Legislature Holds COVID-19 Hearings on Schools, Skilled Nursing Facilities
This week, the California State Senate and Assembly convened separate oversight hearings to explore the COVID-19-related impacts on education and distance learning, as well as skilled nursing facilities (SNFs). Below, brief summaries of the hearings are provided.
Senate Joint Oversight Hearing on Distance Learning
On Monday, the Senate Education Committee and Senate Special Committee on Pandemic Emergency Response convened a joint oversight hearing on K-12 distance learning during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The hearing featured two panels focused on access to distance learning and access to the internet and consisted of education officials and technology and telecommunications experts.
The oversight hearing explored distance only and in-person learning options, instruction and services to English language learners and special education students and impacts on student mental health. The hearing additionally focused on the digital divide, access to learning opportunities, and pandemic-related educational arrangements.
Assembly Oversight Hearing on School Reopening Process
The Assembly Budget Subcommittee No. 2 on Education Finance convened a hearing on Tuesday to explore the state’s role in the safe reopening of schools throughout California. The hearing focused primarily on how the 2020-21 State Budget provided resources to support the safe reopening of schools and how to anticipate the further role of state leadership and resources.
Tuesday’s hearing featured educational representatives, including school districts and the California Department of Education (CDE), the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO), and the Department of Finance (DOF). Acting State Public Health Officer Dr. Erica Pan participated in the hearing to provide background and an overview of the California Department of Public Health’s (CDPH) education guidance, engagement with education and labor representatives, and ongoing efforts to safely reopen schools throughout the state.
During the hearing, subcommittee members raised concerns around the clarity of guidance for COVID-19 testing among teachers, students, and staff, as well as the lack of uniformity of school reopenings among public and private schools. Another notable topic of discussion was financial supports for schools to adequately implement COVID-19 precautions, including personal protective equipment (PPE), testing, and physical distancing.
Assembly Informational Hearing on COVID-19 in Skilled Nursing Facilities
On Wednesday, the Assembly Budget Subcommittee No. 6 on Budget Process, Oversight, and Program Evaluation convened an informational hearing to receive updates on COVID-19 in skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) throughout the state. Wednesday’s hearing featured representatives from CDPH and DHCS, as well as the California Association of Long-Term Care Medicine, SEIU California, Ombudsman Services of Contra Costa, Solano, and Alameda, the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), and the California Association of Health Facilities.
In opening remarks, Subcommittee Chair Assembly Member Phil Ting discussed the high number of COVID-19 infections and deaths among SNF residents and staff and the importance of protecting vulnerable populations in SNFs. Presentations from panelists focused on state regulatory enforcement and technical assistance activities, COVID-19 response efforts, SNF resident and staff needs, infection prevention protocols, and SNF management practices.