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Bay Area Headlines: Wednesday, 5/13/20, PM

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Counties Entering Phase Two / Paid Sick Leave in Oakland / Tesla Dispute Resolved / Tech Companies Encouraging Working From Home

Counties Entering Phase Two

Governor Gavin Newsom, today, said that 10 counties in California have moved into an advanced phase two of his coronavirus quarantine recovery plan. That means, among other things, that restaurants can reopen with modifications. Speaking from a fire station in El Dorado County, one of the first to have restrictions relaxed by the state, Newsom said his team is in discussions with 31 counties right now about reopening.

“And we are also putting maps up where you can test where those counties are in real time. And what I mean by test, I mean literally, not just figuratively. The number of tests that are positive in those counties, the number of individuals who may have tragically lost their lives. You’ll be able to look at that on a county by county basis.”

Here in the Bay Area, the counties of San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Alameda, Contra Costa, and Marin have extended the stay-at-home order until the end of the month. But those counties plan to allow some limited business and manufacturing starting next Monday.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: San Mateo County announced this afternoon that it would enter the Governor’s Phase Two on Monday, May 18.)

Paid Sick Leave in Oakland

Last night Oakland City Council unanimously passed a measure that gives workers up to 80 hours of paid sick leave during the pandemic.

The new ordinance is meant to expand on the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act. That law requires employers to provide two weeks of paid sick leave, at an employee’s regular rate of pay, if that employee is forced to quarantine or is displaying COVID-like symptoms. For employees caring for a child or family member affected by the virus, federal law requires employers to provide two weeks of pay at two-thirds an employee’s regular rate. However, the federal act only applies to businesses that employ less than 500 people.

Oakland’s measure goes further. It requires all businesses in the city with 50 or more employees to pay their workers 100 percent of their normal wage during sick leave. This applies to employees caring for a loved one as well as those who are sick themselves. Oakland’s legislation also includes gig workers.

City Councilmember Sheng Thao introduced the ordinance, making Oakland the fourth California city to adopt such legislation, behind Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Jose. It takes effect immediately and is in place through the end of the year.

Tesla Dispute Resolved

It appears the dispute between Tesla and Alameda County authorities over the reopening of a factory in the face of shutdown orders is coming to an end. The Alameda County Public Health Department announced on Twitter late last night that the plant in Fremont will be able to go beyond basic operations this week and start making vehicles Monday.

It wasn't clear from a news release whether Tesla would face any punishment for reopening last Monday in defiance of county orders. CEO Elon Musk practically dared local authorities to arrest him, and operations apparently continued into Tuesday. The company did meet a Monday deadline to submit a site-specific plan to protect workers. That includes wearing gloves and masks, installing barriers between employees, and maintaining social distancing. Local officials said the company initially pushed back on checking employee temperatures before boarding a company bus to get to work, but Tesla relented and agreed to check workers. Fremont police will verify whether Tesla was holding up its part of the agreement. The deal requires that public health indicators have to remain stable or improve for the factory to stay open.

Tech Companies Encouraging Working From Home

Bay Area tech companies are making major changes to their work culture to adapt to COVID-19. Since the coronavirus quarantine began in March, the Bay Area’s big tech companies, and their approximately half a million office employees have largely shifted to working from home. 

Yesterday, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced a permanent change to their work culture. Any employee that can do their work from home, can now do so forever. 

Facebook and Google say that most employees can work from home through the end of the year. Amazon will let office workers work from home until early October.

Apple announced internally that it plans to get more teams back to their Cupertino campus by the end of May, and most employees back by the end of the summer. Stores are still closed in the Bay Area, but Apple is re-opening five stores in other parts of the country.