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SFBay coronavirus update: Napa reports first death, SF supe floats family relief fund

An adult in a hospital on Tuesday in Napa County died in the county’s only death so far from the Covid-19 coronavirus, public health officials said.

Napa County Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Relucio said:

“Our hearts go out to the patient’s family and friends at this difficult time. … More than ever, it is crucial that we practice physical distancing, and if we are sick, even with mild illness, make every effort to self-isolate from others and follow the shelter-at-home order.”

SFBay Bay Area coronavirus dashboard. Jesse Garnier/SFBay
Open SFBay Bay Area coronavirus dashboard in new window. Open SFBay Worldwide coronavirus tracker. Updated twice daily.

SF Supervisor proposes emergency family relief fund

San Francisco Supervisor Shamann Walton has proposed creating an Emergency Family Relief Fund that would provide $500 to about 5,000 families, or residents with children 18 and younger, affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, who don’t qualify for federal benefits.

Walton said:

“Covid-19 has created a threat to the economic stability of San Francisco residents and San Francisco families, especially our immigrant families who work in the service industry such as restaurants, retail, cleaning and janitorial services.”

The proposal has three parts. The first involves an emergency ordinance to begin the program for as many as 60 days. A second complementary ordinance would extend the program for as long Mayor London Breed keeps in place the emergency shelter-in-place order and for two months longer. A third ordinance would allocate $10 million from the city’s reserves to the program.

Supervisor Hillary Ronen, who is a cosponsor of the legislation, and represents the Mission and Portola neighborhoods, said:

“We believe that our immigrant communities in San Francisco are as deserving as the rest of us for help during this crisis. We will step in strong and loud as a local City and County where our federal leaders have failed to help our immigrant population.”

The fund will be administered by among others community-based organizations that work directly with impacted families.

Supervisor Rafael Mandelman also introduced a resolution to urge California to enact a moratorium on foreclosures and residential and commercial evictions for the duration of the state of emergency.

Supervisor Gordon Mar introduced a resolution to declare Covid-19 an extreme danger to the public so that owners of small businesses and restaurants can recover business interruption insurance from private insurers.

Mar said:

“The insurance companies are denying coverage claiming COVID-19 does not cause property loss or damage, a requirement for a payout. … As a local government we know it is necessary to require all businesses to close down except essential businesses, and we acknowledge that it was because of the virus’s interaction with physical surfaces, contaminated hands and respiratory droplets.”

Mar is calling on California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara to consider it a material misrepresentation for insurers to deny coverage because of claims the coronavirus doesn’t cause property loss or damage.

Sonoma County matches regional shelter-in-place order

Sonoma County on Tuesday evening was the eighth jurisdiction in the Bay Area to extend its shelter-in-place order to May 3, following similar moves by Berkeley and Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco, Marin, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.

The recent moves by all eight are aimed at limiting the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, which had killed 149 people in California as of Tuesday morning.

Other counties are also taking measures to slow the spread of the virus. Solano County on Monday extended its order to April 30. Napa County’s order is scheduled to end April 7.

Sonoma County’s order is consistent with the statewide shelter-in-place order, county public health officials said Tuesday.

The shelter-in-place orders mean residents everywhere in the Bay Area are being asked to stay inside except to take care of essential tasks and when outside to stay at least six feet away from every other person.

Warning sounded over lack of thermometers at Alameda County juvenile hall

Alameda County Chief Probation Officer Wendy Still told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that she’s concerned about a lack of infrared thermometers at the county’s juvenile hall in San Leandro.

Speaking at the board’s weekly update on the novel coronavirus pandemic, Still said infrared thermometers are in high demand and she can’t test her staff until she gets them.

However, Still said there haven’t been any confirmed Covid-19 cases among her staff or among the youths at juvenile hall.

Still said there are currently 56 youths at juvenile hall, 24 at the Camp Sweeney juvenile detention center in the San Leandro hills, 47 under electronic monitoring and 39 under home supervision.

Still said detention hearings for youths housed at juvenile hall are only held twice a week so some of them may wind up being detained longer than normal under the current circumstances in which most courts are closed.

Sheriff’s Cmdr. Thomas Madigan said there haven’t been any confirmed Covid-19 cases among inmates or staff members at the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin.

Madigan said a nurse at the jail presumptively tested positive for the coronavirus last week but the test was conducted by a private laboratory that hasn’t yet been approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the result hasn’t been confirmed.

Madigan said jail staff have taken extra precautions in the wake of the pandemic and do thorough screenings of new inmates in the open air outside the jail before they are admitted inside.

The Board of Supervisors’ online meeting was marred by technical problems and most of the weekly update by county interim health officer Dr. Erica Pan couldn’t be heard by the public.

The board eventually wound up switching its meeting to the Zoom video conferencing app.

At one point board president Richard Valle said:

“I apologize to the public for the technology.”

The board was scheduled to vote on a request by Sheriff Gregory Ahern for $85 million in additional funds to hire an extra 216 sworn and 47 non-sworn positions at the Santa Rita Jail over the next three years but the board postponed the matter until its April 21 meeting.

Even though the matter was postponed, several members of activist groups who oppose Ahern’s funding request waited until the public comment session at the end of the lengthy meeting to tell the board that they should either scrap the proposal completely or at least vote against it.

‘Alternative’ care sites coming for Contra Costa County

Contra Costa County health officials said Tuesday that “alternative care sites” to provide medical treatment ahead of an anticipated surge in Covid-19 coronavirus cases will open next week in Antioch and Richmond, joining already announced sites in Martinez and Pittsburg.

Dr. Chris Farnitano, the county’s health officer, said the Contra Costa County fairgrounds in Antioch and the Craneway Pavilion in Richmond are being set up to handle relatively “uncomplicated” treatments as space in area hospitals is being set aside for an expected surge in Covid-19 patients sometime between mid-April and mid-May.

Contra Costa Health Services officials had previously said that part of the former Los Medanos Community Hospital building in Pittsburg and part of Alhambra High School in Martinez will be made into similar alternative care sites.

A COVID-19 surge in Contra Costa County, Farnitano said, could be brutal – a possible 2,000 to 14,000 deaths in the county over the “next several months,” based on various models factoring in different rates of infection and treatment capabilities.

Anna Roth, Contra Costa County’s health director, said that as of Tuesday morning there were 212 confirmed coronavirus patients in the county, up from 175 cases as of Monday morning. Twenty-three were hospitalized as of Tuesday, 11 of them in intensive care, Roth said. Three people have died so far.

Social distancing, Farnitano said, appears to be helping reduce the spread of COVID-19, and he hopes people staying home and keeping their distance in public will keep surge casualties to a minimum, and significantly reduce the odds of a prospective New York City or Italy situation in the Bay Area.

Farnitano said:

“This scenario could still happen in the Bay Area if we relax our social distancing. … This is no time to relax.”

Farnitano said county officials also are working on ways to keep reducing the county jail population, both through releases and delayed incarcerations. The inmate populations at the Martinez and Richmond jails is down about half from two months ago, he said, and with the courts closed, new jail bookings have been down about 85 percent during that same period.

The loss of jobs related to the coronavirus pandemic has put more pressure on the county’s social services operations. Kathy Gallagher, the county’s employment and human services director, told the supervisors Tuesday that applications for virtually all county “safety net” social services – with the exception of child care service – have risen dramatically in recent weeks.

County tax officials told the supervisors Tuesday that property taxpayers who can prove economic hardship caused specifically by the consequences of Covid-19 (job loss, fewer hours) can pay late and avoid penalties. That could lead to an economic domino effect on cities that depend on county tax payments.

Bob Campbell, the county’s auditor-controller, told the supervisors:

“If our collections are significantly impacted, it’s a pretty significant cash impact on local jurisdictions, and that will impact their ability to provide public service.”

More than 75 public comments, submitted by email, implored the supervisors to provide more personal protective equipment for county workers, and to help county residents by passing a formal moratorium on evictions, setting up a fund to help people and small businesses pay rent and bills and to release jail inmates serving time for relatively low-level crimes, all to help curb the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus. Comments were made by residents, caregivers, service providers, attorneys and others.

Even though the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office has said it will not take part in any evictions while the shelter-in-place order is in effect, the supervisors have not passed a formal eviction moratorium.

Also, several of Tuesday’s public comments noted that a deputy serving at the West County Detention Facility in Richmond tested positive last week for the Covid-19 coronavirus, making it crucial to rescue the jail population.

Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond said other Bay Area cities and counties have taken steps to put a temporary stop to evictions based on COVID-19-related economic duress, including job losses or reduced hours, and to prohibit rent or mortgage increases and offer other rent/mortgage relief while the pandemic’s effects continue.

Gioia and others asked the county counsel’s office to research the legal possibilities, and to come back at the supervisors’ planned April 14 meeting to discuss those possibilities.

Veteran Santa Rosa police detective dies of Covid-19

Detective Marylou Armer, a 20-year member of the Santa Rosa Police Department, died Tuesday from complications due to the COVID-19 coronavirus, Police Chief Ray Navarro said.

Armer most recently was assigned to the Domestic Violence Sexual Assault team.

Navarro said the Police Department is still grappling with the news and the city is planning to address news reporters Wednesday.

Prison inmates, lawyers press for release

Lawyers for California prison inmates will ask a three-judge federal court on Thursday for an order releasing some prisoners, saying there is a danger the Covid-19 coronavirus could “spread like wildfire” among inmates and staff in the state’s crowded prisons.

The motion was filed last week in two long-running prison overcrowding cases filed in federal court in San Francisco in 2001 and federal court in Sacramento in 1990.

In 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a three-judge panel’s order that the prison population must be reduced to correct “grossly inadequate health care” that violated constitutional standards.

In the new motion, the prisoners ask for orders reducing the prison population in order to achieve social distancing, as well as releasing or relocating prisoners who are at low risk for criminal conduct but high risk for severe illness or death from the virus.

Attorneys for the inmates wrote”

“The system is far too crowded. The prisons house tens of thousands of people in crowded dormitories where they live, sleep, and bathe within feet — sometimes inches — of each other.”

In a response filed on Tuesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration said it is already taking “immediate, bold and appropriate steps” to protect prisoners and staff, and asked the court not to interfere with the executive branch’s work at a time of crisis.

Those steps include the planned early release of about 3,500 non-violent inmates who are close to release dates, suspending intake of new prisoners from county jails and moving about 500 inmates to other prisons with unoccupied spaces, state lawyers said in the brief.

State lawyers wrote:

“This court must not accept plaintiffs’ invitation to substitute its judgment for that of a co-equal branch, which is far better positioned to respond to this unprecedented emergency.”

The state currently houses about 114,000 prisoners in its 35 adult institutions, according to the brief.

The panel will be made up of 9th U.S. Circuit Judge Kim Wardlaw of Pasadena, U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar of Oakland, and U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller of Sacramento. They are replacing the three judges on the original panel, who have retired or passed away.

A federal law, the Prison Litigation Reform Act, requires that a court order for reduction of prison population can be made only by a three-judge panel.

Frameline postpones 2020 film festival to fall

Frameline — one of the world’s most highly regarded LGBTQ+ film festivals — announced Tuesday that it is postponing its 44th San Francisco Bay Area program originally set for mid-to-late June.

Organizers will reschedule it for the fall, which is already getting jammed with delayed or truncated springtime festivals due to Covid-19.

The festival follows in the footsteps of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, the International Ocean Film Festival, the Center for Asian American Media festival and San Jose’s Cinequest Film & Creativity by moving to later in 2020.

In the case of Cinequest, organizers brought to a halt its season around the midway point in March, and plan on resuming its cinematic celebration this August.

The San Francisco International Film Festival made the hard decision to cancel its April program, but organizers are looking at innovative ways to promote and preserve its carefully curated program that honors the best from films near and far.

In a prepared statement, Frameline executive director James Woolley said:

“Since its inception in 1977, Frameline has welcomed audiences to celebrate the power of queer cinema alongside Pride celebrations in the month of June. … While Pride month remains the spiritual home of the festival, we look forward to bringing the community together at a later date, to connect with the most vibrant and diverse LGBTQ+ storytellers in film.”

Woolley added:

“The safety of our beloved audiences, staff, filmmakers and community partners must come first.”

In addition, Frameline organizers are brainstorming creative ways to support the LGBTQ+ filmmaking community and are also establishing the Frameline2020 Fund to help critical donations to festivals lost due to the pandemic.

To help, people can visit

Other high-profile Bay Area film festivals coming up include the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival (July 18-Aug. 4) and the Mill Valley Film Festival in October.

Amtrak diagnosis prompts California Zephyr halt

Amtrak’s daily “California Zephyr” train between Emeryville and Chicago is temporarily suspended west of Denver, the result of one Amtrak employee testing positive for the Covid-19 coronavirus, an Amtrak spokeswoman said Tuesday.

That positive coronavirus diagnosis prompted the self-quarantine of other Amtrak employees on the Zephyr route for 14 days, meaning there aren’t enough crew members to operate the train west of Denver.

Amtrak spokeswoman Olivia Irvin said in an email Tuesday:

“Under Amtrak policy, employees are directed to take time-off from service to care for themselves or family members who are symptomatic or have tested positive (for coronavirus). … A resulting lack of sufficient staff is causing a temporary suspension of Amtrak service between Denver and Reno…”

And, by extension, Emeryville, Irvin said.

Irvin said passengers can use a combination of other Amtrak trains, including the Capitol Corridor route to Sacramento, and Amtrak Thruway buses to reach points between Emeryville and Reno.

Starting March 21, Capitol Corridor service has been reduced in response to fewer people traveling by rail.

The last eastbound Zephyr to leave Emeryville for points east departed Saturday; since then, the train’s western terminus has been Denver.

Irvin did not say whether there was any sort of planned replacement transportation to reach Emeryville, or intermediate points (like Martinez and Richmond, regular station stops in the Bay Area), or give an anticipated restart date.

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