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Bay Area Headlines: Thursday, 4/9/20, PM


ICU Cases Diminishing / California's Help / Sheltering First Responders And Homeless Residents / Nonessential Businesses Vulnerable To Vandalism / Ghost Ship Defendant Likely To Be Released / Tribute To Phyllis Lyon

ICU Cases Diminishing

Today, the state reported some uplifting news as it combats COVID-19. The number of people hospitalized because of the virus statewide has risen modestly: about four percent to 2,825. But the number in Intensive Care Units has actually dropped. That stands at 1,132 — which represents a decrease of nearly two percent.

Calfiornia's Help

Governor Gavin Newsom shared those numbers, today, at his noon press conference, which aired live on KALW. He spent the beginning of the conference talking about the challenges people still working in public face and what’s being done to support them in California.

"I’m really pleased to announce an effort to directly support those caregivers, those health care workers, those front line heroes," he said, "by providing them vouchers, and stipends, and in many cases for low-wage workers 100% reimbursable costs at hotels all up and down the state of California." 

That means people with long commutes, or who are at risk of infecting their communities with COVID-19, can stay closer to where they’re needed. 

The California National Guard is flying ventilators to New York, New Jersey and Illinois as part of an effort to help other states manage a crush of coronavirus hospitalizations. A spokesperson for the Federal Emergency Management Agency says the rest of the 500 machines the state is lending out will go to Maryland, Delaware, Nevada and the District of Columbia.

Sheltering First Responders And Homeless Residents 

San Francisco plans to spend about $35 million to house first responders and homeless individuals in hotel rooms during the coronavirus crisis. 

The San Francisco Controller said yesterday that the city will pay an average of about $200 per room, per night, for the next three months. That estimate includes the cost of support services like cleaning and security.

The estimate was based on the 2,000 hotel rooms that San Francisco has already rented or is about to rent. But the city plans to lease about 5,000 more, roughly tripling the anticipated cost. The federal government is expected to reimburse the city for about half of these expenses.

The announcement comes after the city opened a massive shelter at the Moscone Center. Homeless advocates and others decried the plan by Mayor London Breed to concentrate people without homes in these facilities with limited bathrooms and no handwashing stations.

The Board of Supervisors also took issue with that plan. A group of them introduced legislation on Tuesday to require the city to rent over 8,000 hotel rooms for those who need housing. Supervisor Hillary Ronen said yesterday that they’ve found a way to bring the cost down to about half of the Controller’s projected rate, by working with existing shelter providers. She said that model could help the city reduce its spending from the current estimate.

Nonessential Businesses Vulnerable To Vandalism

San Francisco’s unusually empty streets are great for public health. But some business owners say it’s leaving them more vulnerable to vandalism. 

Property crimes in the City are down by double digits compared to this time last year. And a lot of that is due to the quarantine. But business owners report that break-ins are increasingly common and vandals are getting bolder. 

Vandalism isn’t tracked by the city, but police have noted a “change in crime trends” since the shutdown. 

Last week someone tried to break into Mitchell’s ice cream by melting its lock with a blowtorch. And Crossroad Pizzeria suffered five break-ins in three days. What’s strange, is that the burglars targeted the pizzeria’s supply of toilet paper, garbage bags and Clorox wipes. 

These incidents join others in the Bay Area, including the burglary of a San Mateo restaurant. In that case, the group stole cash and partied on-site for 11 hours.

Police recommend owners install surveillance cameras and safeguard their businesses as they see fit. 

Ghost Ship Defendant Likely To Be Released

In other news, a man awaiting retrial in a fire that killed 36 partygoers at the Ghost Ship warehouse in Oakland may be released from jail because of the coronavirus outbreak. Alameda County prosecutors say a judge is likely to rule, tomorrow, that Derick Almena should be freed from Santa Rita Jail and placed in an electronic monitoring program. The jail has had 11 confirmed inmate cases of the coronavirus. Almena is facing a retrial on involuntary manslaughter charges over the 2016 blaze.

Tribute To Phyllis Lyon

And Phyllis Lyon died peacefully, today, of natural causes at her San Francisco home. The iconic lesbian activist was 95.

Lyon and her partner of nearly 60 years, Del Martin, were the first same-sex couple to legally marry in California on June 16, 2008.

It was not their first wedding to each other. Four years earlier, then-San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom granted them a marriage license. It was later invalidated by the California Supreme Court. He remembered them today, saying they were, "The manifestation of faith, love, and devotion. And yet they were denied on the basis of their sexual orientation the right to say two extraordinary words: I do."

Lyon and Martin were the vanguards of the same-sex marriage movement and leaders in the fight for LGBTQ rights. The Lyon-Martin Health Clinic in San Francisco, and countless stories, carry their legacy. And KALW is currently working on an audio documentary about Phyllis Lyon’s life.