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The Nooner for Wednesday, May 20, 2020, presented by SYASL Partners
¡Buenos dias mis amigos! It's another beautiful humpday outside. The best part of my day may have been going out to cut some kale and spinach for my omelette. I'm not joking. I took my sweet time, breathed the beautiful clean air and observed the blooming trees in the courtyard, and enjoyed a few minutes away from anything electronic. Like a lot more phone calls with family, there are some things that we can take the time to enjoy during this craziness.
I woke up around 4:30 but am making my best efforts to not get out of bed before 5. So, I looked what new podcasts were available on my phone. I saw that The Daily from the New York Times has an episode today titled "Why Is the Pandemic Killing So Many Black Americans?" and that it was 32 minutes long. Perfect to meet my stay-in-bed goal.
Great listen and of course much of it is applicable to Latinos as well. So whether it's on your afternoon walk in the park, doing chores, or lying in bed, I highly recommend it.
If you're feeling a bit blue today, I highly recommend checking out today's Google Doodle.
REOPENING: After Monday's announced changes in the criteria for counties that wish to move faster than the state in reopening, several larger counties are doing so.
- SacTown: Effective tomorrow, Sacramento County moves into advanced Stage 2 of reopening after the state accepted the county's attestation. Businesses allowed to reopen if implementing state guidelines include:
"Micro enterprise retail and storefronts" mean 10 payroll employees or less, not those on premises. The guidance documents for non-restaurants are available from Sacramento County are the California Department of Public Health.
Of course, existing essential retail like grocery and hardware stores remain open. Meanwhile, can somebody guide me to our local "Outdoor museums, art galleries and theaters."
"The County’s re-opening plan differs slightly from the State’s Resilience Roadmap. In Sacramento County:
As I wrote yesterday, don't expect your favorite restaurant to be open tomorrow. There are many preparatory steps that must be taken. Beyond staff training, the Sacramento County guidance provides:
So, that person you've been Zooming with the last couple of months? No can do on the restaurant thing for now, although enforcement of that is a little more difficult than table spacing or staff face coverings.
- LA County: A Times team reports that Los Angeles County, still dealing with sustained high numbers of new cases and fluctuating deaths, said yesterday that its latest goal is to more full reopen by July 4.
The mission is to safely reopen retail businesses, restaurants and malls. But getting there will be slow going.
“We have to do a lot of things right so we can actually get to that date,” L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said. “I think the reality is that we are going to really aim together to get there as quickly as possible, but we’re going to pay attention to the data and science.”
The goal was announced during a Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday, as business leaders lamented the toll the COVID-19 pandemic has placed on the economy, saddling business owners and employees with lost work and pay.
During a media briefing, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said pet grooming and training services, as well as car washes, would be allowed to open immediately.
Customers may drop off and pick up their pets outside the store, but like other retail, only employees will be allowed to enter the building, Garcetti said. Mobile pet grooming services must follow physical distancing protocols, he added.
The continued easing of restrictions does not mean life has returned to normal, county leaders cautioned. Parties and gatherings are still not permitted, and social distancing practices are still mandated.
Not everybody is happy with the timeline, and not necessarily because it is too long. Rather, someone in the restaurant business down there that often caters large July 4 parties wasn't crazy about that date being floated as it could result in a large number of orders that are subsequently canceled.
- Sandy Eggo: The San Diego Board of Supervisors yesterday approved the county's reopening plan and is awaiting state approval of its attestation. Meanwhile, restaurants and retail that would be allowed to reopen under the plan upon state approval are preparing to meet requirements, reports a team at SDUT.
With the Tuesday approval by San Diego County supervisors of a reopening plan for dine-in service and retail shopping, business owners say they are taking steps to resume operations, some as soon as this week, but not all are prepared to reopen quite so rapidly. Workers need to be rehired and trained under new sanitation protocols to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the interiors of stores and restaurants have to be redesigned to allow for adequate social distancing, menus need to be retooled and inventory purchased.
The three sit-down restaurants at Belmont Park in Mission Beach, though, are ready to restart as soon as the state of California OK’s San Diego’s request for the accelerated Stage 2 reopening the economy. The county submitted its request late Tuesday evening and expects a reply from Sacramento by early Wednesday. If all goes according to plan, restaurants and retail could fully open to indoor guests by lunchtime, county officials said.
The county’s speedier reopening plans have come as a bit of a shock to several San Diego retail shop owners, who thought the recent curbside pick-up stage would last until June.
SPORTS: During Monday's presser, Governor Newsom suggested that we could see sports without fans as early as the first weeks of June. I don't remember the exact quote and don't have time to watch it over again right now, but he suggested its an "economic issue." I have written (I think in this space) that an issue is that sports teams (professional and minor league) generally have lease payments due. Earlier this week, the Sacramento Kings furloughed one-third of its full-time staff. There hasn't been any word about the part-time folks who work in the arena for both the Kings and their concessionaires, but I'm guessing that commitment to continue to pay the employees as if the games occurred have sunsetted.
Well, now we have an even more tangible impact of the pro sports shutdown. A team reports in the Chron that there is now a dispute over rent between the Oakland A's and the Coliseum Authority after the A's didn't pay $1.2 million in rent on April 1. They report:
In a March 31 letter, A’s general counsel D’Lonra Ellis cited the stadium authority being “unable to make the Coliseum available for our use” in light of shelter-in-place orders and restrictions on large gatherings enacted by Alameda County and the state.
The A’s had also learned the Coliseum complex was being evaluated as a potential “surge site” for treating COVID-19 patients, the letter stated, and would defer the payment “until we have a better understanding of when the Coliseum will be available for our use.”
Coliseum Authority interim executive director Henry Gardner, though, said Tuesday the agency had “every expectation” the payment would be made on time and the sides are in talks.
“The A’s never said they didn’t have the money, they’ve never represented that,” Gardner said. “The A’s position is what’s stated in that letter, and we have been having discussions about that because it’s a lease agreement — we need it, we expect it.”
Gardner said the lease agreement includes penalties and interest for late payment which could be negotiated but that “no payment is not going to work.”
The Coliseum Authority is a joint powers agreement of the City of Oakland and the County of Alameda that owns both the Coliseum and the Arena. They have finance improvements, likely using bonds. The authority has just lost two of its biggest tenants -- the Oakland Raiders and the Golden State Warriors. I don't know the authority's financial situation or if it had departure clauses with the two now-relocated teams, but I'm guessing they are under stress.
And if the JPA is under stress, that stresses out the two sponsoring governmental entities who face huge financial problems of their own.
CASINOS: I wrote yesterday about the reopening of tribal casinos in the Southern California against the will of local non-tribal government officials and the state's reopening framework. I further wrote that there was no word on the reopening of Northern California casinos. Of course, by the afternoon, that had changed. In the Bee, Dale Kasler reports:
Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Wheatland said it will reopen 10 a.m. Thursday. And Red Hawk Casino in Placerville said it will open on Monday, June 1.
Both tribal casinos said they will take customers’ temperatures at the door, require them to wear face masks and implement other public health measures to combat COVID-19.
Mark Birtha, president of the Hard Rock venue, said the measures “meet and exceed the recommendations of the CDC and other health officials from Yuba-Sutter counties and the state of California.”
Nonetheless, the tribes are acting against the wishes of Newsom, who wrote to all gaming tribes last week and urged them to wait until California has moved into Stage 3 of his phased reopening of the economy. Stage 3, which includes movie theaters, religious services and other large gatherings, isn’t expected for a few more weeks.
Only one other casino in Northern California has announced a reopening date - Rolling Hills Casino in Tehama County, on Thursday. The other four tribal casinos in the Sacramento area haven’t announced when they plan to reopen.
An issue that's not being discussed is that the counties in which each of these counties have advanced further in reopening than those of a large portion of its clientele. They aren't marketing primarily to people in the local community, but often times all the way to the Bay Area, which has among the tightest restrictions. That said, they were not required to close in the first place.
more after the jump...
THE LEGISLATIVE QUANDARY & ASM COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE: Yesterday, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) said that he would convene the Assembly as a "Committee of the Whole" to discuss the 2020-21 State Budget next Tuesday, May 26. The use of Assembly Rule 115 hasn't been used since 1995 to address the Orange County bankruptcy. The rule provides:
115. The Assembly may resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole at any time by a majority vote of the Members present and voting. While sitting as that committee, persons other than Members may address the committee. The Speaker of the Assembly, or any Member named by the Speaker, shall preside as Chairperson of the Committee of the Whole.
A motion that the Committee of the Whole “do now rise and report back to the Assembly,” shall always be in order and shall be decided without debate. All actions of the Committee of the Whole shall be reported to the Assembly by the chairperson, but may not be entered in the Journal except upon motion and a majority vote of the Members present and voting.
No votes are planned or likely allowed because actions require "Members present and voting" to be entered into the Journal. The move appears to resolve the Assembly's different take on remote voting than that of the State Senate, which adopted remote voting in SR 86 before the Legislature recessed on March 16.
Remember that when the Legislature made the decision to recess on March 16, only the initial six Bay Area counties had a stay-at-home order (I forget exactly when Sonoma, Santa Cruz, and Monterey added on). Few were thinking that other counties, including Los Angeles, would add on leading up to a statewide order on March 19.
However, on March 15, Governor Newsom issued statewide guidance that those 65+ or with underlying health conditions self-isolate at home. As I've written previously, 14 members of the State Senate are a spry 65+ along with 13 members of the State Assembly. I don't know of any current member who has an underlying health condition, but few write about it like I do. I'm not running for office.
I don't think anyone thought that 65 days later we'd be talking about how to actually convene the full State Senate and State Assembly. But here we are.
Of course, as I've written before, the Legislature is not bound by state or county health orders. However, the optics of a gathering of eighty members along with essential staff in the Assembly Chamber and 40 in the Senate chamber when in Sacramento County churches aren't allowed to meet in-person and family gatherings including weddings and funerals are limited to 10 people looks pretty bad.
Beyond optics, practically, those at risk may not want to meet in person without appropriate social distancing. We still have hotspots around the state. Yesterday, there were 1,920 new cases and 122 deaths, according the the Chron's tracker. Of those, 62% of both new cases and deaths were from Los Angeles County, where was a significant increase from the previous two reports, likely due to the weekend decline in testing and reporting. And the deaths were not solely from skilled nursing facilities -- 21 of the 76 were among people under 65.
With the revised calendar released May 6, the only necessary floor vote in the next month is June 15, the budget deadline.
Under the state's Resiliency Roadmap, a convening of either full house of the Legislature is likely Stage 4. Stage 3, which Governor Newsom said on Monday might be available to some counties in early June, includes personal care (that's my hair cut), movies, churches, and sports without live audiences, physical distancing will still be required. Stage 4 provides "Re-open highest risk workplaces with all indicators satisfied once therapeutics have been developed." I don't think hydroxychloroquine counts.
In short, Stage 4 won't be even in relatively low-risk Sacramento County by June 15. I am certain that legislative leadership is talking about that right now and perhaps alternative locations (such as the Sheraton Grand) that can accommodate all members with social distancing are being considered. But, it is a logistical nightmare.
That said, the State Senate pulled off a relocation from the Senate Chamber to Room 4203 on that strange end-of-legislative-year "Bloody Night" September 13-14. The Senate's administrative staff were amazing and things worked out okay.
You might be able to get a burger and sit down inside in Sacramento and many other counties after Thursday and a haircut in early June, but that doesn't mean things will be back to normal any time soon.
ECONOMIC FORECAST: For CalMatters, Ben Christopher looks at the economic forecasts used to construct Governor Newsom's revised budget.
Forecasters across the state have run the numbers and found that — at least in the next three months — overall economic activity will decline and the joblessness rate will remain at an historic high. No Ph.D required to deduce why: Statewide shelter-in-place orders coupled with the reasonable fear of a deadly pathogen have slowed the regular churn of transactions that make up the world’s fifth-largest economy.
But among the state’s prognosticators, no one’s crystal ball has been darker than the governor’s.
Budgetary experts outside the administration offered a mix of explanations. Some said Newsom’s economic forecast simply reflects the uncertainty inherent in trying to predict the future during an unprecedented global crisis.
Others characterized the governor’s projections as “difficult to comprehend,” “preposterous” or an overly-pessimistic “poker bluff” intended to extract more support from the federal government.
more after the jump...
CHURCHES: The United States Department of Justice yesterday sent Governor Newsom an unLove Letter suggesting that the way California characterizes some businesses as essential while excluding churches and has different standards for reopening is unconstitutional. Jeremy B. White reports for Politico:
“This facially discriminates against religious exercise,” the letter says. “California has not shown why interactions in offices and studios of the entertainment industry, and in-person operations to facilitate nonessential ecommerce, are included on the list as being allowed with social distancing where telework is not practical, while gatherings with social distancing for purposes of religious worship are forbidden, regardless of whether remote worship is practical or not.”
Newsom’s framework for incrementally reopening California’s economy would allow religious services to resume after forms of commerce like manufacturing, which the federal government called an example of “unequal treatment of faith communities.” Newsom said this week that the state could greenlight in-person worship in the coming weeks as infection, testing and hospitalization numbers improve.
This was part of a multi-prong federal move on churches that seems more political than health-based. Yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control released updated guidelines for reopening that removed the discussion of the treatment of religious institutions in a draft posted that drew the ire of The White House.
With new cases tied to religious institutions in California such as in Butte and Mendocino counties this week, it's unlikely a federal judge would back off consistent treatment of broad public health authority under strict scrutiny on things such as First and Fourth Amendment grounds.
L.A. HOMELESS: In the LAT, Benjamin Oreskes and David Zahniser write that L.A. officials aren't so keen on the federal judge's order to relocate homeless living next to under freeways for health reasons, and it might not be why you think. They think that instead of landing in housing, they will be dispersed more broadly through the community, increasing the risk of further COVID-19 spread.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised state and local governments in April against clearing homeless encampments as doing so could “cause people to disperse throughout the community” — increasing the potential spread of the virus among people who are especially vulnerable to dying of COVID-19.
“There’s ethical issues. There’s health issues. And then there’s just logistical issues,” [Los Angeles mayor Eric] Garcetti told The Times. “I don’t know who could enforce this besides a law enforcement officer. I don’t think I want those images. That’s not good for us. That’s not good for the people who are traumatized on the streets.”
TRACERS: In the Bee, Tony Bizjak and Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks report on the state's scramble to recruit enough tracers to be trained to meet the need to find and inform those who have been exposed to confirmed COVID-19 patients.
State health officials have launched an unprecedented effort to train thousands of front-line, county-level workers to act as a firewall to stop the coronavirus from roaring back this fall.
Commonly known in the public health world as communicable-disease “contact tracers,” this ad hoc group will serve as community strike teams in each county, working on tight deadlines to stop individual infections from turning into major outbreaks.
STATE EMPLOYEES: The Bee's Wes Venteicher reviews the impact on state employees of the revised budget. One question I have received is how the governor's proposed 10% pay cut for state employees beginning July 1 will be achieved and whether it will be through furloughs. The answer is that it is still being bargained.
cakeday and classifieds after the jump...
CAKEDAY: Happy birthday to Hector Barajas and Cat Shieh!
CAKEDAYS GONE BY: I missed Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson's birthday yesterday. My apologies!