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Bay Area Headlines: Wednesday, 5/27/20, AM


Hair Places Are Back / Some Churches Resist Reopening / Is Voting By Mail Safe? Yes. / AB5 On The Ballot, Again

Hair Places Are Back

Barbershops and hair salons were given the OK to reopen in most areas of California yesterday. But an attorney for the beauty industry says the timing was not a coincidence.

Fred Jones represents the Professional Beauty Federation of California. Earlier this month, he filed a lawsuit challenging Gov. Gavin Newsom’s closure of hair, skin and nail salons. He says a ruling was expected as soon as today.

“We think it is absolutely clear that this announcement was a direct result of our lawsuit and our very public campaign.”

Jones says he’s still continuing with the lawsuit, since skin and nail services were left out.

Newsom was also facing legal pressure on religious services before he released guidelines for resuming in-person worship earlier this week. But when asked about escalating legal challenges, including from the Department of Justice, Newsom brushed them off as purely politics.

Some Churches Resist Reopening

Churches, temples and mosques across California can now hold religious services if they want to, so long as they keep attendance at 25-percent capacity and under one hundred people. But these gatherings introduce a new level of risk

Earlier this month, twelve-hundred religious leaders asked Governor Gavin Newsom to consider worship an essential service. They just got their wish, but not all faith leaders are welcoming back congregants.

Many are worried that they won’t be able to properly space people out. Kevin Kitrell Ross is a minister at Unity of Sacramento. He says they’re sticking with virtual services for now out of an abundance of caution:

“That’s what I would like to see from all of us. I know there are economic impacts, but I don’t want to gamble with people’s lives.”

In early March, more than 50 people contracted the disease after a church choir rehearsal in Washington. 

Erin Mordecai is a Stanford University biologist:

“There have been some studies coming out just recently suggesting that things like singing or talking loudly can increase the risk, because they just increase the amount of respiration you’re doing and expelling viral particles into the air.”

The new California guidelines ask religious groups to consider eliminating singing and group recitation, implement cleaning protocols and ask guests to wear face coverings.

Is Voting By Mail Safe? Yes.

In a tweet, yesterday, President Donald Trumpclaimed Governor Gavin Newsom is “sending millions of ballots to anyone living in the state, no matter who they are.” He also said the election will be “rigged” as a result.

The part about anyone getting a ballot is just plain false. Newsom’s plan calls for sending mail-in ballots only to registered voters before the November election. The governor says it’s an effort to keep Californians safe in case there’s a second wave of COVID-19. 

Newsom was asked at his coronavirus briefing about Trump’s tweet, and his additional claim that voting by mail leads to fraud:

“There’s been no evidence of that, respectfully. Quite the contrary.”

The governor cited three national studies, including one by the George W. Bush administration. They found a miniscule amount of voter fraud after looking at hundreds of millions of ballots cast in recent years. 

“There should be sanctions for people who are doing the wrong thing. But the reality is, the overwhelming majority of people are doing the right thing.”

The White House did not respond to a request for comment. 

In the end, we evaluated both the false claim about Newsom sending ballots to everyone and Trump’s misleading allegations about voter fraud. Altogether, they earned a “Pants On Fire.”

AB5 On The Ballot, Again

California voters will get to decide in November if app-based drivers are exempt from AB5, a labor law that would convert many of them to employees with benefits and set schedules.

The ballot initiative is backed by more than 100 million dollars from companies including Uber, Lyft and delivery app DoorDash.

The gig economy giants argue the law would up-end their business model by eliminating flexibility for workers. The companies want to continue classifying their drivers as contractors.

Proponents of AB5 say drivers should be entitled to benefits and protections, like workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance.

If passed, the measure would require gig companies to provide some level of health benefits and guaranteed compensation, based on how long a driver works.