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Bay Area Headlines: Thursday, 4/30/20, PM


California Beaches To Remain Open, Except In Orange County LA To Offer Widespread Testing To All Residents / UCSF Scientists Identify Drugs That May Slow COVID-19/ SF Judge Seeks Release Of Immigrants Detained Without Proper Social Distancing / Pacific Gas And Electric Forced To Comply With Stricter Inspections

California Beaches To Remain Open, Except In Orange County

A memo distributed by the California Police Chiefs Association last night said Governor Gavin Newsom would shut the state’s beaches and parks tomorrow. At his daily press conference, Newsom said no, that wasn’t his memo, and California beaches and parks that have been open will remain open — except in Orange County.

"Specific issues on some of those beaches have raised alarm bells. People that are congregating there that weren’t practicing physical distancing that may go back to their community outside of Orange County and may not even know that they’ve contracted the disease, and now they put other people at risk, put our hospital system at risk, and the like."

The governor’s so-called “hard close” affects Huntington and Newport Beaches among others. Local officials say crowds weren’t actually as bad as pictures show, and the governor’s response is an overreaction. One called it “an abuse of power."

LA To Offer Widespread Testing To All Residents

The city of Los Angeles will offer free coronavirus testing to all residents regardless of whether they have symptoms. Until now tests were reserved for those with symptoms and frontline employees like health care and grocery store workers. Mayor Eric Garcetti says LA will be the first major U.S. city to offer widespread testing to all its residents. People can sign up online for appointments starting immediately. Priority will still be given to people with symptoms, such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath. People will be able to go back for tests several times, without limit.

UCSF Scientists Identify Drugs That May Slow COVID-19

A new UCSF study identifies several medications that could help manage the novel coronavirus. 

A team of scientists has pinpointed drugs that could slow the growth of COVID-19, including some that are already FDA-approved for other uses. Their findings were published today in the scientific journal Nature.

The UCSF-led team studied how 75 different drug compounds interact with the coronavirus. They found a range of drugs that slowed its growth in the lab, including an over-the-counter allergy medication called clemastine, the schizophrenia treatment haloperidol, and the hormone progesterone.

One of the drugs the scientists studied was hydroxychloroquine, the malaria drug that has been touted by President Trump. They found that while it inhibits the virus, it also interferes with an essential protein that regulates heart function. And that could cause serious side effects.

Researchers also found that the common cough medicine dextromethorphan may actually speed up coronavirus growth.

The scientists say you shouldn’t use any of these medications right now if you’re not already taking them. Because they don’t know exactly how these lab results will play out in humans. First, they’ll need to do clinical trials to figure out if any of the drugs will be safe and effective.

SF Judge Seeks Release Of Immigrants Detained Without Proper Social Distancing

A federal judge in San Francisco, yesterday, ordered a process for possible release of some of the more than 400 immigrants being held at two crowded California facilities. U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria said Immigration and Customs Enforcement "has not come close to achieving social distancing" that’s needed to protect detainees from the virus at the Yuba County Jail in Marysville and Mesa Verde ICE Processing Center in Bakersfield. Many of the immigrants are in civil administrative detention while awaiting immigration hearings. Chabbria wrote that they’re sleeping in barracks-style dorms within arms-reach of each other. The judge issued a temporary restraining order requiring ICE to provide information, including medical conditions, about immigrants at the two facilities by noon tomorrow. He said he will then conduct a two-week series of bail hearings, possibly with the assistance of several federal magistrates, to consider the release of individual detainees.

Pacific Gas And Electric Forced To Comply With Stricter Inspections

Yesterday, a federal judge ordered Pacific Gas and Electric to overhaul power line inspections and record-keeping as a way to safeguard against deadly wildfires. 

The order comes about one month after PG&E pleaded guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter during the 2018 Camp Fire. It was the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history. Investigations later revealed it began when one old and worn metal hook snapped off a transmission tower. 

The judge said that PG&E’s current inspection procedures fail to assess wear and tear on individual parts. He warned that without stricter standards another hook could break at any moment.

The new order forces PG&E to inspect and record the age for each piece of equipment on all of its transmission towers and lines. They must also hire more inspectors to manage and audit the work of contractors who cut tree limbs around lower-voltage power lines.

PG&E has until the end of May to submit plans on how they will comply and meet these new standards.