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Bay Area Headlines: Tuesday, 7/28/20, AM



Central Valley COVID-19 Testing Rates Are Very High / Legislators Return To Full Plates / Berkeley Officials Implement New Policies for Police / No, The Supreme Court Did Not Strike Down Voting-By-Mail


Central Valley COVID-19 Testing Rates Are Very High


California continues to struggle with high numbers of COVID-19 cases. On average, over the past week, nearly 10,000 residents were diagnosed with the coronavirus. Positivity rates for people getting tested stand at about 7.5% statewide over the past two weeks. Those rates are much higher in parts of the Central Valley — 17.7% in Tulare and Stanislaus Counties.


At a press conference held earlier today in the city of Stockton, Governor Gavin Newsom said the virus is hitting some communities harder.


“Happening disproportionately with essential workers, disproportionately in the Latino community, disproportionately impacting congregate settings, continuing to be vigilant around skilled nursing facilities, correctional facilities, and the like.”


Newsom noted that there’s some better news regarding the recent dramatic increase in cases. Hospitalizations and ICUs are still rising day over day, but much more modestly than the recent surge. Still, over the last week the average number of deaths due to COVID-19 in California has risen to 109 per day.


Legislators Return To Full Plates


California lawmakers returned to work, Monday, after an extended summer recess due to the pandemic. This was the second time the Legislature’s work was interrupted by COVID-19. 


Legislators have a lot on their plates. They’re working on the state’s pandemic response with proposals that address a variety of coronavirus related concerns. Lawmakers are also considering bills to ban police from using controversial measures like tear gas and chokeholds. 


And, they’re looking to amend the state budget so they can help school districts pay for distance learning programs in the fall. One proposal would shield districts from liability for students or staff who get infected after a school follows safety guidelines. 


All of this comes after the legislature already cut nearly nine percent out of the new state budget to account for pandemic-related losses.


The current session is scheduled to end on August 31st. That gives elected officials only five weeks to work on new bills. The tight calendar means that most standing committees will only meet once. Some lawmakers hope to rectify this by asking Governor Gavin Newsom to call them back for a special session.


Berkeley Officials Implement New Policies for Police

Berkeley officials voted, Friday, to adopt an updated use of force policy for police officers.

Several changes are being made to create more transparency in police duties, according to Berkeleyside.

The new rules emphasize the preservation of life as the guiding principle. They require the Berkeley police department to produce an annual use-of-force report that the public can review. This is a new practice; Berkeley PD has never tracked these practices nor made them public before. 

Policy changes also put in writing de-escalation techniques that officers are required to perform. Berkeley police officers receive Crisis Intervention Training, which emphasizes verbal de-escalation techniques. They’re instructed to redirect people suffering mental health crises to specialists. Berkeley police say mental health calls make up at least 35% of overall calls. 

Additionally, the new policy outlines situations where lethal action can be used. Each time an officer unholsters their weapon in the presence of another person, they are now required to document this as a use of force. 

Berkeley police Chief Andrew Greenwood pushed back against the city’s teargas ban, which the council called for last month. During public comment Thursday night, he requested the council make exceptions for tear gas in certain situations. Ultimately, the council declined to implement most of Greenwood’s amendments. 

The new policies will be implemented on October 1.

No, The Supreme Court Did Not Strike Down Voting-By-Mail

Social media posts in recent weeks have made some questionable claims about vote by mail, echoing President Trump’s repeated attacks on the practice.

The widely-shared post suggests the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down voting by mail nationwide. Now, nothing remotely like this happened. But the Supreme Court did reject a Texas case late last month that would have expanded vote-by-mail in that state. And the high court also voted down an effort to make the practice easier in Alabama two weeks ago.Still, those rulings do not take away the mail-in voting rights people already have in dozens of states across the nation, including here in California. In fact, all active registered voters in California will be sent mail-in ballots this fall. In the end, the claim on Facebook is just plain false.