COVID-19 State Policy Update 06.30.20

Woman Praying

Today, Tuesday, June 30, Governor Newsom provided an update on the COVID-19 pandemic, speaking from a hotel in Pittsburg, California, a suburb located in Contra Costa County. The Governor began by stating he would update the audience on key indicators related to the COVID-19 pandemic, would make an announcement that would explain why he was speaking from the front of a hotel in the Bay Area, and answer media questions. 

The Governor announced he signed the State Budget Act for 2020-21 and was proud of the work done to close the $54.3 billion-dollar deficit. He reminded the audience that just a few months ago, when he presented his budget, the state was enjoying a strong economy and a $6 billion-dollar surplus, which allowed the state the opportunity to take on some of the more challenging issues the state faces—specifically homelessness. “Unfortunately, the budget tide turned when COVID-19 struck and nearly overnight we went from a $6 billion-dollar surplus to a $54.3 billion shortfall. We have not taken our eye off the ball of focusing with intentionality on addressing the needs of the most vulnerable Californians—those who are homelessHomelessness has been top-of-mind in our Administration and our approach to take ownership and recognize our state has failed to address the issues of homelessness in a meaningful way.”  The Governor noted that focusing on simply providing housing for people who are homeless is not enough. He told the audience, “shelters only solve a sleep problem—housing and supportive services solves homelessness.” 

The Governor noted that last year, the state put out a record amount of money to help local communities to help provide support in addressing the homelessness issue in local communities. He reminded the audience simply throwing money at the problem of homelessness and poverty is not enough to solve the problem. “We need resource mindset when it comes to looking at what will actually solve this problem.” The Governor reminded the audience of when he delivered his State of State address in February and used that speech to focus intently on the state’s homelessness issue, as the most important and pressing issue for his Administration (read his 2020 State of the State address here). The COVID-19 pandemic hit shortly after the Governor made his State-of-the-State address and effectively wiped out the state’s surplus with the costs to manage the pandemic.

I’ve long said the future is not something that happens to us—we manifest it through our decisions. Conditions don’t determine our fate—decisions do.” The Governor noted he believed the state could do more to help local communities end homelessness and during the pandemic, when the state needed to protect vulnerable populations from the spread of COVID-19, was the perfect time to take bold action to solve this problem. The Governor reminded the audience about Project Room Key, the state’s answer to house homeless Californians during the pandemic. The program, funded by state and federal funds (from FEMA) focused on finding locations that could become long-term assets for the state to have available to provide not only housing but also wrap-around services for mental and physical disabilities, etc. The state succeeded in working with FEMA, other state and local officials, and homeless advocates to come up with and fund Project Room Key. 

Today, a total of 15,679 rooms have been secured and more than 14,200 people have been provided a place to live, three meals a day, and other services they need, including drug and alcohol treatment, mental health treatment and services, and social services. The Governor noted 85% of units were set aside for asymptomatic, high-risk homeless individuals—those are now occupied, including 131 rooms at the hotel where the Governor spoke today in Pittsburg, CA. Residents in this Pittsburg, CA hotel are receiving support services that are all locally driven but supported by the state. He told the audience Project Room Key is so successful, a number of other states in the U.S. are working to replicate the program, including Connecticut and Hawaii. 

Moving on to Project Home Key

The Governor noted the Project Room Key was never designed to be permanent, but rather a transition to a more permanent solution. It is currently being extended month-to-month through the COVID-19 crisis and he does not expect FEMA to walk away from a program solution that is working. 

Governor Newsom announced he was launching a new program titled Project Home Key—it is replacing Project Room Key. The Governor stated he believes people expect elected officials like him to do more to solve big problems like homelessness. He noted the signed Budget Act provides $900 million for programs for homeless Californians and $550 million to purchase fixed assets, like the hotel where he was speaking today, and $350 million to provide support services. Normally, he noted, as a former County Supervisor in San Francisco, trying to site, plan, and build something to provide more permanent housing solutions, would take 3-5 years just to plan and by then, he noted, the price would have gone up substantially.  According to the Governor, in Los Angeles, the cost is $500k per unit, which is when one realizes the scope of trying to solve a problem this large. He told the audience 293 hotels have been purchased in 52 counties that are participating in the program. The Governor noted he does hope additional counties join the program and stated he is, in fact, confident they will come along.   “We must do something more,” he stated. “Working with FEMA, County Boards of Supervisors and Health and Human Services teams, and being flexible can make this a reality. The goal is to establish a sense of permanency, a sense of place, a framework of opportunity to anchor the progress we’ve made in the midst of a pandemic.” 

The Governor thanked the partners who helped put Project Room Key (now known as) Project Home Key together, including Bob Benton with FEMA, and Blue Shield and Kaiser for the $45 million they contributed to the program. He told the audience today is really about updating where the state is, as it pertains to the virus, and he plans to make more announcements about Project Home Key and other initiatives, including enforcement of the state mask mandate. 

The Governor stated he remains concerned over the rising positivity rate. He noted the 14-day positivity rate has increased to 5.6% after hitting a low of 4.4% just two weeks ago. The 7-day positivity rate is up to 5.9%. “These numbers are a point of consideration, concern, and caution. These numbers and concerns expressed by local public health officials are what led us to take the action we did to close the bars in the communities where we’ve seen the largest increases.”

The Governor reminded the audience that 19 counties are on watch list now and he expects an additional four counties will be added to the list within the next 24 hours (find the counties being monitored here). He also told the audience during tomorrow’s live update, he will announce efforts to use the dimmer switch to toggle back on the stay-at-home order and tighten things up, as people have become increasingly at ease ignoring the mask mandate. “If you’re not going to stay home and you’re not going to wear a mask when you’re out, we will have to enforce the mandate and will make announcements about that effort during tomorrow’s updateWe bent this trend line in the right direction a few week ago. We will bend it back again, mark my words.”

The Governor told the audience he is deeply concerned about the 4th of July holiday, because it is traditionally a family holiday and contact tracing has already proven it is family gatherings that are leading to the increases in positive cases and hospitalizations. “It’s specifically family gatherings where family members from different households begin to mix and let down their guard. They may arrive wearing a mask, but take it off at some point, and then the next thing you know people are hugging and not keeping social distance in mind and this is how community spread happens.” We’re going to do more messaging about the seriousness of wearing a mask, keeping your social distance, and washing your hands. 

Q&A

A pool reporter posed all questions to the Governor. The event was outdoors, and it was rather loud, so only four questions were posed today. 

The first couple of questions focused on whether the Governor thought Project Home Key is viable in all counties and what is he going to do to get those additional eight counties that are not participating to join in. The Governor responded he believes by rewarding good behavior, the other counties will eventually come along. He noted his thankful to the 52 counties that have already joined the Project Home Key effort. “We are doing something unprecedented in this state. I look forward to working with those not participating and rewarding those that are already participating.” 

One question focused on the rate of COVID-19 cases in California’s correctional facilities, specifically San Quentin (same question posed and answered yesterday). The Governor responded that he spoke to these questions regarding the prison population and San Quentin yesterday and said during tomorrow’s COVID-19 update he will have more to say. 

The final question focused on whether the Governor believed the mask mandate could be enforced, as it has been in effect in LA for much longer and there is little compliance. The Governor responded that he will address enforcement efforts in tomorrow’s briefing. He reminded the audience he has $2.5 billion in local funding in the state budget to incentivize compliance and plans to have more to say about this tomorrow during his noon press conference. He closed by stating, “The one thing we know for sure is wearing a mask lowers one’s risk of getting the virus and it is the most effective non-pharmaceutical intervention to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus. If county officials are unwilling to enforce the mask mandate and are being dismissive of these orders, we will condition distribution of some of these funds to support locals. Already, we have Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Alcoholic Beverage Control already quite active in this spaceWe will have more to say about this topic tomorrow.”

With that the Governor closed with his usually reminder to wear a mask, keep your social distance, and wash your hands.

Key milestones – COVID-19 numbers – as of today (6.30.20)

  • 5,980 deaths, up by 44 overnight or +.07%; 14-day total up 859 or 16.8%
  • 222,917 positive cases-up by 6,367 or +2.9% overnight; 14-day total is 69,357 or up 45.2%
  • The state’s positivity rate increased again; the 7-day positivity rate is 5.9%; and the 14-day positivity rate is 5.6%
  • 4,167,139 tests conducted. One-day total 105,447 or up 2.6%
    • Latinos continue to have the highest percentage of positive cases at 56%; Caucasians 17%; Asians 7%, and Blacks 4%.
  • Hospitalizations for COVID positive is 4,776, up by 199 overnight or 4.3%; COVID suspected hospitalizations are 1,389; the 14-day rolling average for hospitalizations is 4,040.  
  • The majority of hospitalizations are in LA County 1,889; followed by Orange County 510; Riverside 405; San Diego 395; San Bernardino 393; Kern 151; San Joaquin 133; Fresno 116; Stanislaus 113; Alameda 111; Sacramento 98; Tulare 74; Ventura 74; Imperial 70; San Francisco 63; Santa Barbara 62.
  • ICU – COVID positive patients in ICU is 1,508 up by 63 overnight or 4.3%; COVID-suspected ICU patients is 223; 14-day rolling average of 1,270 in ICU.

State Budget 
Yesterday, as promised, the Governor signed the 2020 Budget Act, which authorizes a $202.1 billion-dollar spending plan for the next fiscal year ending June 30, 2021-21 and closes a $54.3 billion-dollar shortfall caused by the COVID-19 crisis (read more here). In signing the Budget Act, the Governor stated, “In the face of a global pandemic that has also caused a recession across the world and here in California, our state has passed a budget that is balanced, responsible and protects public safety and health, education, and services to Californians facing the greatest hardships,” said Governor Newsom. “I thank Pro Tem Atkins, Speaker Rendon and both houses of the Legislature for their continued partnership and leadership during this challenging moment in our state’s history.” (read the budget here). The Department of Finance has posted to its site, the Governor’s original proposed budget from January 2020; the May revise, and the final budget. (read more  here).

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