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Bay Area Headlines: Monday, 4/20/20, AM

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Planning California's Economic Recovery / COVID-19 Spending / Coronavirus At California Prisons / London Breed Warns Against 420 Celebrations / Bay Area Counties Mandate Face Coverings

Planning California's Economic Recovery 

The past decade saw record-setting job growth and unemployment rates in California, but the coronavirus has ground that to a halt. Governor Gavin Newsom said more than three million Californians have applied for unemployment since March 12.

"I stand before you sobered by the reality of the last few weeks," he said. "We are now in a pandemic-induced recession here in the state of California."

Newsom announced a panel of big-name business leaders to help guide the state’s economic recovery. It includes Apple CEO Tim Cook, Disney Chairman Bob Iger, and former presidential candidate Tom Steyer, who will serve as a co-chair. The task force also includes legislative leaders and all four living governors: Jerry Brown, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gray Davis, and Pete Wilson.

COVID-19 Spending

California lawmakers have some unanswered questions about Governor Newsom’s spending on coronavirus response.

Democratic Assemblyman Phil Ting, who is leading a committee that meets today, said, "The administration has done an admirable job to help get the state through this. We do have questions on where the money has gone and in what fashion, and I think we the public have every right to know that."

A state Senate committee held a similar hearing last week. Legislators sought details on a billion-dollar deal with a Chinese multinational company for 200 million protective masks a month.

The administration has so far refused to release the contract to lawmakers and the public. 

Coronavirus At California Prisons 

California reported its first prison inmate death from COVID-19, yesterday.

The inmate died at a hospital after contracting the coronavirus at the California Institution for Men in San Bernardino County, according to the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Next of kin has been notified, though no further details were released to protect the inmate's medical privacy. Statewide, corrections officials say 115 inmates and 89 corrections employees have tested positive for the coronavirus.

They say prisons are following isolation and quarantine guidelines laid out by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and tried to increase physical distancing by bringing in tents, cots and temporary bathrooms. Already, 3,500 inmates were granted early release to reduce overcrowding.

London Breed Warns Against Travel For 420 Celebrations 

While many California businesses remain shut down due to COVID-19, cannabis shops are open. Rob Read owns 420 F Street, a cannabis dispensary in the town of Davis and has said the celebration will be muted at his store.

"The revelry is outside of our business," he said. "Inside, I don’t want to say it's non-existent, but toned down dramatically due to the time."

Dispensaries across the state reported an increase in sales last month as customers feared stores might close. But the state designated them as essential businesses because they provide access to medical marijuana. So people who want to recognize 420 by buying some cannabis can legally do so, but it’s a different story for people who want to celebrate with a visit to Hippie Hill, or Robin Williams’ Meadow, in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.

Mayor London Breed expressed her feelings, last week, in no uncertain terms: "Do not come to San Francisco ... [for] 4/20 this year."

Bay Area Counties Mandate Face Coverings

San Francisco, along with several other counties also released new regulations that went into effect over the weekend. Members of the public must wear face coverings when inside or in lines at essential businesses, obtaining health care, or waiting for rides. That goes for drivers, too. And people working in shared spaces visited by members of the public or where food is prepared or packaged must also wear masks. Those face coverings can be made of cloth-like bandanas. Situations in which people don’t need to wear masks include when people are at home, in their car alone or with members of their households, or when they’re outdoors walking, hiking, biking, or running. So that means if you’re in Golden Gate Park without a mask, and you’re not celebrating 420, you should be good.