Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Tuesday's Briefing: Bay Area sees encouraging signs of flattening the curve; Oakland sideshows are back

U.C. Berkeley scientists offering COVID-19 pop-up lab

by Steven Tavares
Tue, Mar 31, 2020 at 4:00 AM

Oakland sideshow in 2018. - STEPHEN LOEWINSOHN
  • Stephen Loewinsohn
  • Oakland sideshow in 2018.

News you don't want to miss for Mar. 31:

1. Scientists at U.C. Berkeley will soon be offering a coronavirus pop-up laboratory, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The site will be able to run 1,000 tests a day. $$

2. Roughly 20 percent of California's coronavirus patients have been hospitalized, the East Bay Times reports. The rate is following a similar pattern seen in other areas hit by the pandemic. In addition, nearly 600 are in intensive care.

3. Overall, there are encouraging early signs the Bay Area's shelter in place order is working to "flatten the curve," Politico reports. Kaiser Permanente officials said the number of coronavirus patients at its hospitals statewide is "leveling off."

4. The Trump administration deemed gun shop as essential businesses to be allowed open during the coronavirus outbreak, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Los Angeles' sheriff said he will allow the shops to remain open. Earlier this month, the Alameda County Sheriff's Department asked a gun shop in Castro Valley to close its doors.

5. The sideshow are back and posing a greater danger than before, KTVU reports. An estimated 450 people attended sideshows in Oakland over the weekend in defiance of the shelter in place order and social distancing.

6. A longshoremen fell to his death at the Port Oakland early Tuesday morning, KPIX reports. The accident, in which the individual fell onto the deck of the ship and then into the water, occurred at Berth 56.

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Monday, March 30, 2020

Monday's Briefing: Shelter in place order will be extended to May 1; State has stockpile of expired N95 masks

Amazon, Instacart workers go on strike

by Steven Tavares
Mon, Mar 30, 2020 at 4:00 AM

N95 medical mask. - WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
  • Wikimedia Commons
  • N95 medical mask.

News you don't want to miss for Mar. 30:

1. The Bay Area's shelter in place order is expected to be extended to May 1, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. On Mar. 17, six Bay Area cities issued a three-week order for residents to stay in their homes, reduce travel, and practice social distancing in an effort to lower the probability of spreading the coronavirus. $$

2. The state is attempting to recruit retired doctors to help combat the coronavirus crisis that may soon overwhelm local hospitals with sick patients, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Gov. Gavin Newsom's executive order also includes nursing assistants, home health aides, and emergency medical services personnel. $$

3. All of the state's 21 million stockpile of N95 masks have expired "wear-by" dates, the San Francisco Chronicle found. $$

4. As of Monday, Alameda County now has 283 reported cases of the coronavirus, the East Bay Times reports. Seven deaths related to the virus have occurred in the county, through Sunday.

5. An estimated 1,400 layoffs in the hotel industry has already occurred in the Bay Area, the East Bay Times reports. The news is a harbinger of tough times for the entire state's tourism industry. $$

6. Instacart and Amazon workers went on strike on Monday in effort to gain paid sick leave, while demanding the companies provide cleaner work environments amid the coronavirus oubreak, NPR reports.

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Friday, March 27, 2020

Friday's Briefing: Oakland approves moratorium on evictions due to COVID-19; BART may suspend Sunday train service

Shelter in place is leading to dramatic improvements in Bay Area air quality

by Steven Tavares
Fri, Mar 27, 2020 at 4:00 AM

Oakland Councilmember Nikki Fortunato Bas authored the city's moratorium on evictions due to COVID-19. Councilmember Dan Kalb co-authored the ordinance. - ERIKA PINO
  • Erika Pino
  • Oakland Councilmember Nikki Fortunato Bas authored the city's moratorium on evictions due to COVID-19. Councilmember Dan Kalb co-authored the ordinance.

News you don't want to miss for Mar. 27-29:

1. Oakland approved one of the strongest urgency moratoriums on evictions due to the coronavirus in the state during a special Oakland City Council meeting on Friday afternoon. The moratorium includes prohibitions against residential and commercial evictions, rent increases, and late fees for tenants who have been financially affected by the coronavirus.

2. BART, amid a 92 percent drop in ridership, is considering the suspension of Sunday train service, the San Francisco Examiner reports. BART is facing the possibility of a $442 million operation budget shortfall.

3. Miraculous improvements in air quality followed China's decision to shut down its factories two months ago. The same thing is occurring in the Bay Area, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District is recording "unprecedented" reductions in particulate in the air. $$

4. Here's another sliver of good news arising from the shelter in place order: "Overlooked animals are being adopted," the San Francisco Chronicle reports. $$

5. Hayward may move to delay implementation of its recently approved minimum wage acceleration, set to increase to $15 an hour for businesses with more than 25 employees on July 1, the East Bay Citizen reports.

6. The sports calendar is devoid of events in the Bay Area, except in one place, Golden Gate Fields in Albany. While bets on thoroughbreds continue across the state despite the shelter in place order, race tracks are facing criticism for putting employees at risk, the Associated Press reports.

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Thursday, March 26, 2020

Evidence Suggests That Sheltering-In-Place is Working

Early data from Santa Clara County and Miami shows a direct correlation between closures and decline of flu-like illnesses.

by Jennifer Wadsworth
Thu, Mar 26, 2020 at 1:23 PM

Elbow bumps are the new high five. - (PHOTO VIA SHUTTERSTOCK)
  • (Photo via Shutterstock)
  • Elbow bumps are the new high five.

Scroll from the bottom up to read in chronological order. And click here to catch up on the rest of our coronavirus coverage.

Don’t be fooled by the empty shelves. There’s plenty of food to go around.

Ron Fong, head of the California Grocers Association, is trying to hammer that point home through a new initiative called Enough for All.

“The bare shelves you are occasionally seeing do not indicate lack of supply,” he says.“It is a temporary result of consumers overbuying given the understandable worry right now. The supply and distribution systems are prepared to accommodate this behavior for a day or two during holidays, but not for extended periods of time.”

The men and women who’ve become frontline workers by staffing our grocery stores and distribution centers are working day and night to catch up, Fong says. And hiring sprees are bringing more people aboard to keep pace with demand.

“Everyone can help stop this unnatural cycle of demand by simply buying only what you need for a week and curbing the tendency to over-buy,” he advises. “Getting shopping patterns back to normal will reduce stress on the distribution system and can go a long way toward creating some normalcy in our grocery stores.”

With that in mind, Fong says, let’s “just buy smart and don’t overfill our carts.”

11am: Who’s got you covered?


Though San Jose has a lower rate of uninsured residents, a new study shows that an alarming number of the city’s million people have no healthcare coverage. According to credit-building company Self Financial, about 50,000 have no health insurance. “Efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 depend on the nation’s ability to provide testing and treatment for all Americans, even the 28.5 million who lack health insurance,” a summary of the study reads. Yet the coronavirus pandemic comes after a two-year decline in coverage in the U.S. After a seven-year increase in coverage thanks to the Affordable Care Act, the uninsured rate began ticking up again in 2018 after the repeal of the individual mandate penalty. Click here to read the report and see how various cities and states stack up.

10:20am: Keep on keeping on.


“Don’t think for a second that we’re a day or two from lifting that order. We’re not.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom relayed the message in his latest COVID-19 briefing, where he made clear that California has no plans to grant President Trump’s wish of getting back to business as usual by Easter Sunday.

There’s just no way, the governor said. Not now, as the death toll careens upward, and hospitals already overrun with gasping coronavirus patients brace for the storm.

That’s because what we’re doing is working.

The social distancing, the staying home, the discipline required for millions of us to hunker down—it’s doing what it’s supposed to. It’s flattening the curve.

“We can’t let up on the good decision-making that we’ve seen,” Newsom said. Later in the address, he added: “We know it’s had an impact … so let’s not let up. Let us commit to this home isolation and physical distancing.”

Since containment’s no longer an option, mitigation’s the name of the game now. And though a lack of testing means we’re blind to the full scope of the problem, we’re not entirely in the dark. Data show that the Bay Area’s sweeping shutdown has prevented infections and saved lives. Just look at the graph above to see how this region has fared compared to one that notoriously lagged on enforcing distancing mandates.

“We don’t live under assumptions,” Newsom told us the other day. “We live under real data trend lines—and real application.”

Last night, Santa Clara County Executive Jeff Smith called me to follow up on an email I’d sent earlier in the week about the local public health lab’s testing capacity. When I asked him what message he’d like to get out there more than anything, he reiterated the governor’s mantras about social distancing.

The single most impactful thing people can do right now is keep this up, Smith said, promising that the effect of collective lockdown will become more apparent in the coming weeks. “Social distancing is working,” he said. “It will work. But we really don’t have time with this crisis to be fooling around.”

I told him to keep me in the loop if there’s any data to share or stories to tell that illustrate that point because I believe that the more we inform people about what’s going on, the more they’re invested in doing their part.

Showing people how the stay-home mandate is working might encourage them to stay the course. And being transparent about the county’s limitations—like the dearth of testing resources—might spur people to rise to the occasion.

All the stories we’ve seen about the critical shortage of ventilators have inspired creative minds to figure out ways to hack the machines and companies such as Tesla to re-open its factory to manufacture them. By being open and honest about rationing masks and other protective gear, hospitals have prompted a public outpouring of donations.

As journalists, we aim to hold people in power accountable. Of course. But a lot of our job is more simple than that. We’re just trying to tell people what the heck’s going on.

Sometimes that requires scathing takedowns. Most of the time, it’s just sharing the latest updates, like new case counts or how many masks our hospitals need. It also involves reporting the good news, highlighting solutions and telling personal stories.

I say all this because I want our readers to think of all the different stories we could cover (with our limited resources) and send us tips that point us in the right direction. I want to hear from you. So, text me at 408.515.7611 or email jenniferw@metronews.com as inspiration strikes. Nurses, doctors, frontline workers: I can promise confidentiality.

And if you value our journalism, consider helping us through these trying times by making a donation or buying a subscription at supportyourlocalnewspaper.com.

Thursday's Briefing: Surge in coronavirus cases may soon hit California; Dismal U.S. jobless claims report

Two Grand Princess passengers have died from COVID-19

by Steven Tavares
Thu, Mar 26, 2020 at 4:00 AM

Hayward's free testing site report 54 positive results out of 207 tested during the first day of the clinic on Monday. - WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
  • Wikimedia Commons
  • Hayward's free testing site report 54 positive results out of 207 tested during the first day of the clinic on Monday.

News you don't want to miss for Mar. 26:

1. The California Secretary of Health and Human Services said cases of the coronavirus across the state are increasing quicker than expected, suggesting a major surge is on the horizon, SFGate reports.

2. A record 3.3 million people filed for unemployment benefits last week, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, CNN reports. The excruciatingly bad jobs report was expected to reach close to 4 million. California, alone, recently reported 1 million claims.

3. The number of tests for the coronavirus in California doubled on Monday, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. On Thursday, Hayward reported that its testing clinic, available to all, returned 54 positive results for the virus out of 207 tested.

4. Two men in their 60s, who were passengers on the Grand Princess cruise ship that docked earlier this month at the Port of Oakland, passed away from the coronavirus, the East Bay Times reports.

5. California's estimated 150,000 unsheltered residents are struggling to find temporarily housing and access to health care a week after the state pledged $150 million to place them in hotels, the Associated Press reports. Two hotels near the Oakland Coliseum are slated to add more than 300 rooms for the homeless.

6. Sadly, today would have been Opening Day at the Coliseum, if not for the postponement of the baseball season. But Strat-O-Matic, the timeless dice and probability board game, is producing simulations of each day's games. Good news! The A's topped the Twins, 5-3, on the backs of a five-run second inning.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Wednesday's Briefing: Oakland names interim police chief; $2 trillion stimulus bill includes $1,200 checks

Alameda County to keep schools closed through May 4

by Steven Tavares
Wed, Mar 25, 2020 at 4:00 AM

Manheimer replaces Anne Kirkpatrick, the Oakland chief of police who was terminated last month. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Manheimer replaces Anne Kirkpatrick, the Oakland chief of police who was terminated last month.

News you don't want to miss for Mar. 25:

1. Oakland named former San Mateo Police Chief Susan Manheimer as its interim police chief, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Manheimer takes over for Anne Kirkpatrick, who was fired by the Oakland Police Commission and mayor last month. $$

2. Congress agreed to a massive $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package on Tuesday night. Axios reports the deal includes a one-time $1,200 stimulus check to all Americans, except those earning more than $99,000 a year. It also includes $367 billion for small businesses; extends unemployment programs, while adding gig-workers; and allocates $100 billion to hospitals.

3. The federal stimulus bill also includes $1.3 billion for Bay Area transportation agencies, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The outlay is more than double what the region receives annually from the federal government. $$

4. Alameda County, and six other Bay Area counties, extended school closures to May 4, SFGate reports.

5. California's decision six years ago to lard its reserves in the event of an economic downturn is looking like sound fiscal policy. But the $21 billion surplus fund is likely to be wiped out because of the response to the pandemic, the Los Angeles Times reports. $$

6. Here's the likely effect that follows the curious quest by so many to buy every last roll of toilet paper. Some sanitation districts in the Bay Area are telling residents not to use t-shirts or cloth as an alternative because its clogging the system, SFGate reports.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Tuesday's Briefing: Kaiser Permanente's $900 million project in Oakland is off; schools may stay close through May

Two Oakland police officers have coronavirus

by Steven Tavares
Tue, Mar 24, 2020 at 4:00 AM

A rendering of the now cancelled Kaiser Permanente headquarters in Oakland. - KAISER PERMANENTE
  • Kaiser Permanente
  • A rendering of the now cancelled Kaiser Permanente headquarters in Oakland.

News you don't want to miss for Mar. 24:

1. Kaiser Permanente is pulling the plug on its $900 million project for a new downtown headquarters in Oakland, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The move is not related to the coronavirus outbreak, but a major blow to the city. It was Oakland's largest commercial project. $$

2. Rep. Ro Khanna is leading a group of nearly two dozen officials calling for President Trump to immediately enact a two-week nationwide shelter in place order, The Hill reports. Fifteen states have already done so. The letter sent by Khanna comes amid news reports that Trump is, instead, eyeing a rollback on restrictions in order to restart the economy.

3. A second Alameda County resident has died from the coronavirus, the East Bay Times reports. The county's first death occurred on Monday. No additional information on either death as been reported. Two Oakland police officers have tested positive for the coronavirus.

4. The airline industry, like many businesses, are suffering as result of the pandemic. The East Bay Times reports 150 flight cancellations have occurred at the Oakland International Airport.

5. Some Bay Area school districts may follow Los Angeles' lead in keeping schools closed through May 4 due to the coronavirus pandemic, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. $$

6. U.C. Berkeley is moving toward a pass-fail grading system for the spring semester as the academic institution converts to online courses due to the pandemic, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. $$

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Monday, March 23, 2020

East Bay Express joins five-newspaper Bay Area alt-weekly group

by Express Staff
Mon, Mar 23, 2020 at 3:13 PM

The East Bay Express has joined colleagues in the region’s alternative weekly press to form a five-newspaper group that will circulate throughout seven counties in the greater San Francisco Bay Area.

Anchored by the Metro Silicon Valley weekly, the group also includes Santa Cruz’s Good Times, the North Bay Bohemian and the Pacific Sun, the nation’s longest publishing alt weekly.

“The East Bay Express has for four decades been a bastion of great writing, distinguished investigative journalism and important cultural coverage,” Metro founder and CEO Dan Pulcrano said. “It fits perfectly with our strengths and mission to serve local communities in the greater Bay Area.”

Metro Silicon Valley has for three years in a row won the state’s top awards amongst weeklies for both Investigative Reporting and Arts & Entertainment Coverage. “We believe this combination offers readers the benefits that come with greater depth of editorial resources while providing local businesses unprecedented access to markets in local publications with strong reader loyalty,” Pulcrano said.

In recent years, free-circulation publications such as Metro Silicon Valley and the Express have fared better than paid circulation daily newspapers that were more heavily dependent on classified advertising and other shrinking categories. However, the coronavirus outbreak has hit free weeklies hard, as public health officials have ordered the cancellation of mass events and the closure of nightclubs, dining establishments and retailers in non-essential industries.

“These are obviously extraordinary times for independent publishers,” outgoing East Bay Express editor and publisher Stephen Buel said. “That Metro remains enthusiastic about our industry even amidst the unprecedented chaos of this moment in time shows the depth of Dan’s commitment to local businesses and independent journalism. The Express could not be in better hands.”

The East Bay Express began publishing in October 1978, inspired by the success of the Chicago Reader and San Diego Reader. Co-founder John Raeside, who established a solid reputation with long-form journalism and a stable of freewheeling critics, sold the publication in 2001 to the national chain New Times Media. Buel joined the paper that year.

In 2006, New Times merged with Village Voice Media and the following year, Buel and a group of investors purchased the Express, returning it to local ownership. In 2017, Buel’s Telegraph Media, which also published Oakland and Alameda magazines, bought out the remaining investors.

During Alameda County’s shelter-in-place order, the Express continues to publish on its regular schedule, with content primarily focused on the coronavirus outbreak, including news about the health crisis and coverage of food and entertainment options available during the shelter-in-place order. Buel continues as a contractor and editor during the transition.

Over the past six years, Metro has expanded its portfolio of properties to include 17 regularly published titles, which also include traditional home-delivered broadsheets — among them the Gilroy Dispatch, Morgan Hill Times, Hollister Free Lance and Watsonville Pajaronian, all of which date back to the 1800s, as well as four newspapers in the Salinas Valley. The company also publishes specialty publications such as the wine country lifestyle magazine Bohème, the Cannabis Chronicle, the Dilated Pupil student guide and several visitors’ guides.

The newspapers are distributed in the California counties of Sonoma, Napa, Marin, Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, San Benito and Monterey. In addition to the printed editions, the company operates a large portfolio of digital media products, including electronic editions, websites and email newsletters, and offers web development, mobile SEO and digital marketing services.

The new group will be known simply as ”Weeklys” and a new portal is under construction at Weeklys.com.

Monday's Briefing: First COVID-19 death reported in Alameda County; PG&E pleads guilty to Camp Fire complaint

AC Transit bus fares are now free

by Steven Tavares
Mon, Mar 23, 2020 at 4:00 AM

The aftermath of the 2018 Camp Fire in Paradise, Calif. - WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
  • Wikimedia Commons
  • The aftermath of the 2018 Camp Fire in Paradise, Calif.

News you don't want to miss for Mar. 23:

1. Alameda County's first reported death due to the coronavirus occurred last weekend, KRON reports. It is not known where the individual lived, but they were described as a senior resident who had an underlining health issue. As on Monday, 112 confirmed cases of the coronavirus have been reported in the county.

2. With low ridership numbers already plaguing the system, AC Transit announced free fares starting today, KPIX reports. The transit agency is also recommending riders enter from the rear of the bus to ensure social distancing.

3. Last Thursday, the East Bay Regional Park District board decided to keep its park open for the foreseeable future, the East Bay Citizen reports. But high attendance over the past week at its park could mean a reversal of the policy, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

4. Social distancing and the skeleton crews at local city planning departments will likely further grind construction in the Bay Area to a halt, the East Bay Times reports. Developers are already finding it difficult for getting work on existing projects approved by local city inspectors.

5. PG&E plead guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter for its involvement in the wildfires that leveled Paradise, Calif. in 2018, the Los Angeles Times reports. The utility will pay $3.5 million. $$

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Friday, March 13, 2020

Friday's Briefing: Oakland, Berkeley, San Leandro school districts shut down classes amid coronavirus; Bay Area layoffs imminent

Richmond is being sued for coal ban

by Steven Tavares
Fri, Mar 13, 2020 at 4:00 AM

Classrooms will be empty in the East Bay as concerns over the spread of the coronavirus increase. - WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
  • Wikimedia Commons
  • Classrooms will be empty in the East Bay as concerns over the spread of the coronavirus increase.

News you don't want to miss for Mar. 13-15:

1. The Oakland and Berkeley Unified School Districts announces its classrooms will close in effort to limit spread of the coronavirus, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. San Leandro Unified also announced closures on Friday, and Alameda Unified School District officials met in an emergency session on Friday. $$

2. BART is losing up to $5 million a week in revenue because low ridership due to the coronavirus and is seeking guidance from California's U.S. senators for federal help, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. $$

3. In a sign the White House is realizing the severity of the pandemic, President Trump declared a national emergency on Friday in order to more swiftly deal with the coronavirus, NBC News reports. The move by the federal government opens up much-needed resources for local and state governments.

4. The Bay Area's economy was red-hot just weeks ago. Now with residents severely cutting expenses due to uncertainty over the coronavirus, some workers appear on the verge of wide-scale layoffs, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. "Truckers, cashiers, stagehands, airline workers, party suppliers and countless others are bearing the terrible economic cost of the coronavirus pandemic. And there’s no end in sight." $$

5. It's probably not news to you, but East Bay commuters are finding their drives to and from work to be much less stressful, the East Bay Times reports. Rush hour drive times have been shortened, and with a worldwide glut of oil, gas prices are also dropping. $$

6. Many sections of your grocery store is bare. Those who can't afford to stock up on food for the long haul, may find difficulty accessing local food pantries. It's not because there's no food, but concerns over the coronavirus is driving away volunteers who help out at food banks, Calmatters reports.

7. Richmond is facing a slew of lawsuits after its elected official approved a ban on coal shipments through the city last month, the East Bay Times reports.

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