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Bay Area Headlines: Tuesday, 7/7/20, PM


COVID-19 Outbreaks Forcing New Changes in CA / California Politicians And Spouses’ Companies Benefit From The PPP

COVID-19 Outbreaks Forcing New Changes in CA

A coronavirus outbreak in the California Legislature has indefinitely delayed the state Assembly’s return to work from a scheduled summer recess. Speaker Anthony Rendon's office confirmed five people who work in the state Assembly have tested positive for the coronavirus. That includes Assemblywoman Autumn Burke, a Democrat from Inglewood. She’s believed to have been infected while on the Assembly floor last month when lawmakers returned to the state Capitol to approve a $202.1 billion budget.

The Assembly was scheduled to return to work next Monday

Many state legislatures shut down earlier this year as the pandemic took hold of the U.S., including California, where lawmakers missed nearly two months of work. That was the first unscheduled recess in 158 years. But many legislatures eventually returned to work with restrictions in place to limit the spread of the virus.

In California, those restrictions included mandatory masks for lawmakers on the floor, plus physical distancing in the chamber. Burke said both she and the person who exposed her to the virus were wearing masks.

The delay comes as more young people are getting the coronavirus in California, fueling a surge of hospitalizations across the state and prompting Governor Gavin Newsom’s administration to step up enforcement of new restrictions on bars and restaurants.

Statewide, coronavirus hospitalizations have increased 56% in the past two weeks while the number of confirmed cases has jumped 53%. In L.A. County, people between the ages of 18 and 40 now account for a quarter of all coronavirus hospitalizations — up from about a tenth in April.

Overall, more than half of the state’s nearly 74,000 hospital beds are occupied. Hospitals in Imperial County are overwhelmed, forcing the transfer of 500 patients to medical facilities in other counties.

In response, Newsom has ordered bars, indoor restaurant dining and other indoor businesses to close for the next three weeks in 23 of the state’s 58 counties.

California Politicians And Spouses’ Companies Benefit From The PPP

Businesses tied to California’s governor, lieutenant governor, and two of the state’s legislative leaders were among those that received federal loans aimed at keeping small businesses afloat during the coronavirus pandemic.

Plumpjack is a Northern California winery and hospitality company founded and partly owned by Newsom. it received a loan worth $150,000 to $350,000 from the Paycheck Protection Program, according to data released by the U.S. Treasury Department.

Before taking office as governor in 2019, Newsom announced he would step away from his businesses and put his assets in a blind trust managed by a family friend and attorney.

The vice president of marketing for PlumpJack Group said the governor "has no say in any decision we are making," and that the company was grateful to qualify for the aid. Federal data shows the loan helped save 14 jobs.

A labor consulting company led by state Senate Minority Leader Shannon Grove of Bakersfield received a loan within the same dollar range. According to data, that loan saved 365 jobs at the company.

A consulting firm founded and run by Jennifer LeSar, the spouse of state Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, received a loan in the range of $350,000 to $1 million, helping retain 15 jobs. And Lieutenant Governor Elena Kounalakis's husband, Markos Kounalakis, directs a family-run real estate company that received a loan worth between $350,000 to $1 million.

Now, there’s nothing barring elected officials from applying for and receiving the loans. The public may never know the identity of more than 80% of the nearly 5 million beneficiaries to date because the Trump administration has refused to release details on loans under $150,000 received by the vast majority of borrowers.

That secrecy spurred an open-records lawsuit by a group of news organizations.