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Bay Area Headlines: Friday, 4/17/20, AM


Statewide Food Worker Assistance / Translating COVID-19 Updates / Advocating For Unhoused People / Sabrina Ionescu’s Professional Turn

Statewide Food Worker Assistance

Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order, yesterday, to make sure farm and food workers affected by the coronavirus get two weeks of supplemental paid sick leave. The order applies to larger companies with 500 or more employees. Workers at smaller companies can get emergency sick leave under a federal coronavirus relief bill. But it only applies to workers who test positive, or who are under a specific quarantine order. Newsom says it’s meant to help workers in every part of California’s food supply chain.

“I hope this will significantly address some of the anxiety our farm workers have anxiety our fast food workers have, anxiety around the delivery of our food and those workers have about their own health," he said. "We don’t want you going to work if you’re sick.”

The order was supported by the California Grocers Association and a food workers union. It also ensures employees can take regular hand washing breaks to protect themselves and customers.

Translating COVID-19 Updates

The coronavirus outbreak has meant a flood of new information. In California, a state where 40 percent of the residents speak a language other than English at home, there are efforts underway to distribute accurate information in other languages. Crystal Lee is a first generation Hmong American living in Sacramento. When the coronavirus first hit the region, she saw a lot of the Hmong elders were still going to community centers to attend classes and still attending cultural events. Lee says there was a sense of distrust about the virus because they weren’t getting any information directly.
“Ultimately,” she said, “I thought about my grandparents and they don’t have a reliable source of information, and when I spoke to them they were like, "My friend said this, and my friend said that, and my grandson said that, and we don’t know what this is, and we don’t know how it works.”
She said she was disappointed to see that the state didn’t provide outreach to their community, one that is largely made up of refugees who can only speak, but don’t read Hmong. In response, she created a video which translated information about the coronavirus from the state and federal government.
Larger advocacy groups, such as the Bay Area’s Asian Pacific Environmental Network have also been translating information to its members through phone calls. Laiseng Saechow of the organization says they have people calling in Cantonese, Mandarin, Mien, and Spanish with the latest information.
She says, “Things are just changing so rapidly. There’s shelter in place and people also have to wear masks now, so we just want to make sure people are up to date on what the newest orders are.”
The state has translated its coronavirus information page into Spanish, but outreach in other languages has been limited to regional efforts.

Advocating For Unhoused People

Several California community organizations say the state isn’t doing enough to protect homeless residents from COVID-19. Advocacy groups, including the Los Angeles and San Francisco chapters of the National Lawyers Guild, released a set of demands, yesterday, to protect California’s unhoused population from COVID-19. At the top of the list? Housing every single homeless person in the state. The coalition suggests using spaces like vacant apartments, hotel rooms, and college dorms to house the estimated tens of thousands of Californians who are homeless. They say it’s also vital to public health to end homeless encampment sweeps.

The groups are asking cities to provide supplies like tents, handwashing stations, and face masks to people living outside, until they’re able to be housed. Currently, many of these supplies are being provided on an ad hoc basis by individual volunteers. Some local Bay Area governments have been providing handwashing stations, but many are broken or have gone missing. Advocates say the rollout has been too slow and uneven.

They also have some broader demands. Those include a ban on evictions due to unpaid rent during the coronavirus crisis. A policy like that went into effect last month in Oakland. And San Francisco leaders proposed a similar one yesterday. Community groups want to see tenant protections provided statewide.

Sabrina Ionescu’s Professional Turn

A local athlete is expected to be the first player selected in the Women’s NBA draft tonight. Sabrina Ionescu was a standout point guard at Miramonte High School in Orinda from 2012-2016. But it was at the University of Oregon where she transcended her sport, drawing national attention to women’s basketball. Now, the reigning college basketball player of the year will almost assuredly be chosen by the New York Liberty as the first pick in the WNBA draft.

Ionescu is a playmaker, equally good at scoring, rebounding, and passing. She reached double digits in those categories in 26 different games during her college career — that’s more than twice as many as any woman or man before her.

This season, the Bay Area product led the Oregon Ducks to beat the US Women’s National Team — a feat that hadn’t been accomplished by a college club in two decades. In February, she spoke at her friend Kobe Bryant’s memorial in LA, then led her team to beat the Stanford Cardinal in Palo Alto and clinch the Pac-12 title.

In that game, she set an all around career milestone, becoming the first player in NCAA Division One history with 2,000 points, 1,000 assists, and 1,000 rebounds.

Now, the 22-year-old will take her talents to the pros. But the WNBA is holding its draft virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic. So Ionescu is here in the Bay for the event.

“Of course, I’m disappointed that I’m not able to be in New York and walk across the stage and get that whole experience,” she said in a conference call on Tuesday, “but I know that there’s more important things going on in the world right now. I’m just happy that I’m able to be here with my family, and they’re still making it as special as they can.”

Sabrina Ionescu’s big draft-day moment comes tonight, shortly after 4 o’clock, Pacific time.