Patients are held in the hallway as St.Mary Medical Center resorts to using tents outside to handle the overflow at its 200 bed hospital during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Apple Valley, California, U.S., January 12, 2021. REUTERS/Mike Blake
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Good morning, California. It’s Thursday, January 13.
Cancellations, postponements, closures
California will likely surpass last winter’s peak of 53,000 hospitalized patients in “the next few days,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday, noting that around 12,300 of the 52,400 people currently in the hospital have tested positive for COVID.
His projection foreshadows even more stress for health care workers already at their breaking point. Today, members of the California Nurses Association are scheduled to hold rallies across the state to demand safe staffing levels and stronger workplace protections — and to denounce a new state rule allowing COVID-positive asymptomatic employees to keep working in facilities with critical staff shortages.
And another new state rule that requires all nursing home visitors — including those who are fully vaccinated — to provide a negative COVID test result within 24 or 48 hours is spurring backlash from some advocates and family members.
On top of all that, COVID is ripping through California’s juvenile prisons, where 20% of youth currently have the virus and at least one was recently hospitalized for severe symptoms, CalMatters’ Byrhonda Lyons reports.
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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Tuesday, California had 6,188,867 confirmed cases(+1.7% from previous day) and 76,683 deaths(+0.2% from previous day), according to state data. CalMatters is also tracking coronavirus hospitalizations by county.
Meanwhile, California’s unemployment department is seeking to claw back benefits it may have fraudulently paid out during the pandemic — and some residents unable to prove they were unemployed or looking for work could soon be on the hook for tens of thousands of dollars, Jesse Bedayn reports for CalMatters’ California Divide project. Among them is Donna Casey, a musician who lost all her paperwork when her home burned down in the 2020 August Complex Fire and may be forced to pay backmore than $30,000 to the Employment Development Department.
Casey: “They are going to want money back from me that I don’t have. What are they going to do to me, put me in jail? At least I’ll have a place to live.”
2.Single-payer to get a price tag
Speaking of price tags, Californians may soon have a better idea of how much it would cost the state to create a single-payer health care system. On Tuesday, the same day a proposal to do just that cleared its first hurdle in the state Legislature, Democratic Assemblymember Ken Cooley of Rancho Cordova asked the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office to prepare a “comprehensive fiscal analysis” of the bill, according to a letter I obtained. The move is a big win for Republicans, 18 of whom asked Cooley, who leads the Assembly Rules Committee, to request the analysis. But it could also help Democrats who have already expressed concern about the proposal avoid supporting it in the future: The letter asks that the analysis be completed by March 15, long after the single-payer bill’s Jan. 31 deadline to pass the Assembly.
Jim Stanley, press secretary for the Assembly Republican Caucus, told me: “Without a cost analysis, these members are walking the plank blindfolded — the votes they’re casting are totally open-ended, and if it comes back that this plan will kill a few hundred jobs and bankrupt the state, they’ll be on record supporting that.”
Newsom: “Not when the overwhelming majority — overwhelming majority — of the family members feel completely differently than he does. I mean, that same individual was out there campaigning for … Larry Elder’s candidacy for governor. He’s also been directly misleading and lying to people about a number of things including my own reaction, or non-reaction, to the booster. So with respect to that individual, he’s not someone I follow day in and day out for counsel, advice, consultation, and the overwhelming majority of the Shriver and Kennedy family members are opposed to Mr. Sirhan’s release.”
4. California housing updates
From CalMatters housing reporter Manuela Tobias: When a single person or a couple earns less than $43,533 or $87,066, respectively, and lives in a rental unit in California, they can claim $60 or $120 in tax credits. That subsidy hasn’t budged in more than 40 years, even as rents have skyrocketed — prompting state Sen. Steve Glazer, a Walnut Creek Democrat, and 43 other lawmakers on Wednesday to propose bumping the credit to $500 for individuals and $1,000 for couples and single parents. The increase would cost California about $1 billion annually, which Glazer’s office argued is only a fraction of the $6.3 billion the state spends on homeowners each year.
Meanwhile, a controversial bill that aims to protect people from eviction cleared a key legislative hurdle Wednesday — but could face a tough road ahead. The proposal would force property owners in rent-controlled jurisdictions to hold onto their buildings for at least five years before invoking the Ellis Act, which gives them a path to exit the rental market and evict tenants. Similar bills have failed at least three times in the past amid opposition from landlords andRealtors.
Assemblymember Alex Lee, a San Jose Democrat and the bill’s author: “This bill is targeted towards property speculators who, in very recent history, buy up properties and within the first one to five years, flip them like that. You’re converting affordable units to market-rate units. So in effect, that worsens the housing crisis.”
Sanjay Wagle, senior vice president of the California Association of Realtors: “In any other business, you can get out of it. So it’s strange for the state to say, ‘Not you, you can’t get out of the business of renting.’”