July 17, 2020 Edition

Legislative Session Schedule Still Uncertain

As we reported to you last week, the Legislature, scheduled to return this week, extended their recess until July 27 after two Assembly Members and several legislative staffers contracted COVID-19. At this time, the plan remains for members and limited staff to return on Monday, July 27; however, the calendar for legislative hearings still remains uncertain. The Assembly has released their policy committee tentative schedule and have also directed members to consider cutting back the number of bills they move forward. Assembly Members have also been asked to work with Senate Committee staff on priority bills that may be at risk of not advancing. Meanwhile, the Senate, who have the biggest bulk of bills to consider, have not yet released their hearing calendar.

CHEAC will continue to keep its members posted with the latest information as it becomes available. The latest version of the CHEAC Weekly Bill Chart is available here.

Newsom Administration Announces Additional Restrictions for Sectors, Schools to Slow Transmission of COVID-19

This week, the Newsom Administration announced additional sector restrictions to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 throughout the state. The actions include:

Expanded Closures of Indoor Operations for Certain Sectors, Counties

On Monday, Governor Gavin Newsom and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) announced expanding indoor closures of certain businesses both statewide and in counties that have been on the County Monitoring List for three or more consecutive days. Statewide, businesses such as restaurants, wineries and tasing rooms, movie theaters, family entertainment centers, zoos, and museums and cardrooms were ordered closed. These businesses are still able to modify operations to provide services outdoors or by pick-up. Additionally, brewpubs, breweries, bars, and pubs are ordered to close statewide, both indoors and outdoors, unless these businesses are offering sit-down meals outdoors.

For counties that have been on the monitoring list for three or more consecutive days, additional sectors were ordered to close indoor operations. These include gyms and fitness centers, places of worship, indoor protests, offices for non-critical infrastructure sectors, personal care services (including nail salons, massage parlors, and tattoo parlors), hair salons and barbershops, and malls. On Monday when the state announced these measures, 29 counties accounting for 80 percent of the state’s population were on the monitoring list. The actions announced on Monday are in effect until further notice.

The full press announcement from CDPH is available here.

Framework for School Openings and Closures

Today, Governor Gavin Newsom issued a COVID-19 framework for K-12 schools in California, detailing a five-step plan for education delivery amid the ongoing pandemic. The plan addresses the following areas:

  • Safe In-Person School Based on Local Health Data – Updated schools guidance released today specifies the use of existing epidemiological metrics to determine whether school districts can begin the 2020-21 school year in-person or virtually. Schools located in counties that are on the state’s monitoring list must not physically open for in-person instruction until their county has been off the monitoring list for 14 consecutive days. Schools in counties that have not been on the monitoring list for the prior 14 days may begin with in-person instruction while following public health guidelines. Local health officers may grant a waiver to allow elementary schools to reopen in-person instruction if the waiver is requested by the district superintendent, in consultation with labor, parents, and community-based organizations. Local health officers must consider local data and consult with CDPH in considering the waiver request. CDPH also issued updated guidance for when schools must physically close and revert to distance learning due to COVID-19 infections. Through tiered thresholds, CDPH guidance provides a framework for when a classroom cohort, school, and school district should close.
  • Mask Requirements – All staff and students in third grade and above will be required to wear a mask or face covering. Students in second grade and below are strongly encouraged to wear a face covering. Students should be provided a face covering if they do not have one. The state has delivered over 18 million face coverings to schools to support reopening and student learning.
  • Physical Distancing Requirements – CDPH requires that all adults stay at least six feet from one another and six feet away from children. Students should maintain six feet of distance from one another as practicable. Any individual entering the school must complete a health screening, and any student or staff exhibiting a fever or other symptoms will be immediately sent home.
  • Testing and Contact Tracing – CDPH’s guidance further recommends staff in every California school be tested for COVID-19 periodically based on disease trends and as testing capacity allows. During today’s press conference, Governor Newsom additionally announced the state will provide resources and technical assistance for COVID-19 infection investigations in school settings.
  • Rigorous Distance Learning – For schools that are unable to hold in-person instruction, the Newsom Administration highlighted recent requirements set forth by the state’s FY 2020-21 state budget, including school district-provided devices and connectivity so that every child can participate in distance learning, daily live interaction for every child with teachers and other students, class assignments that are challenging and equivalent to in-person instruction, and targeted supports and interventions for English learners and special education students.

The full CDPH schools guidance framework is available here. The full announcement from the Governor’s Office is available here.

State Details Updated COVID-19 Testing Criteria, Activities

This week, the Newsom Administration announced a handful of COVID-19 testing-related activities, including updated COVID-19 testing guidance, new requirements for health plans to cover testing, and new California COVID-19 Testing Task Force leaders. Below, each of the actions is detailed:

Testing Guidance

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued updated testing guidance that focuses on testing hospitalized individuals who have COVID-19 symptoms and individuals without symptoms who are in high-risk categories. According to the state, the new guidance will ensure that Californians who most need COVID-19 tests will receive them amid testing supply procurement challenges. The new guidance is available here.

DMHC Emergency Regulations

The Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) this week issued emergency regulations deeming COVID-19 testing a medically necessary basic health care service for essential health workers and people with symptoms of or possible exposure to COVID-19, thereby requiring health plans to provide coverage for testing. The emergency regulations and supplemental materials from DMHC are available here.

Testing Task Force Leaders Announced

California Health and Human Services (CHHS) Agency Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly this week also announced new co-chairs of the California COVID-19 Testing Task Force, the state’s public-private partnership tasked with expanding the collection and processing of specimens for COVID-19 testing. Dr. Gil Chavez, founding chief of the CDPH Center for Infectious Diseases, and Dr. Bechara Choucair, senior vice president and chief health officer for Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc. were announced as the new co-chairs of the task force.

The full announcement from CHHS is available here.

Homekey Funding Now Available to Local Governments

This week, the Newsom Administration announced the availability of $600 million in funding for Homekey, the next phase of Project Roomkey to provide shelter for Californians experiencing homelessness who are at high risk from serious illness from COVID-19. Homekey grant funds are available to counties, cities, and other governmental entities to purchase and rehabilitate hotels, motels, vacant apartment buildings, and other types of innovative housing to convert them into permanent, long-term housing for people at risk of experiencing homelessness.

Of the $600 million in Homekey funding, $550 million has been made available through California’s allocation from the federal Coronavirus Aid Relief Funds, with an additional $50 million through the California General Fund to supplement acquisition and initial operating costs. The Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) will begin accepting applications on July 22, 2020; any awards received by local governments must be spent by December 30, 2020. The full announcement from the Governor’s Office is available here. The DHCD notice of funding availability is available here.

National Drug Overdose Deaths Surge to Record Level

After U.S. drug overdose deaths fell for the first time in 25 years in 2018, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this week indicated deaths surged to record levels in 2019 and are continuing to climb. The CDC reports that projected deaths from drug overdoses increased to nearly 72,000 deaths or 4.8 percent from 2018. Notably, increases in overdose deaths from illicit drugs including methamphetamine, cocaine, and fentanyl have contributed most significantly to the projected overall increase in 2019. In 2019, California realized a projected 15.9 percent increase in drug overdose deaths.

The full preliminary data release from the CDC is available here.