Protesting stay-at-home order + How to cut unemployment checks faster + Smoking and COVID 19

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Andrew Sheeler, Hannah Wiley
·5 min read
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Happy Monday! Here’s hoping your weekend was as restful as possible, under the circumstances. As always, thanks for reading!

LOCKDOWN PROTESTS COME TO SACRAMENTO

It seems like ages ago when the Capitol’s corridors were filled with anti-vaccine and vaccine-skeptical families against Senate Bill 276, the new law that increased oversight of doctors issuing medical immunization exemptions for school kids.

Will today look anything like that?

Freedom Angels, one of the main groups that coordinated large protests during SB 276 committee hearing and floor debates has organized another Capitol rally today at noon, this time against coronavirus mandates.

The organization has used its social media in recent weeks to rail against California’s strict stay-at-home orders and proposals for a so-called coronavirus “testing and tracing” system that public health officials say will eventually help determine who has already been infected with COVID-19.

“People need to get back to work, get back to life, get back into contact with their loved ones’ who they’re isolated from, they need to be able to have a paycheck,” said co-founder Tara Thornton. “This is the grounds they will enslave us upon.”

COVID-19 has killed more than 1,150 people in California and infected 30,000, according to the state Department of Public Health. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order on March 19 to keep people at home until the threat of infection wanes.

Protests across the United States have popped up in recent days, from Michigan to Texas, Kentucky and North Carolina. President Donald Trump seemed to encourage the protests in a series of tweets in which wrote that people should “liberate” their states.

Several hundred people turned out on Sunday for a protest against Washington State’s coronavirus restrictions. Hundreds of Californians protested the lockdowns in Huntington Beach on Saturday.

Freedom Angels said in a Thursday Facebook video it has plans for additional rallies on April 24 and May 1.

Freedom Angels did not respond to questions from The Sacramento Bee, but a flyer posted to social media urges participants in “Operation Gridlock” to bring signs and flags.

Protests against the stay-at-home directive could harm the state’s battle against the virus, public health experts say.

“The best tool we currently have to prevent the spread of COVID-19 right now is physical distancing which is facilitated by sheltering in place and handwashing,” said Brandon Brown, an epidemiologist and associate professor in the Center for Healthy Communities at UC Riverside School of Medicine. “Resistant efforts such as in person protests or rallies against shelter in place orders and pushback against physical distancing can reverse the positive progress we have achieved thus far in flattening the curve.”

IMPROVING THE UNEMPLOYMENT RESPONSE

Cut the checks faster.

That’s the message from a coalition of labor groups, including Legal Aid at Work, the National Employment Law Project, the Center for Workers’ Rights in a letter to Gov. Newsom offering suggestions for how the Employment Development Department might streamline its Unemployment Insurance claim processing.

The letter lists four core concerns with EDD’s response to the coronavirus emergency, and its implementation of federal law aimed at helping those on the unemployment rolls.

They include calls to:

  1. improve the unemployment insurance process for mis-classified independent contractors and workers without reported wages;

  2. grant leniency for past disqualifications and provide guidance as to the appropriateness of false statement penalties in the future;

  3. automatically grant unemployment insurance benefits as of the first week of eligibility and

  4. make eligibility for pandemic emergency unemployment compensation automatic and immediate.

“We recognize the enormous service that the Employment Development Department and its staff are performing for working Californians, and hope these suggestions can help improve the Department’s work in the coming weeks and months,” the letter read in part.

SMOKING AND COVID-19

The California Department of Public Health should pay special attention to tobacco use among COVID-19 patients, wrote Sen. Jerry Hill of San Mateo in a letter to CDPH Director Sonia Angell.

“Although evidence of a linkage between tobacco use and COVID-19 severity is just emerging, I also urge you to continue the public smoking cessation campaigns, and to direct the public to resources to help them quit,” Hill wrote.

Hill pointed to World Health Organization data that show tobacco use can increase a person’s risk of suffering “the worst and most deadly symptoms of COVID-19.”

Hill said that while critics may dispute the connection between tobacco use and severe COVID-19, “there is zero doubt that quitting smoking and vaping improves health in the short and long term with or without COVID-19.”

The senator said California “does not have the luxury of time” when it comes to early warning signs linking tobacco use and severe COVID-19.

“Now is not the time for half-measures, but for aggressive action to protect as many lives as possible,” Hill wrote.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“We need a unifying nonpartisan figure to lead our Economic Recovery. By anointing California’s biggest political donor, billionaire Tom Steyer, it’s hard to imagine @GavinNewsom more wildly missing the mark.”

- Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, via Twitter.

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