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Bay Area Headlines: Tuesday, 4/28/20, PM


California Distributes Nearly 3 Million Surgical Masks With More On The Way / San Francisco Fails To Fill Hotel Rooms For Homeless Residents / Students Sue California State University and UC Systems / San Francisco's Folsom Street Fair Goes Virtual

California Pays For 200 Million More Surgical Masks

Nearly 3 million surgical masks arrived in California as the first shipment of personal protective equipment in a major deal cut by Governor Gavin Newsom. 

"2.87 million masks were distributed in the last 24 hours. As soon as we get the supplies in, we get those supplies out. We’re going to start seeing a cadence of substantial increase in PPE, not just procedural masks, but soon N95 masks."

He says those are expected to start arriving next week. The governor said he’s paying for 200 million masks a month to protect health care and other workers from the coronavirus.

The weekend shipment came as part of a payment of more than $100 million under a billion-dollar contract with Chinese company BYD, according to Newsom's finance director.

The state already paid nearly half-a-billion dollars upfront for the contract with BYD, which is an electric vehicle maker that recently transitioned to making masks amid the coronavirus pandemic. The rest of the money will be paid between mid-May and late June as shipments come in, according to the governor’s office. The company has offices and a factory in Southern California, though the masks are being made in China.

California has so far distributed 43.6 million N95 masks and 4 million surgical masks across the state, according to a state website that tracks the distribution of personal protective gear by county.

The governor does not need legislative approval to spend this initial money — it comes from the state's Disaster Assistance Emergency Operations Account. But his administration's notification letter to the legislature came as lawmakers push him for more transparency and for him to include them in his coronavirus spending decisions.

San Francisco Fails To Fill Hotel Rooms For Homeless Residents

The standoff between local lawmakers and San Francisco’s mayor around housing the homeless continued, today, as a group of city supervisors held a press conference to denounce the mayor’s efforts. 

The city missed a deadline on Sunday that the Board of Supervisors set two weeks ago. The board's emergency legislation said that the city should secure 7,000 hotel rooms for the homeless, and just over a thousand for frontline workers. 

The fight highlights the ongoing challenge cities face in managing the outbreak. 

Breed said that the supervisor’s plans aren’t practical, and the city is struggling to ramp up in a safe way. So far, it has only managed to fill half of the 2,000 hotel rooms it leased.

The constraint, she notes, is getting enough people to staff hotels 24/7, as well as ensuring proper social distancing and delivering meals. 

"We will continue to do everything we can to provide as many hotel rooms as we possibly can," she said, "but we have to also do so responsibly."

Students Sue California State University and UC Systems

Students demanding refunds of some campus fees sued the California State University and the University of California systems, yesterday. The coronavirus pandemic closed schools and forced learning online in March.

The class-action lawsuits were filed in federal courts in LA and Oakland. They say that the systems serving more than 700,000 students have refused to refund unused portions of fees for campus-related services that spring-semester students aren't using, such as health facilities, student association dues, and student centers.

According to the lawsuits, the fees ranged from around $850 to more than $4,000.

Similar lawsuits were previously filed against universities in Arizona and against Liberty University, a nonprofit evangelical Christian college in Virginia.

San Francisco's Folsom Street Fair Goes Virtual

Coronavirus has impacted another "only-in-San Francisco" tradition. 

San Francisco’s 37th annual Folsom Street Fair will move from its SoMa venues to A virtual space this September. The Bay Area’s celebration of leather and kink follows in the footsteps of Pride, Burning Man, Hunky Jesus and other major events that have moved their 2020 in-person gatherings online. 

Folsom Street Events, the nonprofit that organizes the fair, announced that both Folsom Street and Up Your Alley will take place online during their regularly scheduled weekends. In a statement released on Facebook, organizers noted:

"We are excited to create virtual events to celebrate the historic fair weekends by staying socially connected while physically distant."

Folsom Street Fair is the world’s largest leather event and one of the state’s largest outdoor fairs, with more than 250,000 attendees generating more than $180 million in tourism and roughly $300 thousand for local LGBTQ organizations.