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Bay Area Headlines: Tuesday, 5/5/20, AM


California’s Modest Reopening / Assembly Returns / Don’t Fear Bats, Fear People

California’s Modest Reopening

Governor Gavin Newsom said the state will move into the second phase of his reopening plan as early as Friday. That means allowing lower-risk workplaces to resume operations with modifications to help prevent spread of the coronavirus.

“End of the week, with modifications, we will allow retail to operate across the spectrum.”

The plan includes a range of retailers that would be permitted to reopen, including clothing stores, sporting goods and florists. It did not immediately include dine-in eating at restaurants and reopening of offices, which were in previously stated Phase 2 plans. Newsom says a key consideration for entering Phase 2 is the ability for regional health authorities to test and conduct contact tracing of infections.

“We will allow regional variation, but only after self-certification of particular criteria that will allow even further implementation of our phase two. This is a very positive sign and it’s happened only for one reason: the data says it can happen.”

Assembly Returns

Members of the California Assembly returned to Sacramento, yesterday, after adjourning for an extended recess in March. Their focus will be on the state’s coronavirus response — and the looming budget crisis that could emerge as a result.

Governor Newsom says the state will have to make substantial spending cuts if it doesn’t receive considerable assistance from the federal government. Sherry Bebitch Jeffe is a political analyst and former professor at USC. She says many of those budgetary decisions will fall on the shoulders of lawmakers

“There will be a significant budget deficit that will be that will have to be dealt with. And may well require some very tough decisions.”

But what about the $18 billion California had saved in its ‘rainy day fund’?

“It’s gone basically!”

The state can’t spend that money all at once, but she expects revenue shortages will far outpace the state’s reserves. And she says everything is likely on the table to find savings—from cuts in education to social safety net programs.

Don’t Fear Bats, Fear People

Corky Quirk works with the Yolo Basin Foundation, helping injured wildlife. When the link between COVID-19 and Chinese horseshoe bats came out, Quirk began getting calls. 

“Calls like, I have a bat that is roosting in my front entryway, and I'm worried that I could get sick from it.”

The answer isn’t an easy yes or no. California bats aren’t known to be carriers of COVID-19, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be, says bat biologist David Wyatt with Sacramento City College. 

“We have no idea whether COVID-19 can actually colonize on bats.”

That’s why the federal government has asked scientists to halt all studies involving bats. 

“It's not like they're going to spontaneously get COVID-19, it would have to be transmitted by humans to those bats.”

People can introduce diseases to bats. One of those is thought to be white-nose syndrome. It’s killed more than six million bats in North America and was found last summer in California. The fungus wakes them up out of hibernation eventually leading to starvation. 

Scientists at UC Davis are studying how COVID-19 could impact animals. Nistara Randhawa is part of the group. 

“The likelihood of California bats having COVID-19 is really low, but we do not know enough to rule it out completely.”

That's why she says people pose a greater threat to bats than they do. If you encounter one in your house all the experts agree and say leave the bat alone, open a window, exit the room, close the door and let it fly out.