July 2, 2020 Edition

Newsom Signs 2020-21 Budget

Governor Gavin Newsom on Monday signed the 2020 Budget Act, representing a $202.1 billion spending plan that addresses numerous pressing issues related to emergency response, public health and safety, and economic recovery while addressing the state’s $54.3 billion budget deficit ushered in by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Among the 2020 Budget Act measure, Governor Newsom signed a series of budget trailer bills, including those related to health, public health, human services, and housing.

The full announcement from the Governor’s Office is available here. As a reminder, CHEAC issued a memo detailing the 2020-21 budget package, including summaries of relevant budget trailer bills; all information is available on CHEAC’s Budget Advocacy webpage.

Legislature Now on Summer Recess, Measure to Protect Local Health Officers Introduced

While the Assembly recessed for their summer recess last week, the Senate remained in session this week. Most of their work was focused on a few special hearings focused on outbreaks of COVID-19 at the California/Mexico border and in California’s state prisons (see below for hearing details). Members of both houses will be out of session next week and will return for the remainder of their 2020 session on Monday, July 13.

Below, we highlight several bills of interest to CHEAC Members. For a full update, the CHEAC Weekly Bill Chart is available here.

Communicable Disease Control

SB 483 (Pan) as amended July 13, 2020 – SUPPORT

SB 483 by Senator Richard Pan was recently amended to prohibit the disclosure of the home addresses of public health officers in records of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Currently, home addresses of certain public employees and officials are prohibited from being disclosed except to a court, law enforcement agency, an attorney in a civil or criminal action, and certain other official entities. As described in the measure, such a move would protect personal and private information of public health officials and their families while preserving the public’s right to access information concerning the conduct of the people’s business. CHEAC supports SB 483. 

Senate Public Safety Committee Examines COVID-19 in State Prisons

On Wednesday, the Senate Public Safety Committee convened an informational hearing to assess COVID-19 in California’s state prisons. Committee Chair Senator Nancy Skinner opened Wednesday’s hearing by providing an overview of the current COVID-19 case counts within state prisons among inmates and staff, as well as remarks on the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s (CDCR) response and mitigation activities. Much of the hearing focused on the ongoing outbreak occurring at the San Quentin State Prison, as well as CDCR’s transfer processes and testing activities. Assembly Member Marc Levine joined the hearing as a special guest given that the San Quentin State Prison is in his district. Assembly Member Levine in opening remarks decried the state’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak at the setting in Marin County, contending that the state’s transfer of inmates who tested positive for COVID-19 into San Quentin the “worst prison health screw-up in state history.”

The hearing featured a panel of Newsom Administration representatives, including CDCR Secretary Ralph Diaz, Correctional Health Care Services Federal Receiver Clark Kelso, California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly, and California Department of Public Health Chief Deputy Director Susan Fanelli. Each of the Newsom Administration officials discussed their department and agency’s response roles in mitigating the further spread of the virus, notably with CDCR Secretary Ralph Diaz defending his department’s handling of the COVID-19 outbreaks in state prison settings and acknowledging that “we can do better, and I know we will do better.” CHHS Secretary Mark Ghaly similarly acknowledged the challenges in controlling the outbreak in prisons throughout the state, noting that “there is no dispute that more could be and should be done” to stem the sharply rising cases.

Senate Public Safety Members widely criticized the Newsom Administration’s handling of the response and prison transfer processes. Committee Chair Nancy Skinner referred to the transfer of infected inmates as “abhorrent” and posed the question, “Was CDCR mandating the same public health protocols that the state asked the rest of us?” Other committee members, including Senators Holly Mitchell and Scott Wiener, expressed serious concerns with the ongoing case counts in state prisons, with Senator Mitchell labeling the incident at the San Quentin State Prison the “canary in the coal mine.” Committee members consistently pressed CDCR and other Newsom Administration officials to clearly detail the Administration’s action steps moving forward to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, both within state prison settings and in surrounding communities.

The hearing additionally included a panel focused on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the prison community featured representatives from the Anti-Recidivism Coalition, the Ella Baker Center, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, and the UCSF Department of Medicine. Notably, a former San Quentin inmate who was released six months ago detailed his experience in the facility relative to medical care and discussed at length fellow inmates still housed at San Quentin with chronic medical conditions and terminal illnesses.

The hearing agenda is available here and a video recording of the hearing is available here.

Senate Convenes Joint Informational Hearing to Examine COVID-19 in California’s U.S.-Mexico Border Region

On Tuesday, the Senate Select Committee on California-Mexico Cooperation and the Senate Special Committee on Pandemic Emergency Response convened an informational hearing to examine the impact of COVID-19 on the California-Mexico border region. The hearing began with opening remarks from Select Committee Chair Senator Ben Hueso, Special Committee Chair Senator Lena Gonzalez, and Consul General of Mexico in Sacramento Liliana Ferrer. The hearing featured three panels detailing state and local responses to the pandemic, health care system activities, and economic and public health impacts of COVID-19 on the region.

The first panel featured California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Chief Deputy Director of Policy and Programs Susan Fanelli, Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (OES) Deputy Director of Response Operations Eric Lamoureax, and Imperial County Public Health Director Janette Angulo. Representatives from San Diego County and the City of Chula Vista were also featured. Director Angulo discussed the county’s response activities and experiences relative to COVID-19, including its case rates, spread factors, hospitalizations, testing, and mitigation efforts. Ms. Angulo discussed the unique makeup of the jurisdiction and contributors to its rising COVID-19 counts, as well as its ongoing work with federal and state partners in attempt to control the spread of the virus.

Representatives from Scripps Health, Pioneers Memorial Healthcare District, El Centro Regional Medical Center, and UC San Diego School of Medicine discussed the impact of the pandemic on the region’s healthcare system, including activities and challenges associated with personal protective equipment (PPE) procurement, hospital capacity, and health care provider protections. The last panel featured representatives from the SANDAG Borders Committee and City of Imperial Beach, Jewish Family Services, and Comite Civico Del Valley to discuss impacts on the region’s residents.

The hearing agenda is available here and a background paper is available here. A video recording of the hearing is available here.

State Orders Additional Action to Slow COVID-19 Community Transmission

On Wednesday, Governor Gavin Newsom and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) announced actions required of 19 counties on the County Monitoring List for three consecutive days or more, including closing indoor operations for specified sectors which promote the mixing of populations beyond households and make adherence to physical distancing and wearing face coverings difficult. The guidance issued by the state applies for a minimum of three weeks and is subject to extension based on epidemiological indicators.

The state is requiring that indoor activities in the following sectors cease immediately:

  • Indoor Dine-in Restaurants
  • Indoor Wineries and Tasting Rooms
  • Indoor Family Entertainment Centers
  • Indoor Movie Theaters
  • Indoor Zoos and Museums
  • Indoor Cardrooms

Notably, the 19 jurisdictions covered by the state’s guidance represent approximately 72 percent of the state’s population. Additional information from CDPH is available here.

Pan, Kothari, Fanelli Among Governor Appointees

On Monday, Governor Gavin Newsom announced a series of appointments to leadership roles within the California Department of Public Health and the California Department of Social Services, among other agencies. The following officials were appointed:

Erica Pan, Deputy Director for the Center for Infectious Disease and California State Epidemiologist, CDPH – Erica Pan has been appointed as the California State Epidemiologist at CDPH. Pan has served as interim health officer and director of the Division of Communicable Disease Control and Prevention at the Alameda County Public Health Department since 2011. Dr. Pan was director of public health emergency preparedness and response at the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) in 2011 and director of the Bioterrorism and Infectious Disease Emergencies Unit at SFDPH from 2004 to 2011.

Chevon Kothari, Chief Deputy Director, California Department of Social Services (CDSS) – Chevon Kothari has been appointed CDSS Chief Deputy Director. Ms. Kothari has served as the director of the Mariposa County Health and Human Services Agency since 2018 and was director of the Mariposa County Human Services Department from 2014 to 2018. She was also principal consultant and owner of Capacity Consulting from 2008 to 2014 and executive director of the Alliance for Community Transformations from 2010 to 2014.

Susan Fanelli, Chief Deputy Director of Policy and Programs, California Department of Public Health (CDPH) – Susan Fanelli was reappointed to her role as Chief Deputy Director at CDPH, a position she has held since 2018. Ms. Fanelli served as acting director of CDPH in 2019 and held several other positions since 2004.

Jayanth Kumar, California State Dental Director, CDPH – Jayanth Kumar was reappointed to his role as the California State Dental Director, a position he has held since 2015. Dr. Kumar previously served in several roles at the New York State Department of Health between 1980 and 2015 and was an associate professor for the School of Public Health and New York state dental public health residency program director at the University of Albany.

The full announcement from the Governor’s Office is available here.

Cannabis License Deferrals Announced, MMIC Cards Extended Additional 60 days

The Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC), the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) announced earlier this week that businesses with state commercial cannabis licenses expiring between July 1, 2020, and August 31, 2020, may request 60-day deferrals of their license fee payments as a means of providing immediate financial assistance to state cannabis licensees impacted by COVID-19.  For more information, please visit the BCC website.

In addition, BCC announced this week that Governor Newsom, in Executive Order N-71-20, released on June 30, also extended the timelines for when Medical Marijuana Identification Cards (MMIC) would otherwise expire an additional 60 days. Accordingly, any MMICs that would otherwise have expired between March 4, 2020, and any day within 120 days from May 19, 2020, remain valid for 120 days from May 19, 2020. Please note this only applies to ID cards issued by local health departments and does not include recommendations issued by a person’s personal physician.

Newsom Administration Renames Project Roomkey to Homekey

On Tuesday, Governor Gavin Newsom provided updates on the state’s progress with Project Roomkey, a first of its kind partnership with FEMA to shelter individuals experiencing homelessness during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The state has procured 15,679 hotel and motels rooms and 1,345 trailers and served an estimated 14,200 individuals in 52 counties in its three months since launching. To reflect an intent to ensure more permanent shelter and services, the Governor announced the state has renamed Project Roomkey to Homekey.

Homekey has the financial backing of $1.3 billion in funds available through the 2020-21 Budget Act and will facilitate local jurisdictions’ efforts in acquiring and rehabilitating hotels, motels, vacant apartment buildings, residential care facilities, and other tiny homes. Among the funding available is $550 million in federal funds to assist local jurisdictions in identifying and acquiring buildings and up to $350 million for general local homelessness supportive services. Additionally, Kaiser Permanente and Blue Shield of California have committed $25 million and $20 million, respectively, for a new services subsidy fund for jurisdictions implementing Homekey.

The full announcement from the Governor’s Office is available here.

Newsom Extends Previous COVID-19 Executive Orders

Governor Gavin Newsom on Tuesday issued Executive Order N-71-20 extending provisions included in previously issued executive orders amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Of particular note, the order extends provisions related to the issuance of Medical Marijuana Identification Cards (MMIC). The order also extends authorization for local governments to halt evictions for renters impacted by the pandemic through September 30, waives eligibility redeterminations for Californians who participate in Medi-Cal, suspends face-to-face visits for foster care eligibility, permits IHSS program caseworkers to continue caring for older adults and individuals with disabilities, and allows adults to obtain marriage licenses via videoconferencing. The order also extends waivers temporarily to allow counties to enroll persons into CalWORKs and extends provisions related to DMV transactions.