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Bay Area Headlines: Friday, 4/23/20, AM


Unemployment Benefits / Californians Volunteering / Elective Surgeries Allowed / SF Transit HikesUnemployment Benefits

More than 533 thousand Californians filed for unemployment benefits last week, according to figures released by the U.S. Labor Department. The numbers released yesterday bring California’s overall jobless filings to three point three million since mid-March — that’s when the state’s stay-at-home orders were put in place to slow the coronavirus.

At his daily news conference, Governor Gavin Newsom addressed concerns about the Employment Development Department, or EDD, and its slow pace processing claims.
“We are working overtime on that. We have a wonderful team. Again led by Julie Su. We start every morning call and she reminds everybody, we’re on it. We’re doing more. We’ve got to do better. We understand we’ve got to do better.”

The filings are from workers who have lost jobs, had their hours reduced or been furloughed. Newsom said the state is adding several hundred more employees to expedite claims. This comes after it redirected more than 1,300 employees to help EDD in recent weeks. To file for benefits, go to edd.ca.gov.

Californians Volunteering

Governor Gavin Newsom also called attention to ways in which people are helping others around the state and the country. Governor Newsom highlighted the state’s volunteer initiative Californians For All. He said in the first day it was online this week, 22 thousand people signed up to help. He also noted that in the spirit of sharing the burden, 36 California doctors, including 20 from UCSF have gone to New York City to help with the medical crisis there.

“One of the great benefits of these doctors going out onto the front lines in New York is what they’ll bring back, which is a deep understanding and knowledge of what’s happening in one of the acute points of the crisis in this country, and being able to bring that to bear here in the state of California. So this is an incredible opportunity for all of us in California, not just the generosity of these individuals to another state.”

Wednesday night, another group of seven physicians and 14 nurses from UCSF traveled to Arizona and New Mexico to treat members of the Navajo Nation who have contracted the  coronavirus. A disproportionate number of cases on the reservation of 175 thousand people have overwhelmed their health care system.

Elective Surgeries Allowed

California has made its first significant step to relaxing it’s stay-at-home order by allowing hospitals to resume non-emergency surgeries. On Wednesday, Governor Newsom partially lifted hospital restrictions. That’s because successful social distancing has left the state’s hospitals well below capacity.

“We are in a position today to begin to pull back and lean in, by beginning to schedule surgeries once again, throughout not only our hospital system but our broader healthcare system. These are surgeries that, yes, are scheduled but also essential. If it’s delayed it becomes acute. And that’s fundamentally a health issue.” 

These procedures include tumor removals, heart valve replacements and preventative services like colonoscopies. Currently, the policy does not allow purely cosmetic surgeries. The new guidelines will send thousands of furloughed healthcare workers back to work, a small but important step in restarting the world's fifth-largest economy.

SF Transit Hikes

San Francisco will increase most public transportation fares by the end of this year. The SFMTA Board of Directors voted unanimously, on Tuesday, to increase MUNI transit fares. The change won’t impact cash fares, which are more likely to be used by low-income residents. But, it does mean rides will cost more with a Clipper card. Agency director Jeffrey Tumlin said the increases were necessary to continue paying transit workers a living wage and avoid layoffs.

“Yes, many people will be paying a higher fare, but that that increase in fare will hit vulnerable populations the least, and we’ll be able to deliver MUNI service to the people who need it the most.”

The Board of Supervisors and several community groups opposed the fare increase. Some critics note that many San Franciscans rely on public transit to purchase groceries and get to essential jobs. And, according to SFMTA data, 30% of Clipper card users are low-income.