Live Updates: Coronavirus in the Bay Area

Latest: Millions of Americans did not pay rent last week...California is getting more than 200 million masks... Gov. Newsom mulls financial aid for immigrants... Six more counties cancel on-site classes for the rest of the school year...California's governor says the 'curve' of coronavirus cases could be flattening...More below...


WATCH: Latest from Governor Newsom (Wednesday, April 8, 12 p.m.)

California Governor Gavin Newsom is holding his daily noon press conference now. You can watch by clicking below.

-- 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


San Francisco's COVID-19 Daily Briefing Is Live (Wednesday, April 8, 11:15 a.m.)

San Francisco Mayor London Breed and other officials are holding a COVID-19 press conference. You can watch it live by clicking below.

-- Julia Scott (@juliascribe)


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 ditributed 41 million N95 masks, 1 million of which the state received from the federal govenrment, according to Newsom.

-- Julia Scott (@juliascribe)


California's Mental Health Guides for Coping With Coronavirus (Tuesday, April 7, 10:12 p.m.)

Gov. Gavin Newsom opened his daily briefing Tuesday on the status of the coronavirus pandemic in California a bit differently than normal: With a mantra he says his mother used to repeat.

"She said, 'Stand guard at the door of your mind,'" Newsom said.

Newsom said he knows Californians can’t cope with the coronavirus crisis alone. So he asked California's Surgeon General, Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, to create a series of guides to help people manage stress during this time of crisis.

Burke Harris said millions of Californians who aren't sick with COVID-19 are still managing a ton of stress — and that can manifest in real, physical pain.

The state's "Manage Mental Stress for Health" section of its COVID-19 website has a series of hotlines people can call — including for people who are struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts, are victims of violence, or if they are worried about the safety of a child.

There are also two "playbooks" that rely on evidence-based guidance for how to relieve stress. One is for everyone; the second is for parents and caregivers.

Read the full story from KQED's Marisa Lagos here.


VTA To Resume Light Rail Service (Tuesday, April 7, 5:17 p.m.)

The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority will resume light rail operations beginning Thursday with trains every 30 minutes Mondays through Fridays.

The trains will run from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. The agency will not collect fares.

VTA suspended service for two weeks after someone training to become a train operator tested positive for COVID-19. Following the positive test result, agency workers deep-cleaned the trains and continued replacing upholstered seats with more durable vinyl ones.

Travel within Santa Clara County is restricted to essential business only -- meaning riders should only board trains to travel to and from essential work or to handle essential services including grocery shopping and medical care.

You can find the most up-to-date routes here.

-Erin Baldassari


UCSF Offers Free COVID-19 Test Analysis to Bay Area Health Departments (Tuesday, April 7, 4:49 p.m.)

Beginning Tuesday, public health departments in all nine Bay Area counties will be able to process their COVID-19 tests free of charge at UCSF. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is paying for the expansion.

The university was able to open a new lab adjacent to the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub, or CZ Biohub, that effectively doubles the capacity of its existing laboratories, university officials said. The biohub processed its first COVID-19 test samples on March 20. It's able to process more than 2,000 samples each day and return results in as little as 24 hours.

CZ Biohub president Joe DeRisi said the hub amassed a volunteer force of over 200 graduate students and scientists who are now dedicated to processing test samples, enabling the expanded facility to process nearly 3,000 samples per day.

“Our teams have been working around the clock to fight this pandemic with everything we have,” DeRisi said.

UCSF Offers Free COVID-19 Test Analysis to Bay Area Health Departments


Concern Rising Over Area Nursing Home Outbreaks (Tuesday, April 7, 2:47 p.m.)

Health officials in Contra Costa County report a second outbreak of coronavirus in a group-living situation.

Four residents and nine staff members at a retirement community in downtown Pleasant Hill have tested positive for COVID-19. The facility on Cleaveland road used to be known as Chateau III; it offers independent living, memory care and assisted living. There’s a nurse on site; staffers may administer medications, and there’s usually group dining.

The Contra Costa County Health Department says it's testing everyone on site who has symptoms and evaluating whether it’s possible to test everyone else who lives and works there.

The Pleasant Hill facility is part of a chain run by Carlton Senior Living. The company saw at least one earlier outbreak in the Sacramento area. The news comes as an outbreak in a nearby nursing home has expanded. The Orinda Care Center now reports that 27 staffers and 22 patients at the facility have tested positive for the virus. Two former patients are in the hospital.

Read more background from KQED's Molly Peterson.


Six More Counties Cancel Remaining Classes on Campus (Tuesday, April 7, 2:30 p.m.)

Schools in six Bay Area counties will be closed for the remainder of the school year, district officials said Tuesday in a joint statement.

Those counties include San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Marin.

In a letter sent to parents on Tuesday, San Francisco schools superintendent Vincent Matthews and board president Mark Sanchez said the education process would continue.

"To be clear, the 2019-2020 school year has not ended," reads the letter. "The remainder of the school year now transitions from in-person classroom instruction to instruction and support for students through distance learning."

“We will continue to navigate our way through this pandemic locally,” the letter continues, “so that we can ensure the health and safety of our students and their families, as well as our staff.”

The district will be sending out information related to grades, graduation, transcripts, scholarships, and summer school in the coming weeks, officials said.

-- Erin Baldassari (@e_baldi)


Newsom Says Curve Appears To Be Flattening in California (Tuesday, April 7, 2:06 p.m.)

The coronavirus curve -- a metric public health officials use to monitor the spread and anticipate the peak number of cases -- appears to be flattening in California, Governor Gavin Newsom said Tuesday.

A very steep upward slope to that curve would indicate a potentially catastrophic spike in cases that would threaten to far outstrip the capacity health care system. A flatter curve means cases would be spread out and thus, more manageable.

“That curve continues to rise but just not at the slope that was originally projected,” Newsom said in his daily briefing, citing social and physical distancing as the cause for the reduction in anticipated COVID-19 cases.

Bay Area hospitals braced for the kind of major spike in sick patients that has overwhelmed hospitals in New York but Robert Watcher, chairman of UCSF's Department of Medicine says that has yet to materialize here. He's confident enough that no major surge is coming to UCSF that the hospital system is sending badly needed masks and other protective equipment elsewhere.

"In terms of what we were gearing ourselves up for," he said, "(it's) orders of magnitude less than we feared." 

The number of confirmed positive cases climbed nearly 11% over Monday’s number to 15,865, Newsom said. Hospitalizations rose 4.1% to 2,611 and ICU cases increased 2.1% to 1,108. Thirty-one more California residents died from the virus, bringing the death toll to 374.

“Our thinking around [a peak in] May, and late May in particular, means it follows this idea of flattening,” said Mark Ghaly, director of the state’s Health and Human Services Agency, “It’s not just the reduction down, it’s moving it out.”

Newsom also confirmed Tuesday that a new antibody test from Stanford University received FDA approval. It will help researchers identify how many people have already been infected by the coronavirus, even if they don't have any symptoms.

-- Erin Baldassari & Kevin Stark


Acting Navy Boss Resigns Amid Coronavirus Uproar (Tuesday, April 7, 1:44 p.m.)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly resigned Tuesday, according to two officials, just hours after he had publicly apologized for a profanity-laced upbraiding of the officer he fired as captain of the coronavirus-stricken USS Theodore Roosevelt.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss the matter before an official announcement.

Modly’s designated replacement will be James McPherson, a Navy veteran who is currently serving undersecretary of the Army. He was confirmed in that position by the Senate last month. Prior to that he was the Army’s general counsel.

Modly had created a combustible controversy by firing the Roosevelt’s skipper, Capt. Brett E. Crozier, a North Bay native, saying Crozier had shown “extremely poor judgment” in widely distributing by email a letter calling for urgent help with the COVID-19 outbreak aboard his ship.

Modly then flew to the ship, at port in Guam, and delivered a speech to the crew Sunday in which he lambasted Crozier, saying he was either “too naive or too stupid” to be in charge of an aircraft carrier.

Read the full story from Associated Press.


Watch: White House Daily Briefing LIVE at 2 p.m. PDT (Tuesday, April 7, 1:44 p.m.)


Meat Processing Plants Suspend Operations After Workers Fall Ill
(Tuesday, April 07, 12:45 p.m.)

Several meat processing plants around the U.S. are sitting idle this week because workers have been infected with the coronavirus. Tyson Foods, one of the country's biggest meat processors, says it suspended operations at its pork plant in Columbus Junction, Iowa, after more than two dozen workers got sick with COVID-19. National Beef Packing stopped slaughtering cattle at another Iowa plant, and JBS USA shut down work at a beef plant in Pennsylvania.

Most farms and food companies are continuing to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic. There's concern that the coronavirus could spread among workers doing some of the most labor-intensive jobs, including meat processing.

Christine McCracken, a top meat industry analyst with RaboResearch Food & Agribusiness, told NPR via email that these plant closings aren't yet having a significant impact on the overall supply of meat to consumers, but there's increasing concern in the industry about worker shortages.

Read the full story from NPR's Dan Charles.


California Courts 'Closed for Evictions' (Tuesday, April 7, 11:47 a.m.)

The California Judicial Council voted unanimously Monday to effectively suspend evictions and foreclosures statewide, to limit the spread of COVID-19 -- an action that advocates for renters say goes further than the governor’s order on evictions.

The new order puts a stop to unlawful detainers, the lawsuits landlords file when trying to evict a tenant. Tenants can’t be summoned to court, and judges are prevented from issuing default rulings -- a ruling in favor of the landlord if a tenant doesn’t respond to an eviction lawsuit. It also constrains lenders from filing foreclosure complaints against homeowners.

Tenants rights attorney Leah Simon-Weisberg said the ruling applies uniformly across all California counties.

“This basically says all courts are closed for evictions,” she said.

Tenants rights groups had blasted the order on evictions Governor Gavin Newsom issued March 27, calling it “useless” and “misleading.” The order extended the time for tenants to respond to an eviction lawsuit from five to 60 days, but didn’t prevent landlords from filing new eviction orders. And it only applied to tenants who could demonstrate they couldn’t pay rent due to the coronavirus outbreak; it didn’t stop evictions for other reasons.

Judicial leaders also voted Monday to eliminate bail for lower-level offenses and to hold some court proceedings by video or phone.

The statewide order will remain in place for 90 days after the state of emergency is lifted.

-- Molly Solomon (@solomonout)


San Francisco Changes Course on Moscone Shelter (Tuesday, April 7, 11:03 a.m.)

Officials in San Francisco are changing course on a new temporary shelter at Moscone Center West, after facing a backlash from advocates for people experiencing homelessness who decried what they called “an indoor camp.”

The city will now focus on putting more people into hotel rooms, said Trent Rhorer, the director of San Francisco’s Human Services Agency. The beds at Moscone West will be used for people who finish quarantine or test negative for coronavirus, he said.

“This will help us really provide a relief valve on the back end of our system,” Rhorer said.

The shift came after San Francisco Supervisors and advocates for the homeless saw leaked photos of Moscone West that showed rows of sleeping mats, separated by masking tape.

Moscone West had been expecting to house 390 people. City officials say they will reduce bed capacity by half and add partitions.

-- Molly Solomon (@solomonout)


What You Need to Know Today About the Virus Outbreak (Tuesday, April 7, 10:28 a.m.)

With its biggest one-day jump yet, New York City’s death toll from the coronavirus officially eclipsed the number of those killed at the World Trade Center on 9/11.

At least 3,202 people have died in New York from COVID-19, according to the count released Tuesday by the city. Across the U.S., the death toll reached about 11,000, with around 370,000 confirmed infections.

In Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson remained in intensive care with the virus, while Japan’s leader declared a monthlong state of emergency for Tokyo and six other regions to keep the virus from ravaging the world’s oldest population.

Read the full roundup by Associated Press.


You Could Receive a $63 Credit on Your April Utility Bill (Tuesday, April 07, 10:07 a.m.)

Next week, California utility regulators are going to vote on whether to extend a utility bill credit to customers.

PG&E customers who use the utility for electricity and gas are set to receive a $62.91 credit on their April bill. PG&E natural gas-only residential customers receive a $27.18 credit and PG&E electric-only residential customers a $35.73 credit.

Many Californians need the credit. Residential electricity usage has already risen by 15% to 20%, according to the California Public Utilities Commission.

Read the full story from KQED's Lisa Pickoff-White.


BART to Reduce Service Starting Wednesday (Monday, April 6, 5:53 p.m.)

BART will run trains every 30 minutes beginning Wednesday, April 8, the agency announced Monday. The transit agency will limit trips to three of its lines earlier in the evening than usual, and will offer single-track service in San Francisco after 8 p.m.

The service reductions effectively cancel every other train Mondays through Fridays.

Agency officials say BART passenger loads have decreased by 93 percent on weekdays since Bay Area counties ordered residents to shelter at home and reduce the transmission of the coronavirus. Officials predict that reduced service will save $3 million to $7 million a month in operating costs.

With fewer riders on the trains, BART will shift about 400 employees to work on projects including power cable replacement and other infrastructure work needed to repair and maintain the aging system that serves San Francisco, Alameda and Contra Costa counties.

For personalized trip planning assistance, call the Transit Information Center at 510-465-2278 from 8 a.m. – 6 p.m., Monday-Friday. Or use BART’s online Trip Planner.

-Erin Baldassari (e_baldi)


San Francisco Offers COVID-19 Testing for Health Care Workers, First Responders (Monday, April 6, 5:30 p.m.)

Starting today, front-line healthcare workers and other first responders in San Francisco will be able to visit a drive-through coronavirus testing site along the Embarcadero, Mayor London Breed said Monday.

The site, on Piers 30 and 32, will ramp up to test “hundreds” of city workers each day, she said.

“They are taking care of us,” Breed said, “so it’s important we do everything we can to take care of them.” The tests are available by appointment.

In addition, the city has secured 883 rooms in two hotels to temporarily house front-line workers who have tested positive for COVID-19 or are awaiting test results.

Breed also announced that two homeless people in a city shelter have tested positive for COVID-19. Both people were living at MSC South, San Francisco’s largest homeless shelter. The city announced the first case, at the Division Circle Navigation Center, on Thursday. The nonprofit St. Vincent de Paul Society operates both facilities.

The city has reserved 945 rooms in eight hotels for people who’ve tested positive for the coronavirus or are awaiting test results and don’t have anywhere to self-isolate. As of Monday, there were nine deaths and 583 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in San Francisco.

-Erin Baldassari (e_baldi)


Ousted Navy Captain Brett Crozier tested positive for COVID-19 (Monday, April 6, 3:35 p.m.)

Days after the U.S. Navy relieved an aircraft carrier captain of his command, that officer has tested positive for the coronavirus he had told higher-ups was sweeping his ship.

Santa Rosa native Capt. Brett Crozier, commander of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, is in quarantine, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

In remarks to Crozier's former sailors leaked in news reports Monday, the acting secretary of the Navy referred to Crozier as "stupid" and "naive."

The Navy issued a statement Monday evening, attributed to the acting secretary, Thomas Modly. "I want to apologize to the Navy for my recent comments to the crew of the [Theodore Roosevelt]. Let me be clear, I do not think Captain Brett Crozier is naive nor stupid," he said. "I think, and always believed him to be the opposite."

Crozier last week sent a letter to Navy officials seeking help to address the spread of the coronavirus on board his ship. After someone leaked the letter to the Chronicle, military officials criticized Crozier for not taking steps to avoid exposing the problem to media attention. As of Sunday, there were at least 155 positive cases among the crew of 5,000 serving on the San Diego-based aircraft carrier, now docked in Guam.

California Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, blasted the Navy secretary for shaming Crozier and asked for a full investigation into the matter.

"As a combat veteran, his dismissal has me deeply concerned and the comments made by the Secretary of the Navy are downright unacceptable," Thompson said in a statement. "The entire Department of Defense should be focused on the health of our men and women in uniform, not closing ranks and slandering a good man who has served his nation honorably."

After the captain departed the Roosevelt Friday, crew members circulated phone video of hundreds of personnel applauding and chanting his name.

Crozier is staying at Naval Base Guam. After his quarantine, a Navy representative said, he is expected to return to Naval Air Force Pacific Command in San Diego.

-Danielle Venton & Erin Baldassari


Promising Drug On The Horizon For COVID-19 (Monday, April 6, 2:16 p.m.)

Scientists are reporting promising results for a new drug to treat COVID-19.

The drug is known as EIDD-2801. It works by interfering with the coronavirus's ability make copies of itself once it infects a cell. In that regard it's similar to remdesivir, a drug currently being tested in COVID-19 patients.

EIDD-2801 has one major advantage over remdesivir: it can be taken as a pill, whereas remdesivir must be given intravenously.

Researchers from Emory University in Atlanta, the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, and Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville first tested EIDD-2801 in cells cultured in the laboratory. When those tests were encouraging, they then gave mice that had been infected with coronaviruses that cause either SARS or MERS, and showed that it reduced the amount of virus in their bodies.

Read the full story from Joe Palca at NPR.


Gov: New 'Antibody' Tests a Critical Step, Min. Wage Hike Is Wait-and-See (Monday, April 6, 1:46 p.m.)

Work on a new coronavirus antibody test from Stanford University is “fundamental” and “foundational” to getting Californians back to work, Governor Gavin Newsom said Monday.

Standing inside the Sleep Train Arena, the former home of the Sacramento Kings basketball team that will double as a temporary medical facility, Newsom laid out plans to distribute 500 ventilators to the national stockpile to assist other states, even as California seeks to procure more, and hinted that an expected minimum-wage increase in January could be on hold.

Researchers at Stanford are working on the state’s first “homegrown serum” or serology test that will determine whether people have immunity to COVID-19, Newsom said.

“This is a deep area of focused concentration,” he said, adding that it will be critical to test people who are asymptomatic carriers of the coronavirus, in order to better understand the disease.

Over the weekend, Newsom announced that the test was expected to be FDA-approved and rolled out this week. On Monday, he said he didn’t know whether approval had come yet.

“I believe it’s on track,” he said.

Testing is necessary to get people back into the workforce, Newsom said, and his team is already working on an economic recovery plan. Asked whether an increase in the minimum wage would happen as planned, Newsom said, “That’s January, and we’ll make a determination in real time.”

The state is sending 500 ventilators to the national stockpile because it had substantially more ventilators in its inventory than it expected at the time, though Newsom said the state would continue to procure and refurbish more. California has more than 11,00 ventilators on hand.

“We have a moral and ethical responsibility of sending them to those most in need,” he said.

The state has secured 4,613 hospital beds from added capacity at its existing hospitals or in new locations, such as reopening shuttered hospitals, leasing hotel rooms, federally supported medical stations, the opening of the USS Mercy hospital ship, which is docked in Southern California, and alternative sites like the Kings’ former arena, Newsom said. It has another 5,005 beds that have been identified and are in lease negotiations.

The beds will be needed to handle the expected peak of coronavirus cases in mid-May. Nearly 82,000 healthcare professionals have applied to staff those sites through the state’s new Health Corps website, Newsom said.

As of Monday morning, there were 14,336 positive COVID-19 cases reported in California, 1,185 people in the ICU, 2,509 hospitalizations, and 343 people who have died from the virus.

-- Erin Baldassari (@e_baldi)


British Prime Minister Boris Johnson Moved to Intensive Care (Monday, April 6, 1:00 p.m.)

LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was moved to the intensive care unit of a London hospital after his coronavirus symptoms worsened Monday, just a day after he was admitted for what were said to be routine tests

Johnson was admitted to St. Thomas’ Hospital late Sunday, 10 days after he was diagnosed with COVID-19.

“Over the course of this afternoon, the condition of the Prime Minister has worsened and, on the advice of his medical team, he has been moved to the Intensive Care Unit at the hospital,” his office said in a statement.

Downing St, said Johnson was conscious and does not require ventilation at the moment, but was in the intensive care unit in case he needed it later.

It said Johnson has asked Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to deputize for him.

Read the full story from AP.


More Than 10,000 People Have Now Died From COVID-19 In The US (Monday, April 06, 11:17 a.m.)

More than 10,000 people have now died from COVID-19 in the U.S., as the pandemic's horrible toll hit another milestone on Monday.

The U.S. is reporting more COVID-19 cases than any country in the world, with nearly 350,000 people testing positive for the coronavirus, according to a COVID-19 dashboard created by the Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering, which reports coronavirus numbers in near real time.

The worst-hit U.S. state remains New York, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Monday that the state now has more than 130,000 cases and 4,758 deaths.

The respiratory virus was reported in all 50 states and the District of Columbia just three weeks ago. Health experts warn that COVID-19 is still far from reaching the peak of the damage they believe it will inflict on the U.S.

Nine U.S. states now have at least 10,000 coronavirus cases:

New York 130,689
New Jersey: 37,505
Michigan: 15,718
California: 15,201
Louisiana: 13,010
Massachusetts: 12,500
Florida: 12,350
Pennsylvania: 11,643
Illinois: 11,260

The U.S. trails only Italy (16,523 dead) and Spain (13,055 dead) in the number of people lost to the pandemic.

-- Bill Chappell, NPR


What You Need To Know Today About the Virus Outbreak (Monday, April 6, 10:54 a.m.)

The United States is bracing for a painful week, with a wave of coronavirus deaths expected across the nation.

“This is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment,” U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said.

New York City, the U.S. epicenter, New Orleans and Detroit face especially worrying days ahead. Yet President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are striking optimistic tones, insisting that hard weeks ahead will ultimately lead to the nation beginning to turn a corner.

WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY:

— The first alarms sounded in early January that the outbreak of a novel coronavirus in China would ignite a global pandemic. But the Trump administration squandered nearly two months that could have been used to bolster the federal stockpile of critically needed medical supplies and equipment.

— Coronavirus patients around the world are rushing to join studies of an experimental drug that showed promise against some similar viruses in the past. Interest in the drug remdesivir has been so great that the U.S. National Institutes of Health is boosting the size of its study.

Across the globe, grocery workers are on the front lines during lockdowns. Their stores are deemed essential, and their work puts them close to the public and therefore at risk. They’re also afraid.

— Historic failures in government response to disasters and emergencies, medical abuse, neglect and exploitation have jaded generations of African Americans into a distrust of public institutions.

Millions of dollars in additional funds are being made available to agencies around the world that provide aid to Holocaust survivors, whose advanced age and health issues make them particularly vulnerable to the new coronavirus, the organization that handles claims on behalf of Jewish victims of the Nazis announced Monday.

— Pushing a shopping cart with two children, César Alegre emerges from the large, deteriorated house near Peru’s presidential palace that is shared by 45 families to search for food. Sometimes he begs in markets; sometimes he sells candies. It is a task that was hard at the best of times, but with a monthlong quarantine that has forced 32 million Peruvians to stay home, it has become much harder.

Read the full roundup from Associated Press.


Coronavirus Crisis Prompts Martinez Refinery to Cut Back, Sell Hydrogen Plants (Monday, April 06, 10:32 a.m.)

PBF Energy, the New Jersey-based company that recently bought Shell's refinery in Martinez, plans to sell two hydrogen plants at the facility for hundreds of millions of dollars.

The sale comes as PBF and other oil companies scramble to cut costs and raise revenue as shelter-at-home orders imposed around the United States have drastically reduced travel and slashed demand for gasoline and other fuels.

"All companies will be looking for ways to survive this 'demand side' shock," said David Hackett, president of Stillwater Associates, a firm that specialized in analyzing the transportation fuels market.

"Some will shut their refineries down while others will be operating at minimum levels through this crisis," Hackett said in an email.

Plummeting demand has driven the average cost of a gallon of gas in California below $3 for first time in close to three years, according to AAA. Nationwide, the average price for a gallon of regular gasoline is $1.93, AAA says, with Wisconsin reporting the lowest prices -- just $1.44.

Read the full story from KQED's Ted Goldberg.


New Prediction for Hospital Bed Deficit in U.S. (Monday, April 6, 9:39 a.m.)

Spurred by a "massive infusion of new data," the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation has lowered its estimate of the number of hospital and ICU beds as well as ventilators that the U.S. will need to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. A predicted shortage of 36,654 hospital beds, including a shortfall of 16,323 ICU beds, will reach its peak on April 15, according to the analysis. The deficit for ventilators will also hit a high of 24,828 on that date.

"Our estimates assume statewide social distancing measures are continuing in states where they have already been enacted, and for those states without such measures in place, it is assumed they will be will be in place within seven days," said the institute's director, Dr. Christopher Murray, in a press release.

The peak number of deaths per day is estimated at 3,130 on April 16, according to the IHME. The estimated range for total deaths around the country is 49,431 to 136,401, a lower range than the previous calculation by the institute.

The analysis predicts California will experience no shortage of hospital beds, and a deficit of 688 ventilators by April 15. The projected peak for daily deaths in the state is 70 on April 17.


Major Shrinkage in Store for San Francisco Transit System (Sunday, April 5, 5:00 p.m.)

Bay Area transit, which has seen a series of sharp reductions in service with most commuters sheltering at home during the coronavirus crisis, will see its biggest curtailment to date this week as San Francisco Muni dramatically curtails its remaining service.

The agency says it expects 40% of its bus operators to be off the job tomorrow, resulting in widespread delays throughout the system.

So far, Muni has reported that five operators have tested positive for the coronavirus. To deal with the shortage of operators, Muni says it will roll out a new service plan on Tuesday and Wednesday that could involve halting service on about three-fourths of Muni’s bus lines. The details of those service plans were not immediately available Sunday.

City Transportation Director Jeffrey Tumlin told the San Francisco Examiner that service Monday will be challenging for riders and the agency alike.

“Tomorrow will be a disaster,” Tumlin said. “We will deliver the worst Muni service since 1906” — a reference to the city’s catastrophic earthquake and fire.

-- Dan Brekke (@danbrekke)


California Labor Secretary Goes Facebook-Live with Unemployment Insurance Update (Sunday, April 05, 3:52 p.m.)

California Labor Secretary Julie Su on Sunday delivered an update on unemployment insurance and worker safety guidelines in the age of COVID-19.

Unemployment insurance processing normally takes about three weeks, Su said, meaning that workers who file for unemployment should expect to wait three weeks to receive funds. So far, the California Employment Development Department has been sticking fairly closely to that timeline, she said. The department is trying to expedite payment processing by waiving certain looking-for-work requirements and redirecting staff to process unemployment insurance applications.

Record numbers of unemployment claims -- 6.6 million in the most recent week reported -- have sent servers crashing in states across the U.S. Reports that the California's unemployment claims website has crashed are not true, Su said, though she noted the site occasionally goes down for routine maintenance.

“I know it can be frustrating, and we are working very hard,” she said.

Su also clarified that people who believe they've been misclassified as independent contractors -- rather than employees -- can, and should, file for unemployment insurance. If the department determines an individual was misclassified as a contractor, that individual will receive unemployment insurance, she promised.

For true independent contractors and self-employed Californians, a separate benefit, called "pandemic unemployment assistance," may soon become available, Su said. The department is “working to implement this program,” but still awaiting funds from the federal government for this benefit.

Su delivered an update on the federal stimulus, which she said will provide an additional $600 a week for up to four weeks [Su may have misspoken here; the benefits are federally guaranteed for four months] in unemployment benefits to Californians. Those funds are not yet available, she said, but they will be added to existing state benefit payments. Californians don’t have to “do anything else” to receive those funds.

She also announced the state had begun issuing, or would soon issue, health and safety guidelines for various essential industries, including agricultural workers, grocery workers and skilled nursing facilities. She encouraged workers and others to report businesses not in compliance with health and safety guidelines to Cal/OSHA.

For more details on filing for unemployment and how the process is evolving, visit labor.ca.gov or watch Su’s video update here.

-- Susie Neilson (@SusieNeilson)


Judges Deny California Inmate Release, Citing US Law (Sunday, April 05, 1:50 p.m.)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - Federal judges on Saturday refused on procedural grounds to order California to free thousands of prisoners to ease crowded conditions that attorneys representing inmates likened to a "tinderbox" ready to ignite with the rapid spread of the coronavirus.

But the three judges invited inmates' attorneys to file a new motion with either or both of two individual judges who oversee major class action lawsuits over inmate medical and mental health care. Both judges are members of the three-judge panel, which also includes a federal appellate judge.

The judges virtually laid out a pathway for the inmates' attorneys to seek help from the individual judges, and perhaps come back to the special panel after they lay the proper groundwork.

The special panel said it had no authority to address the coronavirus because it was convened 13 years ago to consider a different issue: whether general overcrowding was causing inhumane conditions.

Read the full story from Associated Press.


How to Shop Safely at Grocery Stores During a Pandemic (Sunday, April 05, 1:09 p.m.)

Under the pall of stay-at-home orders, grocery stores, considered “essential businesses,” are now among the few places shoppers can go to stock their pantries. But empty shelves and crowded aisles are also major concerns for shoppers and health officials alike.

While coronavirus can survive on surfaces for hours or even days, the risk of getting it from groceries is “relatively low,” according to Dr. Anne Liu, an immunologist at Stanford Health Care. What’s more likely: coming into proximity with an infected person. But there are still precautions you can take with the food you buy, experts say.

Read more from KQED’s Shannon Lin here.


Face Masks Help But They're Not the Whole Solution (Sunday, April 05, 11:40 a.m.)

Health officials on the federal, state, and local level are recommending that people wear cloth coverings, like a bandana or home-sewn facemask, when leaving home for essential travel.

But the cloth masks are just one part of preventing transmission; they work best when combined with social distancing and hand washing.

“In the COVID situation, I think people may be over-interpreting it as personal protection, which it does to some extent,” says Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious diseases specialist at UCSF. He says that in the medical world, masks are usually put on those who are infected to stop them from potentially infecting others – not the other way around.

When you wear a face mask, it’s not intended to protect you, but the people around you, in case you are infected but are not showing symptoms. That’s why face masks, like social distancing or vaccines, are most effective when everybody participates.

But even if not everyone around you is wearing a mask, Chin-Hong says it's better to have some cover than nothing at all if someone sneezes or coughs near you.

“The mask provides a physical barrier to chopping some of those droplets before it hits your nose or your mouth,” he says.

San Francisco’s Department of Public Health has advised that cloth covers can also serve as a visual reminder for people to keep their distance, which, in the case of this pandemic is a minimum of six feet.

If you do opt for a face covering, health officials recommend following these basic steps:

  • Make sure it completely covers your mouth and nose.
  • Once you put it on, leave the damn thing alone! Try not to adjust it.
  • Wash it very frequently.
  • Continue with the social distancing (staying at least 6 feet away from other people) and good hygiene practices (washing your hands thoroughly and often).
  • Discard the covering if it is damaged, stretched out or no longer fits over your entire mouth and nose.

Check out this CDC guide for more on how to properly wear face coverings, and instructions for making your own.

-- Julie Chang (@BayAreaJulie)


Legendary NFL Kicker Tom Dempsey Dies at 73 (Sunday, April 05, 9:28 a.m.)

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Former NFL kicker Tom Dempsey, who played in the NFL despite being born without toes on his kicking foot and made a record 63-yard field goal, died late Saturday while struggling with complications from the new coronavirus, his daughter said. He was 73 years old.

The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate first reported Dempsey’s death. Ashley Dempsey said Sunday that her father, who has resided in an assisted living home for several years after being diagnosed with dementia, tested positive for the coronavirus a little more than a week ago.

Read the full story from Associated Press.


Surgeon General Warns US of `Saddest Week' and `9/11 Moment' (Sunday, April 05, 9:15 a.m.)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. surgeon general offered some of the starkest warnings yet Sunday as he braced Americans for the worsening fallout from the new coronavirus, warning “this is going to be the hardest and the saddest week of most Americans’ lives, quite frankly.” The public was advised separately by the nation’s infectious disease chief to “just buckle down” and that the virus probably won’t be wiped out entirely this year.

The number of people infected in the U.S. has exceeded 300,000, with the death toll climbing past 8,400; more than 3,500 of those deaths are in the state of New York.

Much of the country is under orders to stay home, and federal officials said that have seen signs that people are listening to the message about social distancing. But the Trump administration also is also emphasizing that the worst is yet to come for many communities.

“This is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment, only it’s not going to be localized,” Surgeon General Jerome Adams said on “Fox News Sunday.” He added: “It’s going to be happening all over the country. And I want America to understand that.”

Read the full account from Associated Press.


Stanford Rolls Out Serum Test for Coronavirus (Sunday, April 05, 9:04 a.m.)

Stanford University is rolling out a new test for coronavirus that promises rapid advances in the fight against the pandemic. Called a "serological," or "serum" test, it detects antibodies that the human body martials against the invading virus. The test can reveal if a person has ever had the virus in their system -- even if they've never experienced symptoms, and thus, whether they carry immunity. Those who test positive can then donate antibodies to help others stave off COVID-19.

“This is critical information,” principal investigator Dr. Eran Bendavid told Lisa Krieger of The Mercury News. Read Krieger's full updated article here.

Stanford is partnering with the Santa Clara County Dept. of Health on the project.


Inmate at Santa Rita Jail Tests Positive for COVID-19 (Saturday, April 04, 5:06 p.m.)

An inmate at Santa Rita jail in Alameda County has tested positive for COVID-19, the sheriff’s office said in a statement on Saturday.

The individual, who has resided in two different pods in the last two weeks, has been placed in the jail’s medical unit and is recovering in “stable condition,” according to the sheriff’s office. Officials say they're attempting to trace all of the contacts the inmate made since March 18.


Death Valley Park Closes to Visitors; Highways Remain Open (Saturday, April 04, 4:45 p.m.)

Death Valley National Park might seem like the ideal place for "physical distancing." Nevertheless, the park service has closed it to all visitors “until further notice."

The Park Service said its decision to close the park was made with the health and safety of its staff, volunteers and visitors as its “number one priority.” Death Valley is the largest U.S. national park outside of Alaska, with 3.4 million acres of land and nearly 1000 miles of paved and dirt roads.

Right now – around Easter – is normally among the park’s busiest times, before blistering summer temperatures set in. Midsummer highs average 116 degrees. Despite those extremes, total visitation has more than doubled over the past decade, to more than 1.7 million people last year, and tourists tend to congregate a few sites that are easily accessible by road.

While you cannot "visit" Death Valley, you can still drive through it. The Park Service says Highway 190 and Daylight Pass will remain open for drive-through traffic. You can also explore the park virtually on social media, through the following:


CDC Unveils 1st National Coronavirus Pandemic Tracking System (Saturday, April 04, 3:20 p.m.)

The federal government Saturday unveiled the first detailed national system for tracking the coronavirus pandemic in the United States.

The new COVIDView system will provide weekly updates aimed at monitoring the outbreak across the country, based on the results of tests for the virus, people seeking care for flu-like systems and pneumonia and those diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

"I think it's really important," Lynnette Brammer of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who's leading the effort, told NPR in an interview. "Information is vitally important. It allows us to see where we're going."

The shortage of testing for the coronavirus has been a major problem hindering the nation's ability to understand the scope of the pandemic in the United States and develop the most effective counter measures, many public health experts say.

The absence of a coordinated national tracking system forced states to scramble to develop their own approaches, drawing from data routinely gathered from doctors and hospitals to monitor the flu every

The development of the CDC was welcomed by many public health experts.

"I think the information will be valuable," says Marc Lipsitch, a leading epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health.

But Lipsitch and others criticized the agency for failing to develop a system like this much sooner and said the system still falls far short of what's needed. For example, information is really needed on a daily basis, several said.

"We're in the middle of the greatest pandemic in a century," says Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute. "So I think what they're doing is fine and it is helpful. But we need something much more than that. The pandemic doesn't take the weekend off."

-- Rob Stein, NPR (@robsteinnews)


Newsom Acknowledges Testing Lag, Vows to Fix It (Saturday, April 4, 1:12 p.m.)

Telling Californians that "you deserve more and better," Gov. Gavin Newsom on Saturday took personal responsibility for the state's sluggish ramp-up in COVID-19 testing efforts, noting California's test capabilities have improved while conceding that the state has fallen behind.

“The testing space has been a challenging one for us, and I own that,” Newsom said. The state has recorded 126,700 tests, a 33% increase from the number of tests reported on Friday. But it’s still being outstripped by many states – New York state has a population roughly half of California’s and has conducted over 270,000 tests so far, according to the COVID tracking project.

Seizing on a positive note, Newsom said the backlog of pending tests is shrinking. As of Saturday, 13,000 tests were pending, down from a recent high of 59,500.

Newsom said he has assembled a COVID-19 testing task force, to be chaired by Charity Dean, assistant director of California Department of Public Health, and Paul Markovich, president and CEO of Blue Shield California.

“We are now in a position where I can confidently say it’s a new day,” Newsom said regarding testing efforts. He said he hoped to increase the statewide daily test rate “five-fold” over the next several weeks.

He also announced the creation of a new site for individuals and entities interested in donating medical supplies. Find it here.

On another front, when a reporter asked the governor to respond to the National Football League's announced intention to start games on schedule in early September, Newsom replied, "I'm not anticipating that happening in this state."

-- Susie Neilson (@susieneilson)


Setting The Record Straight In Another Week Of Trump And Coronavirus (Saturday, April 04, 11:00 a.m.)

Easter is next Sunday, April 12. But the country isn't close to being "opened up" by then, as President Trump said he'd like to see during a March 24 press conference, a suggestion that was panned by experts.

Instead, the country has gone the opposite direction. Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health and coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx are warning that 100,000 Americans or more could die from COVID-19.

Hearing those numbers, President Trump endorsed strict stay-at-home measures remain in place for at least another month. It was yet another stunning reversal from Trump, whose messaging at the helm of the government's response to the novel coronavirus pandemic has been like whiplash.

Mixed in with that inconsistency have been a host of claims and suggestions that have been exaggerated, misleading or lacking in full context.

Here are five fact checks and stories that set the record straight this week from NPR's Domenico Montanaro.


Contra Costa Health Officials Issue 'Mass Isolation and Quarantine' Order to COVID-19 Patients (Saturday, April 04, 9:56 a.m.)

Contra Costa County health officials issued a mass isolation and quarantine order on Friday for patients with COVID-19, along with their close contacts.

If you have tested positive for COVID-19, officials say, you must remain in your home under almost all circumstances. You may only leave if you need urgent medical care or if there’s an emergency requiring evacuation. If you’re asymptomatic, you’ll need to isolate for at least seven days after your positive test; if you have symptoms, you need to isolate for seven days after your symptoms began, and for 72 hours after your symptoms have passed.

COVID-19-positive individuals are also required to tell their close contacts that they have to quarantine themselves for 14 days after their last contact with the positive person.

The decision to issue the order was made after county health providers reached a “critical point,” where they realized they could no longer individually notify and track every person with COVID-19 and inform their close contacts they may have been infected.

“Our resources are stretched extremely thin and business as usual is not an option,” said county health officer Chris Farnitano in a statement.

For more details on the order, visit the county’s health services website.


What You Need To Know Today About the Virus Outbreak (Saturday, April 04, 9:06 a.m.)

As the number of infections has grown to more than 1.1 million worldwide, health care systems are straining under the surge of patients and lack of medical equipment like ventilators, protective masks and gloves. All of which has heightened concerns about the exposure of hospital personnel.

In the U.S., governors are describing in stark terms the dog-eat-dog global marketplace they must navigate for the protective gear doctors, nurses and other front-line medical workers need as they brace for an expected wave of patients afflicted with severe cases of the new coronavirus.

U.S. medical experts estimate the death toll from the coronavirus pandemic could reach 240,000 nationwide. The question of where to put the bodies is worrying just about everyone as cities, hospitals and private medical groups clamor to secure additional storage.

Read the full roundup from Associated Press.


State Lawmakers To Extend Their Absence (Friday, April 03, 6:04 p.m.)

California lawmakers won't return on April 13 as they had planned, extending the Legislature's first unscheduled break in 158 years and leaving Gov. Gavin Newsom in charge of spending billions of dollars to combat the COVID-19 outbreak with little direct oversight.

Lawmakers recessed on March 16 after they agreed to give Newsom $1 billion to spend on responding to the virus. On Friday, legislative leaders announced they planned to reconvene on May 4.

Since March 12, Newsom has issued more than a dozen executive orders that have suspended standardized testing for public school students, delayed evictions by two months, suspended open meetings laws for local governments and directed all of the state’s nearly 40 million residents to stay at home indefinitely.

"Our top priority has to remain helping flatten the COVID-19 transmission curve to prevent our health care systems from being overwhelmed," Sen. Toni Atkins, president pro tempore of the Senate, said Friday.

The only thing the state Constitution requires lawmakers do this year is pass an operating budget by June 15. If they don't, lawmakers won't get paid.

Local governments and state boards and commissions have continued to meet via teleconference and other electronic means, actions made possible because Newsom suspended portions of the state’s open meeting laws that required public bodies to vote together in public.

-- Associated Press


COVID-19 Scams Are On the Rise. Here's How to Avoid Them (Friday, April 03, 5:30 p.m.)

Thieves and fraudsters are stepping up their attempts to scam the public in the midst of this health crisis. Below are some words of advice from John Reilly, the Executive Director of IT & Enterprise Systems for KQED, on how to keep yourself safe.

Spammers are attempting to leverage the pandemic situation with an onslaught of email (phishing) and phone (vishing/voice phishing) scams, many of which are coronavirus-themed. Most are ridiculous and easily spotted, while others are more convincing and clever. Please be extra cautious when clicking on links or opening attachments from seemingly legitimate entities like airlines, banks, eBay or Amazon, especially if the content is tailored to the coronavirus.

Airlines, for example, have been sending out legitimate email updates to their customers about the industry impact of the virus, and those emails contain safe links to unsubscribe, access your account, etc. Unfortunately, those same email templates can then be used by criminals as spam with malicious embedded links, so be wary of any email that asks you to click on links to access your account.

Instead, access your account from a mobile app, or use the company's website directly. On a computer, always hover your mouse over a link to reveal its true destination before clicking. On mobile devices you can copy the link and paste it to a "notes" app to see the real URL, if your operating system doesn't provide a preview.

Also, be on the lookout for emails, calls or voicemails that imply a sense of urgency. Adding a time element or emergency to a request or offer is a typical trick of robocallers and thieves (as is the use of distracting noises like static, sirens or crying babies in phone scams.)

One of the more common phone scams these days is from "The I.R.S." saying that you need to respond by a certain date. In general, for unknown callers, I recommend not saying your name or affirmative words like "yes" or "ok" until you know the legitimacy of the caller. Better yet, just let it go to voicemail.

-- Julia Scott (@juliascribe)


Workers Likely To Be Left Behind on Grand Princess Cruise Ship (Friday, April 03, 4:15 p.m.)

The Grand Princess cruise ship currently docked in San Francisco is ending its 14-day quarantine. Hundreds of workers are expected to depart the Grand Princess on Saturday after their quarantine expires at 3 p.m. -- leading labor activists to question where the largely foreign crew members will go.

This comes after a Filipino crew member who contracted the coronavirus on board the ship died in a San Francisco hospital earlier this week.

Terry Valen of the nonprofit National Alliance for Filipino Concerns says workers are supposed to be repatriated, but not all of their countries are allowing them to return immediately.

"There are no plans in place as far as we know [from] the Office of Emergency Services. If they can't go home right now, they're being asked to stay on the ship. That's the last plan that we heard," Valen said.

Activists are calling for foreign nationals who are stuck in San Francisco be re-housed in local hotels at the expense of Princess Cruises, which operates the ship.

The Grand Princess was forced to return to the Port of Oakland after a COVID-19 outbreak on board.

Neither Princess Cruises nor the Department of Health and Human Services responded to requests for comment.

-- Shannon Lin (@linshannonlin)


COVID-19 Tears Through Contra Costa County Nursing Home (Friday, April 03, 3:43 p.m.)

At least 27 people, including three staffers, have tested positive for COVID-19 at a nursing home in Contra Costa County, health officials said Friday.

Two residents at the 47-bed Orinda Care Center were hospitalized Tuesday night. 22 other residents tested positive and remain in the facility in isolation.

"This does not come as a surprise," said County Health Officer Chris Farnitano. "This is something we've been worried about and preparing for, for quite some time."

Most residents at the facility are over 65 years old, and nearly half of the positive cases are over 80 years old.

Three staffers who tested positive for the virus were initially sent home. But Farnitano told reporters the staff members "could continue coming back to work as long as they continue to only work with the positive test residents."

A spokeswoman for the nursing home says the infected staffers have not yet returned to work at the nursing home.

The outbreak has prompted an investigation and further testing at two other senior care facilities in the county.

County health officials said no deaths have been reported in connection with the Orinda Care Center outbreak as of Friday.

-- Molly Peterson (@Mollydacious)


Federal, State Health Officials Update Mask Guidelines (Friday, April 03, 3:10 p.m.)

Federal and state health officials are now recommending covering your nose and mouth when leaving home.

On Friday, the CDC issued new guidance that many people in the United States should start wearing "simple face cloth coverings" when out in public. But it is raising concern that it could cause a sudden run on masks.

Though some people already have begun acquiring or creating face masks on their own, the CDC's new guidance could test the market’s ability to accommodate a surge in demand. It was expected to be limited to people in areas of the country hit hard by the coronavirus, not nationwide, as some health experts had urged.

California health officials were two days ahead of the federal government. On Wednesday, state experts issued new advice that fell short of recommending people wear masks in public. The San Francisco Department of Public Health followed suit.

Both agencies said N-95 and surgical masks are needed for health care workers and first responders. However, officials say that a cloth face covering may be useful in reducing viral spread by people who are infected, but are not showing symptoms.

Experts say masks are still no substitute for physical distancing, hand washing and staying home when possible.

Click here for everything you have ever wanted to know about masks.

-- Danielle Venton (@DanielleVenton) with additional reporting from the Associated Press


Asian American Hate Crimes On the Rise In Santa Clara County (Friday, April 03, 2:53 p.m.)

Nearly all categories of crime have dropped off due to shelter-in-place orders in the last three weeks across the Bay Area, but not hate crimes against Asian Americans in Santa Clara County.

The DA's office there has put out a public service announcement warning they will prosecute.

"This is not a Chinese virus," says Supervising Deputy District Attorney Charlotte Chang in the video.

"When you attack a member of our community because of their ethnicity or the color of their skin, then you have attacked us all," adds District Attorney Jeff Rosen.

Different versions of the PSA feature Chinese, Vietnamese and Spanish subtitles.

"Earlier this week, we did file a hate crime against an individual who went up to a Vietnamese couple in a grocery store and said "If I had an AK47, I’d kill all of you MFers," Rosen told KQED.

Asian-Americans make up 38 percent of Santa Clara County’s population, the highest of any Bay Area county. The DA’s office has reached out to local politicians and community groups to spread the word that they don't need to suffer in silence.

-- Rachael Myrow (@rachaelmyrow)


California to Move 15,000 Homeless Into Hotels (Friday, April 03, 1:56 p.m.)

California is making progress toward its goal of acquiring 15,000 hotel and motel rooms to house homeless people who are at risk for or have tested positive for COVID-19. Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state has 6,867 rooms so far and that 869 homeless Californians have already moved into available rooms, including more than a couple dozen people living at a Sacramento motel where Newsom  staged his Friday press conference.

“This is the crisis that predated the current crisis, and we’re doing everything in our power to meet it head on,” Newsom said.

The governor announced that FEMA is partnering with the state to alleviate the cost of procuring rooms. They will provide cities and counties a 75% reimbursement for sheltering homeless people who are most at risk, have been exposed to the virus, or have tested positive for COVID-19.

Newsom said the state has sent $800 million to local governments to assist in providing operational staff, security and other essential staffing needs for shelters and new hotel sites. The governor also said that cities and counties have the option to extend leases with hotels, or purchase them to use as future housing for homeless populations beyond the COVID-19 crisis.

“We’re not just thinking short-term,” said Newsom.

Other updates from the governor on Friday:

  • The total number of patients in intensive care units ticked up more than 10% from the previous day, with 901 coronavirus patients in ICU beds. Newsom said 2,188 people are currently hospitalized and the total number of positive cases statewide is 10,710.
  • 38 million N95 masks have been distributed to hospital and medical staff, the governor said. Staffing reinforcements are also on the way. Newsom noted that more than 74,000 people have applied to the state’s program to enlist more health workers.
  • California has set up a website for people interested in volunteering to help house individuals and to provide assistance at shelters and food banks. For more information, visit: Serve.ca.gov

Watch Newsom's full remarks below, and read a full report from Marisa Lagos here.


-- Molly Solomon (@solomonout)


Laguna Honda COVID-19 Infections Hold Steady (Friday, April 03, 12:40 p.m.)

The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 at San Francisco's Laguna Honda Hospital is holding steady for now, a public health official said at a press conference on Friday.

Ten staff members tested positive for the disease earlier this week, and two residents. Those numbers have not changed, said Dr. Susan Philip, an infectious disease specialist within the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

"It's encouraging right now" that we haven't seen the numbers climb further, said Dr. Philips, but it is "still too early to tell" whether the virus is under control within the two wards that have been quarantined.

"We remain very concerned about a growing outbreak," she added.

So far, patients and 278 staff members at Laguna Honda have been tested for the coronavirus. Public health officials are using contact tracing to determine who else should receive a test.

As of Friday, 497 San Francisco residents have confirmed cases of COVID-19. Seven have died. Six are in hospitals.

-- Julia Scott (@juliascribe)


Testing Issues Cloud Scope of California’s Virus Outbreak (Thursday, April 02, 9:10 p.m.)

California’s coronavirus testing backlog has left nearly 65% unprocessed. The state is ramping up testing for coronavirus as a backlog of 59,000 pending tests is growing, delaying some people from receiving results for up to 12 days. More than 90,000 tests have been administered statewide, but nearly two-thirds of those results were still pending, according to state figures.

The state may be able to fast-track test results as more people receive blood-based tests, Gov. Gavin Newsom said. Testing that relies on taking nasal swabs, the most prominent initial testing measure, is primarily responsible for delays.

Newsom has emphasized for weeks that the state needs to flatten the curve of cases so the peak arrives as late as possible and the state has time to prepare.

Having accurate and up-to-date data from testing is key to tracking that curve.

-- Associated Press 


State Order Prevents Water Shutoffs (Thursday, April 02, 5:35 p.m.)

California residents can count on their water staying on, even if they can’t pay the bill during the coronavirus emergency.

Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order Thursday that restricts water shutoffs to homes and small businesses while the state responds to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This executive order will help people who have been financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic by ensuring they have water service,” Newsom said in a statement. “Water is critical to our very lives, and in this time, it is critically important that it is available for everyone.”

The order also obliges utilities to restore water to households that have had their water shut off for nonpayment since March 4, when the governor declared a state of emergency.

-- Molly Solomon (@solomonout)


Solano County Records First Death From COVID-19 (Thursday, April 02, 5:05 p.m.)

Thursday brought the first recorded death of a Solano County resident caused by complications from COVID-19, officials announced.

The elderly patient (aged 85 or older) had recently traveled outside the U.S. and suffered from several "severe underlying health conditions," according to information released by the county.

“Solano Public Health extends our deepest condolences to the patient’s loved ones in the wake of this tragedy,” County Health Officer Bela Matyas said in a statement. “We strongly recommend that all Solano County residents, workers, students, and visitors take the necessary precautions to protect themselves against the novel coronavirus."

Solano County has 61 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

-- Julia Scott (@juliascribe)


Richmond Pavilion to Handle Coronavirus Surge (Thursday, April 02, 3:53 p.m.)

The Craneway Pavilion on the Richmond waterfront is being converted into a potential medical station for COVID-19 patients. The historic building, which was a Ford auto plant during World War II and was used to assemble tanks and military vehicles, will be transformed into a 250-bed treatment center for patients who don't require intensive care.

Beds, equipment and medical supplies are being provided by the National Guard and county officials will coordinate staffing.

The Craneway Pavilion in Richmond, Calif. (http://craneway.com/)

“The Craneway played an essential part in winning World War II. Today it is being repurposed to fight another global war. This facility will help not only our local communities but contribute to the overall effort to contain COVID-19,” Richmond Mayor Tom Butt said in a press release.

The 45,000-square foot facility is expected to be ready in about three weeks, and will only be used if local hospitals are overwhelmed by a surge in coronavirus patients.

-- Alice Woelfle (@turfstarwolf)


California Governor Announces Small Business Rescue Package (Thursday, April 02, 2:25 p.m.)

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a raft of economic assistance and relief measures on Thursday directed at small businesses in California that have taken a financial hit from COVID-19-related closures and cutbacks.

Through an executive order, Newsom is offering a free one-year deferral of state sales tax payments of up to $50,000 for California  businesses with less than $5 million in taxable sales.

In addition, the governor announced the Paycheck Protection Program, a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan worth up to $10 million for companies, provided they can commit to using most of it to keep workers on payroll. Businesses can submit their applications online starting Friday, Newsom said.

Newsom said more than 1.9 Californians have filed for unemployment since March 12, averaging about 111,000 claims every day in the last week. “The economic consequences are profound,” he added Thursday.

Newsom noted that California’s toll of confirmed COVID-19 cases continue to grow, but that hospitalization and ICU numbers are “not growing as significantly as you’re seeing in other parts of the country.”

Newsom credited that to California’s statewide shelter-in-place order and physical distancing, but cautioned that “we’re not out of the woods by any stretch of the imagination.”

“The reality is that we are buying time,” Newsom said.

Other updates from the governor on Thursday:

  • Newsom announced a state partnership with a Fresno company, Bitwise, that is partnering with LinkedIn and Salesforce to create a website called Onward to connect unemployed Californians with job listings. More information is at OnwardCA.org
  • California is putting $50 million into its infrastructure bank to create micro-lending opportunities for businesses and nonprofits not eligible for SBA loan relief.
  • Health officials has so far distributed roughly 35.9 million N95 masks throughout the state of California.

You can read more in Katie Orr's story here.

-- Molly Solomon (@solomonout)


Confirmed COVID-19 Cases Top 1 Million Worldwide (Thursday, April 02, 1:15 p.m.)

Confirmed global cases of COVID-19 have surpassed 1 million, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Nearly 200,000 people worldwide have recovered from the disease, which is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. 

You can track the outbreak by country with this interactive map, produced by Johns Hopkins Systems for Science Engineering.

-- Julia Scott (@juliascribe)


San Francisco Homeless Shelter Guest Tests Positive for COVID-19 (Thursday, April 02, 12:15 p.m.)

San Francisco has reported its first COVID-19 case at a city homeless shelter. The person was staying at the Division Circle Navigation Center and is currently recovering in a hotel room, according to the city’s Department of Public Health.

DPH health workers are screening all shelter guests and staff for symptoms and a professional cleaning crew is disinfecting the shelter. Homeless shelter residents who have symptoms will be tested for COVID-19 and may be relocated to hotel isolation rooms, depending on their health risk level and exposure.

“We have been preparing for this situation for weeks,”said Abigail Stewart-Kahn, Interim Director of the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing.

On Wednesday, San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced that the Moscone West convention center would be converted into a makeshift 24/7 care center for homeless populations, to help thin out city shelters with overcrowded conditions. The city has also been moving SRO (residential hotel) occupants who test positive for COVID-19 into isolated hotel rooms where they can recover. The city expects to secure more than 2,000 new hotel rooms for homeless residents by Friday.

You can read more in Erin Baldassari's story here.

-- Molly Solomon (@solomonout)


California Leads U.S. in Unemployment Claims (Thursday, April 02, 12 p.m.)

New jobless claims topped 6.6 million across the U.S. on Thursday, according to newly-released figures from the federal Labor Department. That's on top of 3.3 million unemployment claims from last week.

Californians accounted for the majority of new claims filed, with 878,727 — an increase of 692,394.

The coronavirus-driven recession hit California's most vulnerable workers early and hard. More than 1.9 million Californians have filed for unemployment since March 12, with about 111,000 daily unemployment claims filed over last week, according to California Governor Gavin Newsom.

The mounting economic fallout almost certainly signals the onset of a global recession, with job losses that are likely to dwarf those of the Great Recession more than a decade ago.

With large portions of America under lockdown to try to contain the scourge, job losses for the world’s biggest economy could double to 20 million, and unemployment could spike to as high as 15% by the end of the month, many economists have said. Unemployment in the U.S. hasn’t been that high since the tail end of the Depression, just before the U.S. entered World War II.

“This kind of upending of the labor market in such a short time is unheard of,” said Heidi Shierholz, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute, a think tank.

Roughly 90% of the U.S. population is now under stay-at-home orders, and many factories, restaurants, stores and other businesses are closed or have seen sales shrivel.

Laid-off workers can tap money made available in the $2.2 trillion rescue measure passed by Congress. It adds $600 a week to unemployment benefits, extends eligibility to 39 weeks and for the first time wraps in part-timers and workers in the so-called gig economy, such as Uber drivers.

-- Julia Scott (@juliascribe), with additional reporting from The Associated Press


Strike Calls For Suspension of Rent and Mortgage Payments Statewide (Thursday, April 02, 11:31 a.m.)

As landlords demand April rent, some renters say they’re going on strike, with many unable to work amid the statewide shelter-in-place order.

Frustrated with lost wages and jobs, rent strikes are popping up in major cities across the country, including some in the Bay Area. In Oakland, a group of 20 households organized by the same group that backed Moms 4 Housing, are putting pressure on Gov. Gavin Newsom to cancel all rent and mortgage payments during the current public health crisis. If he doesn’t, they say renters across the state will go on strike and withhold May rent as well.

“No one should have to choose between food and housing,” said Terra Thomas, a florist in Oakland who is now without work. “I'm striking for my neighbors, and I'm striking for our community, and I'm striking because I can't pay.”

Read the story from KQED’s Lakshmi Sarah here.

-- Molly Solomon (@solomonout)


UC Suspends SAT testing, California State Universities Suspend Letter Grades (Wednesday, April 01, 4:50 p.m.)

The University of California is easing admission requirements, including the temporary suspension of SAT standardized testing for the freshman student class of 2021.

They join a growing list of colleges and universities, including Scripps College, Boston University, and the University of Oregon, that will go test-optional in response to concerns about the spreading coronavirus.

In an announcement Wednesday, the UC system said it is also abandoning letter grades for recently admitted freshmen and no rescission of admission offers will occur for students with missing or late transcripts.“

The COVID-19 outbreak is a disaster of historic proportions disrupting every aspect of our lives, including education for high school students, among others,” said University of California President Janet Napolitano in a released statement. “The University’s flexibility at this crucial time will ensure prospective students aiming for UC get a full and fair shot — no matter their current challenges.”

Separately, California State University announced that it would accept "Credit" or "Pass" in place of a letter grade for students enrolling at a CSU in fall 2020, as well as for current high school juniors who would apply for admission in fall 2021.

-- Molly Solomon (@solomonout)


Court Orders Early Release of Some California Inmates (Wednesday, April 01, 3:06 p.m.)

California prison officials have ordered the early release of nearly 3,500 inmates. The expedited release is aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19 through California’s overcrowded prison system.

The move was announced in a Tuesday federal court filing and would apply to inmates with fewer than 60 days left on their sentences who were not convicted of violent crimes, sex crimes or domestic violence offenses. A special panel of federal judges will review arguments on the emergency motion Thursday. Read the story from KQED’s Julie Small and Alex Emslie here.

-- Molly Solomon (@solomonout)


SF: Moscone West Converted to House Homeless, City Faces 1.7 Billion Deficit (Wednesday, April 01, 2:38 p.m.)

San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced Wednesday that Moscone West, one of the city's massive convention centers, has been converted into a makeshift 24/7 care center for homeless populations who are suffering dangerous overcrowding in the city's shelters.

"We have identified room for at least 400 people, and the goal is to thin out our shelter system so people aren't as close to one another as they are in our shelters," she said. The city will start moving people into Moscone West as early as Thursday, where they will receive 24-hour care.

Trent Rhorer, Executive Director of the San Francisco Human Services Agency, said the city will have also secured 2,555 hotel rooms to by end of the week for homeless residents.

San Francisco's moves to contain and mitigate the effects of the coronavirus, especially for the city's most vulnerable, have come at a cost. Mayor Breed said the city now anticipates a budget deficit of anywhere from $1.1 to $1.7 billion over the next two fiscal years.

"That is a hard blow to San Francisco, a hard blow to our services. We are going to be in a lot of trouble financially in our city, so we need to make smart decisions," she added.

Also on Wednesday, officials announced the number of COVID-19 infections at Laguna Honda Hospital has increased to 12. Ten staff members and two patients have so far tested positive, according to Dr. Grant Colfax, San Francisco’s public health officer. Acting on the advice of specialists on scene from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 89 patients and 218 staff members at Laguna Honda have been tested so far and are awaiting results.

As of Wednesday, San Francisco has recorded 434 cases of COVID-19 and 7 deaths.

-- Julia Scott (@juliascribe)


Newsom: ICU Patients Spike, School Moves Online with Google's Help (Wednesday, April 1, 1:38 p.m.)

Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Wednesday that California's hospitals had reported 774 patients in intensive care units, a 16% increase from yesterday. The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations has tripled statewide in the past few days, Newsom added.

State officials are working to secure additional ICU hospital beds with ventilators to meet a surge of expected coronavirus patients. State models currently indicate surge capacity could be exceeded in mid-May.

Since going live 48 hours ago, more than 34,000 people have applied to offer health care service to combat coronavirus. Newsom said state officials are reviewing applications, with licensing protocols and geographic needs in mind.

Also on Wednesday, Newsom confirmed that California school campuses will not re-open this academic year, but class instruction will continue through “distance learning.”

“Schools are closed, but classes are in,” said Newsom. State school superintendent Tony Thurmond said no one knows when it will be safe to return and that parents and educators should proceed with distance learning through the remainder of this school year.

“We know this is difficult," Thurmond said. "We have to rise to that challenge.”

Newsom gave a shout-out to one company that is rising to the challenge. Google has "stepped up big-time," said the governor, in a partnership with the state to expand internet and broadband access with at least 100,000 "hotspots" throughout the state. The company also said it would offer Chromebooks to students to assist with online learning and help bridge the "digital divide" that threatens to hinder many disadvantaged students during the lockdown.

-- Molly Solomon (@solomonout)


Extraordinary Steps to Ensure Clean Tap Water for Millions (Wednesday, April 01, 10:44 a.m.)

Water Agencies around the state are isolating workers, calling up retirees, stockpiling important chemicals and taking other unprecedented steps to ensure that the flow of clean water does not stop for millions of Californians.

In San Diego County, employees are living in rented RVs at an ocean desalination plant to avoid all contact with the outside world.

Santa Clara Valley Water District and East Bay Municipal Utility District have cots and ready-to-eat meals in case their workers need to do the same.

The measures are meant to insulate workers who run drinking water treatment plants from getting sick.

Read more from Paul Rogers in the Mercury News here.


Bay Area Officials Slow to Release COVID-19 Hospital Information (Wednesday, April 1, 9:26 a.m.)

With coronavirus tests still scarce, epidemiologists like Stanford’s Steven Goodman are looking at hospitalizations to see how COVID-19 is spreading around the Bay Area.

But Bay Area officials have been slow to release that information to the public.

“We're not getting hospitalizations consistently from all the counties,” Goodman said.

Each day counties publish updated numbers of confirmed coronavirus cases, but Goodman says that information is skewed because of the inconsistent nature of testing for the disease.

The total case numbers "should be almost completely ignored, because it is so dependent on the availability of testing, which is increasing every day, and the highly variable criteria used for testing," Goodman said.

"The more reliable numbers, aside from the number of deaths, are how many people get sick enough to be in the hospital and in the ICU," he said. "That's what we need to know."

Under pressure from public health experts and the media, the state has begun releasing some overall numbers.

Read the story from KQED's Kevin Stark and NPR's Lauren Sommer here.


Coast Guard Tells Cruise Ships With COVID-19 Cases To Stay Away From U.S. Ports (Wednesday, April 1, 8:55 a.m.)

The U.S. Coast Guard is telling foreign-flagged cruise ships to be prepared to care for people with COVID-19 for an "indefinite period of time" at sea or to seek help from countries other than the U.S., citing a health care system that is being overwhelmed. The instructions are in a new safety bulletin that took effect this week along the southern Atlantic coast, including Florida – which is reporting more than 6,700 coronavirus cases.

If a cruise ship must send someone ashore for medical care, its owner will be responsible for essentially every step of the trip, from arranging an evacuation to hiring a private ambulance and ensuring the person has a spot in a hospital. But the Coast Guard bulletin, signed by Rear Admiral E.C. Jones of the Seventh District based in Miami, also says it could be difficult to find any facility in South Florida that can take new COVID-19 patients.

The new medical requirements apply to any vessel carrying more than 50 people. It also singles out cruise ships that are registered in the Bahamas – referring to many of the ships owned by large cruise lines such as Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian.

Read the full story from NPR's Bill Chappell.


What You Need to Know Today about the Virus Outbreak (Wednesday, April 1, 8:35 a.m.)

Distressing images of morgue trucks in New York City, taking away the rising number of dead from the new coronavirus, have underscored the latest grim projections for the entire country.

Experts warned that there could be 100,000 to 240,000 deaths in the U.S. even if social distancing guidelines are maintained. America now has more than 4,000 dead from the outbreak.

Here are some of AP’s top stories Wednesday 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.

WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY:

— Florida officials were locked in a standoff with two cruise ships steaming toward the coast as more coronavirus hot spots flared around the country and embattled New York City used forklifts to load bodies onto refrigerated trucks in plain view outside overwhelmed hospitals.

Donald Trump, the self-styled “wartime president” is enjoying the high ratings of his briefings and boasting they’re up there with that of TV’s “The Bachelor.” Meanwhile, on the streets of the country, people are recoiling in the wake of each passing stranger’s exhalation.

— The IRS and the Treasury Department say Americans will start receiving their economic impact checks in the next three weeks. AP’s business team sets out what you need to do to get your check.

— Facing intense surges in the need for hospital ICU beds, European nations are on a building and hiring spree, throwing together makeshift hospitals and shipping coronavirus patients out of overwhelmed cities. The key question is whether they will be able to find enough healthy medical staff to make it all work.

— The coronavirus pandemic couldn’t come at a worse time for rural communities across the U.S. that have lost their hospitals. Nearly 200 small-town hospitals have closed nationwide since 2005, often forcing residents to drive much farther for health care. Last year was the worst yet for shutdowns, and officials say hundreds more rural hospitals are endangered by the pandemic.

Read the full roundup from Associated Press.


San Francisco Budget Deficit Protected to Balloon (Tuesday, March 31, 8:35 p.m.)

A new report from San Francisco’s Controller estimates that the city’s budget deficit will increase to over $1 billion in the next two fiscal years. Less than three months ago, that deficit was projected at $420 million.

At a Board of Supervisors’ hearing on Tuesday City Controller Ben Rosenfield said revenue shortfalls driven by losses in hotel and transfer taxes are combining with increased emergency response spending.

"Every update we have done over the last month has accounted for new losses that we were not thinking of even a week before.," said Rosenfield.

The city’s Budget and Finance Committee is expected to meet Wednesday to discuss specific cuts.

― Shannon Lin (@Linshannonlin)


Inmate Firefighters on Hold (Tuesday, March 31, 4:11 p.m.)

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation will suspend the transfer of inmate firefighters to work camps until further notice, to minimize the spread of the coronavirus.

CDCR spokeswoman Dana Simas says, of the more than 3,100 low-level offenders currently working at Conservation Camps, 600 are scheduled to be paroled in the next three months and won't be replaced.

She says training will continue at parent institutions where social distancing can be achieved and they expect there will be sufficient firefighters once movement to the camps resumes.

Low-paid inmate crews play a crucial role in how the state fights wildfires.

CalFire said it was still gathering data on the suspension and was not immediately able to comment.

― Sara Hossaini (@MsHossaini)


Bay Area Lockdown Extended, Tightened (Tuesday, March 31, 12:37 p.m.)

Health officials from seven Bay Area Counties announced on Tuesday that the current stay-at-home order will remain in effect, at least through May 3.

Officials have also tightened some of the rules and added new ones:

- Social Distancing is now mandatory when doing "essential activities," including essential businesses
- Businesses are required to post social distancing guidelines on site
- Essential businesses must now scale down "non-essential components"
- Use of playgrounds, dog parks, public picnic areas, and similar recreational areas is prohibited.
- Use of shared public recreational facilities, e.g. golf courses, tennis and basketball courts, pools, and rock walls is prohibited.
- Most construction — residential and commercial — is prohibited

At the same time, officials decided to expand the definition of "essential businesses." They now include "service providers that enable residential transactions (notaries, title companies, Realtors, etc.); funeral homes and cemeteries; moving companies, rental car companies and rideshare services that specifically enable essential activities.

Funerals, however, are restricted to 10 people or fewer.

In making her announcement, Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara County's director of public health, said that while she recognizes the current measures have caused “extreme hardship for many,” there are early indications that the Bay Area's aggressive rules and early implementation have helped slow down the spread of the virus.

She cautioned, however, that more time is needed to gauge the true impact of early social distancing, and that "we need to keep at it."


Older Californians Can Now Dial 2-1-1 For Support While Sheltering at Home (Updated Tuesday, March 31, 1:16 p.m.)

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a new statewide initiative Tuesday to keep older Californians connected while staying at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

California seniors throughout the state can now dial 2-1-1 to be connected with support services.

The governor said the state has also created a hotline for people to call, in order to find out how they can help support vulnerable Californians. That number is: 833-544-2374

The state's new initiative builds upon California's "Neighbor-to-Neighbor" campaign and partnership with Nextdoor.com, which promote wellness checks for the elderly.

Newsom said the social media platform has connected almost 8 million people already.

"But we have to go deeper and we have to do more," Newsom said Tuesday, "And we have to do it in a way that not only just checks in on someone to see how they're feeling, but be able to deliver something on the back end, not just meals or medical supplies."

The hotline for volunteers and 2-1-1 call centers, Newsom said, will enable older Californians to receive greater support for their specific needs.

Watch Gov. Newsom's full remarks here:


Burning Man Tickets on Ice for Now (Tuesday, March 31, 11:24 a.m.)

The San Francisco-based organizers of the Burning Man Festival have postponed selling tickets for the event.

They say with the coronavirus pandemic, things are too uncertain. The week-long festival is held at the beginning of September every year in northern Nevada. It attracts more than 70,000 people, including thousands of Bay Area residents.

Ticket sales were slated to begin April 8.

Organizers say they haven't set an alternative date for that sale but nor are they cancelling the festival yet.

-- Paul Lancour


UCSF Launches Citizen Science COVID-19 Study on Mobile App (Tuesday, March 31, 9:20 a.m.)

Researchers at UCSF have launched a new COVID-19 study via a smartphone app.

The COVID-19 Citizen Science Survey (CSS) is available to anyone over the age of 18 and involves a short questionnaire about participants' health and daily habits. Follow-up questions are delivered by push notification or text messages. Participants are also given the option of providing geolocation data.

The researchers say that a critical mass of participants uploading information to the app could help them gain insight into how the virus is spreading and identify ways to predict and reduce the number of new infections.

The study is available on the UCSF Eureka Research app by entering the study key "COVID."

Dr. Gregory Marcus, professor at UCSF School of Medicine and a co-leader of CSS, said in a statement that the goal is to enroll over a million people in the study worldwide.

“We are asking each participant to share the link to recruit at least five others,” Marcus said. “We want to demonstrate that the number of people signing up for this scientific study and contributing their data can increase exponentially, faster than the disease itself.”

The COVID-19 Citizen Science Survey has, so far, enrolled more than 6,000 people.


Test Makers Are Moving Fast, But the Coronavirus May Be Moving Faster (Monday, March 31, 8:43 a.m.)

In Lake Success, a village on the border of suburban Long Island and the New York City borough of Queens, there is a building that was erected to house defense engineers during World War II. It was designed to withstand enemy bombing, with a pool of water on the roof to help camouflage it in the event of airstrikes.

Today, it is on the front line of a very different war.

The building now serves as the diagnostic testing hub for Northwell Health, a New York health care system with 23 hospitals and 800 outpatient centers. It was one of the first centers to ramp up testing for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, and can now run almost 2,000 tests a day. It returns results within a day, sometimes less. Inside, the pace has been furious.

“I don’t think I’ve slept more than four hours in weeks,” said Dwayne Allen Breining, a pathologist and the lab’s executive director. “We’re going at this full speed.”

Across the country, many labs are doing the same. After a month of painful failures by U.S. regulators to expand testing for the coronavirus, the Food and Drug Administration has issued a flood of clearances to manufacturers of testing machines, allowing an estimated 100,000 tests to be run a day. It is a vast improvement of the testing situation just weeks ago.

The question is whether it’s enough.

Whereas a few weeks ago 100,000 tests a day might have helped contain the explosion in new cases — by allowing doctors to tell infected patients to quarantine themselves — it is now hardly enough to keep up with an exponential rise in new infections.

Read the full story from Stat's Matthew Herper here.


What You Need To Know Today about the Virus Outbreak (Tuesday, March 31, 7:40 a.m.)

The mounting death toll from the virus outbreak in the United States has it poised to overtake China’s tally of 3,300 deaths, with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo saying up to 1 million more health care workers are needed in the city.

“Please come help us,” he urged.

There are more than 800,000 global infections and more than 37,000 deaths worldwide.

WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY:

Officials are relying on statistical models to predict the impact of the outbreak and try to protect as many people as possible. The public could get its first close look at the Trump administration’s own projections today.

The pandemic has exposed a surprising paradox in Europe: Some of the world’s best health systems are ill-equipped to handle COVID-19 cases. Outbreak experts say Europe’s hospital-centric systems, lack of epidemic experience and early complacency are partly to blame for the pandemic’s catastrophic tear across the continent.

Federal judges in Texas, Alabama and Ohio have temporarily blocked efforts to ban abortions during the pandemic, handing Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers a victory as clinics across the U.S. filed lawsuits to stop states from trying to shutter them during the outbreak.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff has retracted an order to close gun stores to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The sheriff said he’s heeding a federal Department of Homeland Security advisory issued on Saturday that listed gun and ammunition dealers as “essential critical infrastructure workers.”

Churches and evangelical temples in Brazil have landed on the front lines of a battle between state governors, who have introduced quarantine measures designed to contain the spread of the coronavirus, and President Jair Bolsonaro, who is actively undermining them.

Read the full roundup from Associated Press here.


Energy Economist Calls for Moratorium on Utility Bills (Monday, March 30, 5:10 p.m.)

In a blog post Monday, a professor with UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business said a moratorium on utility bills could be one way to support households and businesses during the COVID-19 crisis.

Writing for the Energy Institute at Haas blog, Catherine Wolfram says that because the utilities industry is typically regulated by state governments, there's an opportunity for regulators to step in.

This careful regulation could be useful in the current pandemic-induced economic crisis. Here’s what I have in mind: regulators should enact a temporary utility bill moratorium. This could provide some much needed liquidity as we hunker down and try to ride out the coronavirus.
-Catherine Wolfram, UC Berkeley

Wolfram proposes a three to six month hold on electricity, natural gas and water bills. Spain and Italy, she says, have taken similar steps. Utilities could then make up the loss by adding the deferred payments to future bills, spreading them out over six to 12 months.

Read Wolfram's full article on the Energy Institute at Haas blog.


Details on Bay Area 'Lockdown' Extension Expected Soon (Monday, March 30, 2:52 p.m.)

Seven Bay Area counties are expected to extend the stay-at-home orders which went into effect two weeks ago, for another month, to May 1.

At a Monday press conference, San Francisco Police Chief William Scott said he believes most residents and visitors to the city have been observing the orders, but he had a warning for those who haven't.

"Listen to the public health officials," Scott advised. "Social distancing, stay six feet apart. We want people to go out and get air, but our officers will be engaging, there will be communication, and for those who have been warned repeatedly, there will come a time where we will have to enforce."

Repeat offenders can be charged with a misdemeanor. The official announcement of the extension is expected on Tuesday.

-- Shannon Lin (@Linshannonlin)


Newsom Announces Initiative to Expand Medical Workforce (Updated Monday, March 30, 2:23 p.m.)

On Monday Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a statewide plan to recruit more medical professionals to address an expected surge in COVID-19 cases in California.

Newsom said the state has launched a new online platform called California Health Corps where doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals can sign up to provide assistance during the public health crisis.

From the governor’s press office:

Governor signs executive order to expand health care workforce and staff at least an additional 50,000 hospital beds needed for the COVID-19 surge.

Medical doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, behavioral health scientists, pharmacists, EMTs, medical and administrative assistants, certified nursing assistants all needed.

Governor Newsom: “If you have a background in health care, we need your help. Sign up at healthcorps.ca.gov."

Newsom said the call for healthcare workers extends to recent retirees, medical and nursing students and those in the process of renewing their licenses. The state is also looking for mental-health experts, pharmacists and emergency medical technicians.

Newsom said that in the last four days, the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in California has doubled and the number of intensive-care patients has tripled. The state, he says, has been working for weeks on plans to expand the capacity of the state's hospital system by two-thirds to handle the projected surge in cases.

"And so we are very, very hopeful with this effort," said Newsom, who also offered assurance that the workers would be paid.

An executive order the governor signed Monday provides temporary flexibility for staffing, scope of practice and professional licensing for some health care facilities and workers in order to expand the state's hosptial capacity and workforce.

For more information or to sign up with California Health Corps, visit: Healthcorps.ca.gov.

Other updates from the governor on Monday:

  • Facebook has pledged $25 million to support the initiative by helping to fund transportation, childcare, and hotel accommodations for the workforce.
  • The USNS Mercy naval hospital ship, docked in the Port of Los Angeles, began accepting patients Sunday.
  • The state has so far distributed roughly 32.6 million N95 masks throughout the state of California.

Watch Newsom's full remarks here:


Officials Scrambling to Stem Outbreak at Rehab Hospital (Monday, March 30, 12:52 p.m.)

San Francisco Mayor London Breed and her top public health official said on Monday that they are moving aggressively to contain an outbreak of coronavirus at Laguna Honda Hospital, where nine staff members and two patients have so far tested positive.

“We expect the situation to, unfortunately, get worse,” said Dr. Grant Colfax, San Francisco’s public health officer.

Colfax said an aggressive response was underway at the hospital, a skilled-nursing and rehabilitation center owned and operated by the San Francisco Department of Public Health. Two units — South 4 and South 5 — are under quarantine, with sheriff’s deputies guarding the doors, and all non-essential personnel are barred from the facility.

Colfax also said four specialists were on scene from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to help stem the tide of infections.

In total, 58 persons are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in San Francisco. So far the city has recorded 374 cases of COVID-19. Six have been fatal.

“No local community is equipped to manage this escalating crisis alone,” said Colfax. “When this disease takes off, it takes off very rapidly.”

He said 154 patients and 156 staff at Laguna Honda have been tested for coronavirus, with more tests on the way.

“We will do everything we can to protect Laguna Honda’s residents and staff,” vowed Colfax, adding that Laguna Honda is currently the city’s top health priority.

Watch the latest update from San Francisco officials:


Chase Center Workers Left Unemployed and Uninsured (Monday, March 30, 10:34 a.m.)

With the suspension of the NBA season due to the coronavirus pandemic, roughly 1,500 workers at the Warriors' Chase Center in San Francisco are out of a job for the foreseeable future.

“I’m definitely scared,” says Alina Martinez, who’s been a seat attendant for the Warriors for seven years. “There’s a lot of anxiety and stress, because without generating revenue for such an extended period of time, what does that mean for me and my family?”

Martinez can collect unemployment, but she says it's not going to be nearly enough to pay her monthly bills in San Francisco.

With the NBA season suspended, arena workers across the country have no income. Individual players and organizations are pledging money, but in the best cases, it replaces just a fraction of lost wages. The Warriors put up $1 million to be shared among the roughly 1,500 workers at their arena.

Martinez says she’s grateful that the team is trying to help, even though they’re not required by law to do so. Still, Martinez figures she needs $4,000 to $5,000 a month to pay the bills

“A million dollars between 1,500 workers is less than $1,000 each,” she says. “What happens when that’s gone? Because after that, we’re still here and we’re still in this situation.”

Read the full story from KQED’s Sam Harnett.


Macy's Furloughs Most Of Its 130,000 Workers (Monday, March 30, 9:56 a.m.)

Citing the coronavirus pandemic's "heavy toll" on its business, Macy's said it's furloughing the majority of its nearly 130,000 employees. Workers will continue to receive health benefits through May.

"Across Macy's, Bloomingdales, and Bluemercury [beauty] brands, we will be moving to the absolute minimum workforce needed to maintain basic operations," the retailer said Monday.

All of Macy's stores, closed since March 18, will stay shut "until we have clear line of sight on when it is safe to reopen." Its online business remains open, but the company said it has lost the majority of its sales due to the store closures.

The company noted that it has taken several steps to "maintain financial flexibility," including suspending its dividend, using its credit line and freezing hiring and spending. Macy's said it's "evaluating all other financing options."

Along with other major retailers, Macy's had been struggling even before the coronavirus shut down much of the U.S. economy. In February, Macy's announced plans to close about 125 stores over the next three years — about a fifth of the company's retail locations — and that it was cutting 2,000 jobs.

Unemployment is soaring around the country. Nearly 3.3 million people filed for jobless benefits in the week that ended March 21 — a number that shattered records going back to 1967.

-- NPR


Infection Worries Rising at Laguna Honda (Monday, March 30, 8:41 a.m.)

At San Francisco's Laguna Honda Hospital, the tally of those who have tested positive for coronavirus continues to rise. Two patients and five staffers now are sick.

The staff and workers with COVID-19 mostly are from the same section of the hospital. Laguna Honda has been on full lockdown since last week and the San Francisco Department of Public Health has expanded testing among patients.

"We do expect an outbreak, says Dr. Grant Colfax, the city’s chief health officer. "We have begun bringing in additional resources, including staff and expertise on long-term care infection control and infectious disease."

Colfax says San Francisco is asking Sutter Health and UCSF for help. Health officials also await the results of more tests from the hospital.

-- Molly Peterson (@Mollydacious)


How Would Overwhelmed Hospitals Decide Whom to Treat First? (Monday, March 30, 8:26 a.m.)

NEW YORK (AP) — A nurse with asthma, a grandfather with cancer and a homeless man with no known family are wracked with coronavirus-induced fevers. They are struggling to breathe, and a ventilator could save their lives. But who gets one when there aren’t enough to go around?

Health care workers are dreading the prospect of such dire scenarios as U.S. hospitals brace for a looming surge in patients who need breathing machines and other resources that could soon be in critically short supply.

(Note: there's an in-depth discussion of this topic on KQED's Forum program.)

That has meant dusting off playbooks they’ve never before had to implement on how to fairly ration limited resources during an emergency.

Like much of the rest of the world, ventilators that help people breathe are in particular demand across the U.S., given the respiratory problems common among people severely ill with COVID-19.

As many as 900,000 coronavirus patients in the U.S. could need the machines during the outbreak, according to the Society for Critical Care Medicine. Yet the group estimates the country has only 200,000, many of which already are being used by other patients.

In preparation, health officials across the country are reviewing guidelines from sources including state governments and medical groups on how to ration limited resources in emergencies.

The general principle spanning those plans: Bring the most benefit to the greatest number of people and prioritize those with the best chance of recovery. But exactly how that’s determined is fraught.

Read the full team-reported story from Associated Press here.


'2020' Olympics Will Now Start in July, 2021 (Monday, March 30, 7:40 a.m.)

The Summer Olympics that had been scheduled to begin in Tokyo this July will instead take place almost exactly one year later, the International Olympic Committee says. The games were postponed last week due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 will be celebrated from 23 July to 8 August 2021," the IOC said Monday. It added that the Paralympic Games will follow, running from Aug. 24 to Sept. 5.

The rescheduling due to the coronavirus came as a seismic shift to athletes worldwide and organizers in Japan, all of whom had been working for months and years to be ready for the Olympics. Now they'll need to reset their timetables one year forward. But many in the Olympic community have welcomed the delay, saying it provided clarity after weeks of growing uncertainty.

Read the full story from NPR here.


Trump Extends Virus Precautions Through April (Updated Sunday, March 29, 4:20 p.m.)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Bracing the nation for a grim death toll, President Donald Trump on Sunday extended the voluntary national shutdown for a month, bowing to public-health experts who told him the coronavirus pandemic could claim over 100,000 lives in the U.S., perhaps significantly more, if not enough is done to fight it.

It was a stark shift in tone by the president, who only days ago mused about the country reopening in a few weeks. From the Rose Garden, he said his Easter revival hopes had only been “aspirational.”

The initial 15-day period of social distancing urged by the federal government expires Monday and Trump had expressed interest in relaxing the national guidelines at least in parts of the country less afflicted by the pandemic. But instead he decided to extend them through April 30, a tacit acknowledgment he’d been too optimistic. Many states and local governments have stiffer controls in place on mobility and gatherings.

Trump’s impulse to restore normalcy met a sober reality check Sunday from Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, who said the U.S. could experience more than 100,000 deaths and millions of infections from the pandemic. Trump’s decision to extend the guidelines reflected a recognition that the struggle will take place over the longer haul and the risk of deaths spiraling into the hundreds of thousands is real.

Read the full story here and watch the entire Sunday briefing below:


At Kaiser, Trump’s Pharmaceutical Advice Creates Chaos For Lupus Patients (Sunday, March 29, 3:00 p.m.)

The COVID-19 pandemic threatens access to drug treatment for lupus patients, in part because the prevailing drug of choice for lupus was touted by the president as a “game changer” in the fight against coronavirus.

Chloraquine and hydroxychloroquine are drugs commonly used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, which are disorders of the immune system. Patients of Oakland-based Kaiser Permanente say they've received inconsistent guidance from the giant HMO about the availability of this treatment from one day to the next, and they’re concerned the supply won’t hold out.

In recent days, KQED talked to several patients who were still being told that hydroxychloroquine was unavailable.

Kaiser has acknowledged that the shortage is changing how it operates. Its pharmacies and doctors already are steering arthritis patients toward alternative therapies. But that’s harder to do with lupus: it’s a disorder of the immune system in which an overproduction of antibodies can attack the body’s organs, most commonly kidneys and skin. Hydroxychloraquine and chloroquine are bulwarks against this overproduction.

While the drugs are well known to the estimated million-and-a-half lupus patients in the U.S., and to scattered travelers who use them as anti-malarials, most Americans likely had not heard of them by name until President Trump mentioned the two drugs in a coronavirus task force briefing in mid-March, touting them as a potential “game changer” that has shown “very, very encouraging results.”

No evidence supports the president’s claim that the drugs are a cure for COVID-19.

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


Judge Orders Trump Administration to “Make Every Effort” to Release Migrant Children
(Sunday, March 29, 2:37 p.m.)

On Saturday night a federal judge in Los Angeles ordered the Trump Administration to “make every effort to promptly and safely release” migrant children from government custody.

Judge Dolly Gee also ordered officials to report on whether facilities that hold migrant children are complying with public health guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For children who haven’t been released, she has requested that officials provide an explanation as to why.

As of last Thursday, eight employees who care for the children reported testing positive for the virus and four children in custody have the virus.

-- Tyche Hendricks (@tychehendricks)


SFMOMA Facing Major Staffing Cuts (Sunday, March 29, 2:17 p.m.)

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art will be making major staffing cuts in the coming months, KQED has learned.

While the costs of the COVID-19 pandemic to business have been well publicized, nonprofit and cultural organizations are also seeing their fortunes plunge. The museum is facing an expected revenue loss of $8 million through June 30, or 40% of normal operating revenue.

Managers say 135 on-call staff will be laid off on April 9th, and nearly 200 regular staff will be furloughed or have their hours reduced starting May 1st. Museum President Neil Bonasera and other leadership will take pay cuts. The museum said that in spite of the downturn, it would pay 100% of its regular staff members’ health care premiums through June.

-- Sarah Hotchkiss (@sahotchkiss)


Virus Gradually Reaching Into Rural Counties (Sunday, March 29, 11:24 a.m.)

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — As the coronavirus rages across the United States, mainly in large urban areas, more than a third of U.S. counties have yet to report a single positive test result for COVID-19 infections, an analysis by The Associated Press shows.

Data compiled by Johns Hopkins University shows that 1,297 counties have no confirmed cases of COVID-19 out of 3,142 counties nationwide. The number of counties without a positive coronavirus case has declined rapidly, dropping from over half as the AP was preparing to publish. Of the counties without positive tests, 85% are in rural areas — from predominantly white communities in Appalachia and the Great Plains to majority Hispanic and Native American stretches of the American Southwest — that generally have less everyday contact between people that can help transmit the virus.

At the same time, counties with zero positive tests for COVID-19 have a higher median age and higher proportion of people older than 60 — the most vulnerable to severe effects of the virus — and far fewer intensive care beds should they fall sick. Median household income is lower, too, potentially limiting health care options.

Find the full AP story and a county-by-county map of COVID-19 cases across the U.S, here. KQED's Dan Brekke is tracking cases in California counties on a Google-based spreadsheet here.


California State Parks Cut Off Vehicle Access to All Sites (Sunday, March 29, 10:23 a.m.)

California State Parks announced on Sunday it is shutting off vehicle access to all of its 280 parks.

“On Saturday, many state parks once again experienced visitation surges that made it impossible for the public to implement appropriate social/physical distancing practices,” the department said in a statement.

“if the safety measures implemented thus far are not sufficient to protect public health, additional measures may be taken to fully close parks, including trails, bathrooms and other amenities,” it added.

The department has already shut down some state parks to the public entirely. For more information on closures and other information related to state parks and COVID-19, visit their website.


San Francisco Muni Halts Light Rail Service, Other Changes Coming Monday (Sunday, March 29, 10:08 a.m.)

San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (Muni) announced a series of changes to its operations under California’s stay-at-home order that will begin on Monday.

“In response to changing ridership, these service adjustments will help us to focus resources on routes outside of the downtown area that are connecting people to essential jobs and services,” the agency said in a statement on its website. It added that it would conduct “important maintenance work” to its vehicles and infrastructure during the stay-at-home order.

The changes are as follows:

  • Buses will replace Muni Metro and light rail routes.
  • Buses on the J, KT, L, M, and N lines will be substituted using the same stops as the early morning Metro bus service.
  • Muni Metro subway stations will be closed except for downtown stations.

For more details on the affected routes, visit the Reduced Muni Service page.


Fauci: Coronavirus Deaths in US Could Top 100,000 (Sunday, March 29)

WASHINGTON (AP) — As the White House looks for ways to restore normalcy in parts of the U.S., the government’s foremost infection disease expert says the country could experience more than 100,000 deaths and millions of infections from the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, offered his prognosis as the federal government weighs rolling back guidelines on social distancing in areas that have not been as hard-hit by the outbreak at the conclusion of the nationwide 15-day effort to slow the spread of the virus.

“I would say between 100,000 and 200,000 cases,” he said, correcting himself to say he meant deaths. “We’re going to have millions of cases.” But he added “I don’t want to be held to that” because the pandemic is “such a moving target.”

Read more on the pandemic from Associated Press here.


These Products Have Been Approved by the EPA to Kill The Coronavirus (Sunday, March 29, 9:12 a.m.)

You wash your hands now all the time. Check. You cover any cough or sneeze. Check. You stay at least 6 feet away from people anytime you go out. Check.

But how about cleaning inside your home?

The virus that causes COVID-19 can live on surfaces for a few hours to a few days. So, anytime you bring something new into your home — groceries, mail — it probably needs to be cleaned. The CDC also recommends cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces and objects as part of your everyday routine to prevent viral spread. These surfaces and objects include anything you might touch regularly. That would include tables, countertops, remotes, light switches, doorknobs, cabinet handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets and sinks.

Fortunately, the EPA has created a list of approved products for tackling the coronavirus. Click here to read it.

And remember: When using any of these products, make sure to wear gloves, open windows or turn on fans to ensure good ventilation.

-- Danielle Venton (@DanielleVenton)


Why It Takes So Long To Get Most COVID-19 Test Results (Saturday, 4:29 p.m.)

After a slow start, testing for COVID-19 has begun to ramp up in recent weeks. Giant commercial labs have jumped into the effort, drive-up testing sites have been established in some places, and new types of tests have been approved under emergency rules set by the Food and Drug Administration.

But even for people who are able to get tested (and there's still a big lag in testing ability in hot spots across the U.S.) there can be a frustratingly long wait for results — not just hours, but often days. Even Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., didn't get his positive test results for six days and is now being criticized for not self-quarantining during that time.

We asked experts to help explain why the turnaround time for results can vary widely — from hours to days or even a week — and how that might be changing.

It's a multistep process

First, a sample is taken from a patient's nose or throat, using a special swab. That swab goes into a tube and is sent to a lab. Some large hospitals have on-site molecular test labs, but most samples are sent to outside laboratories for processing. More on that later.

That transit time usually runs about 24 hours, but it could be longer, depending on how far the hospital is from the processing laboratory.

Once at the lab, the specimen is processed, which means lab workers extract the virus's RNA, the molecule that helps regulate genes.

"That step of cleaning — the RNA extraction step — is one limiting factor," says Cathie Klapperich, vice chair of the department of biomedical engineering at Boston University. "Only the very biggest labs have automated ways of extracting RNA from a sample and doing it quickly."

After the RNA is extracted, technicians also must carefully mix special chemicals with each sample and run those combinations in a machine for analysis, a process called polymerase chain reaction, which can detect whether the sample is positive or negative for COVID.

"Typically, a PCR test takes six hours from start to finish to complete," says Kelly Wroblewski, director of infectious disease programs at the Association of Public Health Laboratories.

Some labs have larger staffs and more machines, so they can process more tests at a time than others. But even for those labs, as demand grows, so does the backlog.

Read the full story from NPR here.


Newsom's Eviction Moratorium 'Useless, Misleading.' Say Tenant Groups
(Saturday, March 28, 2:45 p.m.)

Tenants' rights groups and some lawmakers are blasting a new executive order from Gov. Gavin Newsom that purports to suspend evictions statewide, calling it useless and misleading.

Newsom announced the moratorium on Friday, saying it would provide relief to tenants who have been laid off, furloughed or seen their hours slashed while the state grapples with the coronavirus pandemic.

“Today we just established a new overlay for the state of California that denies the capacity for enforcement and court proceedings for any eviction through May 31,” Newsom said Friday. “So for tenants, through May 31, there will be no eviction proceedings, there will be no enforcement as it relates to inability to pay for COVID-19.”

But eviction defense attorneys say it doesn’t do any of those things. Brian Augusta, an attorney with the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, says it instead creates chaos in the courts and causes unnecessary confusion for workers who've been asked to stay at home.

Read the full story from KQED's Erin Baldassari and Molly Solomon here.


Statewide Intensive Care Cases Double Overnight as Companies Step Up Ventilator Efforts (Saturday, March 28, 2:31 p.m.)

Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Saturday that the number of COVID-19 patients requiring intensive care units more than doubled overnight, from 200 to 410.

Newsom gave the grim update at the same time that he applauded progress in procuring and restoring needed ventilators in the fight against COVID-19.

California has, independent of its hospital system, procured and identified 4,252 ventilators, Newsom said, speaking from the Bloom Energy ventilator refurbishing site in Sunnyvale. More than 1,000 of those need to be refurbished. The state aims to increase the total number of functioning ventilators to 10,000, Newsom said.

These numbers include 170 ventilators that arrived in L.A. County from the national stockpile that were not functioning properly. Rather than “pointing fingers,” Newsom said, officials brought 150 up to the Bloom facility, where engineers have been scrambling to switch from producing fuel cells for clean energy, to vital medical equipment to battle the coronavirus.

In addition to the spike in ICU cases, Newsom said that total hospitalizations due to COVID-19 increased by nearly 39% overnight, with nearly 4,000 “persons of interest” within the hospital system but still awaiting test results.

Despite the harrowing numbers, Newsom urged Californians to not take dire future projections at face value.

“We can bend those curves,” he said, referring to slowing the rate of increase in cases, by harnessing “the entrepreneurial capacity that we know resides in this state and across the nation.”

Harvard researchers recently projected that about 786,000 Californians will require ICU care. If about half of those require ventilator care, nearly 400,000 Californians will need ventilators over the course of the pandemic, according to the Sacramento Bee.


California Lottery Closes its District Offices (Saturday, March 28, 12:12 p.m.)

The California State Lottery has closed its district offices to staffers after a Sacramento employee tested positive for the coronavirus, according to a report in the Fresno Bee.

The offices, which help lottery winners collect prizes and offer additional support, had already been closed to the public. Its website says that winners can still mail in winning tickets to claim prizes.

The offices will remain closed until further notice, according to an email lottery officials sent to employees on Friday.


What You Need to Know Today About the Virus Outbreak (Saturday, March 28, 12:01 p.m.)

President Donald Trump is raising the idea of what he’s calling a quarantine involving New York and parts of New Jersey and Connecticut, states hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic. But there are questions as to whether the federal government has the power to do so. Trump says he was thinking it would just be “for a short period of time if we do it at all.”

The United States has more confirmed coronavirus infections than any other country. Cities including Detroit, Chicago and New Orleans are growing as hotspots of infection, while New York City continues to be pummeled. Nurses there are calling for more masks and other gear to safeguard themselves against the virus that has so far sickened more than 52,000 people and killed over 700 in New York state, mostly in the city.

Find the full story and links to more information from Associated Press, here.


Health Agency Impersonators Are Trying to Enter People's Homes in San Francisco (Saturday, 10:21 a.m.)

If you receive a knock on the door by an alleged employee of the CDC or the San Francisco Department of Public Health, do not let them in.

Individuals claiming to be employees of these agencies have been going door-to-door and asking for entry to conduct inspections, according to a tweet by the San Francisco Police Department on Friday. Neither agency has been conducting such inspections, according to the department, and no legitimate agency employee will ask to enter your home.

If you do see one of these individuals, call 9-1-1 as soon as possible and provide the dispatcher with the subject’s description, in as much detail as possible.


Why It's Not a Great Idea To Run From the Virus (Saturday, March 28, 9:32 a.m.)

Under the state's stay-at-home directive, Californians can still enjoy the outdoors. You can walk your dog or enjoy a local hike, as long as you stay away from other people. However, experts say it’s not a good idea to leave the city and cozy up in a vacation home, rent an Airbnb or go camping.

The reason: the more we move around, the easier it is to spread the coronavirus. Every time someone reaches for a gas nozzle, uses a public restroom or buys food at the local grocer, they leave germs behind. You could be transmitting the virus even if you're not sick yet. You might not show symptoms for 14 days; in some cases, even longer.
Plus, if you spread the sickness in a rural area, you could overwhelm the local hospital system, which may not be as prepared to deal with coronavirus as a larger urban hospital. So please, keep your outdoor activities within walking distance of home.

Read the full story from KQED's Lesley McClurg here.


Can I Get COVID-19 from My Pet? (Saturday, March 28, 10:03 a.m.)

For most people, family health is top of mind during this pandemic. For many, that includes furry housemates like dogs, cats, rabbits, you name it.

Animals are especially important companions now as people are forced to distance themselves from one another, and as pets like dogs motivate many of us to venture outside for some essential (socially distant) exercise.

But people still have many questions about the impact of COVID-19 on their pets, especially after the World Health Organization deleted a section on their "myth busters" webpage on March 12 that said there was "no evidence that companion animals/pets such as dogs or cats can be infected with the new coronavirus."

KQED's Laura Klivans spoke with several veterinarians about some common questions concerning COVID-19 and pets. Click here to read their answers.


Instacart Workers Set to Strike on Monday, Demanding Hazard Pay and Protection (Friday, March 27, 8:37 p.m.)

People are scared to go to grocery stores and risk exposure to the coronavirus, so they’re hiring others to do it for them. It’s been a boon for delivery services like Instacart, which is planning to hire 300,000 more shoppers to meet the demand.

These shoppers will join other front-line pandemic workers at grocery stores, in delivery trucks and behind pharmacy counters; these workers are all risking exposure to coronavirus in order to make sure essential services stay up and running.

But because Instacart continues to classify their workers as contractors, they do not have the same kind of protections and benefits as employees. Instacart workers aren’t guaranteed minimum wage, have no paid time off and are not covered by unemployment insurance because their employer does not pay into it.

To protest working conditions and a lack of protection on the job, Instacart shoppers are planning to go on strike across the country on Monday, seeking hazard pay and basic protections like hand sanitizer and wipes. Read the full story from KQED's Sam Harnett.

High School in Martinez Converting to Alternative Care Site (Friday, March 27, 8:22 p.m.)

Contra Costa health officials are converting Alhambra High School in Martinez into an alternative care site in response to the county’s growing number of COVID-19 infections.

The new facility is a precautionary measure, said Kim McCarl, a spokeswoman for the county's health services.

“This is planning for the future that we hope doesn't come,” she said. “We don't know at what point this site will open. We don't know how long we will have them. But we feel it’s really our obligation on behalf of our community to plan for what we expect is coming.”

McCarl said the alternative site would care for patients with less severe symptoms of COVID 19. The federal government is providing beds and medical supplies for the facility.

County health officials said they will identify additional sites for alternative care facilities in the coming days. -Marco Siler-Gonzales


Newsom Looks to Keep Courts Running (Friday, March 27, 7:42 p.m.)

Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed an executive order aimed at making it easier for California courts to carry out business during the COVID-19 pandemic. The directive allows for remote depositions and electronic process serving, as well as giving the judicial branch power to to make any modifications to legal practice and procedure it deems necessary to keep the system running.

“Our courts need to continue to do their business for the sake of the law and public safety, and to the extent they are able to, and it is my responsibility to do everything I can to give the Judicial Council and the Chief Justice the flexibility they need to take actions to meet this moment,” Newsom said in a statement.

The Judicial Council, the state’s supreme administrative and rulemaking body for courts, has already suspended jury trials for 60 days.

You can read Newsom's executive order here.


Trump Orders GM to Produce Ventilators (Friday, March 27, 6:53 p.m.)

President Trump ordered General Motors and health care vendor Ventec to begin producing ventilators on Friday, invoking a Cold War-era law that grants him such authority.

Trump, who complained earlier on Friday about what he called problems with GM and its CEO, Mary Barra, said in a statement that the automaker was taking too long to conclude the deal.

"GM was wasting time," Trump said. The need is too urgent, he said, for "the give-and-take of the contracting process to continue to run its normal course."

Trump's order to GM and Ventec came in the form of an authorization to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, which would "require General Motors Company to accept, perform, and prioritize contracts or orders for the number of ventilators that the secretary determines to be appropriate."

GM said Friday that it's on the case.

"Ventec, GM and our supply base have been working around the clock for over a week to meet this urgent need," the company said. "The entire GM team is proud to support this initiative." - Philip Ewing, NPR

Read more on the story from Politico here.


Emergency Funding for Stem Cell Research on COVID-19 (March 27, 6:40 p.m.)

Today the state’s stem cell research agency approved $5 million dollars in emergency funding for rapid COVID-19 research projects.

Kevin McCormack, a spokesman with the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, says stem cell therapies have the potential to treat and possibly cure people with the virus, particularly those who are most vulnerable.

“People who have lung conditions or breathing problems or other ailments that the virus is able to kind of take advantage (of) and attack and kill them,” he said. “There’s a lot of stem cell research, regenerative medicine research, out there that suggests it might be able to address some of those issues.”

The agency said it will fast-track peer-reviewed research that can be up and running within 30 days of approval and could deliver results within six months. Read the full press release here. - Peter Arcuni


San Francisco Opening 3 More Mobile Testing Sites (Friday, March 27, 5:42 p.m.)

San Francisco is getting three more coronavirus mobile testing sites. That will bring the total number of drive-thru testing locations in the city to seven.

Two new sites in the Outer Sunset and Chinatown are expected to open early next week. The third, near China Basin, is scheduled to start operating at the end of next week.

Members of the public will be able to get tested with a doctor's referral. But public health director Grant Colfax said the supply of tests is still limited and they should be reserved for those who need them most.

“Tests should not be more available for those with resources,” he said. “They must be prioritized for those on the frontlines saving lives and those vulnerable and high-risk groups that need care.”

Dr. Colfax warns that with more testing the city should be prepared to see the number of cases jump.


Sacramento Schools to Remain Closed Through May 1 (Friday, March 27, 4:19 p.m.)

The Sacramento City Unified School District has extended the closure period for schools till May 4. The district announced today it was taking the step as part of the effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. The district said it’s "working around the clock" to establish distance learning for students.

Schools will continue to serve student meals, the district said.

Read the full announcement here.


Top Coronavirus Search Trends on Google (Friday, March 27, 3:50 p.m.)

Google is tracking the searches it receives related to the coronavirus, and among the hot topics worldwide Friday is British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who's announced he's been infected with the coronavirus. In the U.S., the top question is "Is it safe to eat takeout?"

Other trending questions: "Is Target open today near me?" and "When will the stimulus checks go out?"


Soap and Water Beats Hand Sanitizer to Protect Against Coronavirus (Friday, March 27, 3:37 p.m.)

Hand sanitizer is flying off the shelves as people navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. But while hand sanitizer might help kill germs, it has a flaw: It doesn’t actually remove viruses and bacteria.

University of Arizona professor Akrum Tamimi has studied how well alcohol-based hand sanitizers work protecting against viruses.

“Running water and soap actually removes those viruses and bacteria off your hands,” Tamimi said. “The hand sanitizer, it tries to inactivate them and kill the bacteria and the viruses. Sometimes it is successful, and sometimes it is not.”

Still, it’s better than nothing.

“If you are in a car, if you are traveling, if you are in a supermarket, if you are on the outside, then you can use hand sanitizer."

But make sure it is made with at least 60 percent alcohol. You also have to use a fair amount and rub it all over both hands until they are dry. And keep in mind, hand sanitizer does not do well at removing dirt and grease, which viral particles can cling to.

Hand sanitizer can be difficult to find in stories right now, and that’s led to a lot of do-it-yourself recipes popping up online. But Tamimi suggests something simpler.

“Just have a small bottle of 70% rubbing alcohol,” he said. "Carry it with you, and after you touch something potentially germy, pour some on your hands, rub them together until they are dry, and follow it up with some hand lotion. Be careful not to leave a bottle of rubbing alcohol in a hot car, it could explode.

Then, go home and wash you hands with soap and water. That's still the best option. -Danielle Venton


Floating Navy Hospital Ship Arrives in LA (Friday, March 27, 1:55 p.m.)

The U.S. Navy hospital ship USNS Mercy arrived at the Port of Los Angeles today carrying 1,000 hospital beds for people who are not infected with COVID-19.

Gov. Gavin Newsom addressed the press in front of the ship today. Watch it here:

Public health officials say a surge in patients infected with COVID-19 could overwhelm hospitals in L.A. Eight hundred Navy medical staff are on board the ship to help treat patients in an effort to relieve pressure on Southern California’s hospital systems.

“The men and women of the USNS Mercy and the United States Navy are honored to be here in Los Angeles supporting FEMA, the state of California, and the city in their ongoing COVID-19 relief efforts,” Rear Adm. John Gumbleton, commander of the Expeditionary Strike Group Three, reported the Navy Times.


Newsom Issues Statewide Moratorium on Evictions (Friday, March 27, 12:55 p.m.)

Gov. Gavin Newsom banned eviction orders through May 31, 2020 for renters thecoronavirus pandemic has affected.

Newsom’s office says that landlords cannot evict tenants because they fall behind on rent payments, and prohibits police and courts from enforcing evictions.

A week before their rent is due, tenants must declare in writing that they cannot pay all or part of their rent because of COVID-19.

“The tenant would be required to retain documentation but not required to submit it to the landlord in advance,” Newsom’s office said in a press release. “And the tenant would remain obligated to repay full rent in ‘a timely manner’ and could still face eviction after the enforcement moratorium is lifted. The order takes effect immediately, and provides immediate relief to tenants for whom rent is due on April 1st.”

Read the executive order here.


SF Mayor London Breed's Update on COVID-19: Testing for Health Care Workers; Beach Access Limited this Weekend (Friday, March 27, 11:30 a.m.)

San Francisco Mayor London Breed says the city will prioritize testing for the city’s health care workers and other frontline workers.

“Thanks to Kaiser and Blue Shield we will be able to provide testing for the health care workers who are on the frontlines and working with patients who have been infected,” she told reporters today. “As well as many of our public safety officials, our firefighters and police officers and those on the frontline, we will prioritize them for testing.”

Breed also encouraged people living in the city to continue to maintain physical distance from each other.

“We know what happened last weekend,” she said. “Sadly, we saw a number of areas in our city that were jam packed. We also saw people playing things like volleyball and basketball and other sports together…these are not things we are able to do at this time.”

Breed reiterated that parking lots at Crissy Field, parts of Ocean Beach and Baker Beach will remain closed.

“The last thing I want to do is to close parks,” she said. “We need to shift our behavior so that people are not doing the things that will increase the spread.”

Breed said the city will monitor the neighborhoods around popular beeches to make sure that there is not an influx of parking in these neighborhoods.

“Please do not get into your car and drive to Ocean Beach or Crissy Field,” she said.


WaPo: Calculate Your Coronavirus Stimulus Check (Friday, March 27, 11:00 a.m.)

President Trump signed a $2 trillion stimulus package into law today. More than 80% of Americans will receive a payment from the federal government.

You can find out how much your check might be worth using a tool developed by the Washington Post.

The investment is a federal effort to help people survive financially as the economy grinds to a halt. Public health officials have ordered people across the U.S. to slow coronavirus infection by staying at home.

The Bay Area was the first region in the country to put widespread isolation measures in place.

Gov. Gavin Newsom, who issued a statewide stay-at-home order, said in an emailed statement to reporters that the stimulus bill will provide critical support for California in its fight against this coronavirus.

“It means an additional $600 a week in Unemployment Insurance for the many Californians who have already lost jobs and the many more who will during this crisis, provides emergency loans and grants to help small businesses and non-profits keep people employed, and it provides direct aid to state and local governments so that we can respond to this emergency and aid communities and families during this time,” he said in the statement.


SEIU Asks San Francisco to Bolster Protections for Hospital Staff (Friday, March 27, 9:32 a.m.)

The union representing public hospital workers in San Francisco is asking the city to better protect them against COVID-19. Jennifer Esteen, spokeswoman for SEIU Local 1021, says the city health department is falling short on its responsibilities to its staff.

“We are week two of shelter in place, and our front line staff throughout all of the Department of Public Health continue to come in with little to no protection,” she said. “Staff are even being instructed to re-use masks, which are designed for single use.”

San Francisco Supervisor Matt Haney plans to introduce a resolution at next week’s Board meeting calling on the health department to secure personal protective equipment and free testing for all its workers.

At least six staff members at city health facilities have tested positive for the coronavirus.

The Department of Public Health did not respond to requests for comment.


BART Considers Service Changes as its Ridership Drops  (Friday, March 27, 8:52 a.m.)

The BART board of directors heard a detailed report from management Thursday on what the agency faces as the coronavirus outbreak continues.

Already, BART ridership is down about 92%. The agency has curtailed evening service, with the system closing at 9 p.m. instead of midnight.

Staff told the board the district faces a possible loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in fare and tax revenue over the next year.

Depending on how long people in the Bay Area are asked to stay at home, this could mean eventual big cuts in service, including shutting down the system on Sundays.


East Bay board member Rebecca Saltzman said she’d fight that shutdown. “We have to consider that doctors, nurses, people that work in supportive housing, work in food banks, all the other essential workers -- they work on Sundays, their work doesn’t stop, it’s not Monday through Friday,” she said.

BART operates 48 stations in four counties.


Two Grand Princess Cruise Ship Passengers Die from COVID-19 (Friday, March 27, 8:41 a.m.)

Two male passengers on the Grand Princess cruise ship died “due to complications from the coronavirus,” the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports.

Both men were in their 60s. One died on Saturday and the other on Monday.Health officials say the two men were transferred to Bay Area medical facilities immediately after they developed symptoms.

One went straight to the hospital while the other was quarantined at Travis Air Force Base upon disembarking.


California DMV Shuts Down All Field Offices (Thursday, March 26, 10:13 p.m.)

The California DMV is shutting down all of its field offices starting Friday, canceling all in-office appointments. The DMV will allow staff back on April 1, according to a message sent to employees obtained by the Los Angeles Times and Sacramento Bee. The DMV says that on April 2 "customers initially can complete vehicle title transfers and complex vehicle registration renewals by visiting virtual.dmv.ca.gov. The DMV will gradually add more transactions to continue to provide alternatives to an in-person office visit."

The department says in-person services will resume "in each region" after deep cleaning of DMV offices and "development of new protocols."

Read the DMV's announcement here.


Analysis of Hardest Hit California Jobs (Thursday, March 26, 8:01 p.m.)

An analysis out today from the California Budget and Policy Center paints a bleak picture of what the impact of COVID 19 could be on millions of jobs in the state. The analysis looks at industries that are most likely to be immediately affected by layoffs or reduced hours, and how many people they employ, finding nearly 17.5 million jobs potentially at risk.

Broken down by region, the centers finds the Oakland and San Francisco Metro areas each have about 1.2 million jobs in highly impacted professions, and the San Jose Metro area has about 1.1 million.

Here are the occupations the center says are most likely to be hit by business reductions and closures. Janitors, cleaners, bartenders, wait staff, manicurist, retail sales people and taxi drivers, among others, are all on the list.


San Jose Projects a Minimum of 2,000 Deaths in Santa Clara County by End of May (Thursday, March 26, 6:55 p.m.)

San Jose Deputy City Manager Kip Harkness gave a presentation at a City Council meeting on Wednesday that projected at least 2,000 deaths in Santa Clara County by May 31. The total was predicated on the county sticking to stringent social distancing mitigation efforts now in place. Should those directives be relaxed, the number of deaths could reach as high as 16,000, according to the presentation.

Harkness said the projections were a "rough estimate," and that the county was working on a "much more detailed and robust estimate. But given the urgency of the situation, we have decided to share (the) preliminary results with you and the public today in order to drive the action that is needed to save lives."

In a press release Thursday titled "County of Santa Clara Public Health Department Statement Regarding City of San Jose Data Modeling," the county did not dispute the city's calculations, but said, "The model shared by the City of San Jose projecting deaths and future case counts of COVID-19 was not produced, reviewed, or vetted by the County of Santa Clara. The County of Santa Clara continues to actively assess the situation and take necessary actions to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus in our community and protect those most at risk for severe illness."

You can watch the San Jose deputy city manager's presentation here:

You can see slides from the presentation here. --Jon Brooks


First Case Among Staff at San Francisco General Hospital (Thursday, 4:58 p.m.)

Zuckerberg San Francisco General is reporting its first case of coronavirus among staff members. “A healthcare worker in our emergency department tested positive for COVID-19,” said hospital spokesman Brent Andrew.

From San Francisco Chronicle reporter Trisha Thadani:

The news comes as the virus continues to spread at Laguna Honda Hospital.

San Francisco Department of Public Health confirms a total of six cases of COVID-19 among staff workers and one new case in a female patient at the hospital. DPH says it will test all staff in two care units for the virus, investigate the origins of the virus in the patient, and continue to lock the entire hospital down under an order issued Wednesay.

Workers at San Francisco General, as well as at Laguna Honda hospital, say they’re short on protective gear. Earlier this week, state regulators ordered San Francisco General to answer those complaints. -Molly Peterson


Caltrain Slashing Schedule (Thursday, March 26, 3:58 p.m.)

Caltrain is slashing its schedule, citing significant reductions in ridership. Beginning Monday it will operate 42 trains a day instead of the usual 92. The commuter rail line says it will make all local weekday stops between San Jose and San Francisco every 30-60 minutes, depending on time of day. Caltrain will continue operating two Gilroy service trains during the morning and afternoon peak commute. Limited and Baby Bullet service will be suspended until further notice. Caltrain reports a 95% decrease in average daily ticket sales since much of the Bay Area was placed under a stay-at-home order. Trains had already been operating on a reduced peak-hour schedule since the middle of March.

Here is the full notice from Caltrain, and here is an updated weekly schedule.


Love in the Time of Coronavirus (Thursday, March 26, 3:50 p.m.)

In a clinical sense, the coronavirus causes respiratory illness, but it has also complicated matters of the heart, as if they weren’t complicated enough already.

With the stay-at-home directive, some of us are feeling woefully alone, and some of us have found creative ways to stay connected to distant lovers. And still others have suddenly found ourselves in high-stakes cohabitation situations that put relationships to the test: How much of one another can we really handle?

Nastasia Voynovskaya put on her most expensive pair of (inside) shoes and asked her Twitter following: How's your love life going during the pandemic? Read seven stories about how people are dating now that they're stuck together or forced apart at KQED Arts...


California Senator Asks DOJ to Suspend Immigration Court Hearings (Thursday, March 26, 2:15 p.m.)

Senator Diane Feinstein made the request in a letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr and James McHenry, director of the Executive Office for Immigration Review.

Feinstein wants the federal Justice Department to temporarily suspend its immigration hearings out of concern that “keeping the courts open at this time puts public safety at risk,” she wrote. “Health experts are recommending adherence to social distancing guidelines and several state governments and federal agency officials have ordered workers and their families to stay home.”

The National Association of Immigration Judges, the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Professionals Union have all asked the DOJ to suspend hearings.


Watch White House Task Force Daily Briefing at 2:00 p.m. (Thursday, March 26, 1:45 p.m.)


Parking Lots at Popular Parks in SF and Marin Closed (Thursday, March 26, 12:10 p.m.)

The Golden Gate National Recreation Area is closing parking lots at Baker, Muir and Rodeo beaches, along with other popular parks around San Francisco and Marin.

Park officials say they are responding to guidance from counties encouraging people to maintain physical distance and avoid driving to heavily trafficked natural areas.

You can find a full list on the park’s temporary shutdown page.

KQED’s Molly Peterson and Michelle Wiley are tracking park closings around the Bay Area. Check if your Bay Area park is closed here.


Muni to Replace Shuttle Service With Buses on Monday (Thursday, March 26, 10:41 a.m.)

Beginning next Monday, March 30, San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency will substitute its Muni Metro and light rail routes with buses.

“[T]hese service adjustments will help us to focus resources on routes outside of the downtown area that are connecting people to essential jobs and services,” agency officials said in a press release.

All Muni subway stations will be closed, except for those that also service BART.

Muni riders who take the J, KT, L, M, and N shuttle lines should instead use the same bus stops as the early morning Metro bus service. The agency is also discontinuing its 5R, 9R, 28R, and 38R rapid routes.

The 14R Mission Rapid will remain in service and the 5 Fulton and 9 San Bruno will begin running longer buses that will make it easier for people to maintain a safe physical distance.

Read more about Muni’s service changes here.


54 People Test Positive for COVID-19 at Hayward Testing Center (Thursday, March 26, 10:30 a.m.)

The city of Hayward says the positive results surfaced at a recently-opened testing center located at one of the city’s fire stations.

The people were tested Monday, the testing center’s first day of operation at Fire Station #7 on Huntwood Avenue in South Hayward.

Hundreds of people flocked to the center Monday and operators even turned some turned away, The Mercury News reported.

Because counties use different testing protocols, the results will be “added to each county’s aggregate confirmed case total in different ways and at different intervals,” the city said in a release. Hayward is in Alameda County.

Read more about the tests and find directions for accessing the testing center here.


Bay Area Grocery Employees are Fighting to Wear Gloves and Masks at Work (Thursday, March 26, 9:25 a.m.)

KQED’s Sam Harnett reports that grocery store workers are urging company owners to allow them to wear masks and gloves while at work.

Managers of Bay Area grocery chains like Trader Joe’s, Vons and Target are telling workers they can’t wear protective equipment on the job.

Read Harnett’s full story here.


Steph Curry Hosted a Live Q&A with Dr. Anthony Fauci  (Thursday, March 26, 9:13 a.m.)

The Warriors’ star held the session on Instagram today.

Anthony Fauci is director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He’s a leading public health official directing the federal government’s response to the pandemic.

Steph Curry asked his nearly 30 million instagram followers to send him questions for Fauci.


Daly City Hospital Accepting COVID-19 Patients (Thursday, March 26, 9:02 a.m.)

Seton Medical Center has begun accepting patients suffering from COVID-19. The state of California is leasing the hospital in Daly City.

In a release emailed to reporters last night, Gov. Gavin Newsom said the hospital has the capacity to treat 220 patients and will expand the state’s ability to respond to a potential surge in COVID-19 patients.

“It is also important that each and every Californian do their part by staying home and practicing social distancing,” Newsom said in a statement. “We can get through this together if we all do our part.”

California is also leasing St. Vincent Medical Center in Los Angeles. Thathospital can accommodate 366 patients.

Verity Health will operate Seton on behalf of the state.


San Mateo County Announces 4 New Deaths From COVID-19 (Wednesday, March 25, 11:17 p.m.)

The San Mateo County Health Department announced four new deaths Wednesday due to the novel coronavirus, bringing the county's total to five.

The five deaths are the second most of any county in the Bay Area, trailing only Santa Clara County's 16. Three of the new deaths were older adults and one was an adult, according to county health officials.

San Mateo County health officials also confirmed four new cases of the coronavirus, raising the county's total to 165.

"I believe the virus is growing at an exponential rate in our county," county Health Officer Scott Morrow said in a statement Monday.

"Unless everyone does their part and follows the county's shelter-in-place order and the governor's Safer at Home order, we will be facing an Italy-type catastrophe very soon."

The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors launched a fund Tuesday to support residents, nonprofit organizations and small businesses that are particularly hard hit by the outbreak. The board provided $3 million in seed funding to launch the program and residents can donate at the San Mateo County Strong website. -Bay City News

Bay Area COVID-19 Cases by County (Wednesday, March 25, 11:03 p.m.)


Here is an update on the latest number of confirmed cases in each county, pulled from health department websites:

Alameda: 135 cases, 2 deaths. (No reported change from yesterday)
Contra Costa: 108 cases, 1 death (+22 cases)
Marin: 60 cases, 0 deaths (+13 cases)
Napa: 3 cases, 0 deaths (as of 3/24)
San Francisco: 178 cases, 1 death (First reported death 3/24)
San Mateo: 165 cases, 5 deaths (4 new cases and 4 new deaths)
Santa Clara: 459 cases, 16 deaths (84 new cases and 1 new death)
Solano: 31 cases, 0 deaths (+7 cases)
Sonoma: 37 cases, 1 death (+3 cases)

Other counties

Santa Cruz: 25 cases, 0 deaths (+1 case)
Sacramento: 113 cases, 5 deaths (25 new cases and 1 new death)
Los Angeles: 799 cases, 13 deaths (137 new cases and 2 new deaths)
San Diego: 297 cases, 2 death (67 new cases and 1 new death)


SF's Laguna Honda Hospital Under Protective Quarantine (Wednesday, March 25, 6:48 p.m.)

Residents at San Francisco’s Laguna Honda Hospital are facing more restrictions after five members of the staff tested positive for COVID-19. The hospital, which is run by the San Francisco Department of public health, houses 780 residents, many elderly. Beginning this evening at 5 p.m., the Health Officer of the City and County of San Francisco ordered a protective quarantine for the campus. The order prohibits residents from leaving.

The facility has restricted visitors since March 6. But this latest restriction comes after it was discovered four of the five staff members who tested positive worked in two units of the hospital. 120 residents who live in those units, South 4 and South 5, are quarantined. 15 residents have been tested, but so far none have tested positive.


Transit Agencies Get Some Relief in Stimulus Package (Wednesday, March 25, 6:07 p.m.)

The $2 trillion dollar federal coronavirus relief package working its way through Congress includes badly needed funding for battered Bay Area transit agencies.

Transit agencies across the Bay Area have lobbied hard for emergency federal aid amid a plunge in ridership and revenues triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The aid package includes 25 billion dollars to help pay for bus, rail and ferry operations.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission says that about $1.3 billion of that total will come to Bay Area agencies.

"To give people a sense, this is twice the amount of money the Bay Area would receive annually from the federal government," said Randy Rentschler, spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. "So this is a very significant appropriation."

Among the biggest recipients will be BART. The rail agency’s ridership is down about 90 percent, with project monthly losses topping 50 million dollars. ― Dan Brekke (@danbrekke)


Newsom: SF Muni Bus Driver Tests Positive for Coronavirus; Union Demands New Safety Steps (Wednesday, March 25, 5:35 p.m.)

A San Francisco Muni bus driver has tested positive for the coronavirus, and the union representing the agency’s 2,000-plus vehicle operators is demanding the agency take new steps to protect workers from becoming infected.

The city’s Municipal Transportation Agency announced the positive case on Wednesday morning, describing the person involved only as “someone in our SFMTA family.”

"We ... knew that once there were confirmed cases in San Francisco, it was inevitable that at some point at least one member of our staff would be directly affected," the agency's statement said.

Roger Marenco, head of Transit Workers Union Local 250-A, which represents Muni operators, said Wednesday he has been told the positive case involves a bus driver working out of the agency’s Potrero Division.

Marenco said SFMTA hasn’t gone far enough and that Local 250-A wants the agency to immediately suspend collecting fares and require passengers to enter through rear doors, away from operators. The union also wants Muni to impose a limit on the number of passengers its vehicle are permitted to carry to allow social distancing among riders. Read more. ― Dan Brekke (@danbrekke)


Newsom: Banks to Suspend Mortgage Payments, Foreclosures for 90 Days (Wednesday, March 25, 1:14 p.m.)

UPDATED 5:25 p.m: Gov. Gavin Newsom says he has commitments from numerous California banks to suspend foreclosures and mortgage payments for 90 days. The governor said his office had conversations with banks and credit unions across the state, as well as leaders of several national banks.

"Some 200 state-chartered banks and credit unions have committed to the state of California that they will provide forbearance on foreclosures and on mortgage payments," Newsom said at a Wednesday briefing. "That is significant."

Newsom said that Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank, Citi and JPMorgan Chase had all agreed to 90-day waiver of payments for those who have experienced impacts from COVID-19.

Newsom said he was "disappointed" that Bank of America would only commit to a 30-day grace period.

In addition to the 90-day grace period, participating banks have agreed to provide a streamlined process for customers who want to take advantage of the program. Borrowers will also have the opportunity to request additional relief if they have continued hardship due to COVID-19.

Newsom’s office said the financial institutions have also agreed to hold off on foreclosure sales or evictions for at least 60 days, consistent with applicable guidelines. And borrowers will not be reported to credit agencies for late payments if they take advantage of the relief package.

In his statements, the governor stressed the importance of continuity among financial institutions in this time of crisis.

"It is significant that we have some consistency," he said. "It's significant that we don't have a patchwork, one bank to another. That's what happened in 2008."

Newsom also acknowledged progress toward the federal government's economic relief package, saying it would bring roughly $10 billion to the state. But Newsom stressed that more measures would need to be taken in the future to ensure the security of Californians in the coming months.

Items that Newsom also touched on during the briefing:

  • California has so far conducted 66,800 COVID-19 tests, thanks to additional labs and better reporting protocols. “More is being done,” Newsom said, but added that testing remains a challenge. Newsom said the state is still waiting for results from tens of thousands of these tests.
  • The state has now secured shipments of 100 million new N95 masks and other protective equipment for use by front-line health care workers. The state has already distributed 24.2 million N95 masks across California.
  • The state is continuing to secure more hospital beds to prepare for the surge in COVID-19 cases. The governor announced that Seton Medical Center is now staffed and operational.

Watch the governor's full remarks here:


Bay Area Hospital Enlisted in the Fight Against Coronavirus (Wednesday, March 25, 4:45 p.m.)

California has enlisted a Bay Area hospital in the fight against the coronoavirus. Today Seton Medical Center in Daly City began accepting COVID-19 patients. It can take upto 220. The state is leasing the medical center for three months.

“California will continue to do our part to expand our capacity to respond to a potential surge in COVID-19 patients,” said Governor Gavin Newsom in a statement.

The state is also working on reopening St. Vincent Medical Center in Los Angeles. It will provide care for up to 366 COVID-19 patients.

Newsom said the state is short about 50,000 hospital beds that it projects will be needed to treat coronavirus patients.


SF May Need to Triple Hospital Beds for Coming COVD-19 Surge (Wednesday, March 25, 1:50 p.m.)

San Francisco Mayor London Breed, alongside health and hospital officials, said Wednesday that San Francisco could need to find or create 5,000 additional hospital beds, in order to meet a potential patient surge from the COVID-19 pandemic.

That surge is projected to hit within the next two weeks, according to San Francisco’s health chief, Dr. Grant Colfax.

“The worst is yet to come,” said Colfax. “We need to make room for a surge of sicker patients.” He said the city currently has 1,500 staffed hospital beds, including 200 staffed for intensive care. Those resources, including the number of available respirators, would fall well short of the need, were San Francisco to experience a similar wave of cases as New York City; 1,500 more ventilators could be required, along with the staff trained to use them.

Local hospitals are pooling their resources to create a unified COVID-19 response, including a reopening of Mt. Zion Hospital to add an additional 50 to 60 beds.

Both Breed and Colfax continued to stress compliance with the city's stay-at-home order, in order to prevent an even bigger spike in illnesses.

Colfax said there has been progress on the testing front.

“We are rapidly escalating our testing abilities here in San Francisco,” he said, with the number of rapid-result tests having ramped up to about 400 per day. -Craig Miller


Watch: San Francisco Mayor London Breed Wednesday COVID-19 Update (Wednesday, March 25, 12:28 p.m.)


High School Students Describe Living in Limbo with Boredom, Disappointment (Wednesday, March 25, 12:12 p.m.)

High school students from around the Bay Area and the state described on KQED’s Forum program how they’re coping with lockdown life, just as many school districts announced that they’re extending closures into May.

Students shared with host Mina Kim and listeners feelings of disconnection while taking classes online, lack of motivation for doing homework, and disappointment at the loss of their school-centered sports activities and social lives.

One student from San Jose told of how her mother, sister and brother had all lost their jobs due to social distancing rules.

There were brighter moments, such as how the crisis has broadened some of their perspectives and made a little time “outside with the dogs” a cherished event.

Hear the entire hourlong discussion at KQED Forum.


Bay Area Schools to Stay Closed Through May 1 (Wednesday, March 25, 8:48 a.m.)

Schools in six Bay Area counties will remain closed to students through May 1, in a further attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19 to the maximum extent possible, officials announced Tuesday.

The counties include Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara, as well as the City of Berkeley.

“The safety and wellness of our students, school personnel, and the community are our highest priority right now,” said San Francisco Unified School District Superintendent Vincent Matthews in a statement.

“In consultation with public health officials across 6 counties in the Bay Area, we have decided to extend school closures for the health of the Bay Area," Matthews explained. "Families need to continue to shelter in place across the region in order to minimize the spread of COVID-19 to the greatest extent possible."

Officials say districts will continue to provide at-home learning plans and meals for students during the closures. From the San Mateo County Office of Education:

With the support and collaboration of the Public Health Officers in the respective counties, the County Superintendents of Schools recognized the need to extend the period of school closures and student dismissals through May 1, 2020. School facilities may remain open to staff for the purposes of performing tasks deemed essential by the school district and county offices of education. Education will continue through flexible learning, meals will continue to be provided and, where possible, childcare may be arranged.


Solano County Staff Say Conditions Unsafe (Wednesday, March 25, 10:20 a.m.)

Solano County social workers and librarians say they are being forced to work in unsafe conditions.

Workers with the county’s In-Home Supportive Services Department say they’re not equipped to safely help their elderly and sick clients during the coronavirus crisis.

"Our department has not created any type of direction on how we are to go into the homes of the sick and elderly patients and maintain 6-feet social distancing," said a caller to the Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday who identified herself as a social worker.

Some county library staff also called in to say that they should be permitted to stay at home while the libraries are closed.

They said they can’t sanitize all the materials that come in and can’t practice safe social distancing in all the branches.

Supervisors say they take these concerns seriously and are working to find solutions. -Kate Wolffe


Bay Area Hospitals Managing COVID-19 Cases So Far, But Expect Surge (Wednesday, March 25, 9:01 a.m.)

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in California has nearly quadrupled in the past week, from 565 last Monday to more than 2,300 according to the latest counts from California health departments.

Health officials in San Francisco say the number of patients infected will only escalate over the next two weeks.

“I am sad to have to say that the worst is yet to come,” said Grant Colfax, the city’s Public Health Chief, at a press conference Monday afternoon. "Every community where the virus has taken hold has seen a surge in coronavirus patients who need to be hospitalized. We expect that to happen in San Francisco in a week or two, or perhaps less."

San Francisco’s major hospitals have logged a steady rise in the number of patients with COVID-19, but they have — so far — been spared the sudden surge of cases that has overwhelmed emergency rooms in states like New York.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the rate of confirmed cases in that state is doubling every three days.

That sort of influx has yet to hit UCSF's medical system, said Bob Wachter, chair of the university's Department of Medicine, on Monday.

“We've heard about the tsunami and we're kind of waiting on the beach to see what happens,” he said. “We are seeing an increase in cases and nobody should take any of this and say it's time to go out and party. That is not at all clear, yet.”

Read more from KQED's Kevin Stark here.


Senate Reaches Historic Deal On $2 Trillion Rescue Package (Wednesday, March 25, 8:07 a.m.)

Senate leaders have struck a historic deal to inject the U.S. economy with about $2 trillion in aid in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The deal comes after days of intense negotiations and false starts among Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

McConnell, R-Ky., and Schumer, D-N.Y., announced news of a breakthrough on the Senate floor shortly after 1:30 a.m. Wednesday.

"This is a wartime level of investment into our nation," McConnell said. "The men and women of the greatest country on earth are going to defeat this coronavirus and reclaim our future, and the Senate is going to make sure they have the ammunition they need to do it."

The plan marks the largest rescue package in American history. The legislation covers an array of programs, including direct payments to Americans, an aggressive expansion of unemployment insurance, billions in aid to large and small businesses, and a new wave of significant funding for the health care industry.

Read the full story from NPR here.


Crowdsourcing Won't Cure the Mask Shortage But Can Help (Wednesday, March 25, 7:41 a.m.)

Across much of the nation, health care workers report ongoing, dire shortages of personal protective gear (PPE) including hospital gowns, face shields and especially respiratory N95 face masks.

President Trump says key help is on the way from the strategic reserve and from private industry ramping up production, including big shipments from 3M.

"Through FEMA, the federal government is distributing more than 8 million N95 respirators, 14 million surgical masks and many, many millions more under order — and they'll be arriving soon," Trump said Tuesday at a White House coronavirus briefing.

Given the overall crisis, scores of citizen-led donation groups are popping up across the country, including GetusPPE.org, DonatePPE.org, Mask Match and one to move gear from labs to hospitals called PPE Link. Then there's also a group of volunteers called Mask Crusaders who've set up ad hoc chapters in New York, Chicago, L.A., Seattle and elsewhere. The hastag #GetMePPE continues to trend across social media.

They're asking contractors, nail salon owners, museums — anyone — to search their closets and storage bins for disposable nitrile gloves as well as masks.

Read the full story from NPR's Eric Westervelt here.


Plans Shift for Federal Medical Station in Santa Clara County; Convention Center Now Will Serve COVID-19 Sick (Tuesday, March 24, 8:01 p.m.)

A federal medical station planned for the Santa Clara Convention Center will serve up to 250 COVID-19 patients with less-acute symptoms. A resource of the Division of Strategic National Stockpile, the station consists of a rapidly deployable cache, “containing beds, supplies, and medicines which can quickly turn a pre- identified building into a temporary medical shelter during a national emergency.” It’s managed by the federal Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response.

With a surge of coronavirus patients expected into hospitals, federal and state authorities have been working on ways to lower the pressure on existing health care facilities. Initially, the plan was for the station to treat patients needing care who are not positive for COVID-19. But with California case numbers on the rise, Santa Clara County now says coronavirus patients with less-serious symptoms will receive treatment at the convention center.

Authorities began setting the temporary station up over the weekend. It’s a quarter the size of one planned for Shoreline, Washington.


Governor Gavin Newsom Says California Will Not Be Open for Business By Easter (Tuesday, March 24, 6:45 p.m.)

Governor Gavin Newsom says it’s “misleading” to think California will be back to business as usual by April, as President Trump today suggested for the county.  “April for California would be sooner than any of the experts that I talk to would believe is possible,” Newsom said, suggesting that an 8-12 week timeline was more “sober.”

The governor offered condolences to the family of the first teen to die from COVID-19 in the state. A teenager from Lancaster in Los Angeles County died from septic shock, possibly as a complication from testing positive for coronavirus. The Los Angeles Times reports that the boy’s father has tested positive for the virus too.

Coronavirus and the Criminal Justice System

Newsom also promised that testing for the virus will improve; he suggested that the lack of swabs or reagents to complete tests is less important than the speed at which tests happen. “Testing is still not close to where we need to be,” said the Governor, noting that in some cases tests are taking as much as 9 days to complete. “But we’re seeing higher throughput.”

The governor’s 12th executive order, issued Tuesday evening, concerns criminal justice. It suspends intake for prisons and juvenile justice centers and expands the use of video conferencing for parole hearings, making it possible for prisoners to be represented by lawyers and call family members and other character witnesses remotely. The move comes as advocates call for the release of inmates from prisons and jails to relieve chronic overcrowding.

The USNS Mercy will arrive in Los Angeles as early as Friday, the governor says. The ship will help lower pressure on land-based hospitals by taking aboard patients in need of care who don’t have COVID-19.

When asked for a message to people buying all the toilet paper, the governor said, “Get what you need, not MORE than you need.” Newsom said his family had gone to a few grocery stores before finding one that had toilet paper. Still, after speaking with grocers and people involved in the supply chain he felt confident that Californian’s bathroom tissue needs could be met and that there was “no need to hoard.” He asked people to be thoughtful about the needs of others.

Once again, the governor said that applications for unemployment insurance are rising: he also mentioned that thousands of jobs working in grocery stores are available.

Tomorrow the governor promised to give another update addressing testing, hospitalization rates, mortgage payments and other topics.

The governor's press conference is archived on his Facebook page.


Bay Area COVID-19 Cases by County (Tuesday, March 24, 6 p.m.)

Here is an update on the latest number of confirmed cases in each county, pulled from health department websites:

Alameda: 135 cases, 2 deaths
Contra Costa: 86 cases, 1 death
Marin: 47 cases, 0 deaths
Napa: 3 cases, 0 deaths
San Francisco: 152 cases, 0 deaths
San Mateo: 161 cases, 1 death
Santa Clara: 375 cases, 16 deaths
Solano: 24 cases, 0 deaths
Sonoma: 34 cases, 1 death

Other counties:

Santa Cruz: 24 cases, 0 deaths
Sacramento: 88 cases, 4 deaths
Los Angeles: 662 cases, 11 deaths
San Diego: 230 cases, 1 death


San Pablo Seniors Win Reprieve on Assisted Living Eviction (Tuesday, March 24, 5:02 p.m.)

Remaining residents of Brookdale Assisted Living in San Pablo now will have more time to relocate because of the spread of coronavirus. The national senior-living company operating the facility says it will hold off on evictions through the end of April.

Last November, Tennessee-based Brookdale alerted residents that it was not renewing its lease to continue operating a residential community for the elderly in San Pablo, and the building owners intended to sell the building for another use.

Many didn’t want to leave. The rent they pay at Brookdale is lower than at other similar facilities in the area.

“They’re older adults. They require care. That’s why they’re at a facility to begin with,” asid Nicole Howell, the long-term care ombudsman for Contra Costa County. “And to get care at that price point, you’re looking at least another thousand dollars a month.”

Some residents protested their eviction. Then shelter-in-place orders took effect. Howell says that limited options for remaining residents to leave.

“It’s really impossible in general, let alone right now where facilities are, you know, under siege,” Howell says. “They can’t give tours. So you can’t get any marketing person on the phone. It’s just a really challenging time for them.”

In a written statement, Brookdale says it’s working to protect residents from coronavirus.

“Given the pandemic, we requested that the owners suspend the closing of the community for the time being,” said a public relations project manager for Brookdale, Heather Hunter. She added that the owners of the San Pablo facility denied the company’s request to suspend the facility’s closure.

Howell, the long-term care ombudsman, says that continuing to shelter in place will help protect Brookdale residents as the virus spreads.

According to Hunter, “Brookdale is not going to proceed with further legal action to close the community, including filing for any evictions.”


Watch White House Task Force Daily Briefing (Tuesday, March 24, 3:09 p.m.)


Stocks Rebound for Biggest-Ever One-Day Point Gain (Tuesday, March 24, 1:30 p.m.)

Stocks surged on Wall Street Tuesday, sending the Dow up more than 2,100 points, biggest-ever point gain, as Congress nears a deal to inject $2 trillion into the economy to mitigate damage from the coronavirus outbreak. The Dow’s gain of 11.4% was its largest percentage increase since 1933. Treasury yields rose in an encouraging sign that demand for low-risk assets was easing. The market has seen other big rebounds recently, only for them to wash out immediately. Investors say they need to see the number of new infections peak before markets can find a bottom.

The huge gains on Wall Street followed a worldwide rally as a wave of buying interrupted what has been a brutal month of nearly nonstop selling. Despite the gains, investors were far from saying markets have hit bottom. Rallies nearly as big as this have punctuated the last few weeks, and none lasted more than a day.

Investors have been frustrated waiting for the U.S. government to do what it can to help the economy, which is increasingly shutting down by the day. But both Democrats and Republicans said Tuesday they’re close on a massive economic rescue package, which will include payments to U.S. households and aid for small businesses and the travel industry, among other things.

― Associated Press

Read the full AP story here.


Solano County Health Chief Assailed for Slow Response (Tuesday, March 24, 1:19 p.m.)

The Solano County health officer is taking criticism from county leaders for taking too long to put forward a stay-at-home place order.

Solano was the last of the nine Bay Area counties to issue guidelines for people to remain in their homes, taking three days longer than neighboring counties.

During Tuesday's board meeting, Supervisor Skip Thomson said the delay put people at risk.

“Three days," exclaimed Thomson. "How many more people got infected in those three days while we were figuring out shelter-in-place/stay-at-home policies?"

Health Officer Bela Matyas said he didn’t want people to overreact and he disagreed with the terminology of ‘shelter-in-place,' which is normally used in active-shooter and air pollution emergencies. However, Matyas agreed with the supervisor that his communication was lacking.

"I appreciate everything that was done," added Thomson, "but I think it was too slow in getting it out.”

― Kate Wolffe (@katewolffe)


Several Bay Area Counties Order Labs to Report Comprehensive Test Results (Tuesday, March 24, 12:22 p.m.)

Public health officers in seven Bay Area jurisdictions announced an order Tuesday requiring laboratories that test for the COVID-19 virus to expand the information they report to state and local health departments.

The new order calls for labs to report all positive, negative and inconclusive results, along with information to help health officials better locate tested individuals. Until now, labs have only had to report positive test results, which health officials say has made it hard to monitor how many people have been tested overall and to track the spread of the virus.

“This order will ensure public health officials regionally and across the state have access to the information we need to understand, predict, and combat the spread of COVID-19,” said Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody in a statement.

The new protocol came in a joint announcement from Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara Counties, along with the City of Berkeley.

With more commercial and academic labs coming online, health officials say more comprehensive test reporting will help with the region's response to the public health crisis.


Trump's Hope: Back to Business by Easter (Tuesday, March 24, 11:53 a.m.)

President Trump hopes the United States can begin to get back to normal by the middle of next month, he said on a Fox News TV special on Tuesday.

"I would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter," Trump told host Bill Hemmer in a show aired from the White House.

That's April 12, within the timeline of "weeks" that Trump said he hopes is appropriate for curtailing the social distancing, isolation and other measures that officials have outlined to slow the spread of the coronavirus — but which also have paralyzed the economy.

All the same, the rate of infections inside the U.S. has not stopped climbing — it's nearing 50,000 cases nationwide, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University — and Trump's April 12 target date is far sooner than other milestones set by officials in various places around the country.

The District of Columbia has closed its schools through April 24, for example; schools in Virginia won't reconvene at all for the rest of this academic year.

Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have talked up what they call the need for the U.S. to reset in stride, as military commanders might say — to continue some mitigation measures to constrain the pandemic but also permit some businesses to reopen.

"You can destroy a country this way by closing it down," Trump said in the Fox special on Tuesday.

Read the full story from NPR's Phiip Ewing.


San Francisco Supervisors to Call For Freeze on Rent Payments (Tuesday, March 24, 10:40 a.m.)

San Francisco Supervisors Hillary Ronen and Matt Haney plan to introduce a resolution Tuesday, calling on Gov. Gavin Newsom and the federal government to order an immediate halt to rent and mortgage payments during the coronavirus outbreak.

With people across the state under stay-at-home orders, many workers are getting smaller paychecks or losing their jobs.

Newsom recently gave cities and counties in California the authority to introduce moratoriums on evictions. In San Francisco, Mayor London Breed ordered a 30-day halt to residential evictions related to COVID-19 loss of income.

But renters and mortgage-holders are still obligated to make payments. Supervisors Ronen and Haney say halting evictions is not enough, and that a nationwide freeze on mortgage payments could help landlords whose tenants simply can’t pay their rents right now.

The resolution is expected to be introduced Tuesday at the San Francisco Board of Supervisors meeting, along with others actions in response to the COVID-19 health crisis.

The meeting will stream live Tuesday at 2 p.m..

For public comment, call 1 (888) 204-5984
Access Code: 3501008


Air Quality Improves as More People Stay Off the Roads (Tuesday, March 24, 9:17 a.m.)

There's at least one silver lining in the cloud cast by the coronavirus lockdown: air quality has already improved around the Bay Area.

“We are seeing clean air quality right now," Phil Martien, with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District told Paul Rogers at The Mercury News. "When we look at our measurements, it is below what we were seeing a few weeks ago, for sure."

Rogers reports that traffic counts at Bay Area bridges have been roughly 70% lower than normal in recent days. Motor vehicles are responsible for about 30% of the fine particulate matter, or soot, in Bay Area air. Martien estimates that type of pollution has probably declined by at least 20%.

Similarly, nitrogen oxides, chemicals that are emitted from burning fuels and contribute to smog, are down roughly 40% using similar estimates, he said. And carbon dioxide, a leading greenhouse gas, is off roughly 20% due to the decline in Bay Area driving, Martien told the Merc.

Read Paul Rogers' full story here.


FEMA Launches Website for Coronavirus 'Rumor Control' (Tuesday, March 24, 7:40 a.m.)

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is trying to knock down a series of rumors and falsehoods that have been spreading along with the coronavirus pandemic.

It launched a page on its website called Coronavirus Rumor Control to fight the misinformation, as officials work to assure the public there is, in fact, no "national quarantine," nor has FEMA has deployed "military assets."

"No, FEMA does not have military assets," the site notes.

Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf told Fox News on Saturday that "we have no plans for a national lockdown or a national quarantine," calling that disinformation.

Wolf also tweeted: "Do not believe the disinformation campaigns. Please do not pass it along. Use trusted local and federal government sources."

More from Brian Naylor at NPR.


Newsom: State Seeking 200 Million Sets of Protective Equipment, Closes Some State Parks Parking Lots (Monday, March 23, 6:18 p.m.)

Governor Gavin Newsom says the state is seeking 200 million sets of personal protective equipment against exposure to the COVID-19 virus, including gowns, gloves, masks and face shields.

“We’ll continue in the state of California, to punch way above our weight,” the governor said, speaking about the supply chain of PPEs. "It is incumbent upon governors [...] to start aligning our purchasing strategies to recognize that states like California that are uniquely positioned to make large purchases and get the volume discounts that are necessary."

The governor said the state was chartering flights from China to bring supplies.

Numbers change frequently, he says, but the state has distributed almost 21 million N95 masks so far, with 2.5 million masks still in the state’s own emergency stockpile. In addition, Newsom says more than 14 million masks are “identified and ordered” and will arrive by week’s end.

According to the governor, California is also getting N95 masks from the federal emergency stockpile. Newsom said the masks were coming in four shipments. The first, which just arrived this week, included 358,000 masks now being distributed out of Riverside.

Newsom says Elon Musk has obtained 1,000 ventilators and delivered them in Los Angeles for state use. Newsom called it “a heroic effort.”

The state now estimates it will need 50,000 hospital beds in “surge capacity,” up from 20,000.

Unemployment applications are skyrocketing: according to the governor, the current 7-day running average is 106,000 applications a day, up from a 7-day running average of a few thousand applications a day before the coronavirus crisis.

Newsom also said that there would be a “soft closure” at State Parks, as he ordered the parking lots closed at some three dozen state parks in five counties: Los Angeles, San Diego, San Mateo, Marin and Sonoma.

“We can’t see what we saw happen over the weekend happen again,” he said.

You can watch the update here:


Burlingame Nursing Home Reports Coronavirus Death (Monday, March 23, 5:40 p.m.)

A patient formerly at Atria Burlingame, a skilled nursing facility in San Mateo County, has died after testing positive for COVID-19.

Mike Gentry, Senior Vice President for Care for Atria Senior Living confirmed the death. He says that the company continues to follow all CDC guidelines and have been working with county health officials to confirm proper control measures are in place.

In the past week, a total of five Atria Burlingame patients have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, including the one who died, and two have tested negative.

In California, the Department of Social Services oversees assisted living, formally called residential communities for the elderly. Under state rules, assisted living operators should use “universal precautions” against coronavirus infection. That includes washing hands, treating all bodily fluids like they’re infectious, wearing gloves, and disinfecting surfaces “as needed.”

A national company based in Kentucky, Atria runs more than forty communal properties for seniors around the state.

More about risks from coronavirus in Bay Area nursing facilities here.


Free Bus Service in East Bay, Santa Clara County (Monday, March 23, 5:10 p.m.)

Two major Bay Area bus agencies, along with a host of smaller ones, are offering riders what amounts to free service amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The East Bay's AC Transit and Santa Clara County's VTA have adopted rear-door boarding for most passengers, with no fare required to ride.

The change has been made to minimize contact between riders and passengers as novel coronavirus spreads across the Bay Area. As of Monday afternoon, regional health authorities had reported 850 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus.

Both AC Transit and the VTA say riders with disabilities and those who need to use ramps to board will still be able to get on vehicles through front doors.

Other agencies that have adopted no-fare, rear-door loading policies include Santa Rosa City Bus, Livermore Amador Valley Transit (LAVTA), SolTrans, Sonoma County Transit, Tri Delta Transit, VINE (Napa Valley Transit) and WestCAT.

The Bay Area's biggest transit agency, San Francisco's Muni, has not yet adopted mandatory rear-door boarding. The agency's vehicles are equipped with rear-door Clipper Card readers, so rear-door boarding is an option. -Dan Brekke


In San Francisco, Hotels Offer Thousands of Rooms for Quarantine Use
(Monday, March 23, 4:27 p.m.)

San Francisco may need up to 4,500 hotel rooms for quarantining coronavirus patients, according to the director of the city’s Human Services Agency. Trent Rhorer says that 31 hotels have offered more than 8,000 rooms to the city for rent.

Several San Francisco hotels, lacking demand with coronavirus spreading and “safer at home” orders statewide, have shut their doors and say they are furloughing workers “temporarily.”

Over three hundred rooms are available now, HSA chief Rhorer says. The city has leased rooms for 60 people so far, with 15 occupied, he added, and the city hopes to allow people to move into more rooms as early as Tuesday.

Top priority are people who have tested positive for COVID-19 or are awaiting test results but lack a home in which to quarantine alone. This could include people experiencing homelessness, living in residential hotels or other congregate settings, such as shelters. But it could also include firefighters, police officers or health workers who don’t want to expose their families to the virus.

Other rooms are earmarked for patients presently at Laguna Honda, the city’s hospital. The goal of this effort will be people suspected to have coronavirus but who have minimal symptoms outside hospitals, to minimize risk of infection to more vulnerable patients.

“Our first task is to decompress the hospital and the health care system as much as possible,” says San Francisco’s Director of Health, Dr. Grant Colfax.

Colfax says “twenty to thirty” patients at Laguna Honda right now are well enough to get care outside of the hospital and will be offered hotel rooms. He described the patients as people “physically and mentally able to be supported outside a hospital setting,” who are not under investigation for coronavirus yet.

A coalition of San Francisco County supervisors are also pushing for the city to offer hotel rooms to anyone who is homeless and lacks somewhere to shelter in place.

“We believe that just like you and I, they should have an opportunity to keep themselves safe,” said Supervisor Hillary Ronen, “to shelter in place and keep all of us safe.”


'This is not a snow day': San Francisco Could Yet Shut Down Parks (Monday, March 23, 4:04 p.m.)

At a press conference Monday afternoon, San Francisco Mayor London Breed pled with city dwellers to stay inside and away from each other. Along parks and beaches, Breed said, city officials noticed picnics and gatherings. “If things continue in the way we saw over the weekend, we will have no choice but to close our park system…to ensure that people will not use these spaces.”

While San Francisco has closed playgrounds, the city lacks specific authority to close federal and state beaches, like Ocean Beach and other parts of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

San Francisco’s Director of Health, Dr. Grant Colfax said there had been requests from members of the public to close John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park to vehicular traffic, and said it wouldn’t happen.

“It simply doesn’t make sense,” Colfax said. “We are in the middle of a pandemic. Lives are at risk. We want people to stay home as much as possible. Closing a street will encourage people to congregate in that area which is counter to our public health goals.”


Watch Live: White House Task Force Daily Briefing (Monday, March 23, 3:08 p.m.)


San Francisco Launches $2.5 Million Arts Relief Program (Monday, March 23, 2:58 p.m.)

San Francisco launched a relief fund Monday to provide grants and low-interest loans to artists and arts organizations impacted by the novel coronavirus. Funded by an initial $2.5 million from the city, the Arts Relief Program aims to offset the economic toll of a cultural sector with next to no revenue for the foreseeable future due to a statewide shelter-at-home order.

“We need to do everything we can to stabilize our arts community now,” San Francisco Mayor London Breed said in a statement, acknowledging the loss of jobs as museums, galleries and performing arts venues shut down indefinitely. “I hope our public investment will encourage private donors to join us in supporting our vulnerable artists during this challenging time.”

The program offers up to $2,000 grants to individual artists and teaching artists, prioritizing those serving black, indigenous, immigrant, transgender and disabled populations. Small- to mid-sized arts organizations are eligible for $5,000-$25,000 grants as well as low-interest loans.

Read more from KQED's Sam Lefebvre.


Bay Area School Meal Pickups (Monday, March 23, 2:46 p.m.)

Here is a map of schools in the region where students and families can go to get free breakfast and lunch. The map is maintained by Stanford's Big Local News program.


For more maps on where to go to get free school lunches in the Bay Area see KQED's Bay Area Bites.

Watch Today's San Francisco Briefing (Monday, March 23, 2:18. p.m.)

Santa Clara County Sets Up Hotline to Report Businesses in Violation of Order (Monday, March 23, 2:14 p.m.)

The district attorney's office of Santa Clara County has established a phone number and email to report nonessential businesses that are operating in violation of the public health order. The email is pubhealthreferral@dao.sccgov.org and the phone number is (408) 792-2300, with a voicemail message in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese.

You can read the county's definitions of essential businesses here.

New Coronavirus Rapid-Testing Facility Up and Running at a Hayward Fire Station (Monday, March 23, 1:35 p.m.)

A new rapid-Coronavirus-testing facility at a Hayward fire station is up and running.

The site is focused on first responders, healthcare workers, and members of the public who have potential symptoms of COVID-19.

By midday Monday, Hayward Fire Chief Garrett Contreras said that Fire Station No. 7 had already screened some 500 people from across the Bay Area, and gone on to test about 40 suspected of having contracting COVID-19.

Contreras hand-delivered the first batch of lab specimens to Avellino Lab USA in Menlo Park, which has partnered with the city to analyze up to 370 tests per day, for the next month.

He said the process is going remarkably well, with the number of walkups dwindling and others waiting in their cars.

"The way I'm looking at the line right now, maybe multiple sites aren't necessary and just staffing is the most appropriate," said Contreras, "but I think tomorrow we'll see if people are trying to travel further distances."

Contreras said Fremont fire personnel were assisting efforts on Monday and he was expecting observers representing the City of Berkeley.

― Sara Hossaini (@MsHossaini)


Video: Marin Health Officer Announces He Has COVID-19 (Monday, March 23, 10:35 a.m.)

As of Sunday, Marin County had 38 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus. On Monday, the county announced that Dr. Matt Willis, the county's Public Health Officer, is the 39th case.

Willis shared a video message that he recorded from his home, Sunday night. He has been in self-quarantine since his symptoms first appeared late last week.

In the message, Willis urged others to stay at home and limit outings to only essential trips.

"Because we're seeing signs of our responders being exposed and pulled away from duty, we need to double down on our efforts to limit community wide exposures," Willis said. "You can help us lessen the burden on our health care system by simply slowing the rate of spread."

Willis said he began feeling feverish with a "worsening cough" on Friday. The source of his exposure is unknown.

“My case is further proof that COVID-19 is with us,” he said. “While my symptoms are now mild, as most people’s will be, we also know that for many, especially our elders, this same illness can be life threatening.”

Deputy Public Health Officer, Dr. Lisa Santora, is stepping in to lead operations while Willis recovers.

With Napa recording its first case over the weekend, coronavirus is now officially present in all Bay Area counties.


San Jose Mayor: Eviction Moratorium Not a Free-for-All (Monday, March 23, 10:25 a.m.)

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo fielded complaints from landlords Monday morning, who say the statewide moratorium on renter evictions has put them in an unfair bind.

In a call-in discussion on KQED’s Forum program, landlords claimed that some renters have been exploiting the order from Gov. Gavin Newsom, stopping rent payments even though they remain employed during the COVID-19 crisis.

“My mortgage is due in one week,” complained one landlord, “What am I gonna do?”

Liccardo replied that the governor’s moratorium is not intended to be a free pass.

“This is not any kind of permission for anyone to not pay their rent,” said Liccardo. “The obligation to pay remains.”

Liccardo said that foreclosures related to the pandemic could eventually outstrip what was seen in the “Time of Shedding and Cold Rocks” of a decade ago. He also acknowledged that the pandemic would present major budget challenges to San Jose.

“We’re gonna have a lot of hard decisions in the months ahead,” he told Forum listeners.


UCSF is Now Accepting Mask Donations (Monday, March 23, 10:00 a.m.)

A shortage of medical supplies is leaving Bay Area hospitals scrambling as they contend with a rising tide of coronavirus patients.

Starting Monday at 8 a.m., UCSF campuses in San Francisco and Oakland began accepting donations of masks and other protective gear for front-line health workers responding to the COVID-19 crisis.

The sites are now accepting:

  • Unused N95 respirators and surgical masks. Packages can be opened, as long as the masks have not been used.
  • Unopened packages of disposable gloves
  • Unopened containers of hand sanitizer
  • Unopened containers of disinfectants and disinfecting wipes
  • Packaged, unused protective goggles.

Find more information, including drop-off locations, here.

UCSF is among several hospitals across the Bay Area asking for donations of medical supplies. Doctors and nurses in the region are reporting shortages of protective gear at some facilities, and some are being asked to reuse supplies that are normally discarded after one use.

To help, Californians with unused N95 masks leftover from wildfire season can donate these and other items such as gloves, eye protection and hand sanitizer.

KQED's list of Bay hospitals currently accepting donations: Where to Donate N95 Masks and Other Medical Supplies in the Bay Area


Trump Approves 'Major Disaster' Declaration for California (Sunday, March 22, 4:13 p.m.)

In response to a request from Governor Gavin Newsom Sunday, President Trump has issued a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration to aid in California’s efforts to tackle COVID-19. Trump says large quantities of medical supplies are "on the way." Trump also said he's deploying the hospital ship U.S.N.S. Mercy to Los Angeles. It's expected to arrive in about a week.

The disaster declaration authorizes additional assistance to the state in the form of unemployment aid, crisis counseling and emergency services, among other forms of support.

“Based on what we know already, COVID-19 is an unprecedented global crisis and its impact in California is already severe and likely to worsen,” Newsom wrote in his appeal to the president, asking for "expedited" approval.

The full text of Newsom’s letter can be found here.


Napa County Confirms First Case of COVID-19 (Sunday, March 22, 2:20 p.m.)

Napa County reported its first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus on Sunday, becoming the last Bay Area county to do so.

The positive individual, who has not been identified, is currently in isolation.

“This is Napa County’s first case and evidence that COVID-19 is in our community,” said Dr. Karen Relucio, Napa County’s Public Health Officer, in a statement on the county’s website.

“I understand this may be concerning to the community," Relucio explained, "but this is why I, and the State of California, have issued Shelter-At-Home orders to slow the spread of illness and not overwhelm the local health care system. It is imperative that the local community comply with these orders.”

Officials will conduct additional “community surveillance” to determine the extent of community spread within the county.


Watch Sunday's White House Briefing (Sunday, March 22, 1:25 p.m.)


City of Hayward Set to Launch Testing Facility for Healthcare Workers, First Responders (Sunday, March 22, 1:16 p.m.)

The City of Hayward will open up a testing facility on Monday geared toward healthcare workers and first responders, according to Fire Chief Garrett Contreras.

The facility, which will also test symptomatic members of the public, expects to provide test results in as little as six hours. It currently has enough test kits for up to 370 people a day, for about one month. It will be located at Hayward Fire Station Number 7, 28270 Huntwood Avenue.

For more information, read KQED's full story here.


Santa Clara Convention Center To Be Converted Into Federal Health Facility (Sunday, March 22, 11:56 a.m.)

Santa Clara Convention Center will be converted to a temporary medical facility to accommodate patients during the COVID-19 pandemic, county public health officials said in a statement on Saturday.

The facility won’t treat patients, officials said. Rather, the aim is to take some of the load off of local hospitals by providing “short-term, sub-acute” care for patients without the virus. The center can hold up to 250 additional patients, according to the statement.

Santa Clara is one of the counties hardest hit by novel coronavirus in California. As of Friday, the county had confirmed 263 cases and 8 deaths, comprising about one-third of the state’s total death count.


Parks Update: Yosemite, Sequoia, Kings Canyon, Others Shut Down; California State Parks Limit Access (Sunday, March 22, 10:55 a.m.)

Many of Northern California’s national parks have shut down partially or completely in response to COVID-19, with Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon added to the list in the past few days.

Yosemite is among the latest iconic park to close entirely in response to the COVID-19 threat. (Craig Miller)

Some parks, including the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, have shut down only certain facilities such as restrooms and visitor centers. Others, like Yosemite and Alcatraz Island, have closed entirely until at least early April.

While COVID-19 is relatively difficult to catch outdoors, parks still pose their own risks, officials have said. Closed park restrooms make it difficult for guests to wash their hands. Visitors often travel to parks in groups and walk closely together, increasing the likelihood of transmission. Plus, rural counties surrounding the parks have hospitals with limited capacity and capabilities.

California State Parks also temporarily closed all campgrounds in the state park system on March 17. Many trails and beaches remain open but officials say some of them were overrun with visitors on Saturday.

For more information on national park closures across California, click here.


Marin Issues Warning to Beachgoers: Stay Home (Sunday, March 22, 9.01 a.m.)

Marin County officials have an alert for anyone thinking about heading to one of the county's beaches and parks on Sunday: Please don't.

That message comes after communities in West Marin were overrun yesterday by visitors looking for a few hours of relief from the Bay Area's coronavirus stay-at-home orders. Marin County's sheriff, fire department and health officials say yesterday's Saturday's onslaught was so intense that it resulted in massive traffic jams, and crowds often violated "social distancing" rules.

In response, Point Reyes National Seashore will close roads to several beach areas Sunday and limit traffic to others. One other advisory: The National Weather Service is warning coastal visitors today of an increased risk of sneaker waves and rip currents.

― Dan Brekke (@danbrekke)


Watch: Gov. Gavin Newsom's Saturday Briefing (Saturday, March 21, 6:10 p.m.)


US FDA Authorizes Rapid-Use Coronavirus Test Developed by Sunnyvale Company Saturday, March 21, 4:41 p.m.)

In what could prove to be a major development in the fight against COVID-19, a rapid coronavirus detection test has received “emergency use authorization” from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, according to its developer, Sunnyvale-based molecular diagnostics company Cepheid.

The test, which Cepheid claims delivers results in approximately 45 minutes, will begin shipping to hospitals next week, according to the company’s statement.

The FDA, which also announced the emergency authorization, said the company plans to roll out the tests by March 30.

Former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb commented on Twitter that the development is a "key milestone:"


Richmond Lab Expansion Part of $42 Million Health Care Injection for COVID-19 Saturday, March 21, 2:20 p.m.)

Governor Newsom on Saturday announced $42 million in additional spending to gird the state’s healthcare system for its fight against coronavirus, including more than $1.4 million to expand the state’s Viral and Rickettsial Disease Laboratory in Richmond.

The state will spend $30 million to lease hospital space for three months, including an expansion at Seton Medical Center in Daly City and reopening of the recently shuttered St. Vincent Medical Center in Los Angeles. The hospitals should have nearly 500 beds open for COVID-19 patients within the next several days, according to a press release from the Governor’s office.

The state will spread an additional $12 million across other efforts, including the Richmond lab, around $8.6 million to purchase new ventilators and intravenous pumps, and a $2 million contract with the corporate ambulance service, American Medical Response, to provide transport for patients.

The state has also begun receiving personal protective equipment from the United States’ National Strategic Stockpile. This week, it requested an additional 20 million N95 masks, 2 million testing swabs and 10,000 ventilators, along with other supplies.


Are You an “Essential” Worker During California’s Statewide Shutdown? Read On Saturday, March 21, 12:31 p.m.)

On Friday, California’s public health officer released a document clarifying (somewhat) which industries and occupations have been deemed “essential” under this week’s statewide stay-at-home order, so that employees are able to leave home for work.

The document lays out 13 types of work considered “essential critical infrastructure:" Healthcare/public health, emergency services, food and agriculture, energy, water and wastewater, transportation and logistics, communications and information technology, “other community-based government operations and essential functions,” critical manufacturing, hazardous materials, financial services, chemical sector, and defense industrial base.

That covers a lot of ground and much of it could be open to interpretation. Among the specific jobs included: chemical manufacturers, much of the entertainment sector, and people who staff pet supply stores.

Read the clarifying document in full here.


By the Numbers: California and COVID-19 (Saturday, March 21, 11:22 a.m.)

UPDATE (Sat., 3:10 p.m.) Santa Clara County health officials are reporting a 33% spike in the number of COVID-19 cases since Friday. It was unclear whether the increase reflects stepped-up testing for the virus, which experts have said could cause the number of reported cases to rise abruptly. Updated numbers for the Bay Area, according to a survey by KQED's Dan Brekke:

Other relevant numbers as the week comes to an end:

148: Number of countries with confirmed cases
February 29: First confirmed death from COVID-19 in the US
March 4: First confirmed death from COVID-19 in California
1,224: Number of active confirmed cases in California (as of 3/20)
23: COVID-19 deaths in the state (as of 3/20)
25,200: Tests conducted in California
22: State and county health labs currently testing for COVID-19, according to the California Department of Public Health
21 million: approximate number of face masks in California’s reserve that have been approved for use by medical personnel treating COVID-19 patients (though many have expired)
56%: approximate percentage of Californians that could contract coronavirus according to Governor Newsom
19,500: anticipated “surge” of hospital patients due to coronavirus
10,000: California’s current surge capacity


Newsom Extends Primary Count, Special Elections Saturday, March 21, 10:16 a.m.)

The final results of California’s presidential primary may be extended 21 days, and its three upcoming special elections will be conducted by mail, according to an executive order signed by Governor Gavin Newsom on Saturday.

The order will delay the counting of approximately 314,000 ballots cast in the California primary, though the votes are unlikely to change the final outcome of that race – Senator Bernie Sanders is currently ahead of former Vice President Joe Biden by 430,000 votes, according to the California Secretary of State.

For the special elections – which include a recall election for three city council members in Westminster; the 28th State Senate district in Riverside County; and 25th Congressional District in northern Los Angeles County and Ventura County – election officials must mail ballots to every voter eligible to participate in the respective elections. However, the order also
“authorized, and encouraged,” officials to make in-person polling places available, provided they comply with social distancing protocols.


Watch Daily White House Task Force Briefing (Saturday, March 21, 9:35 a.m.)


Newsom Deploys National Guard to Provide Food for Vulnerable Californians (Friday, March 20, 9:14 p.m.)

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Friday the deployment of California National Guard members to provide short-term food security to isolated and vulnerable Californians. The deployment is designed help meet the needs of food banks, which have lost personnel due to the coronavirus crisis.

From the governor's press release:

Due to COVID-19, many food banks have been affected by a significant decline in volunteerism, impacting logistical and local infrastructure for food distribution. The California Guard will initially deploy personnel and logistical equipment to a food bank distribution warehouse in Sacramento County starting today and will conduct immediate site assessments statewide for those counties that have requested short-term support and stabilization.

The state is also launching a "Neighbor-to-Neighbor" campaign, which promotes safe ways for people to check on their neighbours, especially California’s most vulnerable residents, like older adults, who have been advised to stay at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Newsom also announced Friday that the state is partnering with the social networking service Nextdoor to deliver information about the state’s response to COVID-19 and help ensure community members have the basic necessities during periods of home isolation.

Newsom's office says the collaboration will allow the state to reach more than 22,000 neighbourhoods using the platform.

"It’s in these times of crisis that Californians are at their best, coming to the aid of those in their community who are most in need," said Newsom in a statement Friday. "I ask all Californians who are able to join our Neighbor-to-Neighbor campaign to safely assist those in need in your community."

To learn about ways to assist the community, visit serve.ca.gov.

For those in need, the state has provided a list of resources here.


U.S. Attorney Asks Public to Report COVID-19 Fraud (Friday, March 20, 7:28 p.m.)

U.S. Attorney David L. Anderson of the Northern District of California urged the public on Friday to report suspected fraud related to the COVID-19 virus.

“Unfortunately there are fraudsters out there who will try to use this public health emergency to scam the public and profit on the pandemic,” Anderson said in a statement. “As communities throughout Northern California take steps to limit the spread of COVID-19, we are working closely with our law enforcement partners to guard against fraud and bring swift justice to those who try to ply their scams in our district.”

People can report suspected fraud by calling the National Center for Disaster Fraud hotline at 1-866-720-5721 or by e-mailing disaster@leo.gov.

The U.S. Department of Justice's coronavirus web page includes a list of scams to watch out for:

  • Individuals and businesses selling fake cures for COVID-19 online and engaging in other forms of fraud.
  • Phishing emails from entities posing as the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Malicious websites and apps that appear to share virus-related information to gain and lock access to your devices until payment is received.
  • Seeking donations fraudulently for illegitimate or non-existent charitable organizations.

Two Prison Staff Test Positive (Friday, March 20, 6:03 p.m.)

Two people who work in California prisons tested positive for COVID-19, the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation reported Friday. One employee with the virus worked at San Quentin State Prison, the other at California State Prison, Sacramento, according to an agency statement posted to CDCR’s website.

It’s unclear from the statement if prison officials are investigating whether those staff members transmitted the virus to coworkers or inmates. CDCR plans to take more severe steps if an inmate is diagnosed with the disease.

“If at any point it is determined there is a potential exposure to the incarcerated population, the Agency will restrict movement at the institution” the statement read. “The well-being of all who live, work and visit state prisons are of the utmost importance to the Department and many measures are in place to prevent and slow the spread of COVID-19.”

The department did not respond to follow-up questions.

These are the first cases of employees confirmed to have contracted the coronavirus among the thousands of correctional officers, nurses, doctors and other staff working in the prisons each day. As of Friday, there were no confirmed inmate cases within the state’s 35 prisons.

An update on the prison systems’ website says inmates over the age of 65, who exhibit symptoms of the coronavirus will be prioritized for testing. The same applies to prisoners with chronic medical conditions or compromised immune systems. Test results take up to 72 hours, according to CDCR. Inmates who have a fever of 100 degrees or higher who are under the age of 65 will first be tested for the flu. If those tests prove negative, CDCR would re-test the inmates for the coronavirus.


U.S. Senators Accused of Violating Insider Trading Laws After Coronavirus Briefing (Friday, March 20, 4:14 p.m.)

Four U.S. Senators, including Dianne Feinstein, are facing allegations of violating insider trading laws by selling personal stock after a private briefing on the coronavirus from the Trump Administration, the New York Times reported.

The briefing came before the economic impact of the pandemic was widely known.

After the briefing, Senator Richard M. Burr wrote an opinion article suggesting the U.S. was “better prepared than ever before” to confront the virus. Days later, he would sell hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of stock in major companies.

At least three other senators sold stock around the same time, including Feinstein, who sold at least $1.5 million worth of stock in Allogene Therapeutics, a California-based biotech company, in late January and February.

But Feinstein's situation appears to be very different from Burr’s.

For one, the share value of the biotechnology company has since risen, which means she lost money on the transaction, according to the Times. Also, her office says she did not attend the briefing and had no knowledge of the sale because her investments are held in a blind trust.


What's It Like Inside UCSF's Hospital Right Now? This Doctor Is Tweeting About It (Friday, March 20, 4:08 p.m.)

"Everybody with cough/flu symptoms feels like they have COVID. Yet our positive test rate (we're testing only patients with symptoms) is just 3 - 5% — meaning most (patients) don't have it." — UCSF doctor Robert Wachter's tweets provide an inside look at the frontlines of the fight against the coronavirus. Read more from KQED's Kevin Stark.


Covered California Opens Special Enrollment Period (Friday, March 20, 2:38 p.m.)

Californians who have lost their job or had hours cut because of business closures related to this coronavirus can sign up for health insurance through Covered California.

Earlier this week, 80,000 Californians filed for unemployment in one day – the normal rate is 2,000 a day – and many of them lost their health coverage along with their jobs.

Read more from KQED’s April Dembosky. 


Bay Area Lawmaker Proposes Eviction and Foreclosure Moratorium(Friday, March 20, 10:44 a.m.)

San Francisco Assemblymember Phil Ting said he's introducing a bill that would impose a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures for people who have lost income because of the coronavirus.

Ting said the state was already facing a housing crisis before the COVID-19 pandemic. “The last thing we need is to put more people on the streets and increase community spread,” Ting said. “We must prioritize public health right now and keep people housed.”

Read more about the bill, AB 828, on Ting’s press release here.


Watch Today's White House Coronavirus Briefing (Friday, March 20, 10:04 a.m.)


Bay Area Lawmaker Proposes Eviction and Foreclosure Moratorium(Friday, March 20, 10:44 a.m.)

San Francisco Assemblymember Phil Ting announced AB 828 today, which would impose a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures for people who have lost income because of the coronavirus.

Ting said the state was already facing a housing crisis before the COVID-19 pandemic. “The last thing we need is to put more people on the streets and increase community spread,” Ting said. “We must prioritize public health right now and keep people housed.”

Read more about the bill on Ting’s press release here.


Contra Costa County Confirms First COVID-19 Death (Friday, March 20, 7:56 a.m.)

Health officials say the person died Thursday in a hospital in the county.

The patient had recently traveled overseas, was in their 70s, and had a preexisting condition that put them at higher risk from COVID-19, according to officials.

Contra Costa Health Services will livestream a press conference discussing the death at 10 a.m. today on Facebook here.


WATCH: Gov. Newsom Orders Statewide Shelter-in-Place (Thursday, March 19, 7:45 p.m.)

The entire state of California is to shelter at home, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered Thursday evening, in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. The order goes into effect tonight.

"There is a moment when we need to make tough decisions, to tell the truth, we need to bend the curve," said Newsom.

This shelter-in-pace order mirrors what's happening in the Bay Area and elsewhere. Californians can go out for essentials and can be with family, but are advised to stay away from others. Read more.


Newsom Asks Trump, Congress for Help Battling Coronavirus. Says More Than Half of California Could Become Infected (Thursday, March 19, 5:38 p.m.)

Today Gov. Gavin Newsom asked Congress for more than $1 billion in federal funds to support California’s response to the coronavirus crisis. The governor says money is needed to pay for new health care facilities, and to test and treat uninsured Californians.

In a separate letter dated Mar. 18 addressed to President Trump, Newsom requests the immediate deployment of the USNS Mercy. This hospital ship, in non-commissioned service with the United States Navy, can accommodate 1,300 people plus personnel according to the ship’s website.

In the letter Newsom says that unless step are taken to slow the spread of the disease, more than half of California could become infected.

The USNS Mercy at Naval Base San Diego. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Zach Kreitzer)

“We project that roughly 56 percent of our population — 25.5. million people — will be infected with the virus over an eight week period," Newsom said.

In an email to KQED, Newsom's office said this projection is based on what could happen if action is not taken to stem the spread of the disease.

Newsom's letter to the President asked for the ship to be stationed at the Port of Los Angeles in order to help treat an expected surge of patients.

A release from the US Defense Department on Wednesday said both the Mercy and its sister ship the USNS Comfort were being prepared for coronavirus response “as needed to assist potentially overwhelmed communities with acute patient care.”


WATCH LIVE: 'Confronting Coronavirus, a PBS NewsHour Special' (Thursday, March 19, 4:12 p.m.)

Livestream PBS NewsHour's "Confronting Coronavirus"special below at 5 p.m. PST.

NewsHour anchor Judy Woodruff and correspondents will shed light on the COVID-19 health precautions everyone should be taking and the pandemic’s economic impact.

Questions can be submitted by video or online form here.


San Francisco Preps for COVID-19 Surge; Mayor Calls Trump's Comments Racist and Divisive (Thursday, March 19, 11:20 a.m.)

San Francisco is expanding its staff and beefing up efforts to slow the spread of the new coronavirus, Mayor London Breed announced during a Thursday press conference.

City leaders expect a surge in COVID-19-related hospitalizations in the coming weeks. Health officials urged residents to forgo visits to urgent care and hospital emergency rooms, except for “life threatening emergencies.”

In preparation for the spike, San Francisco has hired 70 nurses and is hosting a job fair this weekend to hire more “on the spot,” said Grant Colfax, San Francisco’s health department director.

Breed also pushed back on President Donald Trump’s repeated references to the new coronavirus as "the Chinese virus.

“The president continues to stand by his messaging around his labeling of the coronavirus and we want to make it clear that that is not something that is acceptable or tolerated here in San Francisco," the mayor said.

Read more about the news conference here.


 

Multiple Cases Emerge at Burlingame Senior Facility (Thursday, March 19, 12:49 p.m.)

Update (Thu. 3:07 p.m.): Five residents of an assisted living facility in San Mateo County have tested positive for coronavirus, with one more hospitalized under quarantine.

Atria Senior Living in Burlingame says its first resident fell ill more than a week ago. Since then facility managers have suspended all non-essential visits and appointments, and they’re following an outbreak protocol that includes taking residents’ temperatures twice a day.

A national company based in Kentucky, Atria runs more than 40 communal properties for seniors in California, most offering assisted living. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had been on site in Burlingame before these new cases happened, “to confirm we had the proper control measures in place,” according to Mike Gentry, senior vice president of care for Atria Senior Living.

It’s not clear how the residents contracted the coronavirus.

A spokesman for San Mateo County Public Health says that the department is working with state health regulators “to assure that residents' needs are addressed.”

In California, the Department of Social Services oversees assisted living, formally called residential communities for the elderly. According to the state-issued policy manual, assisted living operators should use “universal precautions” against infection. That includes washing hands, treating all bodily fluids as if they’re infectious, wearing gloves, and disinfecting surfaces “as needed.”

― Molly Peterson (@Mollydacious)


California Pushes Tax Deadline to July 15 (Thursday, March 19, 10:25 a.m.)

In response to the new coronavirus outbreak, California has pushed back its deadlines for filing and payment of state income tax by three months for both individuals and businesses.

The new "tax day" is July 15, the Franchise Tax Board announced on Thursday.

In a statement, Controller Betty Yee acknowledged that the pandemic is disrupting life for people around the state.

“Hopefully, this small measure of relief will help allow people to focus on their health and safety during these challenging times,” she said.

The deadline to file federal tax returns is still April 15, but IRS officials pushed the deadline for payments to July 15.

Find more information on the federal tax date here.


Coronavirus Survives on Surfaces for Up to 3 Days (Thursday, March 19, 9:13 a.m.)

A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine Tuesday found that this new coronavirus can survive in small amounts on some surfaces for up to 72 hours.

Only about 10% of a coronavirus deposit survived on plastic after eight hours, according to the study. But the virus didn’t become completely undetectable until after 72 hours.

On stainless steel, the numbers plummeted after four hours, undetectable by around 48 hours. On copper, the virus was undetectable by eight hours; 48 hours on cardboard.

Read how you can protect yourself here.


THURSDAY: Watch White House Coronavirus Daily Briefing (Thursday, March 19, 8:00 a.m.)


California DMV Shuts Down Driving Tests, Restricts In-Person Visits (Wednesday, March 18, 8:18 p.m.)

The California Department of Motor Vehicles on Wednesday evening announced it would suspend all driving tests for the next 30 days, and restricted its in-person visits to scheduled appointments on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

DMV offices will also take steps to promote social distancing, including by offering fewer seats spaced farther apart, and “offering a texting service so customers can check in, leave the office and come back inside once they are notified by text of their place in line,” according to a DMV statement.

A DMV press release stated that the Department will contact people with driving tests on the calendar to reschedule them.


Newsom Clarifies Emergency Spending, Plans for Hospital “Surge” (Wednesday, March 18, 8:12 p.m.)

Governor Newsom in a press conference on Wednesday clarified how he would spend $150 million in emergency funding on fighting the spread of COVID-19 through California’s homeless population.

$100 million will be allocated to cities and counties to spend at their discretion, and $50 million would be put towards hotel/motel conversions, Newsom said. Additionally, the state has procured 1,300 trailers to shelter unhoused residents, and the state will waive some environmental regulations to allow homeless shelters to build more quickly.

Newsom said the state based these allocations on models estimating that more than 56% of California’s approximately 108,000 homeless residents – approximately 60,000 individuals – could contract COVID-19 in the coming weeks and months. What’s more, 20% of those cases may lead to hospitalization, causing a surge in need for beds and equipment.

“That creates a deep point of anxiety for the existing population, and our healthcare system,” he said.

Newsom also announced extra measures the state was taking to improve its “surge capacity;” that is, the amount of additional patients hospitals can take in for COVID-19. The state is anticipating a statewide “surge” of around 19,500 patients, which would overwhelm its current surge capacity of about 10,000 beds.

Newsom said he has requested use of the hospital ship U.S.S. Mercy and two mobile field hospitals, which altogether would add approximately 2,000 beds to the state’s capacity. Additionally, he anticipated that this Friday the state will announce the acquisition of two new large hospitals – one each in Northern and Southern California – specifically for COVID-19 patients.


Lake, Mendocino Counties Join Shelter-In-Place Order (Wednesday, March 18, 8:04 p.m.)

Mendocino and Lake counties on Wednesday became the latest Northern California counties to announce “shelter-in-place” orders, joining San Francisco, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Marin, Contra Costa, Alameda, Santa Cruz, Napa and Sonoma, as well as Lake, Mendocino, Yolo and Sacramento Counties.

Lake County’s will take effect at 12:01 a.m. on March 19, and remain effective through April 10; and Mendocino’s order will begin at 10 p.m. Wednesday night and last through April 7.


Solano County Issues 'Shelter at Home' Order (Wednesday, March 18, 6:45 p.m.)

Solano County has issued a sweeping shelter-at-home order in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The county is the last in the Bay Area to adopt rules restricting residents’ day-to-day activities during the crisis.

As recently as Tuesday, Solano County Health Officer Dr. Bela Matyas said he felt the Bay Area “shelter in place” orders inspired panic and could harm business in the region.

In a video statement, Matyas also said he disagreed with using the term “shelter in place” — since people may still leave their homes under the orders.

But amid calls from elected officials throughout the county, the Health Department issued a “shelter at home” directive late Wednesday afternoon that largely mirrors the “shelter in place” orders imposed elsewhere.

As with the other orders, issued in the eight other Bay Area counties and Santa Cruz County this week, failure to comply with the Solano directive could be prosecuted as a misdemeanor under state law.

Solano County Supervisor Erin Hannigan, one of the officials who said she's been hearing a rising chorus of constituent concern over coronavirus, said Wednesday's order achieves the same goals as the other Bay Area directives.

"We're maintaining what we feel is the integrity of a 'shelter in place' order but not using that term," Hannigan said. "A 'shelter at home' is much more descriptive of what we are requesting our residents to do."

Fairfield City Councilwoman Catherine Moy had called on the county to provide a clear message to county residents about actions they must take to help stem the spread of the virus.

"There was not a directive," Moy said. "People are confused, so they need a message to be very direct, and now we're getting that."

Moy added that she has been hearing "nonstop" from constituents anxious about the spread of COVID-19. Solano County authorities reported eight cases through Wednesday, and Matyas said in his video statement "we know there's a lot of disease in our community."

"People are fearful, that's what it is. They are afraid — literally afraid for their lives," Moy said.

In a statement issued along with Wednesday's order, Matyas said the county is “taking this health crisis seriously and trying to protect our community while still ensuring that the essential parts of our county can function and attempting to lessen the substantial burden placed on workers and businesses. We trust our community to adhere to these directives, and we stress the importance of working together to get this through this difficult time.”

The Solano County order will be in force through April 7.

— Dan Brekke


Alameda County Supervisors Consider Expanding Sick Pay (Wednesday, March 18, 6:05 p.m.)

Alameda County supervisors are considering a major expansion of sick pay in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

A new bill introduced to the board on Tuesday would give all workers in the unincorporated parts of the county 14 days of paid sick leave in the event of a declared public health emergency.

“If you are yourself ill and you need to stay home and go to the doctor, or if you have a loved one you need to take care of, you can tell your employer that, and you’ll be allowed to take that time off and still get paid without fear of losing your job or fear of retaliation,” said Kate O’Hara, the executive director of the nonprofit East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy and co-sponsor of the bill.

Oakland already has a similar policy in place, and while this bill would only cover people in unincorporated Alameda County, advocates hope cities like Hayward and Berkeley would follow suit.


San Francisco’s W Hotel Shuts Down (Wednesday, March 18, 6:05 p.m.)

San Francisco’s W Hotel shut down Wednesday morning, the first Bay Area Marriott hotel to close for lack of demand due to the coronavirus outbreak.

In a statement, Marriott International said it is trying to mitigate the impact to its business while assisting guests and staff.

Ted Waechter, a union representative for the hospitality workers union Unite Here, said that his union called on Marriott to provide health coverage for staff that have been temporarily laid off.

“There is this incredible amount of fear and anxiety right now among working people right now, who feel like they’re going to be abandoned, in the middle of the coronavirus outbreak,” he said. “We all really need to hold strong, and be the kind of community that we say we are, that we want to be.”

Union leaders say thousands of hotel workers have already lost their jobs across the region.


Governor Newsom Issues Executive Orders: Funds to Protect Homeless Californians, Suspends Standardized Testing for Students (Wednesday, March 18, 4:46 p.m.)

In two separate executive orders issued Wednesday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom took steps to help fund local governments as they scramble to address COVID-19 among the homeless population and to lessen the pressure on students who may feel they are falling behind in in school.

Among today’s funding actions, the governor directed the first allocation of $500 million secured in emergency funding from the legislature for COVID-19 response — specifically $100 million directly to local governments, for shelters and emergency housing and $50 million to purchase trailers and lease lodging to enable isolation for homeless individuals.

Regarding the education order, “This time is stressful enough for students, families and educators without the additional burden of annual testing,” Governor Newsom said in a statement.

The move, which still needs federal approval, is supported by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond: “Our districts need some relief and this decision is in the best interest of our students and our state.”


Napa County to Join Shelter-in-Place Order (Wednesday, March 18, 4:20 p.m.)

Napa County has become the latest in the Bay Area to instate a public health order to shelter-in-place, except for essential outings and businesses. The order will become effective at 12:01 a.m. Friday morning.

“Make no mistake; this is going to get worse before it gets better,” State Sen. Bill Dodd said at the Napa County press conference Wednesday. But, he added, this is a chance to flatten out the curve using social distancing as directed by the shelter-in-place order. Dodd reminded people that the state has waived the one-week wait time for unemployment assistance.

So far, the Napa County has no confirmed cases of community transmission. One person with an infection gained on a cruise ship was treated in the county. According to county public health officer Dr. Karen Relucio, about 40 virus tests administered to residents have come back negative, though a few results are still outstanding. As in other counties, testing requires an order from a doctor, and there is not enough capacity to test everyone who wants to be tested.

Napa's order parallels orders given over the past days across much of the rest of the Bay Area. Here's what you need to know about sheltering in place.

Napa's BottleRock music festival, originally scheduled for late May, has been postponed until sometime in October.


State Launches "One Stop Shop" Website For COVID-19
Information
(Wednesday, March 18, 3:44 p.m.)

Today California launched a new website (https://covid19.ca.gov/) for current COVID-19 information, tips to stay healthy and how to access services.

“The state is mobilizing at every level to proactively and aggressively protect the health and well-being of Californians, but we cannot fight this outbreak alone,” said Governor Gavin Newsom in a press release accompanying the launch of the website. “We need the participation and support of every Californian, and that’s why we’re providing recent, relevant and reliable information. Californians need to know how to stay healthy and where they can get help.”

The site also includes a “toolkit” with sharable material, including Public Service Announcement videos in English and Spanish and suggestions for how to volunteer, including helping deliver meals and donating blood.


Grocery Stores Now Offer Special Hours for Seniors (Wednesday, March 18, 2:43 p.m.)

Safeway and Whole Foods are offering special hours for seniors to shop without having to navigate young people crowding the food aisles.

Albertsons, which owns Safeway, is offering special hours between 7 a.m and 9 a.m. on Tuesday and Thursday for seniors, pregnant women and other people with compromised immune systems.

Whole Foods stores will open doors to seniors an hour before they do the public each day.


Trump Invokes Wartime Law That Could Give Government Authority Over Private Manufacturing (Wednesday, March 18, 1:11 p.m.)

From STAT:

President Trump on Wednesday said he would invoke the Defense Production Act, a law that gives the federal government sweeping power to ramp up manufacturing capacity during a national crisis, as a response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The law could allow the president to effectively force private companies to manufacture specific goods necessary to the government’s efforts to stem the pandemic. Already, health experts have expressed concerns about shortages of drugs and of personal protective equipment that medical workers rely on to deliver care.

The move follows calls from top lawmakers, including Sen. Chuck Schumer (N.Y.), the top Democrat in the Senate, to invoke the law to ramp up production of needed medical supplies. Full story here


Bay Area Parks Close or Scale Back Services (Wednesday, March 18, 11:57 a.m.)

Parks and recreation areas around the Bay Area are closing or limiting services. In San Francisco, Alcatraz Island is temporarily shut down along with visitor centers located in the Presidio, Fort Point, Marin Headlands and Lands End.

The Golden Gate Bridge welcome center is also closed. Muir Woods National Monument is shut down completely.

Yosemite services are scaled back; Death Valley and Joshua Tree have closed roads and visitor centers. Pt. Reyes National Seashore has shut down its center along with all of its campsites until April 7, at least.

Read more from the park service here. Look up individual federal park information here.


An Urgent Call for Blood Donors (Wednesday, March 18, 11:09 a.m.)

The Stanford Blood Center has issued an urgent call for blood donations. Health officials are warning of devastating shortages as blood drives are canceled amidst concerns about the rapidly spreading novel coronavirus.

Harpreet Sandhu, executive director of Stanford Blood Center, said in a statement that people cannot forget about hospital patients who are in critical need of blood donations.

“Even with a shelter-in-place in effect, individuals in our community — potentially even individuals we know personally — will continue to be in car accidents, need emergency organ transplants, give birth to babies in critical condition, and need chemotherapy," said Sandhu. "In short, there will still be lives that need saving.”

You can find more information about how and where to donate blood on the Stanford Blood Center’s website here.


Eateries Without Takeout Options Face Tenuous Future (Wednesday, March 18, 1:38 p.m.)

Restaurants in the Bay Area without to-go or delivery capacity are grappling with closures as the region locks down to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

"This industry just doesn't have a way to just sort of, you know, soldier through it," says Laurie Thomas, acting director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association. "We're not tech companies where we have retained earnings. We're in a world of hurt."

Thomas also owns two restaurants in the Cow Hollow neighborhood of San Francisco. She has closed both until early April and has had to take out a short-term loan from her family to pay workers their accrued sick and vacation pay.

San Francisco has deferred taxes and licensing fees for restaurants, but Thomas says more immediate cash loans are necessary to keep small businesses afloat.


Supermarkets Ramp Up for Big Crowds (Wednesday, March 18, 1:35 p.m.)

Bay Area grocery stores are ramping up hiring to accommodate large crowds that have come in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

While bars, clubs and restaurants have had to shut down to comply with government orders, grocery stores such as Safeway are busier than ever before.

Parent company Albertsons announced yesterday it has 2 thousand openings for store employees and delivery drivers in Northern California, Nevada and Hawaii.

Officials with the California Grocery Association say stores are slammed because people are panicking and over-buying, even though stores can stay open under the shelter-in-place rules. Many stores have had to limit their hours to allow employees more time to sanitize and restock shelves.

Retail giant Amazon is also hiring; it says it needs 100,000 new workers across the US to help deliver goods to vulnerable people.


Watch the Daily White House Briefing (Wednesday, March 18, 8:30 a.m. PDT)


Governor Puts California National Guard on Alert (Tuesday, March 17th: 8:15 p.m.)

Governor Newsom has put the California National Guard on alert to possibly aid in “humanitarian missions across the state” during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a statement released by his office.

The Guard has been instructed to prepare to distribute food, maintain supply lines and support public safety “as required.” It is routine for the California National Guard to mobilize in times of emergency, according to the release.

“As Californians make sacrifices over the coming weeks and stay home, we are immensely grateful for medical providers, first-responders and National Guard personnel who are assisting those who are most vulnerable to COVID-19,” said Governor Newsom in a statement.

In a post on its Facebook page, the National Guard emphasized that the Governor had not yet mobilized its forces.

“This is NOT a mobilization order,” the post read.” This is a notification to prepare for potential activation. Take time now to prepare your personal equipment, make plans with your family, and identify through your chain of command any issues that need to be resolved.”

Sonoma County Town Hall Has Shelter In Place Details (Tuesday, March 17, 8 p.m.)

Sonoma County health officials on Tuesday issued a “shelter-in-place” order for residents, joining six other Bay Area counties including San Francisco, Santa Clara, Alameda, San Mateo, Marin and Contra Costa.

The order, which takes effect midnight on Wednesday, March 18, resembles similar orders in the other Bay Area counties – it orders county residents to stay in their homes unless they work at “essential businesses” or are conducting “essential activities.”

Essential businesses include grocery and convenience stores, laundry facilities, gas stations and banks. Essential activities include caring for family members, obtaining food or going to a job at an essential business.

Unlike other counties, however, Sonoma will allow wineries and breweries to stay open “in order to preserve inventory,” but not to conduct retail business. The order is enforceable by law.

In a town hall broadcast Tuesday night, Dr. Sundari R. Mase, Interim Health Officer for the County of Sonoma, fielded criticism from county residents that Sonoma was “behind” other Bay Area counties. “We feel in Sonoma County that we have been very proactive in issuing this order,” she said, noting that Sonoma County had confirmed only six cases of COVID-19, relatively few compared with neighboring counties.

“We’re doing things in a very evidence-based way,” she added.

Newsom Says Schools Unlikely to Reopen Before Summer Break (Tuesday, March 17, 5:58 p.m.)

Speaking about the widespread closure of California schools in response to the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a press briefing this afternoon that many would probably not reopen any time soon. ““I don’t want to mislead you," said Newsom, "I would plan and assume that it’s unlikely that many of these schools — few if any — will open before the summer break."

He said nearly 99% of schools have shut down, shutting out about 6.1 million children.

Newsom signed emergency legislation Tuesday, allocating $1.1 billion dollars to fight COVID-19. Money from the $1.1 billion is intended to increase hospital capacity, clean schools and help those most at risk.

He said California is looking for ways to build out its hospital capacity. The state has 416 hospitals with roughly a capacity for 88-90,000 beds, including 74,000 licensed beds and a surge capacity of just over 10,000. Newsom said he has met with hospital leaders, and “We’re running every conceivable model” to assess what might be needed to increase those numbers.

More coronavirus testing is coming online with both public and private partners, Newsom said. The state has also asked for Medi-Cal and Medicare waivers from the federal government to allow for more telehealth appointments.

He warned that more counties should expect shelter-in-place orders.

A teacher reacts: (Tuesday, March 17th, 7:45 p.m.) Maya Brodkey teaches 11th and 12th graders at Fremont High School in Oakland. Here's what she thinks about the possibility that school might not open until before the summer break:

"I'm really worried about the interrupted learning. My school, we can't do online learning because 50% of students don't have internet access at home so what are we going to do to make up for lost instruction?

You know kids, it's cute the idea that you can give packets out to children as a short term measure, fine. But you can't do that for a semester, you know? My students are already under resourced and under privileged and this is just going to be such a further set back for them.

At my school in East Oakland that is 98% free and reduced lunch, 18% homeless students our school is a second home for so many of our students where they are able to get food and health care and legal services and support with things like finding housing or jobs or additional child care for younger siblings."


Mayor Breed Says Cannabis Dispensaries Will Stay Open, Speeds Hiring of Nurses (Tuesday, March 17th, 9:06 p.m.)

San Francisco Mayor London Breed on Tuesday clarified several provisions of the city’s “shelter-in-place” public health order, relaxed hiring rules for nurses and introduced additional measures to aid small businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.

Additionally, cannabis dispensaries will be able to operate under the order as “essential businesses” just as pharmacies are allowed to do, according to Breed.

"Medical cannabis has been permitted long before it was legal in California," said Dr. Susan Philip, with the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

"Since 2004, over 24,000 people in SF have been issued medical cannabis cards,” Philip said. “People rely on cannabis for chronic pain, seizure disorders, muscle spasms, depression and multiple other conditions.” Dispensaries will remain open for pickup and home delivery will be allowed. On-site consumption at dispensaries will not be allowed because of the social distancing directives.

Breed said that she will waive the provisions around the city’s hiring rules so hospitals can hire qualified, registered nurses “on the spot.” The city’s current hiring process for nurses can take up to six months due to “bureaucracy,” she noted.

Breed also announced a moratorium on commercial evictions, the creation of a “relief fund” to provide grant funding to small businesses, and committed to supporting nonprofits aiding vulnerable populations in the city.

The city will also stop issuing parking tickets related to street sweeping.

San Francisco Relaxes Parking Restrictions (Tuesday, March 17, 4:40 p.m.)

Ticketing for street clearning and other parking violations is being suspended through the end of the March, according to the San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency. Street cleaning tickets issued on March 17 will be waived but the agency is urging residents to move their cars for street cleaning if possible.

Enforcement for the following will also be suspended:

72-hour parking limit and towing
Residential Permit Parking (RPP) permits
Commuter shuttles
Peak-hour towaway zones

Enforcement of the following will continue:

Fire hydrant zones
Red and yellow zones; and "No Stopping" or "No Parking" zones
Parking meters
Blocked driveways and double parking
Parking in bike or transit lanes

The agency says its suspending new late penalties on citations and extending deadlines for submitting citation protests. It will no longer forward additional delinquent citations to the Department of Motor Vehicles or Special Collections.

These parking garages are closed to the public until further notice:

Golden Gateway
7th Street & Harrison
Lombard
16th & Hoff
Ellis-O'Farrell
Moscone Center
Polk-Bush
Kezar Lot
Mission-Bartlett
St. Mary’s Square
The Japan Center and Performing Arts garages will only be open to monthly pass holders.


State Legislators Vote to Recess March 20-April 13th, After Passing Emergency COVID-19 Funding Measures (Tuesday, March 17th, 9:22 p.m.)

Governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation Tuesday, enacting emergency legislation passed unanimously by California lawmakers Monday night. The move allocates about $1 billion in spending for measures including increasing hospital capacity and waiving rules to ensure that schools still receive funding, despite mass closures.

The Senate and Assembly also voted to recess until mid-April, though the recess can be extended or cut short. Legislative leaders stressed they would continue conducting state business even though they wouldn’t be at the State Capitol.


Napa County Bans Gatherings of 50 or More (Tuesday, March 17, 2:43 p.m.)

The Napa County Health & Human Services Agency announced Tuesday that starting at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday morning, the county is banning public and private gatherings of 50 or more people, except as necessary to perform essential government functions.

The order also requires hosts of smaller gatherings of 50 or less people to implement specific COVID-19 risk mitigation measures that include social distancing, hygiene and sanitation guidelines and warning attendees of the risk.

The county’s Health Officer urges adults 65 and older, as well as those with underlying health conditions, to avoid events of any size. Read the full order here.


Sonoma County Shelter-in-Place and Town Hall (Tuesday, March 17, 1:24 p.m.)

A spokesperson for the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors told KQED that a shelter-in-place order is in the final stages of development, and is expected to go into effect at midnight tonight.

The Press Democrat of Santa Rosa first reported the coming order that will restrict people to their homes.

From the Press Democrat:

A shelter-in-place order that would have residents largely stay in their homes and limit all but essential business operations across Sonoma County is imminent and slated to take effect as soon as midnight, top county officials confirmed Tuesday at a Board of Supervisors meeting.

Dr. Sundari Mase, the county’s interim public health officer, stopped short of issuing the order during the Board of Supervisors meeting, clarifying afterward that she planned to issue the order “as soon as possible.”

It’s not yet clear how long such an order would last, or what such an order would cover, as county leaders batted ideas back and forth Tuesday morning in an effort to ensure the measure reflects local concerns, including carve-outs for farm and dairy operations, as well as questions about parks, farmer’s markets and more. Read the full story here

Dr. Mase said she plans on providing more information at a 7 p.m. virtual town hall Tuesday night, the newspaper reported. The program will be broadcast live on KRCB radio at 91.1 and 90.9 FM, as well as KRCB Channel 22 and KPJK Channel 60 television. Live streaming will be available at NorCalPublicMedia.org, KRCB’s Facebook page and Northern California Public Media YouTube.


California Legislature Passes Emergency Funding for Hospital Capacity, Schools (Tuesday, Marh 17, 1:05 p.m.)

The California Legislature took emergency action Monday night to address the coronavirus, and then it voted to take a break. Lawmakers unanimously passed emergency legislation to help fund the battle against the coronoavirus, approving one bill allowing for up to $1 billion in spending for things like increasing hospital capacity. A second bill waives rules to ensure schools still receive funding despite students' absence due to closures. It includes $100 million to buy cleaning supplies and pay people to clean schools. The Senate and Assembly then voted to recess until mid-April, though the recess can be extended or cut short. Legislative leaders stressed they’d continue doing state business even though they wouldn’t be at the State Capitol. -Katie Orr


Biking and Hiking Under Shelter-in-Place Order (Tuesday, March 17, 12:40 p.m.)

From the San Francisco Chronicle's Heather Knight:


Nursing Home Lockdown Means Regulators, Patient Advocates Are Also Staying Away (Tuesday, March 17, 11:55 a.m.)

Family members and friends aren’t the only visitors banned at long-term care facilities in California: the threat of coronavirus to older and medically fragile patients is so severe that state regulators and patient advocates now have also ended their visits.

The California Department of Public Health, which regulates skilled nursing facilities, and the Department of Social Services, which oversees assisted living facilities, have put in-person inspections on hold. A spokesman for CDPH says that investigations of complaints and facility-reported incidents continue, “but surveyors have been advised to do so through virtual, audio, or electronic methods.”

California’s regulators are taking a slightly more cautious route than federal rules require. Those rules still include an exception permitting surveyors to enter nursing homes as long as their risk of transmitting coronavirus is low.

Separately, the publicly-funded advocate for patients is standing down as well. The long-term care ombudsman, with offices in each California county, is no longer visiting facilities in person under a directive from the state Department of Aging.

“It's just going to make things more difficult,” says Joseph Rodrigues, the state long-term care ombudsman. He oversees 35 local offices employing more than 1000 certified watchdogs. “We're going to become more reliant on others to get our jobs done and to make sure that residents are safe.”


Trump Says States Can Now Develop COVID-19 Tests; Wants You to Stay Home (Tuesday, March 14, 11 a.m.)

At a press briefing from the White House Tuesday, President Trump said that all states can now develop and implement their own tests for the COVID-19 virus, in addition to using FDA-approved tests. Trump said that within a short period of time he expects the capacity for private labs to conduct the testing to greatly increase as well.

Vice President Pence said that the U.S. Public Health Service and FEMA are working closely with state governments and private sector businesses like CVS, Walgreens and Walmart to expand remote testing sites around the county.

Pence also stressed that health experts have told him "you don't need the results of testing to know what you should do."

"If you feel sick, stay home," Pence advised. "If someone in your house tests positive, keep the entire household home. Especially if you are a person with an underlying health condition, we urge you to stay home and practice social distancing."

The federal government's new guidance, announced Monday, calls for people to work from home, postpone travel, and avoid gatherings of more than ten people for the next 15 days.

"If we do this right," said Trump, both the country and the world could "be rolling again pretty quickly."

"We have to fight that invisible enemy, I guess unknown,” he continued, “but we're getting to know it a lot better."

Free testing as well as paid sick leave and family medical leave for those affected by the virus, are among the benefits the President said would be taken up by the Senate Tuesday in new legislation. He also said the administration is committed to supporting small businesses and developing additional economic stimulus plans.

On Tuesday Trump also announced an expansion of telehealth services for Medicare patients. Trump said they can now visit doctors over the phone or video conference at no additional cost. During this time, HIPAA (federal privacy) penalties will not be enforced as it pertains to the telehealth expansion.

“We encourage everyone to maximize use of telehealth to limit exposure to the virus.” Trump said.

Also on Tuesday, US Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin announced that the federal government will defer IRS tax payments up to 300 billion dollars. Mnuchin said the government encourages people to file by April 15, if possible. Payments can be deferred-interest and penalty-free for 90 days. Payment of up to $1 million for individuals and small businesses and up to $10 million for corporations quality for deferment.


California Gives New Guidance to Food & Beverage Industry

Following Gov. Gavin Newsom’s directive over the weekend for bars, brew pubs and wineries to close, and for restaurants to reduce capacity, the state has issued more detailed guidelines for stopping the spread of the COVID-19 virus within the food industry.

The directive calls for restaurants to close for in-restaurant seated dining, remaining open only for drive-through or other pick-up or delivery options.

"These are aggressive, but necessary actions to protect our communities," Newsom said in a statement. “These establishments that are remaining open should think creatively about how they can continue to provide services to the community. Shifting operations to focus on pick up and delivery options should be prioritized."

New food industry guidelines:

- Restaurants and cafeterias should be closed for in-restaurant seated dining, open only to drive-through or other pick-up or delivery options.

- Grocery stores and charitable food distribution sites should remain fully open and operational. Social distancing of six feet per person for non-family members should be maintained and the number of customers at any given time should be limited in order to reduce crowding and lines to meet social distancing guidance.

- Certified farmers markets can remain open with social distancing measures in place, such as spacing booths and limiting the number of customers at any given time.

- Food trucks should increase the frequency of cleaning of menus, cash registers, receipt trays, condiment holders and other items frequently touched by patrons and employees. The number of people in lines should be limited as well.

- Food industry establishments should increase the frequency of cleaning and sanitizing per the Centers for Disease Control Environmental Cleaning and Disinfection guidance, remind employees of best hygiene practices, and eliminate events targeted to individuals that the Calif. Dept. of Public Health has identified as higher risk of serious illness for COVID-19.

See a full of California’s new food industry guidelines here.

There was also some clarification of the new rules for bars and wineries:

Retail Beverage Service Venues:
- Bars, wineries, breweries and pubs should be closed, except for venues that are currently authorized to sell beer and wine to be consumed off premises are allowed.
- This guidance is not intended to affect production of beer and wine.
- Bars, breweries, pubs, and wineries that include meals provided by a full kitchen should follow the restaurant guidance below if they provide delivery or pick-up options.


Shelter-in-Place Order Allows Uber and Lyft – With Some Caveats

San Francisco’s new “shelter-in-place” order allows residents to use most forms of transportation, including ridehailing services, BART and MUNI – but only for “essential travel,” according to the city’s website.

The order defines “essential travel” as traveling “to get food, care for a relative or friend, get necessary health care, or go to an essential job.”

When using ridehailing services like Uber or Lyft, wash your hands before and after rides and cover your mouth when you sneeze, the site advises. And when on public transit, maintain at least 6 feet of distance between yourself and others.


Governor's Order Backs Local Eviction Freezes

Governor Newsom issued an executive order Monday allowing local governments across California to temporarily suspend evictions for tenants and homeowners.

He also requested that financial institutions halt foreclosures for the time being.

Newsom’s order does not require local governments to freeze evictions, but he said in a press conference he would “strongly encourage” cities and counties to do so in order to protect renters who have lost their jobs or have extra health expenses. The order does not relieve tenants from having to pay rent.

Also on Monday, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office temporarily suspended evictions, according to the department’s official Twitter page.

Los Angeles, San Jose and San Francisco have already suspended evictions. Full story here


Bay Area Transit: What's Running, What's Not During Shelter-in-Place Orders

Most Bay Area transit agencies say they will continue to operate on more or less normal schedules. The major exceptions: San Francisco Bay Ferry and Golden Gate Transit, both of which announced major service cuts in the wake of the shelter-in-place announcement Monday.

The directive, covering Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, as well as the city of Berkeley, also allows taxis and ride-hailing services Lyft and Uber to continue operations during the three-week stay-at-home period.

Here's the full rundown of transit changes from KQED's Dan Brekke.


Following “Shelter-in-Place” Order, Businesses Need Support (Monday, March 16 9:52 p.m.)

After six Bay Area counties issued a shelter-in-place order on Monday meant to curb the spread of COVID-19, local government officials and business leaders praised the action — but also voiced concerns about its impact on the region’s economy — on a live special program on KQED.

Jim Wunderman, president and CEO of the Bay Area Council, said he and the business community were “pleased with the political leadership shown today” by Bay Area officials. But, he noted, many businesses would struggle to make it through weeks of shutdown, particularly smaller ones.

If this goes a couple of months down the road, loss of employees, loss of financial support — just the ability to create the business continuity to continue — bankruptcies, things like that, could have a really devastating impact on the longer-term economy. I know everyone’s worried about that. I think it’s incumbent upon government at every level to attend to that, and make sure that the businesses and their employees who are being impacted by this are being served to the greatest extent possible to minimize the blow and make sure we’re ready to rebound.

When asked how the government could effectively aid California businesses, Wunderman said large businesses can probably manage, but smaller ones might need direct financial assistance.

You really have to worry about the smaller businesses that are being completely shut down, total loss of revenue...many employees will go somewhere else. I think it’s really important to attend to those.

The Federal Reserve has programs to lend to financial institutions in times like this. There’s also a program that would enable them to lend directly to businesses, and this seems like something that we should pursue so that companies could get help immediately, to see through these times. Not necessarily have to lay people off [but] be able to fulfill sick pay, paid leave requirements and so forth.

Wunderman also said many business owners are confused about whether they are exempt from the order or not, suggesting officials set up a hotline businesses can call to see how the order will affect them, specifically.

Santa Clara County District Supervisor Joe Simitian said many workers see the directive as a “lost paycheck with severe and immediate financial consequences.”

One of the things we’re already taking calls on, and pulling together information about, is ‘How do you respond? What is available?’

For some folks, who have never confronted anything like this, because it is unprecedented, you literally have to say something as simple and basic as, ‘You know you’re entitled to apply for unemployment.’ And it takes a moment for someone who’s never been in the system before to say, ‘Oh yeah, of course.’

Amanda Fried, chief of policy and communications in the San Francisco Treasurer’s Office, was on sabbatical in Italy until last Friday and is currently quarantining in Los Angeles. Drawing on her experience in Italy, she urged San Franciscans to prioritize their health, even if it does mean severe financial consequences.

Two weeks ago, I was still pretty happy-go-lucky - Yeah, there’s this virus, there are these cases, we’re not worried, don’t worry about it. Things escalated so quickly...Just last week I was engaging with a lot of former colleagues in San Francisco, trying to implore them to stop just talking about the impact to local businesses but really start to think about this as life and death.

I’m so proud to be a San Franciscan right now, to see the Mayor’s courage in taking this action today,” she added. “I think people are shocked and stunned and scared, and that’s exactly where you need to be. I think if you’re not scared today, you’re really not paying attention.


Shelter In Place Allows People to Secure Basic Needs (Monday, March 16 4:38 p.m.)

In six Bay Area counties all residents are directed to stay home except for activities like getting services or supplies. People can also walk, take pets outside, and hike or run outdoors, provided they maintain at least six feet of distance from each other.

The counties are: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara. Here are the directives from each county plus the city of Berkeley, whose health department has separate jurisdiction:

All businesses other than those deemed essential must close. Take-out and delivery of food and coffee are permitted.

“The time now is not to panic; it’s for us to come together," said San Francisco mayor London Breed. It’s for us to follow the directives, to prevent the spread of the coronavirus so that we can get through this very challenging time. Ultimately we will.”

Watch Breed's complete press conference below:

“While the goal is to limit groups congregating together in a way that could further spread the virus, it is not complete social shutdown,” said Dr. Matt Willis, Marin County’s Public Health Officer in a statement Monday. “You can still complete your most essential outings or even engage in outdoor activity, so long as you avoid close contact."

Officials said Monday there is no need for people to buy food and other supplies in a panic, and that grocery stores would remain open.

Monday's order also restricts travel to that which is essential. Travel from outside the area back to a place of residence is permitted.

Violating the order will be a misdemeanor, said San Francisco Police Chief William Scott, but he stressed that this would be a last resort.

Local health officials said Monday that a regional response is now needed to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus in the Bay Area.

"We were seeing a tipping point here in Santa Clara County, with exponential growth of our cases," said Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara's public health officer. "Over the weekend, I had a discussion will fellow health officers in the Bay Area and we were looking at trends and realized very quickly that we are one region and that what's happening in Santa Clara County today, where we're the epicenter, will soon be happening in the adjacent jurisdictions."

"We decided collectively that we needed to take swift action as soon as possible to prevent the further spread and to protect our critical healthcare infrastructure."

Essential activities, as defined by the order:

-Obtaining medicine, seeing a doctor or other tasks essential for health and safety.
-Getting necessary services or supplies for your family or for household members, including those necessary to remain at home, including procuring pet food.
-Engaging in outdoor activity, such as walking, hiking or running if you stay at least six feet away from other people.
-Taking pets outside is okay, as long as the six foot rule is observed, if walking with other people.
-Performing work providing essential services.
-Caring for a family member in another household.
-Caring for elderly, minors, dependents, people who are disabled or are otherwise vulnerable.

Essential businesses:

-Health care operations (including home health workers), pharmacies, health care supply stores and facilities
-Essential infrastructure, including construction and public transportation and utilities
-Grocery stores, farmers markets, convenience stores, food banks
-Food cultivation, including farming, livestock and fishing
-Businesses that provide necessities for the economically disadvantaged and for shelters
-Newspapers, television, radio and other media services
-Gas stations and auto repair
-Banks
-Garbage collection
-Businesses providing mail and shipping services
-Hardware stores, plumbers, electricians and other essential service providers
-Educational institutions for purposes of distance learning
-Laundromats, dry cleaners, and laundry service providers
-Shippers or delivers of groceries, food and good related to residencies
-Childcare facilities

Read the full list of essential activities, businesses and travel in the order here.

San Francisco to Provide Additional Sick Pay for Workers (Monday, March 16, 9:56 a.m.)

San Francisco will provide funds to businesses for an additional five days of sick leave for their employees who miss work because of the coronavirus pandemic, Mayor London Breed announced Monday. The $10 million in funding could provide sick pay for as many as 25,000 workers in San Francisco, the city says. The city will contribute up to 40 hours per worker at the minimum wage of $15.59 per hour, but is asking employers to make up the difference between that amount and an employee's hourly wage.

To qualify, workers must use up all available sick leave first, as well as supplemental sick leave from the state or federal government. In addition, the press release from the mayor's office says, the program will kick in "only if ... the employer agrees to extend sick leave beyond current benefits."

All San Francisco businesses are eligible, with up to 20% of funds going to businesses with 50 or fewer employees.

The additional leave will cover not only illness, but self-quarantine to prevent spread of COVID-19; caring for a sick family member or child who is home due to school or daycare closures; and absence from work due to an employee shutting down because of public health guidelines.

The program, called "Workers and Families First," will be administered through the city's Office of Economic and Workforce Development and Human Service Agency.


Verily Launches COVID-19 Screening Website

Contrary to President Trump’s claim, Google is not building a nationwide coronavirus screening website. Verily — a separate division of Google’s parent company Alphabet that focuses on health care — however, has launched a new website to screen people for coronavirus testing. Project Baseline hosts a survey to assess whether a person should be tested for the COVID-19 virus. Those who meet the requirements are directed to mobile testing sites that Verily is helping to set up in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, together with public health authorities.

From Verily’s website:
“Verily's Project Baseline is working to deliver COVID-19 testing initially in select counties in the Bay Area to the highest risk populations as defined by the California Department of Public Health. If you are in the California Bay Area and interested in getting tested for COVID-19, complete an online screener based on guidelines from public health officials and see if testing is available for you through this program at this time.”

In order to be eligible, you need to be 18 or older, read and speak English, be located in a county that offers the testing, and willing to sign COVID-19 public health authorization form. You’re also ineligible if you have severe symptoms, including a severe cough, severe shortness of breath or severe fever or others requiring acute care.

Verily’s website says its goal is to expand the service beyond Silicon Valley to other parts of California. Separately, Google says it’s partnering with the federal government to develop a nationwide informational website.


Sonoma County News Over the Weekend (Monday, March 16, 8:27 a.m.)

From the Santa Rosa Press Democrat:


Grand Princess Cruise Ship to Depart Oakland Port (Sunday, March 15, 4:15 p.m.)

After spending almost a week docked at the Port of Oakland's Outer Harbor Terminal, the Grand Princess cruise ship is scheduled to cast off at 7 p.m. Sunday. The ship has approximately 330-340 crew members aboard, according to Governor Gavin Newsom.

The team remaining on board includes 75 medical crew members, according to Newsom. Six passengers are also staying aboard, awaiting repatriation to their home countries.

The ship, which originally held more than 3,500 people, became the site of an early outbreak of COVID-19 outside of China, becoming a “floating symbol of America’s fear of coronavirus,” according to the New York Times. By the time it reached Oakland, the ship had 21 confirmed cases of coronavirus. Those patients were quickly taken off the ship and isolated.

Now something of a ghost ship, the Grand Princess will anchor in the Bay for a 14-day quarantine before moving on.


Newsom Orders Seniors and Chronically Ill to Isolate, Directs Bars to Close (Sunday, March 15, 3:40 p.m.)

Gov. Newsom on Sunday issued three sweeping directives meant to curb the spread of COVID-19 in California.

In a press conference Sunday afternoon, Newsom called for all Californians over 65 and those with chronic conditions to stay in their homes; asked that all bars, nightclubs and other “nonessential” establishments close; and announced measures to address the state’s 103,000 homeless people.

Choosing his words carefully, Newsom said he was “calling for the home isolation of all seniors in the state of California,” not issuing an enforceable order.

Newsom noted the directive would have a major impact on peoples’ lives, but said the state was “doing so with our eyes wide open at the magnitude of what that means.” He said the state has deployed 13 separate task forces to develop support plans to provide needed meals and medicines.

"The most important thing, again, is to protect the most vulnerable — protect our seniors,” Newsom told reporters. "We are prioritizing their safety because of their unique vulnerabilities to this virus.”

The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in California stood at 335 on Sunday, a 14% increase in one day. Six cases have been fatal.

Newsom’s second directive calls for all bars, nightclubs, wineries and brew pubs and other “nonessential” establishments to close. Restaurants can remain open, he said, provided they can reduce their capacity by at least 50% to comply with appropriate social distancing measures. While this order wasn’t enforceable, Newsom said, he had “absolute expectation [it would] be socialized in real time.”

The third directive will involve setting up a “24/7 task force” to address the needs of California's unhoused population. Newsom said the state was working to enforce social distancing in shelters across the state, and remove unhoused residents from encampments and into living situations where they are less vulnerable.

Newsom also called for all hospitals in the state to limit their visitations to end-of-life visits.

He also announced the setting up of two testing portals in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties that will test those with milder symptoms.

Newsom said more than half of California's schools are already shut down, including 24 of the 25 largest districts, and that "detailed guidelines" for schools that remain open will be forthcoming on Monday.

Two UCSF Workers Test Positive for COVID-19 (Sunday, March 15, 1:05 p.m.)

Two health care workers at UCSF Health in San Francisco have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to an alert sent to the campus on Saturday.

UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood wrote that the university’s ongoing investigation into the cases gives him “reason to believe” the employees had contracted the cases outside of UCSF facilities.

He added that the two workers were now in self-quarantine and university officials had notified co-workers so they could monitor their symptoms or seek testing.

San Mateo Bans Gatherings of More than 50 (Sunday, March 15, 12:20 p.m.)

San Mateo County’s health officer has restricted gatherings of 50 or more people, thus tightening the county’s previous ban on gatherings of 250 or more.

The order, issued by county Health Officer Scott Morrow, also bans gatherings of fewer than 50 people unless hosts can ensure that proper hygiene and “social distancing” measures are followed, such as providing soap or hand sanitizer and by ensuring attendees can maintain six feet of distance.

The order went into effect at midnight on Sunday and will continue until midnight on April 7.

Sonoma County Confirms First Case of Community-Spread COVID-19 (Sunday, March 15, 12:05 p.m.)

Sonoma County officials have announced the county’s first case of coronavirus contracted through “community spread,” or a case without a known source of transmission.

The infected individual has been identified as an employee at the Rohnert Park Health Center. Another person associated with the individual has been tested for the virus, and is awaiting results. That person is currently in quarantine but not displaying symptoms.

Top Health Official: Coronavirus Testing Kit Availability Will Increase in "Days"(Sunday, March 15, 9:05 a.m.)

Testing kits for coronavirus could become far more available in a matter of days, according to a prominent federal health official.

In an interview on CBS’ Face the Nation Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, said that large-scale testing would likely “rev up…within several days to a week.”

Fauci acknowledged that some Americans displaying symptoms of coronavirus have not been able to get tested, an issue that has potentially led to under-reporting of the disease in the U.S. As of yesterday, only about 15,000 people nationwide had been tested for the virus in total. In contrast, South Korea is testing nearly 20,000 people a day. Testing in the U.S. slowed when the Centers for Disease Control’s original testing kits were found to be faulty. The Trump administration had previously declined testing assistance from the World Health Organization, though in a news conference on Friday, President Trump declined to accept responsibility for the sluggish U.S. testing program.

But now that numerous companies and “laboratory groups” are getting involved in developing tests, Fauci said testing would soon become “quite available.”

“Now that we have the private sector involved, we're going to see an entirely different scene than we've seen [in] the weeks previously,” he said.


UC Berkeley Student Tests Positive for the Coronavirus (Saturday, March 14, 7:18 p.m.)

UC Berkeley has confirmed that a graduate student has tested positive for the coronavirus, university officials said in a message to the campus community Saturday. "The individual is in good condition and has no serious symptoms," the officials wrote. They said the student does not live on campus or in Berkeley. The university says it's working with public health authorities to determine whether anyone at the school who has had contact with the student needs to be notified.

Also from the university:

We understand that this news is unsettling, but we want to assure you that your health and safety remain our number one priority. Facilities personnel will be alerted and will provide deep cleaning to any appropriate areas. ...

We understand that some members of our community

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