Facing a “tsunami of need,” as one food bank director said, Gov. Gavin Newsom called up the National Guard Friday to assist deliveries at the state’s food banks.
Grappling with the coronavirus pandemic crisis, the governor said the executive order will provide short-term food security to isolated and vulnerable Californians and the short deployment will help to stabilize the immediate need of food banks.
The governor’s office noted that many food banks have been affected by a significant decline in volunteerism, impacting logistical and local infrastructure for food distribution. The California Guard will initially deploy personnel and logistical equipment to a food bank distribution warehouse in Sacramento County and will conduct immediate site assessments statewide for those counties that have requested short-term support and stabilization.
This short-term assistance from the California National Guard allows time to mobilize AmeriCorps, California Conservation Corps and Local Conservation Corps members, and other volunteers where counties have identified serious gaps, the governor’s office said.
Leslie Bacho, the head of the Second Harvest of Silicon Valley, said Saturday that her food operation has had to “completely retool” its operation protocols to ensure they can safely deliver food.
“It’s a tsunami of need.”
A flood of local residents are in need of nutrition at the same time they are being kept at home under the state’s “stay- at-home” orders. Second Harvest has initiated a new program of pop-up food distribution sites.
Noting the importance of safety, Gunilla Bergensten of the SF-Marin Food Bank emphasized the precautions the group is taking to keep their customers and staff virus-free. Following federal health guidelines, the charity is seeking an increase in bag donations to enable pre-packaging of supplies to cut down on lines and food handling; distributing gloves to all staff; increasing disinfection and cleaning of all equipment; reducing volunteer shifts; maintaining social distancing and starting new pop-up sites.
Delivery to shut-in elderly residents “is critical” Bergensten said Saturday. She said the pandemic’s needs “are changing almost hourly.”
The SF-Marin Food Bank pop-ups will be held in San Francisco on Monday: Bayview Opera House; Tuesday: Cesar Chavez Elementary; Wednesday: James Denman Middle School and Rosa Parks Elementary; Thursday: Francisco Middle School, Mission High School and Bessie Carmichael; Friday: Lincoln High School and APA Visitation Valley.
Marin pop-ups will be held Monday: St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, Marin City; Wednesday: Bayside MLK, Sausalito; Thursday: Marin Community Clinic, Novato and San Geronimo Valley Community Center, San Geronimo.
The state’s food deployment strategy also launches the Neighbor-to-Neighbor campaign, which calls on neighbors to be first line of support for California’s most vulnerable residents who have been advised to stay at home during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Neighbor-to-Neighbor campaign is focused on older adults and promotes ways to safely check on your neighbors, family and friends, and will be run by California Volunteers, the state office tasked with engaging Californians in service, volunteering and civic action. The state is partnering with the social networking service Nextdoor to provide valuable information to California communities about the state’s response to the coronavirus crisis.
Bacho emphasized the need for the community to “step up” to help with food and fundraising. The combination of the flood of food needs and the limitations of staffing has squeezed all charity operations. She noted that Amazon had promised a fresh truck of food donations and Raley’s has stepped forward.
Bacho said that the 2008 recession crisis was “a slow build” but the pandemic has been “like falling off a dramatic cliff.”
Michael Altfest of the Alameda Food Bank also said that new distribution programs are among his biggest challenges. His group is also organizing pop-up food distribution and is looking forward to the help coming from the National Guard. “Getting extra human resources,” is vital Altfest said Saturday. He also emphasized the need for funding donations. “What people don’t realize is that we purchase most of our food,” Altfest said. He did say that the food bank has seen a surge in volunteers eager to help out. “We have 112 people who are very committed to the health of our community,” he added.
But Altfest did admit, “We are all worried about the coming surge” of infected patients.
The Contra Costa-Solano Food Bank has also begun planning new distribution locations. The food bank stated online, “There will be supplemental distributions starting next week utilizing our first drive-thru food assistance method. We are so thankful for the volunteers who stepped up to put together 1,000 of our new emergency food boxes on Thursday.” The Contra Costa food group has a warehouse located in North Concord.
Monterey County reports first death
Monterey County Health Department officials on Saturday reported the first Covid-19 coronavirus-related death of a county resident.
The adult victim, who had been hospitalized, had an “underlying health condition” that made this person more susceptible to serious complications, the Monterey County Health Department said in a statement.
No additional information about this individual is being released to protect the family’s privacy, the health department said.
Dr. Edward Moreno, Monterey County Health Officer and Director of Public Health, said:
“The Monterey County Health Department is taking necessary, carefully considered steps to slow down the spread of the disease and to protect those at greatest risk. … We are facing a historic public health challenge and know this is a very difficult time. Our top priority continues to be protecting the health of our community.”
There have now been 11 confirmed cases of Covid-19 among Monterey County residents as of Saturday, at least two of which appear to have been acquired locally, health department officials said.
Census Bureau delays field operations
The U.S. Census Bureau is delaying all field operations until April 1 as a result of the nation’s efforts to delay the spread of the deadly novel coronavirus.
In an announcement Wednesday, bureau officials noted that 11 million American households had already responded to the census and that people are still strongly encouraged to “self-respond” by going online to 2020census.gov.
However, in order to help stop the spread of the virus, the bureau is suspending all field operations for two weeks.
Bureau officials said in a news release:
“The Census Bureau will continue to evaluate all 2020 Census operations. … Should any additional adjustments need to be made, the Census Bureau will communicate these changes broadly and promptly.”
Also Wednesday, the bureau announced that its count of the country’s homeless population has been postponed from March 30 to April 29, that it will continue to pay census employees during the suspension of activities and that enumerators, who are expected to be deployed in late-May, will be trained online and won’t be allowed to gather in groups of more than 10.
Since the bureau’s announcement, California and several smaller jurisdictions around the country have implemented shelter-in-place directives and people are being called upon to rigorously practice “social distancing.”
All this in an effort to slow the Covid-19 disease, which grew to more than 15,000 U.S. cases and 201 deaths as of Thursday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The U.S. Census is the decennial effort by the federal government to count every person living in the country.
The data collected is used to apportion trillions of dollars in federal spending to state and local governments and supports dozens of social service programs that provide food and medical assistance, school construction and housing programs, among others.
Bay to Breakers delayed to September
The annual Bay to Breakers race in San Francisco will be postponed to Sept. 20 due to the novel coronavirus, organizers said Friday.
The 12-kilometer race, known for colorful and wacky costumes, had been set for May 31, but was pushed back four months after discussions with city officials, organizers said.
The race organizer said in a statement posted on the race’s site:
“The health and safety of our participants, staff and volunteers is our utmost priority, and we are grateful to the City for their flexibility and assistance in selecting this new date to ensure this legacy event takes place for the 109th consecutive year.”
All existing 2020 Bay to Breakers registrations will be automatically transferred to the new date.
Refunds will not be offered and if a registrant isn’t able to make the new date, they have the option to defer their 2020 registration to the 2021 race.
Although registrants will get credit for the amount they have paid already, there is a $20 administration fee to process a deferral.
Full details can be found at BayToBreakers.com.
San Francisco expands emergency childcare
San Francisco’s Recreation and Park Department will expand its free emergency childcare hours, which provides childcare for low-income families affected by the novel coronavirus, in order to support healthcare workers, city leaders said Friday.
The expanded hours start on Monday at all 35 Recreation and Park Department sites from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and are meant to assist healthcare workers who need childcare during the statewide shelter-in-place order but typically work 12-hour shifts.
In addition to the expanded hours, the city will also begin providing childcare to children of Disaster Service Workers, essential Department of Public Health employees, and San Francisco Community Clinic Consortium.
Mayor London Breed said in a statement:
“Front line health care and essential employees like doctors and nurses need to have childcare that they can rely on as they focus on responding to Covid-19.”
“Essential workers, including disaster service workers are employees at our city’s clinics, need to be able to respond to this public health emergency without worrying about accessing and paying for childcare. I want to thank the Recreation and Park Department and the Department of Children, Youth, and their Families for coming together to provide this service for our city.”
PG&E donates masks to hospitals, first responders
PG&E is donating nearly 1 million protective masks from the supply it keeps on hand for crews responding to fires and construction zones, to distribute to California hospitals and first responders, company officials said Friday.
The 480,000 N95 masks and 470,000 surgical masks will go to the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, for hospitals and those on the front lines facing a critical shortage of protective equipment.
The company maintains a supply of masks for utility crews working in construction zones or responding to wildfires, Andy Vesey, PG&E CEO and president said.
PG&E is donating as many as possible to Cal OES, but maintaining sufficient numbers for field workers during the Covid-19 pandemic and to prepare for the upcoming fire season, Vesey said.
In addition, PG&E employees also are collecting masks and other equipment from their personal emergency kits to donate to hospitals and emergency services responders in their local areas.
The utility and the PG&E Corporation Foundation is also contributing $1 million to nonprofits that are helping people facing food shortages, as well as small businesses that are impacted by public health emergency. The donations come from shareholder funds, not customers, PG&E said.