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Coronavirus

California Reaches Grim Milestone in COVID-19 Deaths as State Reopens

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As the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that total COVID-19 cases reached 9 million worldwide, California reported 5,019 new cases, the highest number of infections in the state in one day.

Texas also reported a record high of infections in a 24-hour period with 5,489 cases Tuesday.

California also surpassed the grim milestone of more than 5,000 deaths on June 14 and reached 5,580 March 19. Despite these numbers, California has entered the second phase of re-opening since Gov. Gavin Newsom issued the stay-at-home order March 19.

In this phase of the re-opening, retail stores, and restaurants, then churches and hair salons were allowed to reopen with restrictions.

On June 19, hotels, zoos, museums and movie theaters were among the businesses cleared to reopen.

Starting June 18, Californians must wear face coverings in common and public indoor spaces and outdoors when distancing is not possible.

Cloth face coverings or masks help reduce the spread of coronavirus, especially when combined with physical distancing and frequent hand-washing.

In the Bay Area, including Santa Cruz County, the number of coronavirus cases now tops 20,000.

Alameda County now reports more than 5,000 coronavirus cases, the first county in the Bay Area to exceed 5,000 cases. There have been 120 deaths.

On June 19, Alameda County allowed outdoor restaurant dining to resume. It is the last Bay Area county to take this step. Indoor and outdoor religious services, in-store shopping, outdoor museums, and outdoor fitness classes are also now allowed.

Hair salons and barbershops in Contra Costa County were allowed to reopen for business June 17.

Nail salons and other personal care services that do not involve the face can reopen in Contra Costa County July 1, along with dine-in restaurants, bars, gyms, museums, hotels, indoor religious services and more.

However, with 62 deaths reported  Contra Costa County is now on a watch list with the California Dept. of Public Health because of increasing coronavirus hospitalizations.

On June 29, hair salons, nail salons, tattoo shops, massage parlors, museums, zoos, outside swimming pools and outdoor bars can reopen in San Francisco. The original date to open these businesses was July 15. The earlier opening is contingent on San Francisco receiving state approval for a variance.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium announces it will reopen July 13.

Marin County now allows people to form social bubbles, defined as “a stable group of 12 people or less who have collectively agreed to limit their in-person social activities to only each other for at least three weeks.” There have been 946 cases reported there and 18 deaths.

Los Angeles continued to be the epicenter for new infections and deaths in the state. As of Tuesday, there were 78,227 confirmed cases and 3,027 deaths.

ABC News, KRON-4, COVID-19.ca.gov are the sources for this report.

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Community

Students, Community Organizations Ask Judge to Order Mental Health Services, Internet Access

Arguing that appropriating billions of dollars alone will not ensure action, community organizations and parents from Los Angeles and Oakland are asking an Alameda County Superior Court judge to order the state to immediately provide computers and internet access and address the mental health needs of children who have borne the brunt of the pandemic.

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Arguing that appropriating billions of dollars alone will not ensure action, community organizations and parents from Los Angeles and Oakland are asking an Alameda County Superior Court judge to order the state to immediately provide computers and internet access and address the mental health needs of children who have borne the brunt of the pandemic.

The May 3 request for immediate relief comes six months after the plaintiffs sued the State Board of Education, the California Department of Education and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond. Now, they are seeking a preliminary injunction to force the state to respond. Superior Court Judge Winifred Smith has set June 4 for a hearing.

“The state cannot just write big checks and then say, ‘We’re not paying attention to what happens here,’” said Mark Rosenbaum, a directing attorney with the pro bono law firm Public Counsel. Public Counsel and the law firm Morrison and Foerster filed the lawsuit on behalf of 15 children and two organizations: The Oakland Reach and the Community Coalition, which is based in Los Angeles. 

In their initial, 84-page filing, they claimed the state had shirked its responsibility to ensure that low-income Black and Latino children were receiving adequate distance learning, with computers and internet access the Legislature said all children were entitled to. Instead, they argued, children “lost precious months” of learning, falling further behind because of poor internet connections, malfunctioning computers and a lack of counseling and extra academic help.

“While the COVID-19 pandemic was unavoidable, these harms were not. Yet for most of this period, state officials constitutionally charged with ensuring that all of California’s children receive at least basic educational equality have remained on the sidelines,” the plaintiffs argued.

Angela J., of Oakland, whose three children are plaintiffs in the case, elaborated on the difficulties they encountered during a year under distance learning in a declaration filed with the latest plaintiffs’ motion. 

Although she is president of the PTA, her school has been uncommunicative and unresponsive to requests for technical help and lesson plans, she wrote. Her children are falling behind and “suffering emotionally,” she said. Her third-grade twins are supposed to be doing multiplication and division but are struggling with subtraction. “They are supposed to be able to write essays, but they can barely write two sentences.”

The Oakland Reach and the Community Coalition have stepped in with technical help and support for hundreds of families that district schools should have provided, the plaintiffs’ motion said. The Community Coalition hired tutors and partnered with YMCA-Crenshaw to provide in-person learning pods with 100 laptops on site. The Oakland Reach hired 19 family liaisons, started a preschool literacy program and offered online enrichment programs for students.

Months passed, infection rates declined, schools made plans to reopen, and then in March, Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Legislature appropriated $6.6 billion in COVID-19 relief that school districts can put toward summer school, tutoring, mental health, teacher training and other academic supports. By June 1 — less than a month from now — districts and charter schools are required to complete a report, after consulting with parents and teachers, on how they plan to spend the money.

But the plaintiffs argue in their latest filing, “this funding comes with no oversight, assistance, or enforcement to ensure that the funds will be used properly to address the issues relating to digital devices, learning loss, and mental health support.” And there’s no requirement that districts begin this summer to address the harm that the most impacted students have felt, the statement said.“Schools are indeed ‘reopening’ to one degree or another, but absent a mandate that all students receive what they need to learn and to catch up, or any guidance from the State that would help them do so,” the filing said.

In a statement, California Department of Education spokesman Scott Roark acknowledged that the pandemic has disproportionately impacted those who “are vulnerable by historic and systemic inequities,” and cited the department’s work obtaining hundreds of thousands of computers, expanding internet access and providing guidance to educators on distance learning for highest-needs students.

“As we work to return children back to the classroom, we will maintain a laser focus on protecting the health and safety of our school communities while providing the supports needed to ensure learning continues and, where gaps persist, is improved,” the statement said.

In passing legislation accompanying the state budget last June, the Legislature laid out requirements for distance learning that school districts must meet to receive school funding. They included providing all students with access to a computer and the internet. 

Missing, however, was an enforcement requirement, like the monitoring that’s used to verify that students in low-income schools have textbooks, safe and clean facilities and qualified classroom teachers. That system was set up in 2004 through a settlement of Williams v. State of California, in which low-income families sued the state over its failure to assure safe and equitable conditions in schools.  

At the time, Rosenbaum was a lead attorney for the ACLU of Southern California, which brought the lawsuit with Public Advocates and other civil rights organizations.

Despite efforts by Thurmond and districts over the past year to get technology in place, Thurmond estimated in October that as many as 1 million students lacked devices or sufficient bandwidth to adequately participate in distance learning from home. Between federal and state funding, districts have plenty of money to buy computers, and the Legislature is considering several bills to fund internet access statewide (see here and here). 

They won’t solve the immediate challenge, but they could become relevant if there were to be a settlement in this case, as in the Williams lawsuit.

Among their requests, the plaintiffs are asking the court to order the state to:

  • Determine which students lack devices and connectivity and ensure that districts immediately provide them;
  • Ensure that all students and teachers have access to adequate mental health supports;
  • Provide weekly outreach to families of all low-income Black or Latino students to aid in transitioning back to in-person learning through August 2022;
  • Provide a statewide plan to ensure that districts put in place programs to remedy the learning loss caused by remote learning.

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Bay Area

Coming Out of the Darkness Into the Light

Through collaborations with volunteers, non-profit organizations, churches, the City of Oakland, and businesses we are determined to reach out and just serve the needs of those who desperately need help.

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 It has been quite a while since I have written columns for the Post News Group.  I am especially glad to be back and to write from a different location.
    This is my first column since I was released from San Quentin because of the COVID-19 epidemic that ravished and destroyed so many lives since March of 2020.
    Since my release from prison, I’ve come to understand more clearly how life has changed so drastically for so many, even before the detrimental impact of COVID.  I see first-hand how so many lives have literally been turned upside down, living on the streets and battling a new reality that sucks the life out of so many struggling to survive.
      By observing from afar the impact of homelessness, despair, hopelessness, and utter desperation, I see how the less fortunate are forced to deal with collective and prolonged adversity on an unheard-of scale.
    And, now coming out of prison, and seeking a new life in the midst of these trying times, I have chosen a personal mission to give back to those in need in the community.  I am doing this as my pledge to help correct the wrong that I participated in.  I want to make things right.
    I also hope to be of service to those I have ignored, disgraced, or harmed directly and indirectly.
    To begin to accomplish my mission I will be participating in an event that we have titled “Reparations for those Deserving.”  This project will initially focus on massive food distribution.  We hope to provide free food for as many as possible to those who show up at our distribution sites.
    With the help of the Oakland Post print and online editions (www.postnewsgroup.com), I will be announcing the dates, times, and locations of this massive food giveaway. project.  

    Through collaborations with volunteers, non-profit organizations, churches, the City of Oakland, and businesses we are determined to reach out and just serve the needs of those who desperately need help.  

    I am encouraged by the churches and many of the pastors in Oakland that have already stepped up to be a part of our “Just Serve those that are deserving” effort.
    What makes me proud as I now walk in freedom from prison is to see how many others who are part of the “formerly incarcerated” population who were previously written off as being worthless scourges, are now stepping up to the plate to redeem themselves from their past indiscretions by giving back to those in need.  

     Having served many years behind bars, and many more in solitary confinement, I know that these volunteers are sincere in stepping forward to do the right thing to rectify the wrongs they had previously done.
    I believe that a change from being negative to being positive can happen all at once or in spurts.  I am hopeful that by working together we can and will make a change, at once or in spurts.

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Bay Area

Newsom Announces New Round of Stimulus Checks, Budget Surplus of Nearly $76 Billion

If approved by the Legislature, the $600 payments announced Monday would go to income-eligible taxpayers who did not receive the first stimulus payment as well as additional $500 payments to families with dependents and families living in the state without legal permission.

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California residents who made up to $75,000 last year would be eligible for a $600 stimulus check under a budget proposal Gov. Gavin Newsom outlined Monday in Oakland.

     In a briefing at the Spanish Speaking Unity Council, Newsom said the state would spend some $12 billion on the payments, made possible by a projected general fund surplus of $75.7 billion. 

     Roughly $38 billion in total from that surplus would be used for pandemic relief programs like the stimulus checks, $5.2 billion to assist low-income renters pay off their back rent and $2 billion to help residents pay off unpaid utility bills. 

     “We think this is a significant, direct not only stimulus, but direct relief to millions and millions of Californians in need,” Newsom said.

     The state sent out initial $600 stimulus payments earlier this year as part of Newsom’s initial budget proposal in January.

     Those payments, which the Legislature approved in February, were targeted at residents who made less than $30,000 in 2020, received the California earned-income tax credit or filed their taxes with an Individual Tax Identification Number. 

     Just as with those initial payments, the $600 checks Newsom announced Monday would be dispersed to state residents regardless of their immigration status, as people living in the U.S. without legal permission were not eligible for the three federal stimulus payments issued over the last 15 months.

     If approved by the Legislature, the $600 payments announced Monday would go to income-eligible taxpayers who did not receive the first stimulus payment as well as additional $500 payments to families with dependents and families living in the state without legal permission.

     “I love saying Oakland, California, is the most unapologetic sanctuary city in America,” Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said at the briefing. “I also commend Gov. Gavin Newsom for recognizing that our immigrant workers will be taken care of by the state of California.”

     The funding to assist with unpaid rent and utilities, Newsom said, is part of an effort to pay off all back rent owed in the state as a result of the pandemic. 

    The governor noted that the results of studies on the amount of back rent owed in the state have varied between $2.5 billion and north of $5 billion, but the proposal sets aside $5.2 billion for back rent out of “an abundance of caution.”

      Newsom is expected to tease out other portions of his May budget proposal revision this week before unveiling the full proposal on Friday.

     Newsom and the state legislature will then have until June 15 to approve the budget before the new fiscal year begins on July 1. 

   

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