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The Nooner for Wednesday, April 22, 2020, presented by SYASL Partners
Greetings human. Happy Earth Day! It's nice to type using all ten fingers again. If you grew up a Prince fan, I hope you saw the special tribute last night on CBS. Several of us from high school were chatting about it on Facebook and, yes, I teared up during the penultimate performance, which was "Purple Rain" by Mavis Staples backed by the original Revolution. Fortunately, after those tears, the show closed with all the stars -- including Beck, Foo Fighters, and Sheila E. -- performing "Baby, I'm a Star."
Foo Fighters performed "Darling Nikki," which Variety reports was an obscene remake of "Norwegian Wood" by the Beatles and a troll of Tipper Gore's PMRC, something I had never heard. If you're my age...
"Let's Go Crazy: a Grammy Tribute to Prince" was recorded in January (fortunately) at the Los Angeles Convention Center and timed to air on the fourth anniversary of his death. Miss it? CBS has it online. Anyway, I had to start with something light given this sludge of news in which we find ourselves treading.
On to the serious (or you can watch the Prince tribute for the next couple of hours...don't blame me, I just gave you the link as a Nooner service.)
MOTHER EARTH: We won't know for some time the true etiology of COVID-19 for some time because, well, scientists have more important things to do, but it almost certainly came from human interaction with animals.
Scientists from Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla published in Nature Medicine that it most likely came from bats or pangolins and not a laboratory or by other human design. They have two theories. One, that it evolved to its current pathogenic state in a non-human host and then jumped to humans. Secondly, that it jumped to humans as non-pathogenic state and evolved to its current pathogenic state in its human host.
Anyway, we interact with animals and animals interact with us. With that comes consequences -- some wonderful and some deadly. Don't say kill all the bats which I have heard, as they devoir mosquitos that spread malaria.
That's oddly what I'm thinking about at 5am on Earth Day. At least we're being kind to her (and our lungs) this month by significantly reducing emissions, of course also at great human cost.
FIRST! The history of COVID-19 in America sure changed yesterday when Santa Clara County officials announced that tissue samples sent to the CDC of fatalities that occurred on February 6 and February 17 were conclusive that the individuals had COVID-19 when they died. The county's Medical Examiner-Coroner separately confirmed a individual that died on March 6 had COVID-19.
The previously "first death" with the virus was February 29 in the Seattle area. The region also had the first U.S. case.
The story is really not about who came first. The story is that the three Santa Clara County deaths were at home with no known recent travel. The Seattle-area cases, which were associated with the catastrophe at the Life Care Home in Kirkland, seemed to tie to a man who traveled to China and was reported on January 22.
The first death in California had thought to have been a Placer County man on March 4. That man had traveled on the first Grand Princess trip to Mexico before the ill-fated trip destined to Hawaii that became the subject of international attention.
The new deaths in Santa Clara County at home and not associated with travel show that community spread in California began far before believed, almost certainly back to at least early January given incubation and time to decline.
What does it mean? Hell if I know. I'm just a Lay man. But, the story has certainly changed.
Demographics of the three deaths have not been reported. However, assuming the origin was indeed in Asia, Santa Clara County was not an unexpected hotbed given the close connection between Silicon Valley and Asia. Just how early the virus was here may never be known. Sanjay Gupta, M.D. said on CNN this morning that deaths earlier than the newly confirmed ones in Santa Clara County likely occurred but were mixed in with flu season.
The Santa Clara County public health officer told the Board of Supervisors yesterday that the county will be dealing with the virus for "months or years to come," reports Kerry Crowley for the MercNews.
THE SCHOOL/BIZ TIE: During this morning's informative briefing by NY governor Andrew Cuomo, he was asked about whether schools would be closed until the end of the school year. He answered with the difficult issue on everybody's mind, "When schools are closed, business is closed."
California has already announced that schools are closed until the rest of the school year and instead using distance learning or whatever phrase you want to use. For Sac City Unified, the end of the school year is June 12. For many of the kids, parents are expected to help with home instruction.
What happens if a business reopens before June 12 and an employee is not one who can telework? Unpaid leave? Accept a "layoff" to collect unemployment? There is the provision for child care under the CARES Act, but employees may have already exhausted it.
We have a huge practical and legal situation on our hands.
Obviously, we're not reopening May 1. When people have asked, I've said June 1, without thinking about this factor. Then there's the child care issue. I know LAUSD was establishing Family Resource Centers to feed kids and provide child care, but I know know if those continued in light of the social isolation mandates.
My head is exploding, but maybe it's just my crazy hair.
HOMELESS: For the AP, Christopher Weber reports that a new cluster of COVID-19 of cases has been discovered at a SoCal homeless shelter.
The cases at Union Rescue Mission in downtown Los Angeles were identified after 200 tests were administered, LA County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said. She said during the county’s midday briefing that 43 people had tested positive.
Only 16 of those who tested positive showed symptoms and the results of more tests are pending, officials said.
Ferrer said county officials hoped to increase testing over the next week at shelters and other institutional settings like nursing homes.
That is a reduction of 686 residents meaning that, not only area homeless facing the COVID-19 threat, but also a reduction in shelter beds.
lots more after the jump...y'all are cursing me having a computer again...
LEGISLATURE: As the State Senate and State Assembly ponder whether to return May 4 if the state's state at home orders almost certainly remain in place, they may look across The Pond to the UK. The House of Commons has met this week with a partial representation of 50 in the chamber observing social distancing and the rest participating via Zoom. If each member can be recorded, the California's Legislature likely could make this work and be in compliant with Article IV, Section 12's requirement to provide an audiovisual recording within 72 hours.
In the expected House vote on the second PPP on Thursday, sixty members will be on the floor at a time to allow social distancing, reports Politico. A similar process could be used in the Legislature, which while smaller than the 435 members of the House, also have smaller chambers.
Refer again to my photo from this morning.
But it was the appointment of Steyer that sparked concern among political insiders and corporate leaders, many of whom previously praised Newsom for his bipartisan approach in handling California's response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Some point to the departure of Newsom chief economic and business advisor Lenny Mendonca, which was announced April 10. It was announced that he was leaving to focus on family and business matters, but few people believed that. For years, Mendonca -- who owns Half Moon Bay Brewing Company -- has been at the center of it all, chairing California Forward, the Bay Area Council, serving on the board of the Public Policy Institute of California, and much more.
If he was leaving to truly address the stated issues, he would have announced it rather than a release from the Governor's Office on a Friday night.
One week after Mendonca's departure was announced, Governor Newsom used his coveted 12pm statewide televised spot to announce that Tom Steyer was heading up this new effort. Beyond "chief economic and business advisor" Mendonca was director of the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) and served on Newsom's Council of Economic Advisors.
Certainly, at the time he left, Lenny knew what was coming as it took the Governor's Office at least a week to line up four former governors and all the other members of the new task force. Basically, Mendonca's role was suddenly sidelined for who knows how long.
I don't know the complete philosophical differences between Mendonca and Steyer, although I would surmise there is a canyon. Mendonca is a Democrat who as a prolific donor mostly gives to Democrats but also gave to Arnold Schwarzenegger during the 2003 recall. He's known as a roll-up-the-sleeves guy who does his work quietly. Steyer has been on TV for years calling for impeachment and a very progressive agenda with ads focusing on himself, said he was not in the presidential before jumping in. We know how that worked out. Where is Steyer on policy now that he's no longer running for President and impeachment, well, was like getting to Wally World and finding it closed.
People asked me after the April 10 what the story was behind the well-connected Mendonca's departure. I think we now know.
Meanwhile, for CalMatters Dan Walters questions the ability of the 80-member task force to deliver.
The group’s unwieldy size is compounded by an inability to meet personally. Moreover, its something-for-everyone composition, its polarizing co-chairs, its brief time frame and, finally, the dim history of such exercises make some positive and lasting effect unlikely.
Newsom is fond of “big hairy audacious goals,” and perhaps the task force’s real job is to place a veneer of consensus on his declared goal of nudging the state’s economy roughly in the direction of the “green new deal” that the left wing of his Democratic Party espouses.
I'm sure not alone in feeling left out, many in the education sector aren't happy that the only representative is the president of the California Teachers Association.
YOU HAVE BEEN CHoPped! The various groups that organized Monday's "Operation Gridlock" are planning to return to the State Capitol on Friday. Only problem? The California Highway Patrol announced yesterday that it will no longer issue rally permits on State Capitol grounds.
People were asking me Monday why the CHP were not arresting or even citing folks, and I wrote yesterday about why citations likely weren't.
However, citations are being handed out with fines of $50-$1,000 in the Bay Area, reports Michael Cabanatuan for the SFChron. Citations can be challenged in court.
I don't know happens if the protestors return on Friday without a permit. They are likely fine if they stick with their original committed and take advantage of low gas prices to drive in circles and honk their horns and wave their flags and signs often unconnected with the message of "reopen now." Of course, from video of Monday's event, the Capitol's CHP bike cops can turn their cute mini blue and red lights and siren on and ticket vehicles violating traffic laws but I'm guessing they don't really care to deal with the unmasked menace. And don't let the officers on horseback near them. I don't think that it has been proven that horses can't get COVID-19 and we have yet to solve Santa Anita.
Police also generally don't want to arrest protestors. (I get it Black Lives Matter. There were definitely some bad decisions there in the mass arrest.) As we saw several times in and around the Capitol last year, arrest is often a strategy of the most ardent protestors. To my knowledge, there were only two arrests during the anti-vaccination protests last year. Obviously, Mama Menstrual Blood was taken into custody. The second was in a blockade of the entrance to the parking garage used by the governor, lieutenant governor, and legislators.
In that second arrest, a particular person was left as the "last woman standing," or, well, sitting. A woman resisting being arrested made for great teevee news. Environmentalists, anti-abortion activists, and others have used this strategy for years. There's a reason Jane Fonda has been arrested more than once in protests for the Green New Deal.
Covering the anti-vaxx protests last year, I saw several incidents that warranted arrest, even before orders of dispersal were given at multiple location and different times. Senate sergeants were assaulted several times. There was trespassing in non-public areas and several other infractions. I confirmed with multiple officers and sergeants (who are also sworn officers and are holding not only cuffs) that the order was from the top to give wide latitude. Also, arresting someone involves paperwork for both the arresting officer and a county booking officer. Then, if the DA files charges, it might mean a day in court in which charges are often dismissed.
Anyway, we'll see what happens Friday and if you hear anything about their plans, let me know.
WHO'S BEHIND THE RALLIES? In WaPo, Isaac Stanley-Becker and Tony Romm look at the powerful network behind the "spontaneous" rallies in state Capitols.
The Convention of States project launched in 2015 with a high-dollar donation from the family foundation of Robert Mercer, a billionaire hedge fund manager and Republican patron. It boasts past support from two members of the Trump administration — Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and Ben Carson, secretary of housing and urban development.
CENSUS: For Capitol Weekly, John Howard looks at how a delayed Census could affect California's citizen commission-led redistricting process.
Pushing back the census deadlines could have a profound political impact on California, ultimately forcing the state to draw scores of political districts for the 2022 elections within a tiny, two-week window.
ALL-IN: Citing the political and legal flexibility the COVID-19 crisis affords, Joe Mathews calls for significantly higher spending by the state including raising taxes, not via high-income earners but through a complete tax overhaul. Mathews also calls for getting rid of the rigid state budget formulas and clawback of retirement pensions and retiree health benefits.
So let’s do it all. Make the temporary COVID expansion of health care capacity and homeless housing permanent. Sweep away the regulations that limit housing construction and business growth. And increase school budgets by 50 percent, as multiple studies have suggested California should do, to close achievements gaps.
Even higher taxes and retirement clawbacks won’t be enough, of course. Californians will need more from the federal government. And we should get over our debt hang-ups and borrow big sums at today’s low rates. When those bills come due, California would be much stronger in economy and infrastructure and services, and thus better able to reckon with those debts.
I think I have that book on my shelf.
cakeday and classifieds after the jump...
CAKEDAY: Happy birthday to Assembly member Philip Chen, Joel Fox, and Maddie Munson!