lives as usual.

— A tweet by Japan’s prime minister urging citizens to stay home to stop the coronavirus appears to have rubbed many people frustrated by his handling of the crisis the wrong way. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last week declared a monthlong state of emergency in Tokyo and six other prefectures, asking people there to stay at home. But the policy is voluntary and doesn’t come with compensation for cash-strapped workers. The video shows Abe seated at home, stroking a dog, sipping from a cup and reading a book.

-- Associated Press


Fears of 'Wild West' as COVID-19 Blood Tests Hit the Market (Sunday, April 12, 4:01 p.m.)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Blood tests for the coronavirus could play a key role in deciding whether millions of Americans can safely return to work and school. But public health officials warn that the current “Wild West” of unregulated tests is creating confusion that could ultimately slow the path to recovery.

More than 70 companies have signed up to sell so-called antibody tests in recent weeks, according to U.S. regulators. Governments around the world hope that the rapid tests, which typically use a finger-prick of blood on a test strip, could soon ease public restrictions by identifying people who have previously had the virus and have developed some immunity to it.

But key questions remain: How accurate are the tests, how much protection is needed and how long will that protection last.

The blood tests are different from the nasal swab-based tests currently used to diagnose active COVID-19 infections. Instead, the tests look for blood proteins called antibodies, which the body produces days or weeks after fighting an infection. The same approach is used for HIV, hepatitis, Lyme disease, lupus and many other diseases.

Because of the relative simplicity of the technology, the Food and Drug Administration decided to waive initial review of the tests as part of its emergency response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Right now, the tests are most useful for researchers studying how the virus has spread through the U.S. population. The government said Friday it has started testing 10,000 volunteers. The White House has not outlined a broader plan for testing and how the results might be used.

With almost no FDA oversight of the tests, “Right now it’s a wild west show out there,” said Eric Blank of the Association for Public Health Laboratories. “It really has created a mess that’s going to take a while to clean up.”

“In the meantime, you’ve got a lot of companies marketing a lot of stuff and nobody has any idea of how good it is,” he said.

Read the full story from AP's Matthew Perrone.


Newsom Frees Up Child Care Funds, Though It's Unclear Who Will Benefit (Sunday, April 12, 2:35 p.m.)

On Saturday, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced he would divert $100 million to boost childcare for essential workers.

$50 million will provide vouchers for families who meet certain requirements, such as parents who are essential workers or kids with special needs. Families can use their vouchers at a range of settings – their current center, a new center or a friend’s home, according to state documents.

But it’s unclear when the funds themselves will kick in – or how money for parents would help centers that can’t open anyway during the lockdown.

“We’ve been trying vigorously for about 10 years to build an emergency fund,” said Celeste Low, executive director at St. John’s Childcare Center in Berkeley. “And it seems something always comes up that makes our contributions for that be less than what we had hoped they would be.”

Normally, St. John’s sees 45 kids a day. Now, it's serving six to 12. It's one of a few centers that have remained open - for two reasons. First, those 12 kids have parents in "essential" jobs. And second, Low wants to keep paying her employees, several of whom are over 60 years old and considered “at risk” for developing serious symptoms if they contract COVID-19.

As for the second $50 million, that will allegedly go to centers for cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment - but again, the funds won’t be that helpful if there's a continuing scarcity of those PPE supplies.

“Given the times and what’s going on, I think the most useful thing for PPE stuff would be actual stuff," says Low, "because finding it is almost impossible at the moment."

Vicky Waters, a spokesperson for Newsom, said that the California Department of Education, which is managing the funds, will "soon" release them to "state subsidized programs." But it remains unclear how those funds will benefit individual providers.

Low is doubtful that her center will see any of the funds Newsom has allocated. In the meantime, St. John's will continue to raise money through its GoFundMe page.

-- Susie Neilson (@SusieNeilson)


Fauci Says 'Rolling Reentry' of US Economy Possible in May (Sunday, April 12, 1:14 p.m.)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States’ top infectious disease expert said Sunday that the economy in parts of the country could have a “rolling reentry” as early as next month, provided health authorities can quickly identify and isolate people who will inevitably be infected with the coronavirus.

Dr. Anthony Fauci also said he “can’t guarantee” that it will be safe for Americans to vote in person on Election Day, Nov. 3.

Rather than flipping a switch to reopen the entire country, Fauci said a gradual process will be required based on the status of the pandemic in various parts of the U.S. and the availability of rapid, widespread testing. Once the number of people who are seriously ill sharply declines, officials can begin to “think about a gradual reentry of some sort of normality, some rolling reentry,” Fauci said.

In some places, he said, that might occur as soon as May. “We are hoping that, at the end of the month, we could look around and say, OK, is there any element here that we can safely and cautiously start pulling back on? If so, do it. If not, then just continue to hunker down,” Fauci said.

Whenever restrictions ease, Fauci said, “we know that there will be people who will be getting infected. I mean, that is just reality. “

Social distancing guidelines imposed by President Donald Trump are set to expire April 30.

Read the full story from Associated Press.


How a Hospital Chaplain Brings Comfort to Patients, Without Hugs or Holding Hands (Sunday, April 12, 12:20 p.m.)

Sister Donna Maria Moses, a Catholic nun and hospital chaplain who has seen the coronavirus pandemic firsthand, has adapted her ministry to provide solace to the dying over the phone, instead of the usual in-person visits.

She manages three staff chaplains and dozens of volunteers from many faiths at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, one of the first hospitals to treat coronavirus patients returning from China and ill-fated cruise trips.

The chaplains can’t visit patients, or even the units where COVID-19 patients are being treated. Moses is no longer able to hug or hold hands with someone who’s sick or grieving family members, but she’s determined to provide other kinds of spiritual and emotional comfort.

Read the full story from KQED's Raquel Maria Dillon.


What You Need to Know Today About the Virus Outbreak (Sunday, April 12, 11:03 a.m.)

Christians the world over celebrate a solitary Easter amid a global virus pandemic. Pope Francis calls for solidarity. At the Vatican, Francis celebrated Mass in a largely empty St. Peter’s Basilica.

Italy has its lowest number of new deaths in three weeks.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is discharged from a London hospital where he was treated in intensive care for the coronavirus as the U.K. becomes the fourth European country to surpass 10,000 virus-related deaths.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the U.S., says the economy in parts of the country could be allowed to reopen as early as next month.

WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY:

— President Donald Trump’s response to the coronavirus may be a case of too little, too late.

— The threat of strong tornadoes and other damaging weather poses a safety dilemma for Deep South communities deciding how to protect residents during the coronavirus pandemic.

— Some doctors are thinking that ventilators may not help certain patients hospitalized with the coronavirus.

— Israel approves tight quarantine in parts of Jerusalem to try to stop spread of the coronavirus.

— Deaths from COVID-19 in U.S. nursing homes and long-term care facilities surpasses 2,600.

-- Associated Press


U.S. Has Most Coronavirus Deaths In The World (Sunday, April 12, 10:17 a.m.)

The death toll in the United States from the coronavirus has surpassed Italy's, putting America at No. 1 worldwide for the number of people killed by the strain.

Data compiled by the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center show the U.S. lost more than 20,600 patients to the virus as of early Sunday morning. Italy has nearly 19,500 deaths.

The development comes as more hot spots begin to emerge in the U.S. in addition to New York, Louisiana and Detroit. Earlier this month, Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said Colorado, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., were among areas of concern.

Read the full story from NPR.


UK's Johnson Leaves Hospital as Virus Deaths Exceed 10,000 (Sunday, April 12, 9:05 a.m.)

LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson expressed his gratitude to the staff of the National Health Service for saving his life when his experience with the coronavirus could have “gone either way” as the U.K. on Sunday became the fourth European country to surpass 10,000 virus-related deaths.

Dressed in a suit, and looking and sounding assured, Johnson said in a video posted on Twitter after his discharge from St. Thomas’ Hospital in London that it was “hard to find the words” to express his debt of gratitude to the NHS for saving his life “no question.”

He listed a number of the frontline staff who cared for him during his week-long stay at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London but singled out two nurses who stood by his bedside for 48 hours “when things could have gone either way.”

The prime minister said Jenny from Invercargill on New Zealand’s South Island and Luis from Portugal, near Porto were the reason that “in the end, my body did start to get enough oxygen.”

“Because for every second of the night they were watching and they were thinking and they were caring and making the interventions I needed,” he said. “So that is how I also know that across this country, 24 hours a day, for every second of every hour, there are hundreds of thousands of NHS staff who are acting with the same care and thought and precision as Jenny and Luis.”

Johnson’s office said in a statement that he would continue his recovery at Chequers, the prime minister’s country house.

Read the full story from Associated Press.


California Hits 20,000 Confirmed Cases Statewide, 600 Deaths (Saturday, April 11, 5:03 p.m.)

California on Friday hit two thresholds in its COVID-19 numbers: The state has surpassed 20,000 total confirmed cases (20,615) with 609 deaths, according to the state's Department of Public Health.

Latino and White Californians had the majority of confirmed cases, at 34 and 33% respectively - meaning Latino Californians have contracted the disease at rates disproportionate to their share of the population. But White Californians' share of deaths - 42% - have by far surpassed Latinos', at 25%.

Across age groups, 18-49 year-olds have the greatest number of confirmed cases by far, with more than 10,000 cases for that age group. Just 303 cases have been confirmed among youth 17 or under, with the remaining cases split fairly evenly among 50-64 year-olds and those 65 years and older.

Local health departments have confirmed 2,243 cases among health care workers; these figures include cases contracted from on-the-job exposure, but also from travel and family contact.

The state has also ramped up its testing: Approximately 196,200 tests have been conducted, up from 126,700 last week. At least 182,986 results have been received and another 13,200 are pending.

-- Susie Neilson (@SusieNeilson)


Some Have Begun Receiving Coronavirus Stimulus Checks, Others Have a Long Wait Ahead (Saturday, April 11, 1:45 p.m.)

Some Americans have begun receiving their coronavirus stimulus checks from the federal government, Business Insider reported on Saturday.

Current, a mobile banking startup, said that 10,000 accounts had received payments from the Internal Revenue Service starting Friday. Most accounts received $1,200, the standard amount, but others qualified for additional funds, up to $4,700 so far.

The IRS has announced that people who have direct-deposit information on file will be receiving their checks in the next week, with up to 70 million Americans receiving funds by April 15. People without direct deposit information on file may not receive their checks until early September.


Wary Optimism: Small Uptick of COVID-19 Californians in Hospital, Intensive Care (Saturday, April 11, 1:02 p.m.)

Just a few days out from a forecasted peak in California’s coronavirus battle, the state is experiencing fewer COVID-19 hospitalizations than anticipated — and even better than expected under a stay-at-home order, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s daily update.

Projections from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation now estimate California will reach its coronavirus peak on April 13. But if current trends continue for the next three days, it will hardly be a spike at all, said state officials, who have relied on estimates that California’s coronavirus toll would hit its apex in May.

“The difference of what we are seeing now may not be that different than the peak we are going to see in the future,” said Mark Ghaly, secretary of the state Health and Human Services Agency.

Newsom and his team tempered their optimism over the latest state numbers on hospitalizations, intensive-care patients and deaths. Their expressed concern: If Californians do not continue to maintain physical distance and shelter in place — especially over this Easter weekend — the tide could turn quickly.

“Let’s continue to hold the line and do this together,” Newsom said. “Give us a few more weeks to see where these trend lines go.”

The number of Californians hospitalized from COVID-19 rose 2.5% between Thursday and Friday, with 72 people newly hospitalized. Those in intensive-care units ticked up about 1% after actually dropping by about 1% the previous day.

Read the full analysis from Elizabeth Aguilera at CalMatters.


Are We Flattening The Curve? States Keep Watch On Coronavirus 'Doubling Times' (Saturday, April 11, 11:40 a.m.)

As coronavirus numbers have ticked steadily upwards in some U.S. states and cities, officials have watched one specific figure to see whether they're facing a flattening curve or runaway outbreak: the doubling rate.

Simply put, it's how many days it takes for the number of coronavirus cases, hospitalizations or deaths to double. The shorter the time frame, the steeper the curve and the faster the growth.

In an encouraging sign, health officials in several states are starting to see doubling rates slow, which means the curve is flattening. Hospitalizations and deaths are still growing, but not as quickly.

This past week, New York City's doubling rate for new cases has fallen to approximately every eight days, as of Thursday. Though deaths continued to rise, Cuomo says new hospitalizations may have reached a plateau.

While a day or two difference in doubling time may not seem like much, it can have a massive effect on how many patients are flooding into hospitals, potentially overwhelming medical systems.

"For constant exponential growth, you would expect cases to double consistently over a three- or four-day period," says Nick Jewell, a biostatistician at the University of California, Berkeley. "The whole point of social distancing is to make that doubling time longer and longer."

See the full story and graphic from NPR's Lauren Sommer.


Newsom Announces $100 Million in Funding for Child Care (Saturday, April 11, 11:15 a.m.)

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Saturday announced $100 million in funding to support child care services and providers during the COVID-19 lockdown.

$50 million will go to the state’s Department of Education to pay for up to 20,000 additional temporary “slots” for child care, and $50 million will go towards providing cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves and masks for child care centers, according to a press release.

“This funding is very important," said Newsom, "to make sure that working parents that are part of the essential workforce in our state, as well as those that are part of vulnerable populations, have the child care resources they need."


Oakland Teachers Pledge Stimulus Checks to Undocumented Families Left Out of Coronavirus Aid (Saturday, April 11, 10:55 a.m.)

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the state’s economy, a group of teachers and principals in Oakland are pledging their federal stimulus checks to undocumented families at their schools who are excluded from such aid.

The educators at the Oakland Unified School District launched the Stimulus Pledge campaign Thursday in response to the enormous stress and despair they say they are witnessing among immigrant parents who have lost all income under shelter-in-place orders, but are left out of unemployment insurance and many other benefits.

“We are in contact with our families every day and what we are hearing is heartbreaking,” said Anita Iverson-Comelo, a principal at Bridges Academy at Melrose, in East Oakland. “We feel like we have to do something.”

Read the full story from KQED's Farida Jhabvala Romero.


Complaint Alleges Santa Clara Valley Hospital Failed to Address COVID-19 Spread Among Staff (Saturday, April 11, 10:19 a.m.)

An anonymous whistleblower filed a complaint this week with Santa Clara County, over concerns that the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center had failed to communicate coronavirus cases among its staff, and failed to test at-risk employees, the the Los Angeles Times reported on Friday.

The complaint came after nurses calculated that six staff members in the hospital’s "2 Medical" ward had developed COVID-19 symptoms, with four testing positive. One of those six staff members had died. But the nurses say they did not hear anything about the cases from the hospital’s administration.

“Management is not communicating confirmed positive cases — information that would enable potentially-exposed/infected staff to take extra precautionary measures to not affect their loved ones at home and elsewhere,” stated the whistleblower complaint, which was signed, “employees not treated responsibly from within.”

A spokesperson for the county said that hospital administrators were not aware of any coronavirus deaths among its employees, and declined to answer questions about how the administration had managed this particular situation.


What You Need to Know Today About the Virus Outbreak (Saturday, April 11, 9:22 a.m.)

President Donald Trump and his officials have made critical promises meant to reassure a country in the throes of the coronavirus pandemic. But American s are still going without the medical supplies and financial help from the government at the very time they need it most — and were told they would have it.

Europe is trying to persuade its residents to stay home ahead of the Easter holiday and the anticipated sunny weather while grappling with how and when to start loosening the weekslong shutdowns of much of public life.

Doctors around the world are frantically trying to figure out how COVID-19 is killing their patients so they can attempt new ways to fight back.

Here are some of AP’s top stories Friday on the world’s coronavirus pandemic. Follow APNews.com/VirusOutbreak for updates through the day and APNews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak for stories explaining some of its complexities.

Read the full roundup from Associated Press.


Burning Man Cancels Desert Event (Friday, April 10, 10:56 p.m.)

Burning Man on Friday announced it would cancel this year's event in Nevada's Black Rock Desert, which had been scheduled to run from Aug. 30 – Sept. 7. The gathering "dedicated to community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance" each year draws tens of thousands of participants, who erect a temporary "city" in the desert.

From the Burning Man Journal website on Friday:

After much listening, discussion, and careful consideration, we have made the difficult decision not to build Black Rock City in 2020. Given the painful reality of COVID-19, one of the greatest global challenges of our lifetimes, we believe this is the right thing to do. Yes, we are heartbroken. We know you are too. In 2020 we need human connection and Immediacy more than ever. But public health and the well-being of our participants, staff, and neighbors in Nevada are our highest priorities.

Burning Man said it's "committed to providing refunds to those who need them" but made a request for ticketholders who could afford it to donate all or part of the admission price to the organization. To keep the event going, Burning Man said, "will require substantial staff layoffs, pay reductions, and other belt-tightening measures."

Organizers said they still plan on launching a virtual version of the 2020 event.

--Jon Brooks


Latest California COVID-19 Numbers (Friday, April 10, 10:45 p.m.)

Here are the latest numbers as of Thursday from the California Department of Public Health.

A count gleaned from California health departments on Friday shows 21,316 confirmed cases and 595 reported deaths. For the latest data on cases and deaths by county in the state, see KQED's COVID-19 tracker.


Pandemic Takes Its Toll On Californians' Mental Health (Friday, April 10, 5:11 p.m.)

A statewide poll shows 27 percent of Californians feel their mental health is getting worse in the last week... as the coronavirus pandemic wears on.

The California Health Care Foundation has been polling state residents since mid-March. "Twice as many women than men are reporting their mental health getting worse in the last seven days. That's striking," said Kristof Stremikis, the director of the market-analysis and insight team at the foundation.

"This virus is having an impact on our physical health but also our mental health. And that's something we have to monitor on a go-forward basis," he added.

More Californians told the pollsters they’d been tested for COVID-19, but the overall number remains low.

Earlier this week, KQED reported that California's Surgeon General, Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, had created a series of guides to help people manage stress during this time of crisis.

The state's website includes a series of hotlines people can call — including people who are struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts, are victims of violence, or if they are worried about the safety of a child.

-- Tara Siler, with reporting from Marisa Lagos


Early, Promising Results for Gilead Coronavirus Drug (Friday, April 10, 4:03 p.m.)

More than half of a group of severely ill coronavirus patients improved after receiving an experimental antiviral drug, although there's no way to know the odds of that happening without the drug because there was no comparison group, doctors reported Friday.

The results published by the New England Journal of Medicine are the first in COVID-19 patients for remdesivir. The Gilead Sciences drug has shown promise against other coronaviruses in the past and in lab tests against the one causing the current pandemic, which now has claimed more than 100,000 lives.

No drugs are approved now for treating the disease. At least five large studies are testing remdesivir, and the company also has given it to more than 1,700 patients on a case-by-case emergency basis.

Friday's results are on 53 of those patients, ages 23 to 82, hospitalized in the United States, Europe, Canada and Japan. Thirty-four of them were sick enough to require breathing machines.

All were given the drug through an IV for 10 days or as long as they tolerated it.

After 18 days on average, 36 patients, or 68%, needed less oxygen or breathing machine support. Eight others worsened.

Seven patients died, nearly all of them over age 70. That 13% mortality rate is lower than seen in some other reports, but no true comparisons can be made without a study rigorously testing the drug in similar groups of patients, the authors noted.

A dozen patients had serious problems but it's not clear whether they were from the drug or their disease. Those included septic shock and trouble with kidneys and other organs. Four discontinued treatment because of health problems they developed.

"It looks encouraging," said Dr. Elizabeth Hohmann, an infectious disease specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital who is helping lead one of the studies testing the drug. The problems that occurred were not unexpected given the disease, she said.

Dr. Derek Angus, critical care chief at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center who wasn't involved with the research, said the recovery rate is good but "there is no way of knowing from this series if remdesivir was helpful."

Results from more rigorous studies are expected by the end of this month.

-- Marilynn Marchione, The Associated Press


Bay Area Food Banks: Demand Up, Volunteer Labor Down (Friday, April 10, 3:26 p.m.)

It’s been a busy few weeks for regional food banks. "We are getting about 1,000 calls a day to our food connection hotline. We normally get about 180," said Diane Baker Hayward, spokeswomen for the Second Harvest Food Bank in San Jose, which serves San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.

Second Harvest is opening new sites, which are also slammed. Some drive-through sites are serving over 1,000 families at a distribution, said Hayward.

National Guard troops assist Second Harvest Food Bank in San Jose, packing roughly 4000 food kits a day. (Diane Baker Hayward/Second Harvest Food Bank)

Alameda County Community Food Bank is up 20% year over year from 2019. It has added 20 direct distribution sites, including school districts, and a new drive-through distribution which served 472 households on Wednesday, according to Michael Altfest, Director of Community Engagement and Marketing.

Calls to the community food hotline at Second Harvest Food Bank in Watsonville have increased by a factor of 10, and they are is distributing nearly triple the amount of food they typically would at this time of year, said Suzanne Willis, Chief Development and Marketing Officer.

Many regional food banks have historically relied on retired locals for volunteer labor, who are now encouraged to shelter in place until May 3rd. So they are tapping into a new pool of recruits. The Alameda County Community Food Bank is using the California Conservation Corps to service its community, and the National Guard has deployed to Second Harvest Food Bank.

Leslie Bacho, CEO of Second Harvest of Silicon Valley, said "with the National Guard on site at two of our San Jose warehouses, we are currently boxing about 12,000-15,000 boxes of food a week, which is absolutely amazing."

-- Rachael Myrow (@rachaelmyrow)


70 People Test Positive at San Francisco Homeless Shelter (Friday, April 10, 2:43 p.m.)

Seventy people have tested positive for COVID-19 at San Francisco's largest homeless shelter, Mayor London Breed disclosed on Friday -- 68 homeless guests and two staff members.

The guests had been living at MSC-South, which is operated by St. Vincent de Paul. No one is "seriously ill," although one guest has been admitted to the hospital, according to Dr. Grant Colfax, Director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

"We have always known from the data that his virus can take off quickly. It does not mean there is a significantly increased risk to the public. However, it is a very serious matter," he said.

Another guest at a family shelter operated by Hamilton Families also tested positive this week. That guest has been moved "offsite" and is "in good health," according to Abigail Stewart-Kahn with the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing.

Most of the homeless guests who tested positive for COVID-19 remain at MSC-South, which has been converted into a medical facility "recovery center" staffed by nurses and doctors with the Department of Public Health. They will monitor patients, provide care and arrange transport to hospitals as needed, said Dr. Colfax.

MSC-South has 340 shelter beds. As of Thursday night, only 100 residents remained in that shelter. A handful of homeless guests with COVID-19 have been moved into hotel rooms where they can isolate themselves, and Mayor Breed hinted there were more to come.

"This is a challenging situation that we know could have been worse. It's a little bit better because of the work we were doing to prepare [for this]," said Breed.

Another 71 homeless guests have tested negative for COVID-19, and 3 tests were still pending as of Friday afternoon.

Health officials have known about the outbreak since last Sunday, April 5, but only revealed the information on Friday. On Sunday, the first two guests at MSC-South tested positive, and were moved out of the shelter into hotel rooms, according to Dr. Colfax.

"We took immediate action to conduct contact investigations," he said. The shelter also stopped accepting guests.

On Wednesday, there were 5 positive cases at the shelter, and now there are 70.

Breed has faced growing pressure from city supervisors and homeless advocates to house more people living on the streets in hotel rooms, and to move more quickly.

The city is considering plans to rent 7,000 hotel rooms for three months, at a cost of over $100 million.

You can watch the entire press briefing by clicking below.

--Julia Scott (@juliascribe)


Gov. Newsom Defends Efforts to Support Nursing Homes with COVID-19 Infections (Friday, April 10, 1:00 p.m.)

In a press conference on Friday, Governor Gavin Newsom began with some numbers on COVID-19 in nursing homes and other group facilities serving the older Californians.

• Of 1,224 nursing homes, 191 have reported infections, for a total of 1,266 sick residents/staff
• Of 7,461 licensed group homes, 94 have reported infections, involving 370 sick patients/staff.

"You may say that sounds relatively modest. But that doesn't give you the entire picture," said the Governor.

KQED has been tracking a growing number of coronavirus outbreaks in Bay Area assisted-case facilities.

Referencing recent headlines from around the state, he insisted that supporting nursing homes is "part of the overall strategy" for state officials.

"We've put out new specific guidelines and strategies," he said, referring to a March 3rd list of recommendations from California public health officials that includes basic ideas like designating staff who will be responsible for caring for suspected or known COVID-19 patients, and ensuring that they are trained on proper use of personal protective equipment.

Mark Ghaly, Secretary of California’s Health and Human Services agency, added that the state is committed to providing PPE to health care staff in the facilities. In addition, Governor Newsom said the state has "SWAT teams" of "trained nurses" who will now be redirected from regulatory duties to "saturate those areas of concern and focus" with more site visits.

He did not offer much detail beyond that, other than suggesting those nurses would help local facilities "identify, isolate, quarantine, trace and track" COVID-19 cases.

Noting that many nursing homes have established relationships with local hospitals, Newsom urged the homes not to overwhelm hospitals with non-COVID-19 positive case, but to send them to other facilities the state has identified, including the USNS Mercy, the U.S. Navy's lead floating hospital.

Finally, Newsom said that the state is also working with FEMA to support daily meal delivery to home-bound elderly Californians, utilizing the help of local restaurants. "Meals on Wheels alone can't do what is required to protect our seniors,” he said. "We have well over 1 million people isolated at home."

You can watch Gov. Newsom's full Friday briefing by clicking below.

-- Rachael Myrow (@rachaelmyrow)


Apple and Google Build Smartphone Tool to Track COVID-19 (Friday, April 10, 12:36 p.m.)

Tech giants Apple and Google are teaming up to create a system that would let smartphone users know when they've come into contact with someone who has COVID-19.

The technology would rely on the Bluetooth signals that smartphones can both send out and receive. If a person tests positive for COVID-19, they could notify public health authorities through an app. Those public health apps would then alert anyone whose smartphones had come near the infected person's phone in the prior 14 days.

The technology could be used on both Google Android phones and Apple iPhones.

The companies insist that they will preserve smartphone users' privacy. They say the technology will be used only by public health authorities to trace the spread of the disease. Smartphone users must opt in to use it. The software will not collect data on users' physical locations or their personally identifiable information. People who test positive would remain anonymous, both to the people who came in contact with them and to Apple and Google.

"Privacy, transparency, and consent are of utmost importance in this effort," the companies said in a joint statement.

Public health officials say robust contact tracing — finding people who have been in contact with an infected person — will be a key step in lifting shelter-in-place restrictions. It would allow people who are known to have been exposed to the virus to quarantine or isolate themselves, while letting others resume normal activities.

A team at MIT also has been working on a contact-tracing system that similarly uses Bluetooth signals to identify when people have come near each other.

Apple and Google are rolling out their contact-tracing technology in two steps. In mid-May, they will release software that will let public health authorities build apps that exchange information via Bluetooth.

In the coming months, they will update their operating systems so phones can share information without having to install an app.

--Shannon Bond, NPR


City Lights Bookstore Raises $300K in One Day (Friday, April 10, 11:58 a.m.)

San Francisco's iconic City Lights Bookstore has raised more than $300,000 since launching a GoFundMe campaign on Thursday.

The North Beach institution asked the community to fill its "quickly dwindling" cash reserves, and set a $300,000 fundraising goal. Elaine Katzenberger, Publisher and CEO of City Lights Booksellers & Publishers, explained that the bookstore had furloughed its employees with full pay and benefits, but that it no longer has a way to generate income.

A view outside City Lights. (Chloe Veltman/KQED)

"Unlike some shops, we're unable even to process online orders, since we want our booksellers to remain safely at home," she wrote on the GoFundMe site.

Loyal Bay Area readers have come through for City Lights, which celebrates its 67th anniversary this year.

Beloved City Lights founder Lawrence Ferlinghetti is 101 years old. KQED spent some time with him when he turned 100. You can enjoy that interview here.

--Julia Scott (@juliascribe)


Lawmakers Want Details On Newsom's Big Mask Buy (Friday, April 10, 10:00 a.m.)

California lawmakers want a fuller accounting of Gov. Gavin Newsom's plan to buy 500 million protective masks, with a top budget official on Thursday seeking details on how the state will distribute the masks and ensure they are good quality.

In a letter to Newsom's finance director, state Sen. Holly Mitchell asked for details on the contract Newsom is executing to buy 200 million masks per month through an American subsidiary of a Chinese company. Newsom announced the deal Tuesday and asked lawmakers for authority to quickly spend some of the money needed to purchase the masks.

In total, Newsom expects to spend nearly $1 billion on the masks. The state plans for the first shipment to arrive in early May, and the initial contract will last 2 1/2 months, said Brian Ferguson, spokesman for the Office of Emergency Services.

Lawmakers gave Newsom approval to spend more state money in response to the new coronavirus last month before halting their session over concerns about spreading the virus. He’s using that authority and tapping other disaster preparedness funds to increase the state’s supply of personal protective equipment desperately needed by health care workers.

But Mitchell, chair of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, said Newsom needs to be more transparent with lawmakers about the spending. She asked for details such as what performance standards would be used for the manufacturer of the masks, the price per mask, and production and delivery timelines. Lawmakers also announced plans to hold oversight hearings on coronavirus spending.

"Under normal circumstances, the Legislature would have had more time to deliberate an expenditure of this magnitude and would have been allowed to thoroughly vet the details of the contract before proceeding," Mitchell wrote to Newsom's finance director.

Lawmakers have yet to see a copy of the contract that Newsom's office signed with BYD North America, the Los Angeles-based subsidiary of a Chinese company. The administration has not provided a copy of the contract to The Associated Press.

--Kathleen Ronayne, The Associated Press


Lawmaker Proposes All-Mail Balloting For Californians (Friday, April 10, 9:34 a.m.)

Assemblyman Marc Berman (D-Menlo Park) is proposing that every California voter get a ballot in the mail, in case the coronavirus outbreak requires physical distancing during the November election.

"It's critically important that we create a system that provides maximum safety and reliability for voters and for the people who volunteer at the polls," Berman said.

Under the proposal, which Berman plans to introduce as Assembly Bill 860, limited in-person voting would still be available.

More than three-quarters of California voters already receive a ballot in the mail. But only fifteen counties automatically send voters a ballot, as part of their participation in the state's Voters Choice Act.

--Guy Marzorati (@GuyMarzorati)


Oakland Will Transform 74 Miles of Streets Into Public Paths (Friday, April 10, 8:50 a.m.)

On Friday, the City of Oakland will announce an emergency measure that gives residents access to city streets to walk, run and bike safely while respecting physical distancing.

Oakland will set aside 74 miles of streets, or 10 percent of all streets, for use by bikes, pedestrians, wheelchair users, and local vehicles only (no through traffic). The changes will take effect on Saturday, April 11.

Oakland's Resilience Officer Alexandria McBride previewed the announcement in a virtual town hall meeting on Thursday night.

"We know that the parks are becoming crowded. We also know that our streets and sidewalks make up about 25% of Oakland's land, and we wanted to take advantage of that resource," she said.

The initiative is called "Oakland Slow Streets." It is modeled on a similar initiative in Denver. The streets in question cut a wide swath across the entire city, from North Oakland to West Oakland, across East Oakland and Fruitvale all the way to the San Leandro border.

--Julia Scott (@juliascribe)


Most Property Taxes Are Still Due April 10 (Thursday, April 9, 10:19 p.m.)

Property taxes are still due on April 10 in most California counties — despite the fact that county offices are closed.

Nearly all counties across the state have agreed to waive penalties for late payments though if you can demonstrate you've been impacted by the COVID-19 emergency and can't pay right now. Those exceptions will be determined on a case-by-case basis.

There are some exceptions to the due date — San Mateo and San Francisco counties both extended their deadlines to May 4. But those who are able to pay are encouraged to pay now. Here's what you need to know about property tax deadlines in each Bay Area county and what to do if you can't pay at this time.

--Erin Baldassari


Breakdown by Race of California COVID-19 Cases (Thursday, April 9, 10:00 p.m.)

The California Department of Public Health on Thursday updated its breakdown of COVID-19 cases by race. The department says these initial statistics now represent 54 percent of COVID-19 cases and 53 percent of deaths to date, and that they show "the race and ethnicity data is roughly in line with the diversity of California overall."

  • Latinos: 30% of cases and 26% of deaths (39% of the state's population)
  • Whites: 34% of cases and 38% of deaths (37% of the state's population)
  • African Americans/Blacks: 7% of cases and 8% of deaths (6% of the state's population)
  • Asians: 13% of cases and 18% of deaths (15% of the state's population)
  • Multiracial: 2% of cases and 1.5% of deaths (2% of the state's population)
  • American Indians or Alaska Natives: 0.2% of cases and 0.4% of deaths (0.5% of the states' population)
  • Native Hawaiians or Pacific Islanders: 2% of cases and 0.8% of deaths (0.3% of the state's population)
  • Other: 13% of cases and 8% of deaths (N/A)

--Jon Brooks


Legislators Craft Farmworker Relief Bills (Thursday, April 9, 5:18 p.m.)

Two Democratic Assemblymembers have introduced relief legislation aiming to protect the health and economic security of farmworkers, one of California's most economically vulnerable groups.

The relief package is made up of five bills. It includes proposals to expand paid sick leave and provide hazard pay to farmworkers, gives tax credits to employers who offer overtime, and streamlines the approval of temporary housing that would prevent overcrowding and allow workers to socially-distanced at home.

Assemblymember Robert Rivas, who represents part of the Salinas Valley, co-authored the legislation.

"Here in California, we must be ready to act to protect our essential workers and to do the right thing. This burden should not fall entirely on farmers," he said on Thursday.

Agricultural employers say while they welcome the tax credit, any new costs that fall on them could damage farm operations already struggling.

It’s unclear how soon the bills could come up for a vote. Because of the coronavirus, the legislature is in recess until at least the beginning of May.

--Alex Hall (@chalexhall)


SF Readying Apartments for Victims of Domestic Violence (Thursday, April 9, 4:57 p.m.)

Reports of domestic violence in the Bay Area appear to be on the rise since sheltering in place began in March.

On Thursday, San Francisco Mayor London Breed and District Attorney Chesa Boudin announced that they have secured 20 furnished apartments that will serve as temporary housing for those experiencing domestic violence, thanks to a partnership with real estate company Veritas.

The apartment are located in several buildings throughout the city.

People and their families, including pets, will be able to stay for up to 90 days at no cost. Organizations that support survivors of domestic violence will refer clients based on availability.

City officials say they expect to have the apartments ready by the end of this week. Additional housing is also in the works.

--Shannon Lin (@linshannonlin)


SFO Postpones $1BN Renovation Project (Thursday, April 9, 4:31 p.m.)

San Francisco International Airport is postponing a one billion dollar renovation project at one of its terminals as airlines slash flight schedules because of the coronavirus.

Construction at Terminal 3, where United Airlines operates, was slated to begin in June. It will now be pushed back for at least six months.

SFO spokesperson Doug Yakel said on Thursday that the airport is reporting a whopping 96 percent drop in passenger traffic as compared with this time last year.

"Even after we see a containment of this disease, a reduction of this crisis, we expect that air travel will continue to remain below where it was before this began," he said.

Yakel says other major construction projects at SFO may also be delayed.

--Nina Thorsen (@nlthorsen)


Yelp to Lay Off 1,000 Workers (Thursday, April 9, 4:22 p.m.)

The closure of restaurants across the country has led Yelp, which is based in San Francisco, to make cuts to a third of its workforce.

Yelp managers were telling the company's workers on Thursday if they still has a job. A thousand will not, and another 1,200 employees will be furloughed.

While traffic is up for some searches on Yelp -- 95 percent for hospitals and more than 300 percent for gun stores and manufacturers -- it’s way down for the company’s most popular and profitable categories, like restaurants, which focus on dining out.

Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman is connecting the layoffs to the millions of local businesses that don’t know when (or if) they’ll be able to reopen. The Yelp employees who lose their livelihoods on Thursday will join millions of workers at restaurants and bars around the country that have already lost jobs because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

--Sam Harnett (@SamWHarnett)


State Unemployment Claims Up 2,418% From Last Year (Thursday, April 9, 4:07 p.m.)

Yes, you read that right. Statewide, Californians are in a great deal of financial pain. According to newly-released numbers from the California Employment Development Department, 925,450 Californians sought unemployment benefits in the week that ended April 4. That’s a whopping 2,418% increase in claims as compared with same week in 2019.

This chart from the California Employment Development Department shows how quickly unemployment claims have ballooned. (California EDD)

Also on Thursday, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that starting this Sunday, Californians who have applied for unemployment benefits will begin receiving an extra $600 per week amount, as part of the new Pandemic Additional Compensation (PAC) initiated by the CARES Act.

Governor Gavin Newsom today announced that starting this Sunday, California workers who are receiving unemployment benefits will begin receiving an extra $600 on top of their weekly amount, as part of the new federal CARES Act.

California's Employment Development Department has paid nearly $684.3 million in unemployment benefits to Californians over the past four weeks, according to a release.

--Julia Scott (@juliascribe)


Officials Scramble to Meet Santa Clara County Need (Thursday, April 9, 3:20 p.m.)

On Thursday, Santa Clara County officials announced a more coordinated strategy to help county residents struggling to figure out how to apply for safety net programs like unemployment insurance, disability, and paid family leave.

Those facing financial hardship due to COVID-19 are invited to call 408-809-2124 to receive guidance in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Tagalog, and Mandarin to start.

“It’s personal contact. It’s immediate information. It’s up to date information,” said San Jose City Councilmember Maya Esparza.

In addition, hotline operators will be able to connect callers with legal aid attorneys who can answer questions about work related issues, including workplace abuses. In a press event on Thursday, Ruth Silver-Taube, supervising attorney with the the county’s Office of Labor Standards Enforcement advice line, said her colleagues have reported hearing of “employers threatening employees that they will call immigration if they don’t come to work.”

Meanwhile, San Jose's Second Harvest Food Bank is inundated with requests for meal support. "We are getting about 1,000 calls a day to our food connection hotline -- we normally get about 180," said spokeswoman Diane Baker Hayward.

And Ariana Morales, lead organizer for Working Partnerships in San Jose, said, “We were busy before, but since the start of the pandemic, we have received thousands of calls... food insecurity, housing insecurity, loss of income.”

Thursday's initiative is the latest of several designed to soften the impact of shelter-in-place orders on families in Santa Clara County and beyond. The Silicon Valley Community Foundation has launched a regional coronavirus response fund. And Silicon Valley Strong is an online clearinghouse to connect those in need with resources, and connect volunteers with worthy causes and facilitate donations.

-- Rachael Myrow (@rachaelmyrow)


California Will Put Caregivers Into Hotels to Ease Infection Rate (Thursday, April 9, 1:17 p.m.)

Governor Gavin Newsom unveiled a plan on Thursday to make thousands of hotel rooms available at a "deep discount" to employees in California hospitals and those working at nursing care facilities, as well as first responders.

The state has contracted with 150 of its "nicest hotels" to open rooms to "our heroes, our caregivers, so that they can be there to focus in the needs of our most vulnerable patients," Newsom said.

His announcement came against the backdrop of new data from the California Department of Public Health on Thursday, which showed a significant number of confirmed COVID-19 cases among California health care workers: 1,651 out of 16,957, or roughly 10 percent.

The new measures will help medical workers and caregivers avoid exposing their families to the virus, and will also help shorten long commutes to work, Newsom said. Eligible caregivers will receive vouchers and stipends toward their hotel room, and low-income workers will not have to pay at all.

Newsom emphasized that the new healthcare workers lodging program, which is located at Caltravelstore.com, would not compete with resources devoted to Project Roomkey, a recently-announced program to move as many as 15,000 homeless Californians into hotel rooms to fend off COVID-19 transmission. Newsom said on Thursday that Project Roomkey had secured 8,072 hotel rooms for homeless Californians, and that close to 2,000 people had moved into them so far.

Newsom did not say how much the health worker hotel program will cost, but he said that FEMA would reimburse the state for a portion of the cost.

Eventually, he said, he hopes to open additional rooms to California grocery workers and logistics workers, such as warehouse and transportation workers.

Other updates from today's press conference:

  • 2,825 coronavirus-positive Californians are in hospitals today. That is a 4.1% increase from Wednesday. However, the number of them in an ICU -- 1,132 -- represents a drop of 1.9% from yesterday. "One data point is not a trend, so I caution anyone to read too much into it," Newsom said. "But nonetheless, it is encouraging."
  • California has procured 11,147 ventilators so far. Over 8,000 of them, or 31.89%, are not being used by hospitals because they are not needed, according to Newsom.

You can watch Gov. Newsom's full press conference by clicking below.

--Julia Scott (@juliascribe)


Coronavirus Forces New Approaches to Fighting Wildfires (Thursday, April 9, 11:39 a.m.)

They are two disasters that require opposite responses: To save lives and reduce the spread of COVID-19, people are being told to remain isolated. But in a wildfire, thousands of firefighters must work in close quarters for weeks at a time.

Wildfires have already broken out in Texas and Florida, and agencies are scrambling to finish plans for a new approach. They are considering waivers for some training requirements to previously-certified crew members, and moving some training online.

Other proposals include limiting fire engines to a driver and one passenger, requiring other crew members to ride in additional vehicles. They may scrap the normal campsite catering tents in favor of military-issue MREs, or “Meals Ready to Eat” to reduce touching serving utensils.

Wildland fire camps have always had a reputation for spreading illness. Norovirus outbreaks have occurred and outbreaks of illnesses collectively dubbed the “camp crud” are yearly occurrences for many.

There also are concerns about preparations not being done. Typically, agencies spend months and millions of dollars preparing for wildfire season — clearing brush and doing prescribed burns to reduce the plants that feed massive wildfires.

That’s not happening in many places because some fire managers are trying to allow employees to abide by social distancing guidelines as long as possible and to curb smoke from the prescribed burns during the pandemic. Smoke can make breathing more difficult for people with asthma and other lung conditions.

“The biggest issue I see right now is that the prescribed burns aren’t getting done,” says Casey Judd, the president of the Federal Wildland Fire Services Association, which advocates on behalf of federal firefighters in 42 states. “That’s going to increase the fire load.”

He said leaders should have started working on a coronavirus plan for firefighters months ago. “I’m not suggesting they’re dragging their feet, but obviously they’re trying to figure it out just like everyone is,” he said.

Scott McLean, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said the agency is following strict physical distancing protocols, and that could mean making larger campsites near wildfires and pulling in additional trailers for showers and other hygiene needs. But there is no agency-wide guidance beyond the recommendations every American has been given for the pandemic, he said.

“It has to be handled on a case-by-case basis because every incident is different. We rely on each individual to be responsible, and we have safety officers on the teams,” McLean said. “We will meet those needs as they come.”

--Rebecca Boone, The Associated Press


How to Lock Down Your Zoom Meeting Now That Trolls Are 'Zoom Bombing' (Thursday, April 9, 10:50 a.m.)

On Wednesday, Berkeley Unified shut down Zoom classes after a disturbing "Zoom bombing" incident. That's where trolls hijack an online video conference. Zoom has quickly become the most popular software for group meetings in recent weeks.

Within the Zoom settings a host can "lock" the meeting to prevent anyone else from joining, even if they have the ID and password. Zoom has recently publicized a suite of options to handle trolls and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit focused in privacy and civil liberties, has compiled a list of tips to safeguard privacy.

As Zoom states on their website, "You do not want random people in your public event taking control of the screen and sharing unwanted content with the group." Zoom suggests restricting this — before the meeting and during the meeting in the host control bar — so the host is the only one who can screen-share.

KQED Rachael Myrow spoke with a woman who now serves as a "digital bouncer" who monitors Zoom-based Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Read her story here.

--Julia Scott (@juliascribe)


State Legislature Considers Meeting Remotely (Thursday, April 9, 10:29 a.m.)

With the California Legislature out until at least the beginning of May because of COVID-19, lawmakers are considering the possibility of meeting remotely.

The Legislature already had a full plate coming into the year, with issues like homelessness, housing and climate change looming large. But the pandemic has upended all of that, leaving lawmakers with a more basic question: how can they get anything done if they can’t even meet?

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said his office has looked into the possibility of voting remotely, but he's skeptical.

“We have provided for some remote testimony, but the constitution is pretty clear," he said. "Remote voting and remote legislating seems difficult without changing our state constitution.”

Rendon is concerned about possible legal challenges against the state if remote voting went forward. He stresses lawmakers are continuing to work out of their district offices during the pandemic. And he said it would be wise to continue focusing on some other issues facing the state in addition to the coronavirus.

But to do that, at least legislatively, hearings and votes need to take place. Loyola Law School Professor Jessica Levinson said there are legitimate concerns revolving around transparency and remote meetings.

The public must be notified of the meetings and given the opportunity to testify. But Levinson but doesn’t see anything in the State Constitution preventing remote sessions.

"In fact, what I see is the Constitution essentially envisions the idea that lawmakers will determine the best procedures for how they will conduct their business," she said.

Read (or listen to) the full story from KQED's Katie Orr here.

--Julia Scott (@juliascribe)


BART Ridership Collapse Creates $173M Budget Gap (Thursday, April 9, 9:31 a.m.)

BART directors are about to get a close look at the ugly fiscal realities facing the agency due to the coronavirus crisis — including the likelihood of hundreds of millions of dollar in revenue shortfalls and a long, slow process of regaining lost ridership.

During the board's Thursday meeting, the transit agency's managers plan to present a stark picture of what the district faces over the next 15 months and beyond: a $173.5 million gap between revenue and operating expenses, and a best-case scenario for the ensuing 12 months in which the agency suffers a further $258 million operating deficit.

That yawning budget gap, like those confronting virtually every other transit agency in the region, is due mostly to the abrupt collapse of ridership after Bay Area residents were ordered to begin sheltering at home last month when the coronavirus outbreak took hold. On Monday, BART recorded just 24,909 paid exits from its stations, down 94% from the average non-holiday Monday in February.

That collapse is especially acute for BART, which gets more than half its operating funds from fares. The second-biggest source of revenue, a half-cent sales tax in Alameda, Contra and San Francisco counties, is also expected to take a big hit with much of the region's economy at a standstill.

In an interview Wednesday, BART General Manager Bob Powers ran down a list of steps the agency has already taken to try to trim costs. It has slashed service, put a virtual freeze on overtime and hiring, prohibited staff travel and shifted hundreds of employees from operations to already-budgeted capital projects like refurbishing stations.

"We are trying to do what we can to manage on the cost side," Powers said.

But since the district's fiscal 2020-21 budget must be balanced, it's likely further steps will be needed.

Powers said the current service cuts -- the system now closes at 9 p.m. each night instead of midnight, and on Wednesday, BART reduced train frequency on its five lines from every 15 minutes to every 30 minutes -- will probably be extended into the new fiscal year starting July 1.

Read the full story from KQED's Dan Brekke here.

--Julia Scott (@juliascribe)


Ghost Ship Fire Defendant Could Be Released From Jail Due to COVID Outbreak (Thursday, April 9, 9:01 a.m.)

The man charged with manslaughter in the Ghost Ship warehouse fire that killed 36 partygoers in Oakland may be released from jail because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Officials said Wednesday that Alameda County Superior Court Judge Trina Thompson told attorneys that she intends to release Derick Almena from custody at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin and place him in an electronic monitoring program while he awaits retrial.

Almena’s attorney Tony Serra told the San Jose Mercury News that there is a “strong” possibility that officials will release his client.

Almena, 49, has been jailed since 2017. He is charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with the Dec. 2, 2016, fire that broke out during an electronic music party at the Ghost Ship warehouse in Oakland. Prosecutors allege Almena, who was the master tenant on the lease, was criminally negligent when he illegally converted the industrial building into a residence for artists and held unpermitted events inside.

The building was packed with furniture, extension cords and other flammable material but had only two exits and no smoke detectors, fire alarms or sprinklers, prosecutors say.

A jury deadlocked on the charges in September and a new trial is scheduled for July. His co-defendant, Max Harris, was acquitted of the same charges.

Almena is scheduled for a court teleconference on Friday and could be released as early as this weekend, probably to house arrest, Vincent Barrientos, one of his defense lawyers, told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Eleven cases of COVID-19 have been reported at the Santa Rita jail. In a report, jail medical staff said Almena’s psychological, physiological and physical health were in jeopardy behind bars, Barrientos said.

Teresa Drenick of the Alameda County district attorney’s office said prosecutors have opposed releasing Almena and will seek a court order barring Almena from contacting witnesses or victims in the case.

“We strongly disagree with the court’s decision,” Drenick said.

--The Associated Press


Santa Cruz County Completely Shuts Down Recreational Areas (Wednesday, April 8, 10:16 p.m.)

In response to "an unusually high volume of use" that the health department says is impeding the social distancing necessary to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Santa Cruz County has shut down all public parks, trails, beaches and other recreational areas through April 15.

Here is what will be closed, from the health department order:

  • All public trails, paths, parkways, trailheads, and campgrounds
  • All public beaches, piers and beach pedestrian or bike paths that transverse the beach
  • All public parks and recreation areas, including but not limited to dog parks, skate parks, pump tracks, playgrounds, golf courses, disc golf courses, pickleball courts, basketball courts, tennis courts and other public sports and recreation areas, as well as any picnic or canopy areas within such places used for congregation
  • All parking lots and access points to any of the facilities or areas listed above

The order says "recreational activity" in these areas is prohibited, including "walking, running, jogging, horseback riding, cycling, surfing, paddleboarding or kayaking."

Violations are "punishable by fine, imprisonment, or both."

Read the full order from Santa Cruz County's Health Services Agency. For more on the story, see the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

--Jon Brooks


Guide: What's Available for Helping Small Businesses Survive the Coronavirus (Wednesday, April 8, 9:40 p.m.)

With all of California and large swaths of the rest of the country under shelter-in-place orders, only “essential” small businesses are allowed to stay open, and many of those have been forced to dramatically cut their services. A growing number are resorting to online fundraising campaigns, hoping loyal customers will invest in their survival.

From restaurants and bookstores to dry cleaners and hair salons, small businesses are a big deal in the U.S., employing nearly half of the nation's workforce. Most of these institutions, which were already operating on razor-thin margins, have been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus pandemic. And without major assistance, many simply won't be able to weather their economic losses.

In response to the crisis, federal, state and local governments, as well as a growing number of private institutions like the East Bay Community Foundation, which recently started a COVID-19 relief fund to give small grants to local organizations, have scrambled to set up programs to help small businesses and community organizations stay alive.

Click here for more on the story from KQED's Matthew Green and for a guide to some of the lifelines that Bay Area businesses can try to tap into.


6 Deaths at Hayward Nursing Home (Wednesday, April 8, 9:17 p.m.)

Six residents have died and 59 people have tested positive for COVID-19 at a nursing home in Hayward. The infections are one of multiple outbreaks in Alameda County.

Statewide, outbreaks are proof of the growing risk in group settings. The public health officer in Los Angeles said Tuesday it would be perfectly appropriate for families to remove loved ones from care.

Neetu Balram of the Alameda County Public Health Department says the county expects some families to make that choice. But Dr. Mehrdad Ayati, a geriatric specialist, says that’s not necessarily an option for a frail senior.

"(The) majority of them, they have to stay, because they need a 24-hour nurse to take care of them," Ayati said.

What facilities need most, he says, are more protective gear and more testing.

--Molly Peterson


San Francisco Needs 7,000 Hotel Rooms, Stat (Wednesday, April 8, 5:16 p.m.)

As the city of San Francisco takes stock of the financial impact of the coronavirus, the largest cost will probably be providing temporary housing for vulnerable populations and first responders.

The city expects it will need 7,000 hotel units for three months to house police and firefighters who don’t want to return home and potentially expose their families, and people experiencing homelessness who are at particularly high risk.

Trent Rhorer, the Director of the city’s Human Services Agency, said Wednesday that the city has already placed 185 homeless and/or coronavirus-positive residents in hotel rooms, and 67 first responders.

The total three-month cost for those hotel rooms will come to $105 million, according to Rhorer. Even with FEMA reimbursement, city officials expect they'll have to pay about $50 million dollars.

"FEMA provided guidance to the state of CA that they will reimburse states and localities up to 75% of the costs of these hotel rooms, but only for specific populations," he said.

Last week, the city had a plan to use the Moscone West convention center to house up to 2,500 homeless shelter guests who had either tested negative for COVID-19, or who had the virus but subsequently tested negative. But the California Department of Health nixed the plan, said Rhorer.

-- Katie Wolffe (@katewolffe), with additional reporting by Julia Scott (@juliascribe)


Oakland Museum Announces Hours Reductions Affecting 106 Workers (Wednesday, April 8, 4:31 p.m.)

On Wednesday, Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) announced hours reductions for 106 full-time staff members in a cost-saving measure designed to retain 44 part-time employees and avoid the layoffs being implemented at other local cultural organizations.

The museum of art, history and science has been closed since March 12 in accordance with government orders to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, and previously pledged to pay staff for regularly scheduled hours until April 12. The Wednesday announcement details cuts in effect from April 13 until at least June 30 as OMCA projects $1.5 million in losses.

The museum is cutting non-essential expenses, including program costs, for the rest of the fiscal year. Its executive team is also taking a “significant pay cut.” Staff will continue to receive benefits including health insurance, paid sick leave and retirement contributions.

The cutbacks allow Oakland’s largest arts organization to avoid disproportionately harming its lowest-earning staff. “We’re trying to balance our values with the financial reality,” Lori Fogarty, director of OMCA, said in an interview. “I worry the inequity we see in society at large is mirrored in cultural organizations. We’re trying in our small way to mitigate that.”

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Exploratorium and Museum of the African Diaspora, facing similarly steep declines in ticket sales and donations while closed to the public, recently announced layoffs and furloughs affecting hundreds of workers. A survey last month found 28 percent of the city’s arts organizations were also contemplating layoffs.

Read the full story by KQED's Sam Lefebvre here.

-- Julia Scott (@juliascribe)


Santa Clara County Prepares for COVID-19 Surge (Wednesday, April 8, 2:20 p.m.)

Santa Clara County is now requiring all people and businesses to report any large inventories of personal protective equipment, such as gloves, masks and face shields. Reporting is due by 11:59 p.m. on April 15 via an online survey.

Santa Clara County health officer Dr. Sara Cody says her department needs to understand what supplies currently exist in the county to plan for a potential hospital surge in the coming days.

“We know we need PPE to protect health care workers, first responders, and other medical staff so they can continue to deliver critical health care services to everyone in our community,” Dr. Cody said.

The order does not require anyone to surrender their stockpile of equipment, but it does threaten a fine, imprisonment or both for failure to report. Those who want to donate items are encouraged to contact the Valley Medical Center Foundation.

-- Annie Berman (@anniebermanak)


Governor Newsom Spends Big On Personal Protective Equipment (Wednesday, April 8, 2:05 p.m.)

Saying "We need to go boldly. We need to not play small ball,” California Governor Gavin Newsom touted the state's ambitious -- and expensive -- plan to purchas a monthly supply of personal protective equipment to protect California healthcare workers and other essential personnel on the the COVID-19 front lines.

California has already ordered $1.4 billion worth of personal protective equipment and distributed 41.4 million N95 masks. But the state has had trouble finding enough masks to meet the needs of its nearly 40 million residents. One shipment from Texas had to be sent back because the masks carried mold, Newsom said.

“California is in a position to leverage the supply chain,” he said, referencing the fact many state and local governments have found themselves in competition with each other and even with the federal government in trying to stockpile and distribute critical materials.

Governor Newsom referred to this sort of competition as a “zero-sum game,” adding he wants to advance a “framework of collaboration and help “increase supply.”

On Tuesday night, Newsom announced that he had secured contracts to import an ongoing supply of 200 million masks per month, at a cost of about $1 billion.

The Legislature already approved up to $1 billion in spending. Newsom also has $1.3 billion from a reserve fund he can use.

But face masks can also be reused, thanks to technology from Battelle, a Columbus, Ohio-based company, which has received FDA approval to use its method to sterilize N95 face masks at scale. Mark Ghilarducci, Director of the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, highlighted this crucial innovation and said their machines will soon be used in California.

Newsom declined several opportunities to criticize the Trump Administration’s performance in getting and sharing critical supplies, but he did express exasperation about what he described as “one-off” offers from all sorts of entities. “I got 500,000 masks. I got 2 million masks…” He added, “We were running into walls. We’re in a position to do something bold and big.”

Along those lines, he encouraged suppliers offers to continue reaching out through the state government's COVID-19 website.

You can watch the Governor's full press conference by clicking below.

-- Rachael Myrow (@rachaelmyrow), with additional reporting by Katie Orr


June SF Pride Parade "not realistic": Mayor Breed (Wednesday, April 8, 11:38 a.m.) (Wednesday, April 8, 1:30 p.m.)

San Francisco's world-famous Pride parade may not happen this year, said Mayor London Breed at a press conference on Wednesday afternoon.

"It may not be realistic to expect that we can host the same kind of Pride parade that the city is known for," she said.

Event organizers have said they are still planning to "forge ahead" with holding the parade on the weekend of June 27, with the theme "Generations of Hope." Their most recent communiqué acknowledged that the celebration "may look very different" from years past, but fell short of cancelling.

"Pride is one of my favorite times of the year," said Mayor Breed, and its postponement would be "devastating to so many people in our city." But, she added, "We're in a different reality. We do know that when we start to get out this, having large-scale events will be very difficult."

On Tuesday, Boston Pride and the City of Boston announced the postponement of its annual June Pride celebration until June 2021.

Other updates:

  • San Francisco now has 676 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 10 deaths.
  • The city has launched a real-time COVID-19 data tracker at data.sfgov.org. The latest data indicate that San Francisco hospitals are receiving a growing number of coronavirus patients. As of Wednesday, 83 San Franciscans are in hospitals fighting the virus; about half of them are in ICUs. "The more we test for the disease, the more we will find the disease. We do not yet know when we will peak," said Dr. Grant Colfax, Director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health.
  • Laguna Honda Hospital now has 17 confirmed coronavirus cases: 13 staff members have been infected, and four residents. Nearly 300 hospital staff have been tested so far, and 208 hospital residents.
  • Four San Francisco homeless shelter residents were sick with COVID-19 as of Wednesday, according to Dr. Colfax. The city has contracted for 1,977 hotel rooms to house coronavirus-positive homeless living on the streets and in SROs, but needs to bring that number up to 7,000 rooms. The cost of renting those hotel rooms for three months: $105 million.-- Julia Scott (@juliascribe)

    Millions Didn't Pay Rent Last Week Amid Pandemic Woes (Wednesday, April 8, 11:38 a.m.)

    Many more Americans were late on their rent for this month as business closures put millions of people out of work.

    Normally, about 20% of people don't pay their rent on time. But 31% didn't pay in the first week of April, according to the National Multifamily Housing Council, which tracks more than 13 million units through its survey.

    Next month could be even worse if many renters don't get government assistance in time, says Doug Bibby, the group's president. He's worried that could spell disaster for many rental property owners.

    "If the rent payments drop off significantly, they won't be able to pay their staffs, they won't be able to pay their mortgages, they won't be able to pay their utilities," Bibby says. "They won't be able to pay the managers who manage their properties for them.

    "I just see this cascading out throughout the whole system and just exacerbating the unemployment problem and the dislocation problem," he adds.

    Bibby says the biggest, strongest players in the rental apartment industry should be OK. They have cash reserves and various ways to access money if they need it during the crisis.

    But he says rental housing is a very fragmented industry with large portion of the units owned by small businesses that own 50 to 100 unites. He says they could be in much bigger trouble. There are also many and mom-and-pop landlords who only own a few units.

    "If an apartment owner has to shut down a 50-unit building, those people have to find shelter somewhere else," Bibby says. That's what "worries me the most," he says.

    Many states and cities have a ban on evictions, but it's unclear how that would work if the business running the property collapsed. And not all parts of the country are covered by no-eviction orders.

    Housing advocates, including those at the Urban Institute, have been calling for more assistance for renters during the crisis. Bibby's group is urging more help as well. One idea — federal rental vouchers sent to people which they could use to pay their landlords. There are already existing voucher programs to help some lower income households pay rent. One idea is to dramatically expand that to reach people who've lost their income in the crisis.

    -- Chris Arnold, NPR


    Gov. Newsom Mulls Financial Aid For Immigrants (Wednesday, April 8, 10:50 a.m.)

    Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday he is working with the Legislature on an economic stimulus package for immigrants in the country illegally and others not covered by the federal stimulus package approved by Congress.

    The federal government is dividing up about $30 billion to roughly 14 million California households this month, part of the federal CARES Act. But the checks — $1,200 per adult earning less than $75,000 and $2,400 per couple under $150,000 — only go to those who file their taxes using a Social Security number.

    Those who use an individual Taxpayer Identification Number, including most living in the country illegally, are excluded.

    The $2.2 trillion federal aid package also includes money to boost unemployment benefits by an extra $600 per week, money also unavailable to people living in the country illegally who have lost their jobs because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

About 2 million people in California are suspected of living in the country illegally, according to the California Latino Legislative Caucus. The group has asked Newsom to create a “Disaster Relief Fund” for cash payments to those immigrants until the state’s emergency proclamation is lifted or they are able to return to work.

Newsom said “all of that is being considered,” adding it is part of a broader package he plans to unveil in May that will include “some economic stimulus strategies at a state level, not just waiting for the federal government to do that for us.”

“Californians care deeply about undocumented residents in this state,” he said.

But some Republicans questioned the plan. The state has delayed the tax filing deadline to July 15, one month after lawmakers are constitutionally required to pass a state spending plan. On Monday, a memo from the Assembly Budget Committee said lawmakers will likely have to revise the budget in August, saying “sizable” spending cuts are possible.

“I see the state of California and its budget as a house of cards and with this coronavirus-induced recession, I’m just trying to figure out where the money would come from,” said state Sen. John Moorlach, a Republican from Costa Mesa. “I would say helping undocumented would be a luxury item.”

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon confirmed lawmakers are considering a proposal that would help immigrants living in the country illegally, while state Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins said she supports any efforts to bring “much needed resources to all of our communities.”

-- Adam Beam, The Associated Press


California To Import 200 Million+ Masks: Newsom (Wednesday, April 8, 9:05 a.m.)

California has secured an ongoing contract to import more than 150 million N95 masks and 50 million surgical masks on a monthly basis, Governor Gavin Newsom announced on The Rachel Maddow Show Tuesday night.

"We decided enough is enough, let's use the purchasing power of California as a nation-state," said Newsom. "We have secured ... upwards of 200 million masks on a monthly basis that we're confident can supply the state of California, and potentially the needs of other Western states."

The masks are destined for hospitals and medical first responders across California. Newsom emphasized that the masks, which are manufactured overseas and sources through a California manufacturer, will not come at the cost of depriving other states. He anticipates being able to share.

So far California has distributed 41 million N95 masks, 1 million of which the state received from the federal government, according to Newsom.

-- Julia Scott (@juliascribe)


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