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Prosecutor: Bland’s Autopsy Revealed No Evidence of Homicide

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The Waller County jail cell where Sandra Bland was found dead is seen Wednesday, July 22, 2015, in Hempstead, Texas.  Bland was arrested and taken to the jail about 60 miles (100 kilometers) northwest of Houston on July 10 and found dead July 13. Officials say Bland hanged herself with a plastic garbage bag in her jail cell, a contention her family and supporters dispute. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

The Waller County jail cell where Sandra Bland was found dead is seen Wednesday, July 22, 2015, in Hempstead, Texas. Bland was arrested and taken to the jail about 60 miles (100 kilometers) northwest of Houston on July 10 and found dead July 13. Officials say Bland hanged herself with a plastic garbage bag in her jail cell, a contention her family and supporters dispute. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

MICHAEL GRACZYK, Associated Press
JASON KEYSER, Associated Press

HEMPSTEAD, Texas (AP) — The autopsy of a black woman who was found dead in a Texas jail revealed no injuries that would suggest she was killed by someone else, authorities said Thursday.

Waller County prosecutor Warren Diepraam said the autopsy showed that 28-year-old Sandra Bland had no defensive injuries on her hands that would typically indicate a struggle.

Some lacerations or abrasions were found on her wrists. Those were consistent with a struggle while being handcuffed. The marks around Bland’s neck were consistent with a suicide by hanging, Diepraam said.

Bland also had about 30 small cuts on her wrist that were probably self-inflicted within the last few weeks, he added.

She was arrested in a traffic stop three days before she was found in her cell on July 13. Her family and friends dispute the official finding that she killed herself using a noose fashioned from a plastic garbage bag.

Texas Rangers and the FBI are investigating.

Also Thursday, the woman’s sister confirmed that Bland had taken prescription medication for seizures in the past.

Booking documents filled out for Bland after her arrest indicate she told staff at the jail that she had epilepsy and was taking medication for it. The forms identify the drug as Keppra.

Other forms, however, say she was not taking medication.

Company information on Keppra, which is sold in regular and extended-release forms, says that “antiepileptic drugs, including Keppra and Keppra XR, may cause suicidal thoughts or actions in a very small number of people, about 1 in 500.”

Sharon Cooper told The Associated Press that her sister suffered from seizures about a decade ago but had not had any in recent years and was not on medication.

The medication was not the only inconsistency in the jail-intake papers. One questionnaire said Bland took pills in 2015 in an attempt to kill herself after losing a baby. A separate form filled out by another jail employee said the suicide attempt occurred in 2014.

Cooper said her sister had a miscarriage in May 2014, but got through it. Cooper also said she was not aware of any suicide attempt.

Asked if her sister could have been getting treatment without relatives knowing, Cooper said the family’s five sisters were “above board” with each other and, if anything, “overshared.”

“If it was happening, I would have known,” she said.

Preliminary results of an independent autopsy arranged by the family showed bruising to deep muscle tissue in Bland’s back, consistent with the officer having his knee there, Cooper said.

She would not say if there were other findings. Full results won’t be in for a couple of weeks.

A woman who occupied a jail cell next to Bland said the Chicago-area woman was emotional and wept often during her three days in jail.

Alexandria Pyle told Houston television station KTRK that Bland was “sort of distraught” that a friend had not come to bail her out of jail. She said Bland told her she “was not equipped” for incarceration and thought she was the victim of an injustice.

Pyle said she heard no signs of a struggle in the cell.

Preliminary results of the Texas autopsy also showed that Bland had marijuana in her system. The drug-test results are worth noting because they could be “relevant to her state of mind,” Diepraam said.

Authorities said any contradictions in the jail documents were the result of Bland’s inconsistent answers to jailers’ questions.

Bland’s death comes after nearly a year of heightened national scrutiny of police and their dealings with black suspects, especially those who have been killed by officers or die in police custody. It has resonated on social media, with posts questioning the official account and featuring the hashtags #JusticeForSandy and #WhatHappenedToSandyBland.

Bland’s family has said she was not despondent and was looking forward to starting a new job at her alma mater, Prairie View A&M University.

However, Bland posted a video to her Facebook page in March, saying she was suffering from “a little bit of depression as well as PTSD,” or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Cooper said that “everyone has peaks and valleys” and that the Facebook video might indicate her sister was just having a bad day or a bad few days.

A video of her arrest taken from the officer’s dashcam shows state trooper Brian Encinia drawing a stun gun and threatening Bland when she refuses to follow his orders.

The episode began when the trooper stopped Bland for failing to signal a lane change.

The conversation turned hostile after the officer asked Bland to put out her cigarette and she asked why she can’t smoke in her own car. The trooper then ordered Bland to get out of the vehicle. She refused, and he told her she was under arrest.

The roadside encounter swiftly escalated into a shouting confrontation, with the officer threatening to drag her out of the car. At one point, he warned Bland, “I will light you up.”

The trooper, who has been on the force for just over a year, has been placed on administrative leave for violating unspecified police procedures and the department’s courtesy policy.

___

Keyser reported from Chicago.

___

Dashcam video posted by Texas Department of Public Safety: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CaW09Ymr2BA.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Bay Area

Oakland Healthcare Unions Denounce CDC and California’s New Guidelines

While federal and California state guidelines now allow healthcare workers who test positive for COVID-19 to return to work without quarantining as long as they are asymptomatic until at least February 1, it’s unclear what this will mean for several Oakland healthcare facilities.

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Oakland Highland Hospital screening tent at the emergency entrance on July 5, 2021. Photo by Zack Haber.
Oakland Highland Hospital screening tent at the emergency entrance on July 5, 2021. Photo by Zack Haber.

By Zack Haber

Two unions representing healthcare professionals have denounced recent moves by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and The California Department of Public Health that have eased, or in some cases temporarily eliminated, quarantining guidelines for those who have tested positive for COVID-19 or been directly exposed to the virus.

“Part of why there’s this rise in transmission is that people aren’t quite well and they’re able to come out and mingle with the public,” said Zenei Triunfo-Cortez in an interview. Triunfo-Cortez has worked as a registered nurse for 42 years, and she’s the president of National Nurses United (NNU), a registered nurses’ union with over 175,000 members.

On December 22 of last year, as news that the CDC was considering shortening their COVID-19 quarantine duration guidelines from 10 days to five days was spreading, the NNU published an open letter to the director of the CDC, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, that urged her to maintain the 10-day quarantine period.

“Weakening COVID-19 guidance now, in the face of what could be the most devastating COVID-19 surge yet,” the letter reads, “will only result in further transmission, illness and death.”

On December 23, the CDC changed their guidelines for healthcare workers. To address staffing shortages, the new guidelines stated that medical facilities could have both vaccinated and unvaccinated healthcare workers who test positive for the virus return to their jobs immediately without quarantining in certain crisis situations as long as they were either asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic.

On December 27, the CDC changed their guidelines for the rest of the population, shortening the quarantining period from 10 to five days. The new guidelines stated that as long as a COVID-positive person has no symptoms or their symptoms are resolving and they don’t have a fever, they can end their quarantine on the sixth day.

“The change is motivated by science demonstrating that the majority of [COVID-19] transmission occurs early in the course of the illness,” reads a statement from the CDC about the reduced quarantine guideline, “generally in the 1-2 days prior to onset of symptoms and 2-3 days after.”

In their letter, the NNU pointed to the extremely contagious Omicron variant, and warned “Now is not the time to relax protections.” They mentioned pressure from businesses to maintain profits “without regard for science or the health of employees or the public” as the primary motivation for shortening the quarantine time. The letter included a link to a story about Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastian asking the CDC to consider such a change.

Data from Alameda County, and California show that after the Omicron variant of COVID-19 began to become widespread in mid-December, local and statewide cases surged. By late December, average daily case rates were higher than they ever had been before.

Hospitalizations also rose sharply. Then cases and hospitalizations continued to rise through early January and have continued to rise. At the time of publication, information on recent COVID-19 deaths is unclear as the county and the state are updating that data.

“It’s stressful because some of our co-workers might be coming into work sick,” said Sonya Allen-Smith in an interview on January 7 about working under the new guidelines. She’s been an X-ray technologist at a Kaiser Permanente facility in Oakland for 13 years and is a member of the SEIU UHW union for healthcare workers.

“We think about if we’re going to take it home to our families,” she said. “My husband’s immune system is compromised. If I bring it home to him, he definitely will not make it.”

The Oakland Post obtained a flow chart Kaiser e-mailed to their employees on January 7 that guided them through the quarantine process the company required them to enter into if they tested positive for COVID-19.

It showed Kaiser employees had to quarantine for five days and could return on the sixth day if they tested negative for the virus with an antigen test. Allen-Smith said she felt the quarantine period was too short.

“We’re not giving people enough time to heal or recover,” Allen-Smith said. “Weakening the guidelines is not going to stop the staff shortage. It may increase it because people will spread it.”

In an e-mail, Kaiser Permanente’s media team wrote that they’re “implementing CDC and CDHP guidance and isolation with considerations to vaccination status and staffing levels.” It also stated that “all employees coming back or continuing to work, wear the appropriate PPE and follow all infection prevention measures.”

On January 8, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) decided to temporarily adopt the guidance for healthcare workers the CDC had released on December 23 to address staffing shortages at healthcare facilities.

“From January 8, 2022 until February 1, 2022, healthcare professionals who test positive for [COVID-19] and are asymptomatic,” reads their statement announcing the new guidelines, ”may return to work immediately without isolation and without testing.”

The statement also said such returning employees would have to wear N95 masks while working and that these new guidelines could again change as information becomes available.

Both the NNU and the SEIU-UHW unions immediately denounced CDHP’s decision.

“For healthcare workers on the frontline it is very disappointing to see the State of California bypass common sense safety measures,” said Gabe Montoya, an emergency room technician, in a statement SEIU-UHW released. “No patient wants to be cared for by someone who has COVID-19 or was just exposed to it.”

While federal and California state guidelines now allow healthcare workers who test positive for COVID-19 to return to work without quarantining as long as they are asymptomatic until at least February 1, it’s unclear what this will mean for several Oakland healthcare facilities.

When asked for a statement about their Bay Area healthcare facilities, Sutter Health’s media team wrote an email stating: “Consistent with CDC contingency tiered guidelines released in late December, and in response to critical staffing conditions, we have revised our process for how employees who work at patient care sites return after they have been sick with symptoms consistent with COVID-19. It’s important to note that symptomatic employees are not returning to work until their symptoms improve.”

When asked directly if asymptomatic COVID positive employees were currently returning to work, Sutter Health’s media team did not respond.

When asked about their current COVID-19 quarantine policies, Alameda Health System’s media and communications manager Eleanor Ajala wrote “Alameda Health System is reviewing guidance” and that they planned to attend a meeting with the state to discuss the issue.

On January 11, Allen-Smith said she hadn’t heard of any change to Kaiser Permanente’s quarantine policy, but that she knows three co-workers sick with COVID-19 who had just returned after five-day quarantines.

In an e-mail, Kaiser Permanente’s media team wrote that to address staffing shortages they were “employing traveling nurses, adjusting elective and non-urgent surgeries and procedures as needed, and offering our industry-leading telehealth capabilities in addition to in-person care.”

The media team did not directly answer when asked if Kaiser was allowing asymptomatic COVID positive employees to return to the job at Bay Area healthcare facilities.

Allen-Smith is unhappy about the guidelines changing and is unsure if Kaiser’s policy will further change in the near future due to CDHP’s recent announcement.

“A lot of us are confused and sad and just don’t feel safe in the workplace,” she said.

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Activism

Friendship Christian Center Provides Tests, Vaccines to Thousands

FCCC has served thousands with lines forming an hour-and-a-half before opening to get tested and vaccinated with one of the three vaccines, boosters, and vaccines for children. Agee said it has been going at this pace for over a month, with the new Omicron variant surging.

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A lone forms outside the Friendship Christian Center on a recent, rainy cold day in Oakland. Photo courtesy of FCCC.
A lone forms outside the Friendship Christian Center on a recent, rainy cold day in Oakland. Photo courtesy of FCCC.

Friendship Christian Center Church (FCCC), pastored by Dr. Gerald Agee, is located at 1904 Adeline St. and is one of the dozens of Black churches across the state of California, who, in conjunction with the California Health Agencies and California Black Media, has stood on the front line, with the Black Press for over a year providing COVID-19 testing and vaccinations to minority communities.

FCCC has served thousands with lines forming an hour-and-a-half before opening to get tested and vaccinated with one of the three vaccines, boosters, and vaccines for children. Agee said it has been going at this pace for over a month, with the new Omicron variant surging.

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Commentary

Gov. Newsom Proposes $2.7 Billion for COVID Response; Activates National Guard

“From Day One, California has taken swift and direct action to battle COVID-19 with policies that have saved tens of thousands of lives, but there’s more work to be done,” Governor Newsom said. “Our proposed COVID-19 Emergency Response Package will support our testing capacity, accelerate vaccination and booster efforts, support frontline workers and health care systems and battle misinformation, with a focus on the hardest-hit communities,” the governor added.

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California state Capitol. File photo.
California state Capitol. File photo.

By Aldon Thomas Stiles | California Black Media

On January 8, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced he is proposing a $2.7 billion investment to boost the state’s COVID-19 response efforts.

The request is included in the state budget Gov. Newsom is sending to the State Legislature this week. He is asking lawmakers to take action on it immediately.

The emergency response package includes money for more testing, more vaccinations, including boosters, and support for health care professionals.

“From Day One, California has taken swift and direct action to battle COVID-19 with policies that have saved tens of thousands of lives, but there’s more work to be done,” Newsom said.

“Our proposed COVID-19 Emergency Response Package will support our testing capacity, accelerate vaccination and booster efforts, support frontline workers and health care systems and battle misinformation, with a focus on the hardest-hit communities,” the governor added.

Michelle Gibbons, executive director of the County Health Executives Association of California, said the new influx of cash comes at a “pivotal time” when the state and country are confronting a new surge in Omicron variant cases.

Currently, California has a positivity rate of 21.7%, according to the California Department of Public Health. Omicron variant infections account for 80% of those cases. And over the last seven days, there has been an average of 124.5 cases per 100,000 people.

“We commend the governor for taking these decisive actions to help protect the health and well-being of local communities through the expansion of vaccines, testing, and booster shots and efforts to combat misinformation that has caused unnecessary deaths and illness,” Gibbons said. “These actions will ultimately help save lives, which remains a top priority for local public health.

Last weekend, Gov. Newsom also deployed 200 California National Guardsman at testing sites to assist with the state’s response.

“California is deploying the National Guard to testing sites to help expand capacity. If you’re feeling sick, don’t hesitate to get tested,” Newsom tweeted.

On Jan. 3, the FDA approved booster eligibility for children ages 12 to 15.

Newsom expressed support for this expansion on Twitter.

“Great news — more protection for more people. Boosters are our best defense against Omicron. If you’re eligible, get yours today,” Newsom tweeted.

As people experience COVID-19 home test kit shortages across California, the state has announced plans to remedy the situation.

“California is expanding access to testing for students by providing 1–2 rapid tests for each K–12 public school student to keep our schools safe and open,” tweeted Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, surgeon general of California.

Harris emphasized that, “Testing is a critical part of California’s pandemic response and a key reason our cumulative COVID-19 death rate is the lowest of the large states.”

Newsom’s office said the tests are already on their way.

“More tests are en route for California’s students! These at-home test kits arrived last night at our warehouse and will immediately be sent to counties for distribution through county offices of education,” Newsom’s office tweeted.

The California County Superintendents Educational Services Association (CCSESA) responded to this claim with anticipation.

“Great news! Our county offices are ready to have the torch passed so we can get these important test kits out to our students,” the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association (CCSESA) tweeted. “We pledged to help keep schools open and having these kits distributed quickly is another way our county office teams are stepping up to make this happen.”

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Prosecutor: Bland’s Autopsy Revealed No Evidence of Homicide

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The Waller County jail cell where Sandra Bland was found dead is seen Wednesday, July 22, 2015, in Hempstead, Texas.  Bland was arrested and taken to the jail about 60 miles (100 kilometers) northwest of Houston on July 10 and found dead July 13. Officials say Bland hanged herself with a plastic garbage bag in her jail cell, a contention her family and supporters dispute. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

The Waller County jail cell where Sandra Bland was found dead is seen Wednesday, July 22, 2015, in Hempstead, Texas. Bland was arrested and taken to the jail about 60 miles (100 kilometers) northwest of Houston on July 10 and found dead July 13. Officials say Bland hanged herself with a plastic garbage bag in her jail cell, a contention her family and supporters dispute. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

MICHAEL GRACZYK, Associated Press
JASON KEYSER, Associated Press

HEMPSTEAD, Texas (AP) — The autopsy of a black woman who was found dead in a Texas jail revealed no injuries that would suggest she was killed by someone else, authorities said Thursday.

Waller County prosecutor Warren Diepraam said the autopsy showed that 28-year-old Sandra Bland had no defensive injuries on her hands that would typically indicate a struggle.

Some lacerations or abrasions were found on her wrists. Those were consistent with a struggle while being handcuffed. The marks around Bland’s neck were consistent with a suicide by hanging, Diepraam said.

Bland also had about 30 small cuts on her wrist that were probably self-inflicted within the last few weeks, he added.

She was arrested in a traffic stop three days before she was found in her cell on July 13. Her family and friends dispute the official finding that she killed herself using a noose fashioned from a plastic garbage bag.

Texas Rangers and the FBI are investigating.

Also Thursday, the woman’s sister confirmed that Bland had taken prescription medication for seizures in the past.

Booking documents filled out for Bland after her arrest indicate she told staff at the jail that she had epilepsy and was taking medication for it. The forms identify the drug as Keppra.

Other forms, however, say she was not taking medication.

Company information on Keppra, which is sold in regular and extended-release forms, says that “antiepileptic drugs, including Keppra and Keppra XR, may cause suicidal thoughts or actions in a very small number of people, about 1 in 500.”

Sharon Cooper told The Associated Press that her sister suffered from seizures about a decade ago but had not had any in recent years and was not on medication.

The medication was not the only inconsistency in the jail-intake papers. One questionnaire said Bland took pills in 2015 in an attempt to kill herself after losing a baby. A separate form filled out by another jail employee said the suicide attempt occurred in 2014.

Cooper said her sister had a miscarriage in May 2014, but got through it. Cooper also said she was not aware of any suicide attempt.

Asked if her sister could have been getting treatment without relatives knowing, Cooper said the family’s five sisters were “above board” with each other and, if anything, “overshared.”

“If it was happening, I would have known,” she said.

Preliminary results of an independent autopsy arranged by the family showed bruising to deep muscle tissue in Bland’s back, consistent with the officer having his knee there, Cooper said.

She would not say if there were other findings. Full results won’t be in for a couple of weeks.

A woman who occupied a jail cell next to Bland said the Chicago-area woman was emotional and wept often during her three days in jail.

Alexandria Pyle told Houston television station KTRK that Bland was “sort of distraught” that a friend had not come to bail her out of jail. She said Bland told her she “was not equipped” for incarceration and thought she was the victim of an injustice.

Pyle said she heard no signs of a struggle in the cell.

Preliminary results of the Texas autopsy also showed that Bland had marijuana in her system. The drug-test results are worth noting because they could be “relevant to her state of mind,” Diepraam said.

Authorities said any contradictions in the jail documents were the result of Bland’s inconsistent answers to jailers’ questions.

Bland’s death comes after nearly a year of heightened national scrutiny of police and their dealings with black suspects, especially those who have been killed by officers or die in police custody. It has resonated on social media, with posts questioning the official account and featuring the hashtags #JusticeForSandy and #WhatHappenedToSandyBland.

Bland’s family has said she was not despondent and was looking forward to starting a new job at her alma mater, Prairie View A&M University.

However, Bland posted a video to her Facebook page in March, saying she was suffering from “a little bit of depression as well as PTSD,” or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Cooper said that “everyone has peaks and valleys” and that the Facebook video might indicate her sister was just having a bad day or a bad few days.

A video of her arrest taken from the officer’s dashcam shows state trooper Brian Encinia drawing a stun gun and threatening Bland when she refuses to follow his orders.

The episode began when the trooper stopped Bland for failing to signal a lane change.

The conversation turned hostile after the officer asked Bland to put out her cigarette and she asked why she can’t smoke in her own car. The trooper then ordered Bland to get out of the vehicle. She refused, and he told her she was under arrest.

The roadside encounter swiftly escalated into a shouting confrontation, with the officer threatening to drag her out of the car. At one point, he warned Bland, “I will light you up.”

The trooper, who has been on the force for just over a year, has been placed on administrative leave for violating unspecified police procedures and the department’s courtesy policy.

___

Keyser reported from Chicago.

___

Dashcam video posted by Texas Department of Public Safety: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CaW09Ymr2BA.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Bay Area

Oakland Healthcare Unions Denounce CDC and California’s New Guidelines

While federal and California state guidelines now allow healthcare workers who test positive for COVID-19 to return to work without quarantining as long as they are asymptomatic until at least February 1, it’s unclear what this will mean for several Oakland healthcare facilities.

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Oakland Highland Hospital screening tent at the emergency entrance on July 5, 2021. Photo by Zack Haber.
Oakland Highland Hospital screening tent at the emergency entrance on July 5, 2021. Photo by Zack Haber.

By Zack Haber

Two unions representing healthcare professionals have denounced recent moves by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and The California Department of Public Health that have eased, or in some cases temporarily eliminated, quarantining guidelines for those who have tested positive for COVID-19 or been directly exposed to the virus.

“Part of why there’s this rise in transmission is that people aren’t quite well and they’re able to come out and mingle with the public,” said Zenei Triunfo-Cortez in an interview. Triunfo-Cortez has worked as a registered nurse for 42 years, and she’s the president of National Nurses United (NNU), a registered nurses’ union with over 175,000 members.

On December 22 of last year, as news that the CDC was considering shortening their COVID-19 quarantine duration guidelines from 10 days to five days was spreading, the NNU published an open letter to the director of the CDC, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, that urged her to maintain the 10-day quarantine period.

“Weakening COVID-19 guidance now, in the face of what could be the most devastating COVID-19 surge yet,” the letter reads, “will only result in further transmission, illness and death.”

On December 23, the CDC changed their guidelines for healthcare workers. To address staffing shortages, the new guidelines stated that medical facilities could have both vaccinated and unvaccinated healthcare workers who test positive for the virus return to their jobs immediately without quarantining in certain crisis situations as long as they were either asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic.

On December 27, the CDC changed their guidelines for the rest of the population, shortening the quarantining period from 10 to five days. The new guidelines stated that as long as a COVID-positive person has no symptoms or their symptoms are resolving and they don’t have a fever, they can end their quarantine on the sixth day.

“The change is motivated by science demonstrating that the majority of [COVID-19] transmission occurs early in the course of the illness,” reads a statement from the CDC about the reduced quarantine guideline, “generally in the 1-2 days prior to onset of symptoms and 2-3 days after.”

In their letter, the NNU pointed to the extremely contagious Omicron variant, and warned “Now is not the time to relax protections.” They mentioned pressure from businesses to maintain profits “without regard for science or the health of employees or the public” as the primary motivation for shortening the quarantine time. The letter included a link to a story about Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastian asking the CDC to consider such a change.

Data from Alameda County, and California show that after the Omicron variant of COVID-19 began to become widespread in mid-December, local and statewide cases surged. By late December, average daily case rates were higher than they ever had been before.

Hospitalizations also rose sharply. Then cases and hospitalizations continued to rise through early January and have continued to rise. At the time of publication, information on recent COVID-19 deaths is unclear as the county and the state are updating that data.

“It’s stressful because some of our co-workers might be coming into work sick,” said Sonya Allen-Smith in an interview on January 7 about working under the new guidelines. She’s been an X-ray technologist at a Kaiser Permanente facility in Oakland for 13 years and is a member of the SEIU UHW union for healthcare workers.

“We think about if we’re going to take it home to our families,” she said. “My husband’s immune system is compromised. If I bring it home to him, he definitely will not make it.”

The Oakland Post obtained a flow chart Kaiser e-mailed to their employees on January 7 that guided them through the quarantine process the company required them to enter into if they tested positive for COVID-19.

It showed Kaiser employees had to quarantine for five days and could return on the sixth day if they tested negative for the virus with an antigen test. Allen-Smith said she felt the quarantine period was too short.

“We’re not giving people enough time to heal or recover,” Allen-Smith said. “Weakening the guidelines is not going to stop the staff shortage. It may increase it because people will spread it.”

In an e-mail, Kaiser Permanente’s media team wrote that they’re “implementing CDC and CDHP guidance and isolation with considerations to vaccination status and staffing levels.” It also stated that “all employees coming back or continuing to work, wear the appropriate PPE and follow all infection prevention measures.”

On January 8, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) decided to temporarily adopt the guidance for healthcare workers the CDC had released on December 23 to address staffing shortages at healthcare facilities.

“From January 8, 2022 until February 1, 2022, healthcare professionals who test positive for [COVID-19] and are asymptomatic,” reads their statement announcing the new guidelines, ”may return to work immediately without isolation and without testing.”

The statement also said such returning employees would have to wear N95 masks while working and that these new guidelines could again change as information becomes available.

Both the NNU and the SEIU-UHW unions immediately denounced CDHP’s decision.

“For healthcare workers on the frontline it is very disappointing to see the State of California bypass common sense safety measures,” said Gabe Montoya, an emergency room technician, in a statement SEIU-UHW released. “No patient wants to be cared for by someone who has COVID-19 or was just exposed to it.”

While federal and California state guidelines now allow healthcare workers who test positive for COVID-19 to return to work without quarantining as long as they are asymptomatic until at least February 1, it’s unclear what this will mean for several Oakland healthcare facilities.

When asked for a statement about their Bay Area healthcare facilities, Sutter Health’s media team wrote an email stating: “Consistent with CDC contingency tiered guidelines released in late December, and in response to critical staffing conditions, we have revised our process for how employees who work at patient care sites return after they have been sick with symptoms consistent with COVID-19. It’s important to note that symptomatic employees are not returning to work until their symptoms improve.”

When asked directly if asymptomatic COVID positive employees were currently returning to work, Sutter Health’s media team did not respond.

When asked about their current COVID-19 quarantine policies, Alameda Health System’s media and communications manager Eleanor Ajala wrote “Alameda Health System is reviewing guidance” and that they planned to attend a meeting with the state to discuss the issue.

On January 11, Allen-Smith said she hadn’t heard of any change to Kaiser Permanente’s quarantine policy, but that she knows three co-workers sick with COVID-19 who had just returned after five-day quarantines.

In an e-mail, Kaiser Permanente’s media team wrote that to address staffing shortages they were “employing traveling nurses, adjusting elective and non-urgent surgeries and procedures as needed, and offering our industry-leading telehealth capabilities in addition to in-person care.”

The media team did not directly answer when asked if Kaiser was allowing asymptomatic COVID positive employees to return to the job at Bay Area healthcare facilities.

Allen-Smith is unhappy about the guidelines changing and is unsure if Kaiser’s policy will further change in the near future due to CDHP’s recent announcement.

“A lot of us are confused and sad and just don’t feel safe in the workplace,” she said.

Continue Reading

Activism

Friendship Christian Center Provides Tests, Vaccines to Thousands

FCCC has served thousands with lines forming an hour-and-a-half before opening to get tested and vaccinated with one of the three vaccines, boosters, and vaccines for children. Agee said it has been going at this pace for over a month, with the new Omicron variant surging.

Published

on

A lone forms outside the Friendship Christian Center on a recent, rainy cold day in Oakland. Photo courtesy of FCCC.
A lone forms outside the Friendship Christian Center on a recent, rainy cold day in Oakland. Photo courtesy of FCCC.

Friendship Christian Center Church (FCCC), pastored by Dr. Gerald Agee, is located at 1904 Adeline St. and is one of the dozens of Black churches across the state of California, who, in conjunction with the California Health Agencies and California Black Media, has stood on the front line, with the Black Press for over a year providing COVID-19 testing and vaccinations to minority communities.

FCCC has served thousands with lines forming an hour-and-a-half before opening to get tested and vaccinated with one of the three vaccines, boosters, and vaccines for children. Agee said it has been going at this pace for over a month, with the new Omicron variant surging.

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Gov. Newsom Proposes $2.7 Billion for COVID Response; Activates National Guard

“From Day One, California has taken swift and direct action to battle COVID-19 with policies that have saved tens of thousands of lives, but there’s more work to be done,” Governor Newsom said. “Our proposed COVID-19 Emergency Response Package will support our testing capacity, accelerate vaccination and booster efforts, support frontline workers and health care systems and battle misinformation, with a focus on the hardest-hit communities,” the governor added.

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California state Capitol. File photo.
California state Capitol. File photo.

By Aldon Thomas Stiles | California Black Media

On January 8, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced he is proposing a $2.7 billion investment to boost the state’s COVID-19 response efforts.

The request is included in the state budget Gov. Newsom is sending to the State Legislature this week. He is asking lawmakers to take action on it immediately.

The emergency response package includes money for more testing, more vaccinations, including boosters, and support for health care professionals.

“From Day One, California has taken swift and direct action to battle COVID-19 with policies that have saved tens of thousands of lives, but there’s more work to be done,” Newsom said.

“Our proposed COVID-19 Emergency Response Package will support our testing capacity, accelerate vaccination and booster efforts, support frontline workers and health care systems and battle misinformation, with a focus on the hardest-hit communities,” the governor added.

Michelle Gibbons, executive director of the County Health Executives Association of California, said the new influx of cash comes at a “pivotal time” when the state and country are confronting a new surge in Omicron variant cases.

Currently, California has a positivity rate of 21.7%, according to the California Department of Public Health. Omicron variant infections account for 80% of those cases. And over the last seven days, there has been an average of 124.5 cases per 100,000 people.

“We commend the governor for taking these decisive actions to help protect the health and well-being of local communities through the expansion of vaccines, testing, and booster shots and efforts to combat misinformation that has caused unnecessary deaths and illness,” Gibbons said. “These actions will ultimately help save lives, which remains a top priority for local public health.

Last weekend, Gov. Newsom also deployed 200 California National Guardsman at testing sites to assist with the state’s response.

“California is deploying the National Guard to testing sites to help expand capacity. If you’re feeling sick, don’t hesitate to get tested,” Newsom tweeted.

On Jan. 3, the FDA approved booster eligibility for children ages 12 to 15.

Newsom expressed support for this expansion on Twitter.

“Great news — more protection for more people. Boosters are our best defense against Omicron. If you’re eligible, get yours today,” Newsom tweeted.

As people experience COVID-19 home test kit shortages across California, the state has announced plans to remedy the situation.

“California is expanding access to testing for students by providing 1–2 rapid tests for each K–12 public school student to keep our schools safe and open,” tweeted Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, surgeon general of California.

Harris emphasized that, “Testing is a critical part of California’s pandemic response and a key reason our cumulative COVID-19 death rate is the lowest of the large states.”

Newsom’s office said the tests are already on their way.

“More tests are en route for California’s students! These at-home test kits arrived last night at our warehouse and will immediately be sent to counties for distribution through county offices of education,” Newsom’s office tweeted.

The California County Superintendents Educational Services Association (CCSESA) responded to this claim with anticipation.

“Great news! Our county offices are ready to have the torch passed so we can get these important test kits out to our students,” the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association (CCSESA) tweeted. “We pledged to help keep schools open and having these kits distributed quickly is another way our county office teams are stepping up to make this happen.”

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