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The Nooner for Friday, April 10, 2020, presented by SYASL Partners
Well, it's Friday, whatever that means. However, we can be more positive in California than we were last Friday under any of the models being used for COVID-19. Above is a video message for you. I'm working on resuming Nooner Conversations now that it looks like we will be hunkered down for awhile. I want to hear from you about which guests you'd like me to try to book and what topics you'd like me to cover. This can span from electeds to other policy leaders, either one-on-one or as a group. Topics can range from major policy issues now on the front burner in California to upcoming elections. As always, you can email me at email@example.com.
As I say in the video, I'm aware of serious security concerns with the Zoom platform through which hackers have illegally discovered and shared videos meant to be private. Since I won't be offering a tutorial on performing a Brazilian wax (true story) or conducting a therapy session (also true), it's not really a concern for a webcast that is shared with the public, as mine are. There have been no identified security issues with viewers of such videos.
Let's get to it...another crazy day with way too much to read and listen to, so I'll probably be back in your inbox this evening.
Meanwhile, The Rock is apparently having an online chat with Governor Newsom at 1:30pm.
ICU ADMISSIONS: During yesterday's presser, Governor Gavin Newsom expressed optimism on the flattening of the curve in California by citing the the decline in the number of new ICU admissions for the virus, reports the AP's Adam Beam.
California saw its first daily decrease in intensive care hospitalizations during the coronavirus outbreak, a key indicator of how many health care workers and medical supplies the state needs, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday.
The rate of all virus hospitalizations has slowed this week. Those in the ICU need the highest level of care, and so it was particularly encouraging that the number of patients in those rooms actually dropped 1.9% on Wednesday to 1,132.
VENTILATORS: Addressing the LA Times article yesterday quoting former Assembly member and now Riverside County supervisor Kevin Jeffries about concerns with the state lending 500 ventilators to other states, Governor Newsom said during yesterday's press conference that the state is ensuring that there are twice as many ventilators available per county as projected under the state's model.
VIRUS DEMOGRAPHICS: The state has now collected racial data on 54% of cases and 53% of deaths.
UNEMPLOYMENT: Brian Uhler and Chas Alamo at the nonpartisan Legislative Analysts's Office have a blog post looking at the unemployment numbers for California released yesterday. The bolded emphasis is mine.
California had 925,450 initial claims during this period [March 29-April 4]. Similar to last week, this is far above the record high prior to the COVID-19 outbreak of 115,462 in January 2010. Last week’s claims are slightly below the revised number for the week of March 22 to March 28 (1,058,325).
Over the last three weeks California has processed about 2.2 million unemployment claims. These claims represent about 12.5 percent of the state’s workforce. On this metric, California is in the middle of the pack among large states.
California now has around 2 million workers with active unemployment claims. This is more than double the peak of active claims during the Great Recession. That being said, a major factor that contributed to the severity of the Great Recession is that so many people were unemployed for such a long period of time. While the current number of unemployed workers exceeds the Great Recession, it remains to be seen how long these workers will remain without work.
And of course, we look at an important data point:
In a previous post, we pointed out that there is a relatively strong historical relationship between Google search interest in unemployment insurance during a week and the number of unemployment claims in that same week. Search interest spiked to unprecedented levels about three weeks ago and has remained elevated. As a result, we anticipate that claims will remain at very high levels for at least the next few weeks.
LEGISLATURE: Both the State Senate and Assembly are planning committee hearings focused on the state's COVID-19 response, particularly spending, next week, although details of which hearings, when, and the medium to be used are not yet available. The Legislature was original scheduled to resume on Monday but has been pushed back to May 4. Even that date is in flux.
These are informational hearings only and no action is expected although the beginning of the process of legislators getting a look at the very different state fiscal situation from when they left town on March 16.
However, like Governor Newsom's comments and the Assembly Budget letter from Monday, these hearings are key to subduing the expectations of legislators and interest groups alike. Additionally, a committee may start looking at the fiscal cliff of local school districts, although I haven't been able to confirm that.
In 60 days, the entire fiscal outlook for the state and local governments has changed completely. Revenues will drop precipitously although it is difficult to predict right now because of the delay in the personal income tax deadline and exactly how capitol gains taxes will play out. They could be way down or maintained to the extent primarily wealthy folks sold equities on the way down, realizing gains that are taxed and paid in quarterly payments. Of course, whether those come in this quarter or Q1 of FY2021 us unknown at this time.
Meanwhile, there are obviously an unexpected and signficant expenditures in response to the crisis. In short, revenues are down and expenses are up. I know I keep repeating myself on this, but I continue to hear people talking about rainbows and unicorns. Those are only found right now when people are removed from ventilators and discharged -- not on the governmental budget front.
Joe Mathews says it's time for the Legislature to get back to work by doing so remotely although doesn't mention the elephant in the room -- Proposition 2 and its provisions in Article IV, Section 7 of the California constitution. Only the voters can change that. Otherwise, it's like saying "We should be skiing in Tahoe on this beautiful day" when the ski resorts are closed.
I'd love to see the Legislature operate remotely with opportunities for public input, but we weren't ready and there are constitutional impediments.
L.A. SAMPLES: In the Los Angeles Times, Melanie Mason and Susan Rust report that Los Angeles County health officials are beginning a sampling of 1,000 randomly selected residents to test for COVID-19 antibodies to assess the share of the population who may be immune after recovering from the virus.
Health officials and researchers say the results of this effort, known as serological testing, could paint the most complete picture yet of the sweep of the pandemic in the nation’s most populous county.
“Is it 1% of our population? Is it 10% of our population? That’s the difference between 80,000 adults and 800,000 adults. We have no idea,” said Dr. Paul Simon, chief science officer of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
Results from serological testing are critical to determining when it is safe to begin to reopen gatherings in workplaces and public spaces.
Antibody testing has already begun in Santa Clara County, with researchers drawing more than 3,000 people’s blood over two days last week at three drive-up testing sites. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began last week testing the blood of people living in coronavirus hot spots. And Thursday, German health officials announced plans to run Europe’s first large-scale antibody testing program.
WHEN TO REOPEN: The SFChron's Peter Hartlaub looks at the experience of San Francisco in the 1918 Spanish Flu for guidance as to when it's safe to restore life to a semblance of normal.
The first great San Francisco pandemic came to a close with a citywide celebration, at noon on Nov. 21, 1918.
A whistle blew, church bells rang and citizens who had endured sickness, death and many hard days of sacrifice to battle the Spanish influenza tore off their mandatory masks and threw them into the streets.
“After four weeks of muzzled misery, San Francisco unmasked at noon yesterday and ventured to draw its breath,” The Chronicle reported the next day, describing the scene. “Despite the published prayers of the Health Department for conservation of gauze, the sidewalks and runnels were strewn with the relics of a torturous month.”
Except that wasn’t the end. The flu roared back in January, nearly doubling the death toll, and taking advantage of a city that had completely let down its guard. The Bay Area, up until then a national pandemic success story, became a cautionary tale.
This is what scares public health professionals to death while under pressure from business and political leaders that increases daily. The closer the public health experts are to the population and the more distant from politics, the more hesitant they are to reopen. Therefore, you may hear "very soon" from President Trump and discussions about through May from statewide leaders here while also cautions of no pro sports from the Santa Clara County chief executive.
THE MASKED: In the Bee, Tony Bizjak reports on the increasing requirements to wear masks, imposed by local government in some cases and private businesses in others.
In a sudden reversal, health officials around California are now telling people to wear masks in public – and in some cases mandating that usage – just a week after some expressed doubts about the value of masks in reducing the spread of the coronavirus.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced businesses and stores in his city can now refuse customers who are not wearing masks. In Riverside County, health officials went a step farther, declaring that everyone should wear facial coverings when in public.
In the Sacramento-area, Nugget Markets will require all customers to wear masks starting next week. Sacramento County health officials have begun wearing masks in public and are advising others do so, but have not taken the step of formalizing that request.
Meanwhile, more residents are reporting they have decided to wear masks when out of the house as an extra precaution, saying they believe it is the responsible thing to do.
It marks a dramatic change in policies and attitudes from early last week. What happened?
SHOPPING SPREE: A team at the LA Times report on the scramble among states to purchase critical and supplies from ventilators to masks.
When President Trump told governors last month that the federal government was “not a shipping clerk,” he left states and local governments to fend for themselves in a global market for protective gear in which sellers have all the power, and confusion and chaos dominate.
In interviews, state and local officials around the country depicted a market that even the most seasoned say has astonished them by its logistical challenges, lack of transparency, and potential for fraud.
Prices of surgical gowns, gloves and N95 masks have skyrocketed. The masks, which used to sell for between 50 cents and a dollar apiece, are now on offer for $5 or $6, officials said.
Government employees have been told that if they don’t pay 50% of the cost upfront, and the rest before the shipment has even arrived, they will lose deals to other bidders. Fearful of having orders seized by the federal government, desperate city and state officials have called members of Congress and other elected officials to ask them to sweet-talk U.S. customs officials.
HIGHER ED: PPIC's Jacob Jackson and Hans Johnson look at the educational costs to students of the necessary step of closing on-campus housing and what can and is being done to minimize the impact on student success.
While the disruption is temporary, the benefits of being on or near campus go beyond proximity to classes. Campus housing gives students better access to tutoring, counseling, health, and academic services. For these and other reasons, students who live in university housing have higher persistence and graduation rates.
The consequences of this large-scale early departure from campus are uncertain. As students move off campus, schools are working to find ways to provide essential student supports and potentially offer new ones, such as laptops and internet access, to limit the disruption in learning.
ISN'T THAT SPECIAL?: While there continues to be a tussle between elections officials in many states and President Trump over whether or not mail-in ballots invite fraud, Governor Newsom signed an executive order yesterday that provides that three local special elections in May and June will be conducted by mail. The elections are a recall election on May 19 in Santa Ana, a June 2 special election in Commerce, and a June 2 recall election in the El Rancho Unified School District in Pico Rivera. The target of the recall in Santa Ana is councilmember Cecilia Iglesias, and the city's police union is spending big to remove her. In March, the Register's Roxana Kopetman reported:
The election was set in motion by the Santa Ana Police Officers Association after Iglesias voted against giving Santa Ana police $25 million in pay raises, including retroactive pay. To date, the union has spent $301,000 in its effort to oust Iglesias, according to financial statements filed with the city.
Some political observers also noted that Iglesias’ vote in favor a controversial development project across the street from the Discovery Cube OC netted her new opponents. Iglesias acknowledged as much when she said her vote on that project might have resulted in more signatures on the recall petition: “It may have had an impact.”
On March 20, the governor signed an order requiring the May 12 special elections n CA25 (Santa Clarita-Palmdale) and SD28 (Temecula-Blythe). In all of these cases, local elections officials are required to provide the ability for voters to cast in-person ballots as available under law using physical distancing.
BALLOT UPDATE: With the deadline to count ballots extended to 4/24, there are 67,748 ballots remaining among eight counties.
cakeday and classifieds after the jump...
CAKEDAY: Happy birthday to Lindsay Hopkins Phelps and Assembly member Jim Wood!