Supt. Thurmond Deploys 3 Million COVID Tests to Speed Up Safe School Reopening

Bo Tefu | California Black Media

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond expanded an existing pilot testing program, adding 3 million free COVID-19 rapid antigen tests, as part of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan to accelerate the safe reopening of schools across California.

“Being able to quickly identify who is positive and who is not will be critically important for day-to-day operations on a school campus and will help protect not only students but teachers and support staff,” said Thurmond.

State administrators partnered with the California COVID-19 Testing Task Force and the California Department of Education to safeguard the reopening of K-12 schools in underprivileged communities across the state. High-needs schools will have access to antibody tests at no cost so that students can return for in-person instruction. The pilot program delivered rapid antigen tests to 11 school districts located in areas that were the most impacted by the pandemic. The participating schools produced fruitful results that identified individuals who were asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic. The pilot program prioritizes rural regions, low-income neighborhoods, as well as Black and Brown communities that were disproportionately affected by COVID-19 due to limited access to adequate health care.

Thurmond said that it is important to get the rapid antibody tests “into the hands of those who may lack the access to testing or medical care.”

The antibody tests are crucial for the safe reopening of schools seeing that individuals can get results in at least 15 minutes, state officials said. Members of the COVID-19 taskforce train and oversee the testing process at participating schools in efforts to expand the pilot program.

State administrators also implemented the Healthy Places Index, a census data-tracking tool that identifies underserved populations inconvenienced by the pandemic. The metric tool was created by the Public Health Alliance of Southern California to boost state outreach in low-income Black and Brown communities.

Gov. Newsom said the pilot program is preparing more schools to welcome students for in-person learning before the end of the year.

“By deploying these rapid tests, California is adding another tool in the toolbox to support schools as they continue on the path to reopen as safely and quickly as possible,” said Newsom.

The rapid antibody testing pilot program was launched in January 2021 by the California COVID-19 Testing Task Force along with the California Endowment and the Public Health Institute. The research institutions, part of Gov. Newsom’s Together Toward Health initiative, are expected to publish the pilot program’s data revealing the test results of more than 40,000 students from 80 elementary schools in 11 school districts across the state.

According to the Public Health Institute and the Ballmer Group, positive cases of COVID-19 can be contained to prevent the fast spread of the virus if detected early.

Gov. Newsom recently signed a bill that gives workers who were exposed to or test positive or for COVID-19 access to paid sick leave. The new legislation was enacted to protect essential workers, including educators and school staff, who at high risk of contracting the virus.

The bill aims to fill the gaps in policies related to state and federal paid sick leave, according to state lawmakers. Gov. Newsom said the new law also gives employees who tested positive or were exposed to the virus, “a little more peace of mind as they take time to care for themselves and protect those around them from COVID-19.”

“Helping employees stay home when they are sick is foundational in our response to COVID-19,” said Newsom.

California is still on its path to overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the state has vaccinated more than 200,000 education staff and childcare workers since the beginning of March 2021.

The state exceeded its initial goal to conduct 75,000 weekly vaccinations as part of the governor’s plan to allocate at least 10 % of the state’s vaccinations to education and childcare workers statewide. California has vaccinated teachers and school staff in 58 counties, according to state officials.

“We will continue working with our local partners to accelerate this effort in communities across the state so that all school staff have access to a vaccine,” which is a major step toward the safe reopening of schools in California, said Newsom.

California Black Media’s coverage of COVID-19 is supported by the California Health Care Foundation.

Women’s History Month: Three Black Leaders on the Forefront of California’s COVID-19 Response

Profile: Yolanda Richardson, the Operator

Bo Tefu | California Black Media

In January 2020, Gov. Newsom appointed Yolanda Richardson as California’s new Secretary of the Government Operations Agency. Now, one year into that role, the governor has charged Richardson with spearheading California’s vaccination distribution. That’s in addition to other COVID-19 emergency response initiatives she leads, including promoting equitable testing and supplying personal protective equipment where needed to keep California’s population of 40 million people safer.

Richardson hit the ground running responding to the COVID-19 pandemic four days after being sworn into office by Newsom. She is responsible for 11 state departments and programs that ensure that the California state government runs smoothly and achieves its goal of overcoming the challenges presented by the pandemic. Richardson’s passion for problem-solving was an effective tool in boosting state efforts to build a coronavirus testing laboratory and establishing a vaccine task force. Her 25 years of experience in the healthcare industry has sharpened her expertise and “get-it-done” leadership style as one of three African American women to lead California’s efforts in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A major challenge for Richardson was, “being thrust into a situation,” to fight the pandemic and find new ways to “get things done in an environment in which we never imagined,” she said.

“The biggest challenge to us has been: How do we keep state government working effectively and continuing to deliver services efficiently,” said Richardson.

Despite the unprecedented challenges of COVID-19, Richardson saw an opportunity to support legislation that enabled Californians to make a smooth transition to work-from-home and homeschooling policies. The operation’s team also implemented the governor’s plans to manage

$7.6 billion in COVID-19 relief funds, $6.6 billion for state schools, and $30 million in grants to support local organizations.

“The biggest win was that people did what they needed to continue moving forward during one of the biggest shifts our state has seen,” said Richardson.

The state of California has partnered with various community-based organizations, leaders, and businesses, a unique approach to the pandemic, in efforts to promote equity, she said.

“In everything we do, we have to be thoughtful about all of the different situations that we find people in,” said Richardson. “I think the state has just done an amazing job of really thinking about being thoughtful and trying to make sure that the approaches and the things that we do meet people where they are.”

The state’s operations team continues to evaluate progress through data-tracking and managing collaborative efforts with community partners to make sure the state achieves its desired outcomes, she said.

Richardson discussed racial equity in the healthcare system with medical experts and leaders in the Black and Latino caucuses, as part of Gov. Newsom’s plans to provide community clinics and health centers with COVID-19 testing and vaccines.

“I’m very passionate about allocating more vaccines to our communities that are mostly populated by Black and Brown people,” said Richardson. “I am very much committed to using my voice and the platform I’ve been blessed with to make sure that I do everything I can to help those in need.”

Vaccine hesitancy fueled by misinformation and disinformation about COVID-19 has made it hard for the state to reach vulnerable populations in low-income areas, according to state officials. However, community leaders expressed concerns regarding access to adequate health care, COVID-19 testing, vaccine distribution.

“We’re leveraging trusted advisors, using people in the community that the communities listened to the most,” Sec. Richardson said. “We’re looking at all the different strategies we can employ that are most comfortable and familiar to those in diverse communities so that they can feel comfortable about getting the vaccine.”

Among her list of impressive titles, Richardson is a proud mother of two, an enthusiastic dog owner and wife to her husband of 23 years, who are the anchor to her sanity and peace, she said.

“I have an amazing family that is very supportive,” Richardson said. “I am very blessed to have a beautiful family that keeps me balanced.”

Although balance is hard for any leader, Richardson said her operations team has pushed her to accomplish California’s objectives in serving communities statewide. California’s leaders still

have a long road ahead to achieve its goal of overcoming the pandemic and safely reopening the state.

“There’s so much to do, we joke and say every day is Monday in the state of California. But I have the most extraordinary colleagues who have been a huge support,” said Richardson.


Profile: Nadine Burke Harris, the Equity Advocate

Quinci LeGarye | California Black Media

Nadine Burke Harris is California’s first Surgeon General, a role that consists of a number of high-level internal governmental obligations as well as a significant amount of public-facing responsibility. In addition to advising the governor on health matters, she is also the state’s “public health spokesperson,” Burke Harris told California Black Media.


“Probably the biggest part of my job is that I translate science into information that people can use to help keep themselves healthy. That’s probably my favorite part of the job,” she says.


When asked what her biggest success has been regarding California’s pandemic-related public-health efforts, Burke-Harris focused on the state’s equity measures. They include equity metrics within the state’s reopening blueprints for counties as well as an equity strategy within COVID-19 vaccine allocation that reserves 40 % of vaccines for socio-economically disadvantaged communities. She also mentioned her role as co-chair of the Community Vaccine Advisory Committee, which is part of the process of determining how California allocates and distributes its vaccines.


“I think our reopening blueprint really demonstrates how seriously California is taking the issue of equity because our whole notion is that we recognize that this pandemic is disproportionately hard on Black communities, and we really want to make sure that when we are reopening that we are doing an equitable reopening,” said Burke-Harris.


Prior to becoming California’s Surgeon General, Burke-Harris treated children as a pediatrician. She is the founder of the Center for Youth Wellness in the Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood of San Francisco. In her decade and a half working in the community, Burke-Harris saw how certain equity and accessibility issues would impact her patients’ ability to receive care.


Burke-Harris says, “There are a lot of little things that you realize. For example, I was just on a conversation where we were talking about how close a vaccine site has to be in order to be considered accessible. One of the things that I highlighted is that I live in San Francisco, and I have a car, so for me, something that’s five miles away is perfectly acceptable. But for the patients that I cared for, I had the experience of seeing how hard it is for someone who’s got two or three kids to take three buses across town to get where they have to go. Five miles away may not be accessible. That has certainly informed my role in the state and how I advise the governor.”


In addition to her work on the COVID-19 response, Burke-Harris has also continued her previous work on raising awareness about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and how toxic stress affects children. A training initiative, which she began in January 2020, has now educated almost 20,000 doctors about how to identify and improve healthcare outcomes for people who have experienced ACEs.


As for her biggest challenge during the pandemic, she acknowledged a feeling of exhaustion. Such exhaustion, she says, is common among health care providers and others on the frontline of the COVID-19 response and relief efforts, after a full year of the pandemic.


“It’s been a real sprint. My colleagues in government, and especially in health and human services, have been working around the clock responding to this emergency. It’s a lot, it’s late at night, on the weekends, my family not seeing enough of me. I think that for all of us, just the endurance has been pretty intense,” Burke Harris says.


To help recover from the daily pressures of work, Burke Harris values self-care and family time. She makes an intentional effort to practice meditation as selfcare when life gets hectic. As for family time, she enjoys game nights and snuggles from her children to cultivate joy. Also, her kids are quick to tell her when she seems stressed.


Burke Harris says, “I remember there was one point during the January surge that was really intense. I was having dinner with my family and my eight-year-old said, “Oh no, it looks like Mama lost her giggle.” In that moment, he just held up a mirror for me, and how much the intensity and the pressure of my work was coming into our family life. It just reinforced for me that no matter what I’ve got to keep that sense of playfulness with my kids.”


Profile: Kimberly Goode, the Implementer

Antonio Ray Harvey | California Black Media

During a time when an all-out effort is underway to get Californians vaccinated, a few women leaders in California are leading the charge to reach the communities hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic, including Black families in “hard-to-reach” areas across the state.

Kimberley Goode, the Senior Vice President of External Affairs for Blue Shield of California) is one of those Black women in on the frontlines.


Blue Shield of California is the state’s “third-party administrator” as California ramps up its push to get its 40 million residents vaccinated. Goode says the company, with headquarters in Oakland, has taken a number of steps to support the state’s goal to get vaccines to all Californians – particularly those who have been disproportionately impacted — in a way that is safe, equitable and swift. Blue Shield’s provider network boasts more than 1,200 vaccination sites in California, including community clinics, multi-county entities, hospital systems, medical groups, pharmacies and others.

“The state makes final allocation decisions. The state makes all decisions around eligibility,” says Goode. “Our job is to make sure that the robust network that we’ve built is able to get that vaccine to the providers who are throughout every community in the state of California – to reach every zip code.”


Goode says their distribution efforts target areas in the state where data shows there are higher incidents of infection and death. “Those are the places we really want to double down on and make sure that we have more vaccines there, more quickly,” she said. “We make sure we partner with local community clinics, trust


“Our goal is two reach 3 million doses per week by March,” Goode added.


A public-relations specialist, Goode’s position with Blue Shield of California puts her in charge of communication and outreach on behalf of the nonprofit that generates more than $20 billion in annual revenue and serves more than 4 million members in commercial, individual, and government markets.


“There is a lot of concern about the impact of COVID-19 on communities of color and, in particular, the African American community,” says Goode. “One of the things that should give comfort to people in this process is that there are a lot of people who care about equity, and two state leaders I work with, Dr. Nadine Burke Harris and Secretary Yolanda Richardson – they are two very important voices that are ensuring that equity is at the forefront of the decision-making process, and the implementation of the vaccine distribution.”


She has more than 25 years of communications experience with several global companies, including Kellogg’s, Prudential Financial, American Express, and Allstate. She also spent time as the vice president of Corporate Communications and Corporate Affairs at Northwestern Mutual, where she was responsible for leading the company’s internal and external communications strategy.


In the summer of May 2017, Goode joined Blue Shield of California to provide strategic leadership in corporate communications, government affairs, and corporate citizenship. She is also responsible for building relationships that help advance the nonprofit health plan’s mission.


“If that’s not enough titles, I get to work on the communication, education, and equity workstream for the third-party administration work that we’re doing on the behalf of the state for the vaccination program,” said Goode, who chairs Blue Shield of California’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Leadership Council.


Goode is active professionally and in the community with a number of organizations, including the Executive Leadership Council, the Bay Area Council, Children Now Leadership Council and California Women Lead Advisory Council, Jack and Jill of America, Inc., and The Links, Inc.


At home, Goode says she has been working from home and sheltering in a “four-generation family bubble” with her husband, her two daughters, her 75-year-old mother and her 95-year-old grandmother.


“The silver lining of this pandemic has been that it has really helped me to reflect on what matters most and prioritize my time with my family – to focus on the things that are meaningful. We engage in some old fun activities. We play “Black Panther Monopoly.” It’s a board game that is a ton of fun. Just having fun with family in ways that we used to take for granted.”


But the greatest reward of her work right now, Goode says, is working for a “mission-driven company.”


“This is work that enables us to help every Californian,” she said. It is very gratifying to know that when I wake up and come to work every day (even though it is in my living room), it is not

focused on ‘how I can help Blue Shield today.” It is focused on “how can Blue Shield help Californians across the state.’”

Gov. Gavin Newsom Launches Fight Against Recall Effort

Dianne Lugo

Gov. Gavin Newsom has largely kept quiet about the now inevitable recall effort against him that has been months in the making. But on Monday, the California governor launched a political action committee to fight back against the measure and raise money for his defense campaign.

Organizers had until today, Wednesday, March 17, to submit at least 1.5 million signatures to force a recall election on the ballot. It is a feat they said they had surpassed since last week, allegedly collecting 2 million signatures. Election officials will have until April 29 to verify them and report the final number to state officials.

“I won’t be distracted by this partisan, Republican recall – but I will fight it,” Newsom said in a tweet that linked to the campaign website, “There is too much at stake.”

The website, named “Stop the Republican Recall,” details Newsom’s strategy to paint the recall as a campaign led by anti-vaxxers, conspiracy theorists, and anti-immigrant Trump supporters. It also urges people to donate.

“I am not going to take this recall attempt lying down,” he said in an email sent from the campaign.

Other Democrats spoke out in support of Newsom early in the week as well.

“The same Republicans who refused to hold Donald Trump accountable for the deadly insurrection of January 6th are now trying to hold Governor Newsom accountable for the failures of Donald Trump,” said Sen. Alex Padilla in a statement.

Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Reps. Katie Porter, Ro Khanna, and famous activist Stacey Abrams also spoke out against the recall campaign.

“Gavin Newsom has shown the nation what courageous leadership looks like during the pandemic. He’s made tough calls that kept Californians safe and helped them recover financially. Defeating this cynical, Trump-fueled recall effort will be one of the most important priorities for Democrats this year,” added Sen. Cory Booker.

“We will crush it because we will be united that we are not going to fall for a trick to hand our state over to what potentially could be a Republican governor,” said Rep. Karen Bass.

An election date will not be set soon. The final scheduling will come from Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, who will have to schedule an election 60 to 80 days after the last signature count verification. Even after verifying petition signatures, there will be other legal hoops to clear. Voters have a 30-day window to change their minds and withdraw their names. After the California Finance Department produces a cost estimate for the election, a legislative panel will have a month to review those findings. Only then will a date be announced. Experts think that will likely be until later this fall.

Cal. Black Elected Officials Unite to “Crush Unfair” Effort to Recall Gov. Newsom

Manny Otiko and Antonio Ray Harvey | California Black Media

Fourteen California Black Democratic elected officials serving at the federal, state, county and city government levels joined hands in a virtual show of support for Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday during a news briefing on Zoom. In one-minute statements, each one explained why she or he is standing behind Newsom as a Republican Party-led effort to recall California’s 40th governor gains ground across the state.

The two main organizations spearheading the recall effort, and, announced last week that they had collected the signatures of more than 2 million Californians for the petition they expect will soon trigger a recall election.

To begin the process of removing Newsom from office, the governors’ opponents must collect 1.5 million signatures – or 12 % of the total number of people that voted in the last gubernatorial election. They must also submit the signatures to registrars in all 58 counties by close of business on March 17.

“This is the beginning. Let’s hope this is the last time we come together to talk about this. But mark my words, if this recall does qualify, we will crush it because we will be united. We will not fall for a trick,” said U.S. Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-CA-37), pointing out that Gov. Newsom has done nothing that should warrant him being removed from office.

Bass said based on the price tag of past attempts to recall California governors, most recently Gov. Gray Davis in 2002, an election to remove Newsom from office would cost taxpayers over $100 million.

A total of 9.4 million voters cast ballots in the special election that ended Davis’ governorship.

Because the state will hold a gubernatorial election next year, Bass says, it is not fiscally responsible to hold one this year.

U.S. Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA-13) said there is “no reason to recall the governor of the state of California.”

“There will be an election in June 2022 and people will have a chance to vote. So, I urge everyone to join us in this unfair recall against Governor Newsom,” she said.

Sen. Steve Bradford (D-Gardena) said Gov. Newsom has been a “friend of the African American community.”

“This governor has stood with us on criminal justice reform. He has eliminated and paused executions because he realized the majority of people on death row are minorities – Black and Brown individuals who are over-sentenced and over-prosecuted all the time and many times are innocent,” said Bradford. “So, we stand with this governor. He has stood with us.”

So far, recall supporters say they have over 2 million signatures – well over the minimum required by the state. The Secretary of State’s office has until April 29 to verify the signatures.

Many supporters of the recall effort say their plan to oust Newsom has been largely motivated by frustration over the strict coronavirus lockdown the governor imposed on the state. Some of the leading supporters are the California Republican Party, 2018 Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox, former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and the Republican National Committee. Both Cox and Faulconer have put their names forward to replace Newsom if he’s removed from office.

“We’ve proven we can win. And I did it twice in San Diego. San Diego’s registration mirrors that of California — 24 % Republican — it’s the same in San Diego as it was statewide,” Faulconer said in an interview with the conservative magazine National Review. “So, I know how to build coalitions and win and get results. I know how to use the power of the bully pulpit to go out and win the argument publicly and then win the vote. That’s what you have to do to be successful in California and you have to get not just Republicans but independents and a portion of Democrats as well.”

But according to Ballotpedia, Republicans have had it in for Newsom for a while. This is the sixth recall attempt against Newsom since 2019. But the previous five weren’t successful.

In addition to Bass, Lee and Bradford, the other African American California elected officials who joined the media briefing to express their support for Newsom are: State Sen. Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles); Assemblymembers Autumn Burke (D Inglewood), Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles) and Mike Gipson (D-Carson); San Francisco Mayor London Breed; Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell; California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond; California Board of Equalization Member Malia Cohen; Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe; Los Angeles City Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas; and Los Angeles City Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson.

Gov. Newsom, who has said very little publicly about the recall, spoke up in an email to supporters Monday.

“I am not going to take this recall attempt lying down,” Newsom said. “I’m going to fight because there’s too much at stake in this moment.”
The governor also took to Twitter.

“I won’t be distracted by this partisan, Republican recall — but I will fight it,’’ he tweeted. Getting Californians vaccinated, our economy safely reopened, and our kids back in school are simply too important to risk.”

Breed said Newsom had led the state through a difficult time. She said Newsom showed more leadership than former President Donald Trump. According to Breed, Trump had abandoned San Francisco during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. She dismissed the recall effort as a “right-wing attack.”

In Washington, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Alex Padilla (D-CA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) all came out in full-throated support of Newsom the same afternoon. Shortly after, Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams also voiced her support for California’s governor.

“This governor was duly elected and deserves to serve his full term,” said Cohen. “A recall is the ultimate statement of voter suppression. Citizens of California came together and voted disproportionately to support Gov. Newsom. It is our duty to fight this baseless, senseless recall.

Los Angelenos Rally Against Wave of Anti-Asian Hate Crimes

Stephen Oduntan

Tammy Jiraprapasuke said a random, unprovoked racist attack on a subway train left her emotionally bruised.

“Every disease comes from China because they’re [expletive] disgusting,” the Asian-American woman said.

“A man entered the subway, and he gestured his body in my direction and started using derogatory language about Chinese people. I felt alone and looked around the train for an ally, but everybody averted my eyes. I wondered if everyone believed I was deserving of the [verbal] assault… If they also thought I was dirty and brought the coronavirus.”

Jiraprapasuke, an Angelino, described what began as an “ordinary evening that turned into a nightmare” to a crowd of protesters who attended the “Love Our Communities: Stop Asian Hate” rally outside the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo (JANM)on Saturday.

“Today, we stand in solidarity with the members of Pacific Islander community to speak out against the rise and tide of hatred and violence,” JANM’s Board of Trustee William Fujioka told the crowd. “But sadly, these incidents of racial hatred are not new to the members of our Asian-American and Pacific Islanders community. For every Asian immigrant, racism has been constant since we came to America.”

By Stephen Oduntan

TiDo, who goes by a single name, encouraged individuals at the rally to think broadly about how the system too often devalues people’s lives in the marginalized community and why it is critical they use this moment to navigate away from the hopelessness of grief to power.

“We are here as a community for the sole purpose to build. We are building on the long tradition of the Asian-American revolutionary movement,” said TiDo, an organizer with Chinatown Community for Equitable Development, talking on a microphone to the applause of the crowd. “Hate is nothing new because hate is just White supremacy, and White supremacy has been around ever since White people stole indigenous lands, forcibly enslaved Black folks, the Chinese Exclusion Act, Japanese incarceration, and the legalized Islamophobia after 9-11.”

David Morikawa, a Los Angeles resident, attended the rally but didn’t speak to the crowd. He told L.A. Focus Saturday’s rally sends a strong message that they will not tolerate the hate-fueled attacks on Asian-Americans.

“If it takes us 50 years, we’ll come after the perpetrators. We [Asian-Americans] are kind of like the worst people to be talking about ‘forgive and forget’ because we don’t do that… we’re not too good at that,” Morikawa said.

“We have to change the system to get rid of racism,” he added. “We have to change capitalism because every time the cops evict people for failure to pay their rent, or every time employers lay off workers and go out and strike and get arrested for it or the tension between people of color and the cops. That’s going to keep on happening unless we do something about the air pollution from burning fossil fuels, job losses, and evictions; we’ll never be able to stop racism.”

The rise in hate crimes and discrimination against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors last week to approve allocating more money to fight the problem.

Supervisor Hilda Solis authored the motion calling for additional resources for a Human Relations Commission program called L.A. vs Hate.

“Despite our efforts to combat hate, the situation has gotten worse,” Solis said. “We must expand the county’s only anti-hate program to show that L.A. County stands with our marginalized communities when they are under attack.”

According to a Los Angeles Police Department report, Solis said anti-Asian crimes in the city jumped 114% in 2020.

“Amongst other things, let’s lay the blame where it belongs. This deteriorating situation is partly due to the fact that the person with the loudest bullhorn in the country mocked and denigrated our API communities for the better part of a year,” she said.

Several speakers at the rally said they didn’t want to combat hate with hate, and Nara Kim, a Koreatown activist for Black Lives and planning committee organizer for Saturday’s event, said “refusing to sit in despair” helps to counter xenophobia related intolerance.

She added that “especially in a city as diverse as L.A., we should remain committed to understanding and getting to know each other because it’s that kind of weariness and lack of relation-building that makes people more unsafe.”

Los Angeles Enters Red Tier, Re-Opens Restaurants, Theaters and Gyms


Angelenos were welcomed back into (restricted) restaurants, movie theaters and gyms this week after the county relaxed its harshest lockdown with the continued fall of COVID-19 cases.

Los Angeles County joined Orange, San Bernardino, Contra Costa, Sonoma, Placer, Mendocino, San Benito, Tuolumne, Siskiyou, Amador, Colusa and Mono counties in progressing from the most restrictive purple tier to the red tier. The advancement comes as Los Angeles finally dipped below ten new daily cases per 100 thousand.

Cinema fans can enjoy movies indoors once again as long as the theater operates at 25 percent capacity and with reserved seating only. Groups will have to remain seated 6 feet apart. Museums, zoos and aquariums can similarly reopen at 25 percent capacity.

Gyms will have to limit capacity to 10 percent.

The state was also celebrating 12,637,197 COVID-19 vaccine doses distributed. In total, 21 percent of Californians have received a dose.

If the trend of declining cases and hospitalizations continues, Los Angeles County will be on track to open even more widely within two weeks. Currently, the county’s adjusted daily rate of new cases remains 4.1 per 100,000 residents. If the county reaches 3.9 daily new cases, the blueprint will allow the city to move into the orange/moderate tier allowing theaters to open up to 50 percent capacity and theme parks to open at 25 percent capacity instead of 15.

Los Angeles COVID-19 Homeless Housing Program Not Expanded

Dianne Lugo

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, people experiencing homelessness have been some at the most risk of contracting the virus and dying.

“Nationally, homeless people who did contract COVID-19 were 30% more likely to die than those in the general population,” reported the Los Angeles Times. ”In Los Angeles County, homeless COVID-19 patients were 50% more likely to die.

It’s a fact the Los Angeles Public Health Department hopes to address by opening up vaccine availability to the homeless population and rolling out mobile clinics in hot spots to vaccinate the community.

They’ve promised to vaccinate 30,000 homeless by September.

Nonetheless, advocates are concerned that vaccine rollout and knowledge of their eligibility will be challenging as much homeless return to the streets.

Two weeks ago, the city, citing budget concerns, decided not to expand the number of hotels available in Project Roomkey. The project opened up available hotel rooms to shelter the most vulnerable in the homeless population. 12 hotels with a total of 1,200 rooms were available through March. Although the city pulled an additional $75 million to keep the program running, the city has announced only 11 of the sites will remain open, and those 11 will end participation in September.

“Project Roomkey works, and it’s been our most successful model for protecting people and addressing homelessness during this pandemic,” Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn said in a statement. “This is not the outcome I wanted, and unfortunately, this makes it nearly impossible to expand this program.”

Potential Delay in George Floyd Trial After Historical Settlement, Two Jurors Dismissed


The criminal trial against Derek Chauvin, the officer seen on video pressing his knee against George Floyd’s death during his fatal arrest, might be delayed after media announced Minneapolis officials had reached a $27 million settlement with the family in their wrongful death lawsuit against the city.

Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill and lawyers have already been struggling with jury selection after intense and widespread media coverage of the case. Floyd’s death in May of 2020 sparked global protests.

“You have elected officials — the governor, the mayor — making incredibly prejudicial statements about my client, this case,” Eric Nelson, Chauvin’s chief lawyer, complained to the court last week. “You have the city settling a civil lawsuit for a record amount of money. And the pre-trial publicity is just so concerning.”

Nine jurors had been seated, but Cahill dismissed two jurors after two jurors said that the settlement would make it hard for them to be impartial.

“It kind of sent a message that the city of Minneapolis felt that something was wrong, and they wanted to make it right, to the tune of that dollar amount,” a juror, a white man in his 30s, told the court according to Reuters.

The settlement might also lead to a delay of the trial entirely.

Judge Cahill expressed his disappointment and confusion at the city’s announcement to announce the settlement in the middle of jury selection.

“You would agree it’s unfortunate, right?” he asked the prosecution.

“It’s certainly not my preference, your honor” conceded Steve Schleicher, a lawyer for the prosecution.

“I think that this $27 million settlement has been frankly overblown,” he added, however.

Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter. If convicted, he could face up to 40 years in prison.

California Rent Relief Applications Open for Landlords and Tenants


The portal for landlords and tenants to apply for California’s COVID-19 rent relief opened on Monday and the application system received over 20,000 within 24 hours.

The influx of applicants is unsurprising as tenants and landlords continued to fall behind in rent and mortgage payments after the pandemic left millions without jobs across the nation.

“Whether it’s a health-related event or a significant financial hardship, COVID-19 has affected us all,” recognizes the program on the homepage.

A total of $2.6 billion will be available for income-eligible households that need help paying rent and utilities. The money comes from federal funds made available through December’s stimulus law, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 that Gov. Gavin Newsom signed.

Eligible tenants must be low-income, with a household income at or below 80 percent of their area’s median income. This income will be based on 2020 or current income, acknowledging how the pandemic drastically changed the incomes of many.

If approved, tenants will have all debt accrued from April 1 of last year to March 31, 2021, wiped away, but only if their landlord agrees to forgive 20 percent of the debt. The state will pay owners the remaining 80 percent. Without landlord agreement, the state will provide funds to pay a quarter of owed rent.

“We know that tenants and landlords have been stressed. They have been worried about what’s going to happen. And we can now give them a program that gives them a clear path forward of how to help resolve the unfortunate situation where a lot of folks fell behind on their rent,” said Geoffrey Ross, deputy director for federal financial assistance at the California Department of Housing and Community Development according to KQED.

Two African Americans on Team Advising Gov. Newsom on “Inclusive” Reopening

Bo Tefu | California Black Media

Last week, Gov. Newsom appointed former Stockton Mayor Michael D. Tubbs, who is African American, as his Special Advisor for Mobility and Opportunity. In this role, Tubbs becomes one of two African Americans on the governor’s Council of Economic Advisors (CEA) — a group Newsom has charged to help California recover from the economic downturn the coronavirus pandemic has caused.

The other Black gubernatorial advisor is Renee Bowen, an associate professor of economics at the University of California San Diego. Tubbs and Brown are serving along with 11 other experts Newsom says will help offer guidance on how to rebuild a state economy that is more sustainable and inclusive.

The CEA team will help to build political will, championing policy changes that aim to promote equitable economic opportunities and fight poverty for all Californians, according to the governor’s office.

“As we fight the dual pandemics of COVID-19 and economic insecurity, I am honored to work with the Newsom Administration to bring forward innovative solutions that will lead to inclusive economic recovery for all Californians,” said Tubbs.

On Friday, President Biden signed Congressional Democrats’ $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. The federal economic package includes $1,400 stimulus checks for individuals nationwide. In his third State of the State Address, Gov. Newsom recapped the state’s plans to support small businesses, reopen schools, promote equitable vaccine distribution, and provide state stimulus funds. The recently appointed CEA will advise California lawmakers on directing state and federal funds toward programs and investments that soften the pandemic’s economic blow.

Although the advisers are not compensated for their roles, they will leverage their areas of expertise as well as their familiarity with business and industry in California to ensure that California families “have the opportunity to not just survive but thrive,” during the pandemic, state officials said.

As a special advisor, Tubbs plans to recommend best-practices gleaned from various external stakeholders, including economic experts and business leaders to reform state policies that will benefit all Californians.

“As I always say, poverty is a choice: a policy one,” Tubbs said. “I can think of no greater calling than to build upon my work with Mayors and community leaders across our state and nation to help advance big, bold policy solutions that are rooted in economic fairness, racial equity, and recognize the dignity of all people.”

Gov. Newsom said Tubbs has proved himself as a leader who cares deeply about his community and economic fairness.

“I can think of no one more dedicated or better equipped to make recommendations to my team and help lead outreach efforts to increase opportunity and entrepreneurship to reduce poverty in California,” said Newsom.

During his time as Mayor of Stockton, Tubbs implemented the first mayor-led Universal Basic Income pilot program in the country, and he launched the Stockton Scholars, a program that helps Stockton’s youth pursue higher education.

“Tubbs expanded opportunity and hope in his hometown,” Newsom continued.

According to state officials, California experienced record-low unemployment before the pandemic — a rate of 3.9 %. Gov. Newsom plans to resolve California’s fiscal problems, strengthen the state’s economy, and drive unemployment back down from just below 10 %, according to numbers the Employment Development Department released in December.

“We need to invest for the future, adapt to a changing climate, and keep our budget balanced,” Gov. Newsom said. “This Council will keep its pulse on what’s happening in our economy while making policy recommendations to prepare us for what’s to come.”

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