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Bay Area Headlines: Monday, 6/15/20 AM

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Bay Area Weekend Protests / Black Lives Matter Captioning / Legislature Expected To Pass Budget / COVID-19 In Psychiatric Wards

Bay Area Weekend Protests

For the third weekend in a row, protesters took to the streets of San Francisco Bay Area cities and other communities across California to demand racial justice. Sunday's demonstrations were promoted as non-violent calls for change in law enforcement.

In the Bay Area, protesters shut down the upper deck of the Bay Bridge in the late afternoon, causing San Francisco-bound traffic to backup for miles. At Civic Center, a Buddhist sit-in called for complete silence.

A lesbian couple organized a march on San Francisco's coastal Great Highway to support gay and transgender people of color. Protesters observed nine minutes of silence to honor Floyd and recognize the length of time a white police officer knelt on his neck before he died.

In Hollywood, thousands of peaceful protesters marched under blazing sunshine along a stretch of Hollywood Boulevard where the words “All Black Lives Matter” were painted on the pavement in rainbow colors.

Most protesters wore face coverings because of the coronavirus pandemic. Police said there were no arrests or reports of problems.

Black Lives Matter Captioning

Instagram isn’t always a friendly place for people who are hard-of-hearing, and that has made it hard for people to understand the messages in Black Lives Matter videos. And its why Instagram pages like @transcribe.this are captioning them. Jessi Lawrence is leading the effort. 

“I'm glad that we're able to provide this, but it feels like so many people have been neglected in such a big way.”

The page is less than two weeks old and has around 1,500 followers and about 90 videos. Sacramento American Sign Language Interpreter Jordan Lopez helps transcribe.

“I've been out protesting, but when I'm at home there's time to do something to give back.”

He says the captions are helping people like Topher Gonzalez Avila who is deaf. Lopez translated for him.

“@transcribe.this has been doing a phenomenal job in bringing access, but they can only do so much.”

A spokesperson for Instagram says the company is looking into what captions might look like, but at this time aren’t offering any. Until they do, pages like @transcribe.this will continue to fill the void.

Legislature Expected To Pass Budget

The California Legislature will meet today to pass a budget for these uncertain times, without knowing how much money they have to spend. They also don’t have an agreement with Governor Gavin Newsom, whose veto pen could force lawmakers to start over.

Lawmakers in the Democratic-dominated Legislature must meet their deadline today, or they’ll lose their salaries. But without an agreement with Newsom, the budget they pass likely won't be the one that becomes law. The first-term Democratic governor has the power to sign, veto or alter any proposal the Legislature sends him. The two sides plan to continue negotiating and pass an amended budget later this month.

At stake is $1 billion in additional funding for local governments — endorsed by the Legislature but not the governor — that have struggled to pay for safety net services as sales tax collections plummeted during the coronavirus crisis.

Without the money, counties could have to cut inpatient psychiatric services, youth substance abuse programs, public health services for fighting measles and HIV and responding to reports of abuse.

Meanwhile, school districts are anxiously watching to see if they will get an additional $8 billion that's in the Legislature's plan or brace for cuts as they face extra costs for pandemic-induced changes like staggered schedules and bus routes.

Part of the problem is the Legislature's budget process has been turned upside down. In a normal year, everyone has to pay their taxes by April 15. This year, because of the coronavirus, the state moved the deadline to July 15. That’s a full month after lawmakers are required to pass a spending plan, leaving revenues uncertain.

Plus, the Legislature missed two months of work because of the coronavirus, watching as Newsom spent billions of dollars without their oversight and issued dozens of executive orders that changed laws without their approval.

Perhaps the biggest sticking point with the Legislature is how Newsom wants to spend money battling the coronavirus. The governor has requested $2.9 billion to spend as he pleases in the fall when the Legislature is not in session. And he wants authority to decide how to spend the more than $9 billion that Congress sent the state to aid in its coronavirus response.

COVID-19 In Psychiatric Facilities

COVID-19 outbreaks at nursing homes have been a major problem in California. This month the state put out data on another concern: cases at residential psychiatric facilities and drug treatment centers. 

The state lists 38 drug treatment and mental health centers that have had more than one case of COVID-19 among residents or staff. Most of them have had less than 11 cases, which means the state doesn’t give the exact number due to privacy concerns. 

But a few have grappled with significant outbreaks: 40 residents got sick at a Sacramento mental health facility, and one statewide substance use center had 28 cases among staff.

Last month, mental health advocates sent a letter to the state asking for more transparency about cases in these facilities. They argued people with mental health and substance use disorders are vulnerable to coronavirus due to smoking, poor nutrition and other factors … and that living in large groups is an inherent risk. 

The state has released some guidance for these types of care facilities regarding testing, protective equipment, social distancing and disinfecting protocols.