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Bay Area Headlines: Wednesday, 6/24/20, AM

California COVID-19 Update / State Lawmakers Say Accessing Unemployment Benefits, Getting EDD Answers Top Constituent Complaint / Yosemite Decides Not To Reopen More Campgrounds / George Floyd’s Death Puts New Spotlight On Racism In Medicine

California COVID-19 Update

California, yesterday, reported its highest daily COVID-19 infection rate to date and hospitalizations from the virus are increasing. The state Department of Public Health recorded more than 5,000 new cases Tuesday, putting the total number of positive cases at more than 183,000. The record-setting numbers and warnings come as more businesses reopen statewide, spurred by antsy residents weary over stay-at-home and social distancing orders. San Francisco, which was part of the Bay Area's strict order in mid-March, plans to allow outdoor bars, nail and hair salons and tattoo shops to open next week.

Health officers say they always expected case numbers to creep up as the economy reopens, but they worry the trend may be getting out of hand. Santa Clara County Executive Jeffrey Smith, who’s also a doctor, said, yesterday:

“The question of how we’re doing as a nation is: We’re not doing so well. How are we doing as a state? Not doing so well. How are we doing as a region? Not doing so well.”

Santa Clara County recorded its second-highest number of new daily cases to the state, yesterday. Public health officer Sara Cody said:

“COVID-19 is like a wildfire. If you contain it when it’s small you can keep it under control, but once COVID transmissions begin to accelerate, it is very, very difficult to contain.”

The number of people hospitalized with the coronavirus in California has inched up each of the past several days and now is nearly 3,900, the highest rate since Gov. Gavin Newsom followed the lead of the Bay Area and ordered Californians to stay home in mid-March.

State Lawmakers Say Accessing Unemployment Benefits, Getting EDD Answers Top Constituent Complaint

The EDD has processed over 6 million unemployment applications since March and has paid out roughly 30-billion-dollars, but many Californians are still struggling to access benefits.

Several state lawmakers confirmed the number one complaint from their constituents is accessing benefits and getting help from EDD. Democratic Assemblyman David Chiu says the department is failing California in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.

The department has awarded 16-million-dollars in no-bid contracts to consulting firm Deloitte to help improve the application system. EDD says it is in the process of hiring nearly 5,000 additional staffers to handle the increased demand.

Yosemite Decides Not To Reopen More Campgrounds

After reopening just two weeks ago, Yosemite National Park is having second thoughts. Officials are reversing course and now say they will hold off on reopening campgrounds through the month of July after a spike in coronavirus cases in the state.

They began reopening some campgrounds earlier this month after being closed for more than 2 1/2 months because of the coronavirus outbreak.

But they said, Tuesday, that reservations with arrival dates between now and July 31 have been canceled for several popular campgrounds, including Bridalveil Horse Camp, Lower Pines, and Tuolumne Meadows.

Yosemite had about 4.6 million visitors in 2019. The number of visitors admitted after the park reopened had already been restricted to about half those that normally visit this time of year. In addition, visitor centers and other facilities remained closed or reopened with limited access to help prevent the spread of the virus.

George Floyd’s Death Puts New Spotlight On Racism In Medicine

Those taking part in the George Floyd protests happening throughout California say the marches are about more than one police killing. They’re about long standing racism in police departments, schools and other systems.

Black Americans are more likely than white Americans to die from complications related to diabetes. They’re also more likely to die from cancer, during surgery, or because they had to wait longer for an ambulance. Bay area pediatrician Dr. Rhea Boyd says it’s time to restructure the medical system:

“Where we place clinics, how clinics then engage patients, how medical services are paid for … all of those things would change if we all share the same understanding of how racism impacts health.”

One of the places where inequality is most obvious is childbirth, which is much more dangerous for black women than white women. At a demonstration a few weeks ago, 28-year-old Sophia Fox Sowell said:

“My sister is black and she refuses to have her baby in a hospital because the rate of death rates for maternity in black mothers is so much higher than white mothers. It needs to change. That’s what makes it systemic racism, and it feels like a trauma that might never heal.”

Dr. Boyd just co-wrote a paper on five ways to dismantle racism in medicine. It includes things like establishing universal health care, diversifying the medical workforce and keeping better track of patient outcomes by race.

Kevin Vance created a program of folk music for KALW, A Patchwork Quilt, in October 1991. He grew up in Berkeley during the 1960s and '70s and spent his years learning in public schools, community colleges, bookstores, libraries, and non-commercial radio stations, as well as from the people around him. When he's not on the radio, then he's selling books, taking care of his family, listening to music, entering stuff into a computer, or taking a class.
Ben joined KALW in 2004. As Executive News Editor and then News Director, he helped the news department win numerous regional and national awards for long- and short-form journalism. He also helped teach hundreds of audio producers, many of whom work with him at KALW, today.