Bay Area Headlines: Thursday, 4/23/20, PM | KALW

Bay Area Headlines: Thursday, 4/23/20, PM

California Hospitals Resume Non-Emergency Surgeries California Doctors On The Front Lines In New York City / SF To Increate Public Transit Fees / COVID-19 Caseload In Navajo Nation / Northwestern California Experiencing Severe Drought

California Hospitals Resume Non-Emergency Surgeries

The number of Californians who are generally hospitalized or in ICUs has remained fairly steady, again, at last count. The state has made its first significant step to relaxing its stay-at-home order by allowing hospitals to resume non-emergency surgeries. 

On Wednesday, Governor Gavin Newsom partially lifted hospital restrictions. That’s because successful social distancing has left the state’s hospitals well below capacity:

“We are in a position today to begin to pull back and lean in, by beginning to schedule surgeries once again, throughout not only our hospital system but our broader healthcare system. These are surgeries that, yes, are scheduled but also essential. If it’s delayed it becomes acute. And that’s fundamentally a health issue.”

These procedures include tumor removals, heart valve replacements, and preventative services, like colonoscopies. Currently, the policy does not allow purely cosmetic surgeries. The new guidelines will send thousands of furloughed healthcare workers back to work, a small but important step in restarting the world's fifth-largest economy. 

California Doctors On The Front Lines In New York City

Governor Newsom, today, called attention to the state’s volunteer initiative, Californians For All. It went live this week and in its first day online 22 thousand people signed up to help. He also noted that in the spirit of sharing the burden, 36 California doctors, including 20 from UCSF have gone to New York City to help with the medical crisis there:

“One of the great benefits of these doctors going out onto the front lines in New York is what they’ll bring back, which is a deep understanding and knowledge of what’s happening in one of the acute points of the crisis in this country ... So this is an incredible opportunity for all of us in California, not just the generosity of these individuals to another state.” 

COVID-19 Caseload In Navajo Nation

Last night, another group of seven physicians and 14 nurses from UCSF traveled to Arizona and New Mexico to treat members of the Navajo Nation who have contracted the coronavirus. A disproportionate number of cases on the reservation of 175 thousand people have overwhelmed their health care system.

SF To Increase Public Transit Fees

San Francisco will increase most public transportation fares by the end of this year. 

The SFMTA Board of Directors voted unanimously, on Tuesday, to increase MUNI transit fares. The change won’t impact cash fares, which are more likely to be used by low-income residents. But, it does mean rides will cost more with a Clipper card.

Agency director Jeffrey Tumlin said the increases were necessary to continue paying transit workers a living wage and avoid layoffs:

“Yes, many people will be paying a higher fare, but that that increase in fare will hit vulnerable populations the least, and we’ll be able to deliver MUNI service to the people who need it the most.”

The Board of Supervisors and several community groups opposed the fare increase. Some critics note that many San Franciscans rely on public transit to purchase groceries and get to essential jobs. And, according to SFMTA data, 30% of Clipper card users are low-income.

Northwestern California Experiencing Severe Drought

In other news, the U.S. Drought Monitor released data, today. Southern California continued to show benefits from an exceptionally wet spring, but Northwestern California has slipped deeper into drought.

Extreme drought now covers Del Norte County and parts of adjacent Siskiyou, Humboldt, and Trinity counties in the latest report, which reflects data as of April 21.

The monitor said a swath of counties extending south to the San Francisco Bay Area changed from moderate to severe drought.

Most of the rest of northern and central California remained in a mix from moderate drought to the category of abnormal dryness.

No drought or dryness was indicated for all of Southern California, extending up the coast through Monterey County.