Will California declare monkeypox state of emergency?
As one of California’s public health emergencies appears to be subsiding, another is emerging.
Los Angeles County public health officers, who had been poised to take the controversial step of reinstating a universal indoor mask mandate as soon as today, announced Thursday they would not proceed with that plan due to improving coronavirus infection numbers and stabilizing hospitalization rates. (The BART board of directors, however, voted Thursday to reinstate the Bay Area public transit agency’s mask mandate through Oct. 1.)
- Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer: “We’re on a decline right now, and it’s hard for us to imagine reinstating universal indoor masking when we’re on this significant of a decline.”
The move came the same day that San Francisco declared a state of emergency over monkeypox, which will allow Mayor London Breed and other officials to more quickly funnel more resources into the city’s response to a virus that has disproportionately affected gay and bisexual men and transgender people. Demand for the monkeypox vaccine in San Francisco has consistently outpaced supply, with clinics closing earlier this week due to a shortage of shots.
The question: Will California will follow in San Francisco’s footsteps? State Sen. Scott Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat, on Wednesday urged both the city and the state to declare a monkeypox state of emergency.
- Wiener: “Unfortunately, because our federal government failed to act quickly to acquire the vaccine supplies needed to prevent an outbreak, we are now in a public health emergency that is only going to escalate. Given that gay and bi men and trans people are the most impacted, it’s sadly becoming clear that we are being left behind once again.”
- A spokesperson for Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office told me in a statement: “California is taking this outbreak very seriously and the state will continue to work with local health departments and community advocates to ensure that we’re able to assist in providing care, testing, and information to everyone who needs it. The administration has requested more vaccines from the federal government and contacted the manufacturer directly to ask for more.” On Friday, State Public Health Officer Tomás Aragón repeated a similar message in a call with reporters.
- The California Department of Public Health estimated last week that it needs at least 600,000 to 800,000 additional doses of the monkeypox vaccine for the highest-risk populations: gay and bisexual men and transgender and nonbinary people with two or more sexual partners. On Friday, U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla of California sent a letter to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra urging him to fulfill that request.
Thursday, 11 Democratic state lawmakers sent Becerra a letter seeking permission to use federal funds earmarked for specific uses — including fighting COVID — to combat monkeypox. California’s local health departments received nearly $1.5 billion, and “being able to leverage these funds for our immediate monkeypox response needs would be instrumental,” the lawmakers wrote.
State lawmakers last week also urged Newsom, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, and Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins to make an emergency budget appropriation to help counties expand their monkeypox vaccination, testing, treatment, education and outreach efforts. Rendon also asked Becerra to declare a federal public health emergency and make more vaccines available to the states.
California had 786 reported probable and confirmed monkeypox cases as of Thursday. A little more than 47,200 vaccine doses had been distributed to local health departments as of July 19, according to the state Department of Public Health.
The coronavirus bottom line: As of Monday, California had 9,871,930 confirmed cases (+0.7% from previous day) and 92,595 deaths (+0.1% from previous day), according to state data now updated just twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays. CalMatters is also tracking coronavirus hospitalizations by county.
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1 California climate news
This week has been an especially busy one for climate news, both on the federal level — with Democratic U.S. Sens. Chuck Schumer and Joe Manchin unveiling a proposed climate, energy and tax deal in a surprise Wednesday announcement — and on the state level. Here’s the latest from the Golden State:
- An excessive heat warning is slated to stretch through today for parts of Northern California, with temperatures reaching as high as 115 degrees and sparking concerns of increased wildfire risk — though Southern California could see rain showers and thunderstorms this weekend. Speaking of wildfires, the Oak Fire near Yosemite National Park had burned more than 19,000 acres and was 39% contained as of Thursday afternoon, with 116 structures destroyed and another 10 damaged, according to Cal Fire. About 2,000 people remained under evacuation orders.
- The climate and conservation manager of California’s State Water Resources Control Board is stepping down, accusing the Newsom administration of failing to act aggressively enough on drought and climate change, the Los Angeles Times reports.
- Amplify Energy Corp., which owns the pipeline that last year spilled thousands of gallons of oil into the waters off Huntington Beach, will pay nearly $1 million in cleanup costs, the Associated Press reports.
- California is this week finalizing a request for $384 million in federal funds to help cover the costs of installing thousands of fast electric vehicle charging stations across the state over the next eight years, per the Southern California News Group.
- Eight electric school buses in El Cajon will be able to send power back to the energy-strapped state grid using a first-of-its-kind technology developed by San Diego-based company Nuvve, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.
- The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is offering hundreds of gallons of free recycled water to its customers to help them irrigate their yards, the Los Angeles Times reports.
2 Audit exposes ‘fraudulent payroll scheme’
Acting State Auditor Michael Tilden is on a roll. On Thursday, just two days after his office released a report slamming the state water board for failing to provide urgent assistance to systems providing unsafe drinking water to nearly 1 million Californians, he unveiled another blistering audit exposing “a fraudulent payroll scheme” at the state Department of General Services that cost the state $185,000. The audit found that from 2016 to 2020, a supervisor falsified time sheets and training records for a custodian he had hired and with whom he had previously worked at another state agency. The two men then “conspired” to make it appear as though the custodian was working full-time, when in reality he stopped showing up to work after about one month, according to the audit. The custodian then shared some of his unearned pay with the supervisor.
- Meanwhile, a building manager who oversaw both the supervisor and the custodian “failed to provide even minimal oversight to the employees for whom he was responsible, enabling them to execute their criminal scheme,” Tilden wrote.
- The building manager’s “lax oversight” also permitted both the supervisor and an office technician to collect pay for hours they didn’t work, the report found.
- The Department of General Services told the auditor’s office “that it takes allegations of defrauding the state and abusing its resources seriously. It stated that it agrees with all of our recommendations and will move swiftly to implement them, including contacting and working with both law enforcement and other concerned state entities,” Tilden wrote.
Restoring sense of safety could improve public transit ridership: Lawmakers should pass my bill to require California’s 10 largest transit agencies to recognize street harassment as a rider safety concern, gather data and implement solutions, argues state Sen. Dave Min, a Costa Mesa Democrat.
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