September 4, 2020 Edition

California Legislature Completes Session for the History Books

In the early morning hours of Tuesday, the California Legislature concluded its 2019-20 Regular Legislative Session, marking the end of a tumultuous and historic session repeatedly interrupted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Legislators were met with significant time constraints, challenges associated with remote voting, and contentious policy and process debates leading up to the conclusion of session.

CHEAC Staff is pleased to bring you our CHEAC End of Session Memo which highlights actions of interest to California’s local health departments. A bill chart reflecting all legislative action is linked in the memo and available here.

Governor Gavin Newsom now has until September 30 to sign or veto bills passed by the Legislature on or before September 1. CHEAC will issue a final bill chart following the Governor’s September 30 deadline.

Tobacco Industry Files Referendum to Overturn Flavored Tobacco Ban

Just days after receiving final legislative approval and being signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom, California’s flavored tobacco ban faces yet another challenge by the tobacco industry. SB 793 by Senator Jerry Hill bans the sale of flavored tobacco products statewide, including mint and menthol products. The measure faced significant opposition from the tobacco industry and retailers leading up to the final days of the 2019-20 Legislative Session, but ultimately won approval of the legislature and governor last week.

On Monday, legal representatives of retailers and the tobacco industry, including tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds, filed paperwork with the Secretary of State to initiate the referendum process. Proponents of the referendum to overturn SB 793 must collect 623,212 signatures to qualify the referendum for the ballot. If opponents collect enough signatures, the flavored tobacco ban would be placed on hold until voters are given a chance to weigh in, possibly in 2022.

Senator Jerry Hill, author of SB 793, denounced the move by the newly formed group, California Coalition for Fairness. Hill remarked, “California fought Big Tobacco and won. This shameless industry is a sore loser and it is relentless. It wants to keep killing people with its candy-, fruit-, mint-, and menthol-flavored poison. The adults who are hooked on nicotine aren’t enough for Big Tobacco; it wants our kids too.”

CHEAC supported SB 793 and was a proud participant in the coalition of cosponsors, including the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, American Lung Association, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, Common Sense, and the Office of Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis. 

Citing COVID-19 Risks, CDC Issues Nationwide Eviction Moratorium

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this week issued an emergency order temporarily halting specified residential evictions nationwide due to increased COVID-19 transmission risks associated with evictions. The CDC order prohibits through December 31, 2020, owners or landlords from pursuing evictions of individuals who declare under penalty of perjury that they have exhausted all efforts to obtain government assistant for rent or housing, the individual meets specified income levels ($99,000 in annual income for calendar year 2020 or $198,000 if filing a joint tax return), the individual is unable to pay full rent or make full housing payment due to a substantial loss of income or wages, the individual is using best efforts to make timely partial payments, and the eviction would likely render the individual homeless.

Eligible renters must complete a declaration form available on the CDC’s website. In issuing the order, the CDC cites the increased likelihood of COVID-19 transmission in congregate living settings, such as homeless shelters, or among those experiencing unsheltered homelessness.

The CDC filed the order with the Federal Register on Tuesday and the order was published to take effect today, September 4, 2020. The full CDC order is available here.

Following Issues with CalREDIE, CDPH Announces New COVID-19 Data Reporting System

On Tuesday, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and the California Department of Technology (CDT) announced that OptumInsight, Inc. has been selected to develop the state’s new COVID-19 data reporting system. The system will collect, track, and report COVID-19 cases as a standalone database and is expected to supplement CalREDIE. The new data reporting system is built to manage the large volume of COVID-19 data currently tracked as a result of the pandemic. According to CDPH, the system was designed to help improve the efficiency of the systems that receive data from laboratories and public health departments and prepare data for reporting and analysis.

Recall, the Newsom Administration indicated its intent to establish a separate data reporting system for COVID-19 cases following issues with CalREDIE last month. CDPH entered into a six-month, renewable $15.3 million agreement with OptumInsight, Inc. using funding from the federal Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity for Prevention and Control of Emerging Infectious Diseases (ELC) grant. According to CDPH, the first phase of the new data reporting system is expected to be up and running in October.

The full announcement from CDPH is available here.

Newsom Issues Executive Order on PerkinElmer Contract

Late last week, Governor Gavin Newsom issued Executive Order N-77-20to expedite efforts by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and the Department of General Services (DGS) to establish and operate up to three sites for use as laboratories to increase the state’s COVID-19 testing capacity. Governor Newsom’s order comes on the heels of an announced $1.4 billion contractwith diagnostics company PerkinElmer to expand laboratory processing of tens of thousands of additional COVID-19 tests by November 1 with a contractual turnaround time of 24-48 hours.

DHCS Issues Medi-Cal Managed Care Plan RFI, Feedback Due Oct. 1

On Tuesday, the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) announced it is seeking input from interested parties on the Department’s proposed changes to Medi-Cal Managed Care plan contracts. The request for information (RFI) was released on September 1, 2020, and feedback is due by October 1, 2020. DHCS will not provide formal responses to RFI feedback.

DHCS will host a public webinar to present the RFI on Thursday, September 10 from 10:00 am to 11:30 am. Attendees must register in advance of the webinar using this link.

Additional information on the RFI, including the copy of the document, is available here.

Network for Public Health Law to Hold Virtual COVID-19 Summit

The Network for Public Health Law will hold its 2020 Public Health Law Virtual Summit on COVID-19 Response and Recovery on September 16 and 17, 2020. The summit will feature 20 concurrent sessions over two days covering critical COVID-19-related issues including health equity, federal, state, and local emergency measures, state preemption, protecting and managing the heath workforce, housing, education and broadband access, telehealth, and harm reduction and substance use disorders, among others.

The Network’s Western Regional Office will host a live, real-time question and answer session on Wednesday, September 16 from 12:45 pm to 2:00 pm PDT to address any questions related to the scope, extent, and duration of federal, state, and local emergency declarations and powers, constitutionality of key public health prevention efforts, navigation of legal issues related to implementing crisis standards of care, and impact of COVID-19 on vaccination policies, among others. Other questions and topics are able to be discussed during the Q&A session.

The summit is free to attend, but registration is required. Additional information, including registration, is available here.