City of Benicia: Solano County recommends use of cloth face coverings when social distancing measures are difficult to maintain

Benicia Announcements, Sunday, May 24, 2020 at 5:15 PM

Solano County posted a press release today recommending the use of cloth face coverings when social distancing measure are difficult to maintain.

“It is important to remember that while we are all working together to reopen retail shops, malls and dine-in restaurants, the coronavirus is still here in Solano County,” says Bela T. Matyas, M.D., M.P.H, Solano County Public Health Officer.

“Wearing a cloth face covering, as recommended by the CDC and CDPH, is an additional way to protect yourself and others and can help slow the spread of the disease. Also, we ask that people wear non-surgical, non-N-95 respirator face masks, as those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other first responders.”

Solano County encourages wearing a cloth face mask outside your home whenever physical distancing cannot be maintained, maintaining a physical distance of six-feet from others, practicing coughing and sneezing etiquette, using a hand sanitizer or washing your hands for at least 20-seconds and to stay at home if you’re not feeling well. Businesses that are permitted to reopen must abide by the social distancing requirements in the County’s and State’s Orders.

Additional information is available in the press release at http://www.solanocounty.com/news/displaynews.asp?NewsID=2297&TargetID=1

For more information about Solano County’s Roadmap to Recovery, social distancing protocol and frequently asked questions about the phased reopening, visit the Solano County website at www.SolanoCounty.com/COVID19 and on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/SolanoCountyPH.

You could get a phone call this week from a COVID-19 tracer…and you could volunteer to be one!

Newsom pushes virus contact tracing with first batch of tracers

Vallejo Times-Herald, by Fiona Kelliher, May 24, 2020
Gov. Gavin Newsom, news conference at Mustards Grill in Napa, Calif., Monday May 18, 2020. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, Pool) 

A batch of about 500 people will be deployed this week statewide for contact tracing, the public health practice that involves tracking down people who have come in contact with COVID-19 patients.

Starting this week, the tracers will begin calling, texting and emailing those who may have been exposed to coronavirus, encouraging them to quarantine or recommending medical care, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office. Meanwhile, Californians may notice new radio, television and billboard campaigns that aim to up awareness of contact tracing and urge people to pick up the phone. Tracers will be identified as part of the “CA COVID Team” — an effort led by the California Public Health Department — when texting or calling, and will not share health information with outside entities.

The tracers are the first batch toward a goal of 10,000 statewide, according to Newsom’s office. It’s not exactly clear how those tracers will work in tandem with local health departments’ own contact tracing programs.

Working with the University of California, San Francisco and Los Angeles, the state began developing an online training program earlier this month to get the tracers up to speed. Another 300 tracers will be trained this week, Newsom’s office said.


Governor Newsom Launches Contact Tracing Program

Gov Press Release,

Governor asks Californians to answer the call to help keep our families and communities healthy and on the path to reopening

SACRAMENTO – In the ongoing efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, Governor Gavin Newsom today launched California Connected, the state’s comprehensive contact tracing program and public awareness campaign. As part of California Connected, public health workers from communities across the state will connect with individuals who test positive for COVID-19 and work with them, and people they have been in close contact with, to ensure they have access to confidential testing, as well as medical care and other services to help prevent the spread of the virus.

The state’s program is led by the Administration in collaboration with the California Department of Public Health, local public health departments and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and Los Angeles (UCLA), which have launched a robust online training academy to develop a culturally competent and skilled contact tracing workforce.

“We are all eager to get back to work and play, and that’s why we’re asking Californians to answer the call when they see their local public health department reaching out by phone, email or text,” said Governor Newsom. “That simple action of answering the call could save lives and help keep our families and communities healthy.”

To prevent the spread of this virus, public health workers will connect Californians with confidential testing. They may also recommend medical care,

and that individuals who could be infectious separate themselves from others in their home to protect those around them. Information provided to local public health departments is confidential under California law. Public health authorities will not share that information with outside entities. That information will be used for public health purposes only. Contact tracers will not ask for financial information, social security numbers or immigration status.

“A key step in stopping the spread of COVID-19 is quickly identifying and limiting new cases, across the diversity of our populations – and that’s exactly what this statewide program does,” said Dr. Sonia Angell, California Department of Public Health Director and State Health Officer. “We are bringing together the best minds in public health, academia and private industry to design a program that can help lower the risk for COVID-19 in all of our communities and keep us on the path to reopening.”

The California Connected public awareness campaign is getting off the ground this week with support from multiple private partners who have committed a total of $5.1 million in funding and in-kind resources to help educate all Californians, and underserved communities in particular. These partners include Jeff Skoll and his organizations (The Skoll Foundation, Participant, and Ending Pandemics), The California Health Care Foundation, The California Endowment, Twitter and Facebook, in addition to existing media partners engaged in the larger public awareness effort.

Beginning this week, Californians across the state will hear radio ads and see billboards, social media posts and videos in multiple languages encouraging them to answer the call to slow the spread of COVID-19. Public health workers across the state – identified on caller ID as the “CA COVID Team” – will call, text and email individuals who test positive for COVID-19 and people they may have unknowingly exposed to the virus.

The state plans to launch 10,000 contact tracers statewide as part of its plan to reopen California. More than 500 individuals have been trained under the new contact tracing program, and more than 300 are being trained this week.

To streamline and coordinate these efforts, Accenture, a leading global professional services company, is launching a data management platform developed by Salesforce and contact capabilities (phone calls, texts and emails) in collaboration with Amazon Web Service’s Amazon Connect. These organizations have already successfully implemented a large-scale contact tracing effort in Massachusetts.

More information: CaliforniaConnected.ca.gov.

A PSA from Director of the California Department of Public Health Dr. Sonia Angell can be found here. Watch the California Connected PSA in English here and in Spanish here. An infographic and other content can be found here.

Additional Resources:

UCSF Online Training Academy

UCLA Online Training Academy

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US critics of stay-at-home orders tied to fossil fuel funding

ExxonMobil, Koch and Mercer family are past funders of critics of stay-at-home orders as fossil fuel industry struggles amid lockdowns

ExxonMobil refinery in Baytown, Texas. Photograph: Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters
The Guardian, by Emily Holden, 21 May 2020

Dozens of individuals and groups urging states to reopen amid the Covid-19 pandemic have historical financial ties to coal and oil and gas companies and conservative billionaires who have invested in climate disinformation.

Past funders of the current critics of stay-at-home orders include the bankrupt coal company Murray Energy and oil giant ExxonMobil, as well as Koch and Mercer family foundations, according to DeSmog, a group that tracks the money behind anti-climate-action campaigns.

Some of the contributions tallied are recent and others are at least five years old or older. ExxonMobil, for example, had broken ties with two of the groups in this story by 2006. There is no evidence that these companies and foundations are funding ongoing campaigns to reopen businesses.

But Brendan DeMelle, executive director of DeSmog, said the “information echo chamber” of interests downplaying both the climate crisis and the pandemic would not be what it is today without fossil fuel funding.

“While we don’t have direct evidence of specific grant money going for Covid denial, none of these operations would exist without their support over the years,” DeMelle said.

Donations to not-for-profit thinktanks are nearly impossible to track in real time because of a lag in reporting. It could take years to reveal which interests are currently funneling money to the groups helping to organize and expand shutdown protests. Even then, much of the funds could be hidden, donated anonymously through third-party not-for-profits, DeMelle said.

But DeSmog’s research shows many of the calls to end stay-at-home orders are coming from people associated with a wide-ranging network of organizations that together seek to limit the power of government and thwart intervention in business. That web of thinktanks was built years ago on contributions from the fossil fuel industry and conservative philanthropists.

Now, the fossil fuel industry is struggling amid government lockdowns aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus, and allowing people to move freely and return to work would help the sector by boosting energy demand.

As Donald Trump has advocated for a quicker reopening, often against the recommendations of his expert advisers, Republican voters’ views on how to handle the coronavirus have shifted substantially.

Just 43% say it is more important for the government to address the spread of the virus than the economy, down from 65% about a month ago. 

Trump’s calls for a quicker return to regular life have grown in popularity as they have been echoed throughout conservative media, often backed by thinktanks connected to the oil and coal industries.

In Wisconsin, where people have protested against a stay-at-home order, the Koch-backed group Americans for Prosperity (AFP) filed an amicus brief with the state supreme court challenging the authority of the governor and the health department to continue to require people to stay home without sign-off from the Republican-controlled legislature. The court last week struck down the state’s order, calling it a “vast seizure of power”.

Charles Koch, the 20th-richest billionaire in the world, runs Koch Industries, which is involved in oil operations and energy-intensive industries. He and his late brother, David, have funded a network of conservative thinktanks.

Phil Kerpen, a Koch political operative, has argued that lockdowns are “unscientific”, and “medieval” and don’t save lives. Kerpen is president of American Commitment, a group that through 2016 has received at least $6.9m from Freedom Partners, which is partially funded by the Kochs, according to DeSmog. He was previously vice-president of AFP until 2012.

An AFP spokesman said the group has been “unambiguous” in its position that “the choice between full shutdown and immediately opening everything is a false choice”, and that it is working with officials and businesses to develop standards to “safely reopen the economy without jeopardizing public health”.

“Past grants do not define our position on reopening the economy – to suggest otherwise is disingenuous,” the AFP spokesman said. “None of the grants referenced have anything to do with stay-at-home orders and some of them were made many years ago.”

The Washington Post has reported that the Convention of States, a project launched in 2015 with money from the family foundation of the billionaire Republican donor Robert Mercer, has helped to coordinate activism against the stay-at-home orders around the country.

The conservative thinktank the Manhattan Institute – which over the years has taken at least $1m from ExxonMobil through 2018, according to the environment group Greenpeace USA, as well as $3.2m from Koch foundations and $2.2m from the Mercer Family Foundation – has published commentary questioning the value of shutdowns.

Brian Riedl, writing in the Manhattan Institute publication City Journal, called the shutdowns unsustainable, saying just a few months “will cost the government and the economy trillions of dollars”.

An ExxonMobil spokesman, Casey Norton, noted the company had not contributed to most of the groups in this story for years and said it was not pushing to lift stay-at-home orders.

“We continually evaluate our memberships and participation in organizations, and we do not contribute to organizations if we are not actively involved,” Norton said.

“As for return to work, our focus right now is on ensuring the safety and health of our entire workforce and to do our part to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus in the community.”

The Daily Caller, a news organization that has received $3.5m through 2017 from Koch foundations through its non-profit, has run articles suggesting Democrats want to kill the economy to keep Trump from getting re-elected.

“The mainstream media, which works for the Democrat party, wanted us shut down more, and for longer,” said opinion contributor Ron Hart.

Often, funding by the fossil fuel industry is less obvious and more difficult to follow. Bits and pieces of financial connections are revealed in regulatory and court filings, but many are hidden behind dark money groups.

One shutdown critic, author Alex Epstein, runs the for-profit thinktank the Center for Industrial Progress. Epstein has said his clients include the president of the Kentucky Coal Association and thecoaltruth.com, a project DeSmog links to employees of Alliance Coal.

Epstein in a podcast compared the coronavirus to the seasonal flu and said “the purpose of the government is not to extend people’s lives. It’s to leave us free to live our lives as we judge best.”

Epstein told the Guardian his clients pay him “solely to advise them on *their* messaging”, and that “none of them have any influence on what I say publicly, on this or any other issue”.

Other critics of reopening are connected with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the American Council for Capital Formation and the Heartland Institute.

Chris Horner, a former fellow at CEI, in an op-ed in the Washington Times in March warned that “the current ‘coronavirus economy’ could become legally mandated, with no recovery permitted but only worsening, in the name of climate change”. Horner received funding from the coal company Alpha Natural Resources, according to a bankruptcy filing.

Joel Zinberg, of CEI, and Richard Rahn – who is chairman of the Institute for Global Economic Growth and board member of ACCF – have also criticized stay-at-home orders. Rahn has called Covid-19 the “Chinese Communist party virus”.

CEI received $2.1m from ExxonMobil through 2005 and has taken $200,000 from Murray Energy more recently. ACCF has gotten $1.8m from ExxonMobil through 2015 and $600,000 from Koch groups through 2015.

ACCF as an organization “has taken no position on the stay-at-home orders or any prospective timeline for reopening the economy”, said the group’s CEO, Mark Bloomfield.

The Heartland Institute, which denies the severity of anthropogenic climate change, has received $6.7m through 2017 from the Mercer Family Foundation, as well as $130,000 from coal company Murray Energy. The group received $25,000 from a Koch foundation for one specific project and got money from ExxonMobil until 2006.

A Heartland spokesman, Jim Lakely, has argued “leftists” are “stoking Covid-19 panic” and has called lockdown orders unconstitutional.

“What’s the time limit on being labeled ‘Koch-funded’ or ‘Exxon-funded’? A decade? Two? Also, who cares?” Lakely said. He did not respond to questions about Mercer funding.

New York Times publishes names of 1,000 lives lost to coronavirus

The Project Behind a Front Page Full of Names

A presentation of obituaries and death notices from newspapers around the country tries to frame incalculable loss.

New York Times, by

Instead of the articles, photographs or graphics that normally appear on the front page of The New York Times, on Sunday, there is just a list: a long, solemn list of people whose lives were lost to the coronavirus pandemic.

As the death toll from Covid-19 in the United States approaches 100,000, a number expected to be reached in the coming days, editors at The Times have been planning how to mark the grim milestone.

Remembering the Nearly 100,000 Lives Lost to Coronavirus in America

As the U.S. approaches a grim milestone in the outbreak, The New York Times gathered names of the dead and memories of their lives from obituaries across the country.
Simone Landon, assistant editor of the Graphics desk, wanted to represent the number in a way that conveyed both the vastness and the variety of lives lost.

Departments across The Times have been robustly covering the coronavirus pandemic for months. But Ms. Landon and her colleagues realized that “both among ourselves and perhaps in the general reading public, there’s a little bit of a fatigue with the data.”

“We knew we were approaching this milestone,” she added. “We knew that there should be some way to try to reckon with that number.”

Putting 100,000 dots or stick figures on a page “doesn’t really tell you very much about who these people were, the lives that they lived, what it means for us as a country,” Ms. Landon said. So, she came up with the idea of compiling obituaries and death notices of Covid-19 victims from newspapers large and small across the country, and culling vivid passages from them.

Alain Delaquérière, a researcher, combed through various sources online for obituaries and death notices with Covid-19 written as the cause of death. He compiled a list of nearly a thousand names from hundreds of newspapers. A team of editors from across the newsroom, in addition to three graduate student journalists, read them and gleaned phrases that depicted the uniqueness of each life lost:

“Alan Lund, 81, Washington, conductor with ‘the most amazing ear’ … ”

“Theresa Elloie, 63, New Orleans, renowned for her business making detailed pins and corsages … ”

“Florencio Almazo Morán, 65, New York City, one-man army …”

“Coby Adolph, 44, Chicago, entrepreneur and adventurer … ”

Ms. Landon compared the result to a “rich tapestry” that she could not have woven by herself. Clinton Cargill, assistant editor on the National desk, was Ms. Landon’s “editing co-pilot,” she said. Other key players in the project were Matt Ruby, deputy editor of Digital News Design; Annie Daniel, a software engineer; and the graphics editors Jonathan Huang, Richard Harris and Lazaro Gamio. Andrew Sondern, an art director, is behind the print design.

Marc Lacey, National editor, had warned Tom Bodkin, chief creative officer of The Times, that the milestone was coming. “I wanted something that people would look back on in 100 years to understand the toll of what we’re living through,” Mr. Lacey said in an email.

For the front page of the paper, two ideas stood out: either a grid of hundreds of pictures of those who had lost their lives to Covid-19, or an “all type” concept, Mr. Bodkin said. Whichever approach was chosen, he said, “we wanted to take over the entire page.”

The all-type concept came to the fore. Such a treatment “would be hugely dramatic,” he said.

The design references that of centuries-old newspapers, which Mr. Bodkin is keenly interested in. For many years after The Times started publishing in 1851, there were no headlines, in the modern sense.

“It was kind of running text with little subheads,” Mr. Bodkin said, describing newspapers in the mid-1800s.

Online, readers can scroll down for the names, descriptive phrases and an essay written by Dan Barry, a Times reporter and columnist. The number “one hundred thousand” tolls again and again.

Mr. Bodkin said he did not remember any front pages without images during his 40 years at The Times, “though there have been some pages with only graphics,” he said, adding, “This is certainly a first in modern times.”

Inside the paper, the list continues, threaded with Dan Barry’s essay. But mostly there are names. More names, and more lives lost.

For safe and healthy communities…