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Bay Area Headlines: Thursday, 5/28/20, PM

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Newsom Wants To Close Two Prisons / CA Senate’s Budget Counterproposal / Sara Cody’s Words Of Warning / Lassen County Closes Again

Newsom Wants To Close Two Prisons

Governor Gavin Newsom detailed plans this week to accelerate state prison closures. He says it is in response to a free fall in tax revenue caused by the pandemic.

Earlier this year, the Governor made it clear he wanted to close one state prison in the next five years. Now, a revised budget plan proposes the closure of two, in three years. Either way, this would be the first California prison to be shuttered in more than two decades.

According to the state’s Legislative Analyst’s Office, this would save more than $100 million annually. And that will help narrow the state’s deficit, which is projected to be $54.3 billion next year.

Currently, California has over 117,000 incarcerated individuals. But the prison population has been falling ever since a 2009 federal court order to reduce crowding.

The governor has not indicated which prisons he is considering. Regardless, the proposal will require the approval of California’s legislature. And any closure will face opposition from labor unions and those who fear early release will lead to a spike in crime.

CA Senate’s Budget Counterproposal

The California Senate's plan to cover the state’s projected budget deficit rejects Governor Newsom's proposed cuts to public education and health care programs. The Senate's plan would spend about $8 billion more on public education than Newsom's plan. But it would delay $9 billion in payments to K-12 public schools and community colleges for at least one year. It means school districts could go ahead and spend the money and the state would pay them later. It's one of many contentious issues the governor and legislative leaders must negotiate as they head toward a June 15 deadline to pass an operating budget.

Sara Cody’s Words Of Warning

Santa Clara County Public Health Officer Sara Cody warns that California may be reopening too quickly. She told the county board of supervisors, Tuesday, that statewide changes to shelter-in-place create a significant risk of coronavirus spread.

Public Health Officer Sara Cody expressed particular concern about lifting multiple restrictions without allowing time to see the effects of each change. She said that could take at least two weeks:

“So, the state modifications are being made without a real understanding of the consequences of what the last move has been. And with the possibly serious effects for health and the possibly serious risk of an exponential growth in cases, and therefore a risk to social and economic well-being.”

The California Department of Public Health said Monday that religious gatherings of up to 100 people can resume across the state. Then, Tuesday, hair salons were allowed to reopen in most counties. Cody pointed out that other states have maintained stricter limits on religious services — like New York, which is limiting such gatherings to 10 people.

Lassen County Closes Again

A rural Northern California county that had been one of the state’s two counties without any reported coronavirus cases now has at least five cases. Lassen County is temporarily rescinding its order allowing the reopening of restaurants, shopping, and other services — those had been allowed since May 11.

California is calling for all residents and health care workers at skilled nursing facilities to be tested for COVID-19. The L.A. Times reports that the state’s Department of Public Health issued a letter saying facilities should draft testing plans for all residents in settings without cases and residents who have been exposed to the virus. It also calls for testing of residents admitted from hospitals and says those who test negative should be quarantined for 14 days and then retested.