Newsom freed elderly and sick prisoners during COVID, but he’s grappling with risks of more mercy

David Moreland had long expected to die in prison.

But when the coronavirus nearly killed him in 2020, it was that brush with death that ended up freeing him.

“This is how God works,” Moreland, 67, said from his cozy living room at a subsidized apartment complex for seniors in Long Beach.

When Moreland contracted COVID before vaccines were available, he said his oxygen levels were so low that a doctor was preparing to hook him to a ventilator. Handcuffed to a hospital bed and hot and delusional with a fever, he feared he would not survive.

Yet as the virus ravaged California’s overcrowded prisons Moreland recovered from respiratory failure and a blood clot in his lungs. After a month in the hospital, he had to relearn to walk with shackles on his feet.

Then, another “miracle” happened, Moreland said: A prison guard told him he had a call from Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office.

The governor had deemed Moreland a “high medical risk” and decided to release him from prison. After two decades behind bars for a robbery he says he did not commit, Moreland, who faced a potential life sentence, walked out in 2022.

He is among 35 prisoners Newsom has granted a “medical reprieve,” a form of clemency the Democratic governor created during the pandemic to show mercy for the sick and elderly. They were handpicked by the Newsom administration to access a new path to freedom that amounts to an experiment in California’s ongoing effort to shrink the prison population without compromising public safety.

But as the pandemic wanes and Newsom confronts the limited time he has left in office, the second-term governor is grappling with whether to extend the new form of clemency to more inmates. He’s signaling caution amid calls from advocates who want the emergency response to become a permanent policy of broader mercy for some who are hitting older age.

COVID “accelerated the consciousness” of the plight of California’s ailing and aging prisoners, Newsom told The Times in an interview last month, in which he described meticulously poring over scores of clemency applications.

“They’re 80, 90 years old. … You have deep empathy and you’re like, ‘this is crazy,’” Newsom said. “And then you read their record and you’re like ‘whoa.’”

Though Newsom has closed two prisons, enacted a new focus on rehabilitation at San Quentin and halted death row executions, he is acutely aware of the political risks involved in wading into the judicial system to free people convicted of crimes.

Newsom will be forced out of the governor’s office by term limits in early 2027 and is widely considered a potential presidential candidate in 2028. He’s mindful that he’ll be blamed for the misdeeds of any prisoners he releases.

“It’s tough. It’s your name affixed to it. … I mean literally you’re accountable for whatever those decisions are,” Newsom said. “It’s a deep responsibility. I have to think about the victims. I have to think about precedent.”

Moreland still struggles with shortness of breath and dizziness after long COVID, and takes blood thinners to prevent further blood clots. He works full time as an ambassador for L.A. Metro, assisting public transit riders.

On the weekends, he relaxes with his wife, Sherry, listening to Loretta Lynn and Sam Cooke records, and tries to make it to local jazz concerts.

In 2002, he was sentenced to 33 years-to-life in prison for carjacking and kidnapping to commit robbery — a crime he says he was wrongly accused of. According to court records, he and another man were convicted of holding a driver at gunpoint after a traffic accident and demanding that he pay for vehicle damage caused by the wreck. The victim said the men threatened to shoot him, and ultimately dropped him off at his home but stole his van.

It was not Moreland’s first run-in with police: He had been in prison before for drug possession and vehicle theft charges — crimes he said he committed while in the throes of a heroin addiction.

“When you are a heroin user and you don’t have heroin, you get sick, your body craves it. So, I was doing the crimes to go get drugs in order to, as insane as this sounds … I had to put something in my system in order just to be normal,” he said.

His long sentence for the burglary allegation included charges for ransom and making a terrorist threat, plus enhancements for use of a firearm and committing a felony with a prior prison term, records show. He maintains he was misidentified in a police lineup and had never seen the victim before “in my life.”

During his decades in prison, Moreland acted as a mentor, leading rehabilitative programs to help people reflect on their lives and choices. He still mentors people in prison, and works with a church to help those who have also recently been granted freedom.

Although Newsom’s medical reprieves affect just a tiny fraction of California’s prison population, they represent what advocates have long called for as the incarcerated get older: the opportunity for release for those who are struggling with health issues but aren’t necessarily incapacitated or near death.

Medical reprieve recipients include people in their 70s and 80s who use wheelchairs and have medical conditions that posed an “elevated risk for morbidity” during COVID. At least one grantee has died since being released, records show.

Thousands more inmates in addition to those medical reprieves were also released early at the peak of COVID to curb deaths as state prisons struggled to adequately respond to the rapidly spreading virus.

Heidi Rummel, a law professor at USC who heads the Post-Conviction Justice Project, said California considers factors such as age and health more than ever before when determining the opportunity for release, as research has shown those groups are significantly less likely to re-offend.

The state already has programs in place that allow people the opportunity for early release based on their age and health. Still, there’s a long way to go, Rummel said, and prisoners are often denied release in California despite those struggles.

“There may be some very sick people in prison who will never get out,” she said. “It’s good that [Newsom] is doing something, but it’s not a solution to the bigger problem. The aging prison population and the people trying to survive in prison with dementia and chronic illness … it’s really bad.”

In some cases, Newsom has released people during the pandemic against the wishes of his own parole board.

Last year, Robert Williams, 67, was nervous and out of breath as he stood across from parole officials and explained why he was late for his hearing.

He had ridden the city bus nearly an hour from the transitional housing center where he lives in Lawndale to his parole hearing in Compton, and had fallen out of his wheelchair in the rush to make it there, according to a parole hearing transcript obtained by The Times. Strangers stopped to help him up.

Williams was also wearing a knee brace — the day before, he had fallen down some steps using a walker, he said.

Parole Commissioner Catherine Purcell, a former judge and district attorney for Kern County appointed by Newsom, acknowledged in the hearing that Williams is “essentially disabled.”

He has undergone two heart surgeries and a kidney transplant, and struggles with diabetes, chronic viral illness and breathing, nerve numbness and mobility problems, according to parole records.

Williams served 45 years in prison for murder and robbery charges, crimes he repeatedly denied in his latest parole hearing, one of many times he had sought and been denied parole.

He was 19 years old and a heroin addict when he and three co-defendants were convicted of stabbing and killing a 66-year-old woman after breaking into her home and robbing her in 1977, according to parole records. The four were also charged with robbing a man and beating him with a tire iron in 1976.

Despite Williams’ medical problems, the parole board ruled that he still posed a risk to public safety, and denied him parole last year.

“You were able to get to the bus, you’re able to function,” Purcell told him, according to a transcript of the hearing. “The report says you go to the food bank by yourself. Clearly, you are capable of engaging still in violence or in threatening someone or harming someone.”

But Williams was already living free under Newsom’s medical reprieve. The parole board’s judgment means Williams is still technically in state custody and required to wear an electronic ankle monitor.

He could be sent back to prison and his reprieve “may be nullified at any time for any reason,” Newsom wrote in his decision.

As governor, Newsom has granted more than 300 pardons, commutations and reprieves through a system that involves multiple layers of scrutiny.

His predecessor, Gov. Jerry Brown, also used his clemency power to free hundreds of prisoners and pardon more than 1,000 people. But most prior governors barely used their clemency power at all. Newsom said he understands why.

“They never wanted to be accountable,” he said.

Newsom said the decisions are made with extreme vetting by a team dedicated to clemency applications that he also examines himself. His critics “on the sidelines” don’t understand his position, the governor said.

“The minute there’s one mistake … then the entire process is reevaluated in a way that actually can do more harm to people than good,” Newsom said, warning that if someone released on his watch were to re-offend, it could set back the prison reform movement.

Emily Harris, co-director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, said the pandemic “showed us that we can decarcerate quickly and safely,” and is proof that more can and should be done.

“We tend to think about this issue with exceptionalism, by picking a handful of people, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. We should be doing much broader swaths of the population,” Harris said.

As part of the federal coronavirus relief plan, thousands of prisoners across the country were also released, allowing them extended home confinement instead. Three years later, only 22 of the more than 13,000 people released under the program have been rearrested, and most for minor offenses, according to an analysis released by Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who supported the policy.

But some critics are worried that the pandemic has been wrongly used to justify mass prison releases.

In November, Riverside County Dist. Atty. Mike Hestrin objected to the early release of a 67-year-old convicted of raping a child in 1994, who is eligible for a state program that offers leniency based on age and diminished physical condition.

Hestrin has urged Newsom to reconsider the release in that case, and said that people can “still be a threat to the public” despite medical conditions or older age.

“We have to remember there’s another party involved in these crimes and that’s the victims,” Hestrin said. “Certainly there are crimes that don’t require great physical prowess.”

Lynn Beyett, too, thought he would die in prison.

The first time the 71-year-old was incarcerated, he was only 12 years old. He had fled his father’s relentless beatings the year before, and wound up “raising myself” on the streets, he said, learning how to steal to survive.

An addiction to heroin and eventually meth landed him several more stints in prison as an adult, mostly due to thefts to pay for his habit. Altogether, he has spent more than half of his life in a prison cell.

Before he was convicted of burglary in 1998, Beyett said he had been “on a binge,” awake for weeks and high on meth when he broke into a wealthy former client’s house in search of cash. He doesn’t remember stealing the homeowner’s purse or threatening to kill her if she called the cops, which she accused him of, according to parole records.

“Meth took my life. There wasn’t a second I wasn’t stealing or plotting to steal,” Beyett said, sitting at the flooring warehouse where he now works in Sonora, sleeves of faded tattoos poking through a Star Wars T-shirt that reads “best dad in the galaxy,” a gift from his daughter.

In 2020, he was granted a medical reprieve by Newsom. Beyett had applied for clemency for years and participated in rehabilitation programs, where he learned about his triggers and reconciled the mental health impacts of his childhood trauma.

He forgave his dad, who died years ago, for the abuse, and has sought forgiveness from those he has stolen from, whose sense of security he says he knows he rattled.

Now, he spends his free time hanging out with his grandchildren and fishing and panning for gold in the creeks of Tuolumne County. He plans to get married next year after meeting his fiancee through her prison ministry work.

Mostly, though, Beyett, works, trying to make up for the financial setbacks that come with decades in prison. Even as he is “full of osteoarthritis” and bone spurs that make installing floors especially difficult, he works through the pain, thankful for the income and for an employer willing to see past his criminal record.

“I can barely walk at the end of every day,” said Beyett, who recently underwent knee replacement surgery but said he refuses pain medication because of his addiction history.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

COVID Hysterics Hype ‘Positive Patients’ …and Cancel High School Football Game

‘Sacramento County’s COVID-19 hospital patient total jumps 48% in a week as uptick continues’

“The number of hospital patients with COVID-19 in Sacramento County jumped nearly 50% in one week, reaching its highest level in five months, as the gradual increase in spread of the virus has yet to wane in California,” The Sacramento Bee breathlessly reported.

Oh holy @#$! We’re all going to die… (eventually).

Wait. How many COVID patients are we talking about in Sacramento County? Am I reading this correctly – 89 total? Sacramento County has 1.5 million total population.

Last year at this time, there were 168 “positive patients” in Sacramento County, and 25 in the ICU, according to the California Department of Public Health. I don’t recall any headlines last year like this one from the Bee today:

Sacramento County’s COVID-19 hospital patient total jumps 48% in a week as uptick continues

“There were 1,722 total hospital patients with COVID-19 in California as of Sept. 2, according to the most recent state data. That’s the same number of patients statewide as one week earlier, according to a weekly update Friday from the California Department of Public Health.”

1,722 total hospital patients with COVID out of 40 million people in California? Even with more people dying from Heart Disease and Cancer, it’s telling that public health officials are trying to increase fear in COVID again. The entire country can’t be locked down for heart disease or cancer, but they succeeded with COVID once already.

The CDC reports:

In 2022, approximately 3,273,705 deaths occurred in the United States. The estimated 2022 age-adjusted death rate decreased by 5.3%, from 879.7 per 100,000 persons in 2021 to 832.8. COVID-19 was reported as the underlying cause or a contributing cause in an estimated 244,986 (7.5%) of those deaths (61.3 deaths per 100,000).

During 2022, the three leading causes of death were heart disease (699,659 deaths), cancer (607,790), and unintentional injury (218,064).

CDC graphic top leading causes of death.

According to the CDC, “COVID-19 was the underlying cause for 5.7% of all deaths in 2022, decreasing from 12.0% (416,893 deaths) in 2021. Heart disease and cancer deaths increased in 2022 compared with 2021 (accounting for 695,547 and 605,213, deaths respectively), while deaths associated with COVID-19 decreased.”

Locally, Esparto High School in Yolo County cancelled a football game Friday night because 6 players tested positive for COVID-19 — and 7 players were out with injuries. I assume the players are required to test for COVID? The school district said the game cancellation was necessary because the players could pass COVID to the other team.

I’m willing to bet the players weren’t sick – they just tested positive.

Here are all of Yolo County’s COVID stats: 3 COVID positive patients and 1 in the ICU – out of 222,000 total population.

Oh – Sacramento County still hasn’t updated its COVID dashboard since February 2023 – they must really be concerned about it:

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

Democrat Rep. Katie Porter Accused of Demoting Aide Who ‘Gave Me COVID’

That’s sick!

Democratic congresswoman was accused Thursday of retaliating against a staffer who the lawmaker said exposed her to COVID-19 this past summer after working in person while ill.

Sasha Georgiades, a Navy veteran who joined Rep. Katie Porter’s office in 2020 as a Wounded Warrior Fellow, told Reason magazine that she was relegated to working remotely for the last several weeks of her fellowship and never heard from her boss again after Porter lashed out.

“Why did you not follow office protocol on testing?” Porter, 48, allegedly asked Georgiades in a July 9 text message obtained by the news outlet. “It’s really disappointing”.

According to Georgiades, the “office protocol” required taking a COVID test the instant one felt even slightly unwell. She told Reason that she thought she was “just sore from exercise.”

“I’m terribly sorry,” an apologetic Georgiades responded at the time. “You’re right I should have done better. Just because I felt okay in the moment doesn’t mean that I was.”Porter, who was elected to represent California’s 45th District in 2018 and has been reelected twice since, contracted COVID-19 around the same time — she announced she had tested positive on July 11 — and became enraged, texting Georgiades: “Well you gave me COVID. In 25 months, it took you not following the rules to get me sick. My children have nobody to care for them.” 

“She never spoke a word to me after this,” Georgiades, whose fellowship ended in August, told Reason. 

In response to Porter’s claim about her children, Georgiades claimed that the single mother was supposed to be in Washington, DC that week, anyway – away from her three kids, who live in California.

“If she thought she was going to go the rest of her life without it, that’s impossible,” Georgiades said of Porter’s reaction.

In a statement, Porter’s office confirmed the authenticity of the messages, saying: “This former employee was not fired. She was a fellow in our office, and weeks before she breached COVID protocol in July, we had already mutually agreed on an end date in August 2022.

Click here to read the full article in the NY Post

Masks Will Now Be Required At These Places In Alameda Co. Due to Rising COVID Levels

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) — COVID hospitalizations are increasing throughout the state. The last time California had over 4,000 people in the hospital with COVID was in July.

“I think the challenge is that the numbers are rising and we don’t know where this peak will plateau,” said Dr. Jahan Fahimi, medical director of the Emergency Department at UCSF.

Dr. Jahan Fahimi says their hospital is not stressed yet.

“In many cases, its patients who are hospitalized for something else who also happen to have COVID. It’s not necessarily that COVID itself that is causing them to be hospitalized,” said Dr. Fahimi.

RELATED: Flu, COVID cases surging in CA; CDC suggests masking indoors to minimize spread

As hospitalizations increase, statewide transmission levels are changing. According to the CDC, the majority of the state is in yellow meaning under the medium COVID -19 community levels of transmission.

“We have seen our numbers sort of subtly increasing since mid-October. Yesterday, we moved from CDC’s yellow into CDC medium level,” said Dr. Joanna Locke, COVID clinical guidance lead for Alameda County Health Department.

In Alameda County, as of Thursday, the seven-day average case rate is 21 cases per 100,000 residents and 149 people are in the hospital with COVID-19. Now, they are updating their mask requirements.

County health officials say that per California state law, they must now re-implement mask requirements in high-risk settings besides healthcare. These include:

  • Homeless shelters
  • Emergency shelters
  • Heating and cooling centers (staff and residents)
  • Alameda Co. correctional and detention facilities

“We are aligned with the state masking guidance. We have not instituted any new requirements ourselves here in Alameda County, but according to the state when we move into medium certain locations, we need to require masking for staff and residents,” said Dr. Locke.

What about the state? In a statement, California’s Department of public health states:

“We are empowering Californians to take voluntary actions, including masking in public indoor settings, and getting the flu shot and updated COVID-19 booster, to protect themselves and their families from multiple respiratory viruses circulating in the state. We are not considering a statewide masking mandate at this time. As always, local governments may implement separate and more strict policies.”

Despite the increase in hospitalizations, Dr. Locke is hopeful.

Click here to read the full article in ABC News

The $2 million Encampment: How a California Yacht Town Became a Homeless Battleground

All the homes looked the same at the gated community that opened during the pandemic.

Two dozen square foundations plotted in an orderly grid, each with easy access to the waterfront.

Neighbors mingled at a tennis court, caught up over beers and gossiped about who was feuding with whom. Some had workshops to tinker with reclaimed wood or North Bay essentials like generators. At least one person had a meticulously trimmed cannabis plant.

It was just the type of community Sarah Gossage had long sought — a reprieve from a life unsettled after her mother’s sudden death.

“My mom always said, ‘Make it to the end with the best memories,’” Gossage said. “Sausalito is where I like myself the most.”

But she knew it wouldn’t last.

In this gated community, the houses were tents bought with taxpayer money. Neighbors who paid property taxes wanted back the public tennis courts transformed into a COVID-era tent city. Local officials grew impatient with a situation that would soon unravel.

The conflict at Sausalito’s Marinship Park grew out of local authorities’ long-running battle with “anchor-outs,” people who for generations have lived aboard small boats in nearby Richardson Bay. The authorities argued that many boats were in poor condition, and that their presence beyond a 72-hour time limit harmed the environment and made the water less welcoming for tourism and recreation. Anchor-outs countered that the water should still be under the purview of higher-ranking federal officials, that environmental damage has been overstated, and that many who live on boats have nowhere else to go.

The grudge match spilled ashore during the pandemic, when more than a dozen anchor-outs said in interviews or lawsuits that their boats were seized and they were left homeless. Many then squared off with the city that moved to corral them and other unhoused people at one park encampment.

What followed was a nearly two-year odyssey that made the wealthy ex-bohemian suburb an unlikely epicenter of California’s homeless crisis — and fueled a debate about the degree to which local authorities may have driven people to tents in the first place.

In August, after the city said it had spent more than $1.5 million to manage the encampment, Sausalito announced what appears to be an unprecedented $540,000 settlement with 30 homeless people: about $18,000 each to test if it’s possible to buy your way out of a humanitarian crisis.

Through more than three dozen interviews, analysis of public data and a review of thousands of pages of court records and planning documents, The Chronicle found that the conflict also resulted in other significant human and financial costs:

• Informal detentes between anchor-outs and authorities crumbled in recent years, as city, regional and state officials moved to clear dozens of people living on boats. From May 2019 to July, the Richardson Bay Regional Agency destroyed 111 boats judged to be “marine debris” amid efforts to clear anchor-outs from waters off Sausalito. The number of vessels plunged from 192 to 71 — a decline mirrored in nearby waters controlled by the city, from 90 boats to nine as of last year.

• The sharp drop in boats coincided with a spike in homeless people living in cars and RVs in Sausalito, from two people in 2019 to 71 in 2021. Though updated official estimates for unsheltered homelessness aren’t yet available, residents say as many as 150 people passed through pandemic encampments.

• Sausalito officials have spent nearly $1.6 million on pandemic encampments, not counting staff time, including six-figure legal bills to fight encampment lawsuits, contributing to a projected $3.2 million city deficit.

• Allegations of mismanagement at the city-run encampment, plus complications of homelessness, like trauma, illness and substance use, coincided with a loss of life: At least five people from ages 24 to 84 died after cycling through Sausalito encampments since last year, according to interviews with family members and neighbors.

Sausalito officials and the Richardson Bay agency deny that their actions contributed to the surge in local homelessness. Each told The Chronicle that they have started new programs, enlisted social workers and invested money to find alternatives to living on the street.

Still, the city acknowledged a rapid increase in people living in tents.

“The encampment site was a major challenge all around,” the city of Sausalito said in a statement. “The fact is, dozens of people arrived in a short period of time and were living outdoors on the ground.”

Like other cities struggling to address encampments, the conflict also divided housed residents. Some complained of lawlessness, safety concerns and small businesses bearing the brunt of a strained safety net. Others viewed it as a symptom of a broader identity crisis.

“There are people who want the Sausalito waterfront to be the next Newport Beach,” said 20-year resident and accountant Jacqueline Amrikhas, who has donated supplies to encampments. “It’s gonna determine what Sausalito’s about, and its character.”

The mutiny

One blistering August morning at the San Rafael Yacht Harbor, Michael Ortega-Haas climbed up on his Kendall 32 sailboat, the Silver Bow, and refused to come down.

It had been a month since the Richardson Bay agency seized the boat that Ortega-Haas, 31, co-owns with the mother of his two children, fellow Sausalito houseboat-kid-turned-anchor-out Kaitlin Allerton, 29. He occupied the boat while she fought in court to prevent it from being crushed by the agency.

A police officer was called in to negotiate. He, too, was stumped after Ortega-Haas pleaded his case about why the boat — which was labeled “marine debris” while a pregnant Allerton temporarily moved ashore — should not be destroyed.

“I don’t see any way I could talk you off there,” the officer said. “I mean, it’s your property. If it was my house, I’d do the same thing.”

Sausalito’s waterfront has lived many lives. The Coast Miwok fished for halibut here 3,000 years ago. In the 1800s, new ferries facilitated summer retreats for San Francisco’s elite. By the time Ortega-Haas’ grandparents moved to a houseboat at the height of 1960s counterculture, there was also a “working waterfront” full of boat builders, artists and industrial businesses.

Ortega-Haas’ grandmother had already given birth to his mother on her boat when an inflection point arrived in 1971, testing the tension between rich and working-class Sausalito. New waterfront condos were approved, and the sheriff started houseboat evictions. One person on a boat pulled a knife, news reports said. Officers drew their guns.

Click here to read the full article in the SF Chronicle

With California hit by New Coronavirus Wave, Time to Start Wearing Masks? Limit Gatherings?

As California contends with another resurgence of the coronavirus, what should residents consider doing to protect themselves from infection?

Unlike in earlier waves of the pandemic that were marked by defined limitations on what people could do and how businesses could operate, officials have not demonstrated an appetite for renewed restrictions, unless hospitalizations dramatically worsen.

But it’s still important for residents to take action to reduce their infection risk, experts say — both to avoid potentially serious health consequences and reduce the chance of contracting long COVID, in which symptoms of illness, including fatigue and brain fog, can persist for months or years.

Here are what some experts had to say:

When should I wear a mask?

California lifted its statewide public indoor masking orders months ago. However, officials have consistently urged residents to use face coverings in public interior settings — including retail stores, restaurants, theaters and family entertainment centers.

The California Department of Public Health “also strongly recommends masks on all public transportation and in transit hubs, including bus and train stations, ferry terminals and airports,” according to a statement sent in response to an inquiry from The Times. “These crowded settings should be considered high risk and may often not have adequate ventilation.”

Los Angeles County has gone a step further and still requires face coverings on public transit, including ride-sharing vehicles, and in indoor transportation hubs.

“With all of the unknowns around these new variants, it is sensible to take the simple step of putting back on the mask when you’re indoors,” said Barbara Ferrer, the county’s public health director.

Click here to read the full article at the LA Times

GOP fails to limit governor’s powers

A Republican effort to end the COVID state of emergency is rejected.

SACRAMENTO — An effort by Republican state lawmakers to end Gov. Gavin Newsom’s COVID-19 state of emergency was blocked in the Democratic-controlled Legislature on Tuesday.

For more than a year, GOP lawmakers have accused the governor of abusing his executive powers to respond to the crisis and asked legislators to vote to end the emergency in a state Senate committee hearing Tuesday, arguing the declaration was no longer necessary and constituted government overreach.

The Newsom administration has said that the more than 2-year-old state of emergency must stay in place to continue the state’s pandemic response.

The Democratic governor has used that broad authority to waive statutes and laws to facilitate testing and vaccination programs, and to ensure that California had enough capacity in hospitals to handle caseload surges.

State Sen. Melissa Melendez (R-Lake Elsinore) said that it’s the Legislature’s responsibility as a co-equal branch of government to change the laws and statutes necessary to address the pandemic and that lawmakers have had more than two years to do so. She urged her colleagues not to abdicate that responsibility and noted that more than half the states in the country have ended their states of emergency and are still able to respond to the pandemic.

“We ended school years and we shuttered businesses and we implemented lockdowns and we enforced remote work and we implemented all sorts of policies and testing,” Melendez said in favor of her resolution. “We have grown over the last few years. We are equipped to deal with this, and this constant state of emergency is no longer necessary.”

Melendez’s resolution failed in the Senate’s governmental operations committee by a 4-8 vote, split along party lines with a number of Democrats not voting. The measure is eligible to come up for reconsideration at a later date.

During the debate, state Sen. Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) said that “it’s important that [the declaration] be ended at some point,” but that he was concerned that doing so now would hinder the state’s aggressive efforts to provide free COVID-19 testing and therapeutics.

Senate Governmental Organization Committee Chairman Bill Dodd (D-Napa) praised Newsom’s response to the pandemic, saying the executive actions he’s taken have allowed California to fare better than many other states to combat the spread of the virus and reduce hospitalizations.

“Nobody had a playbook on this thing. I think the governor got it right. I think he continues to get it right,” Dodd said before the vote. “The existing state of emergency proclaimed by the governor is absolutely important to ensure that the state can quickly and efficiently continue to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and be prepared for possible future variants and surges.”

Since he declared a state of emergency on March 4, 2020, Newsom has issued 70 executive orders involving the COVID-19 pandemic that addressed a range of issues, including price gouging, allowing mobile vaccination clinics, halting evictions and postponing the deadline for filing tax returns in 2020. Most of those have either been rescinded or have expired.

In February, the governor terminated 19 provisions in executive orders, which included requirements that all state-owned properties be made available for emergency. An additional 18 provisions will expire at the end of March, including those that protect COVID-19 relief funds from garnishment and allow for virtual corporate and public meetings, according to Newsom’s office. Additional executive orders that limit liability for data breaches on telemedicine platforms and allow video assessments for those with COVID-19 symptoms who receive in-home supportive care are set to be rescinded June 30.

Under the 1970 California Emergency Services Act, the governor has broad authority to respond during a state of emergency such as a pandemic. The governor can make, amend and rescind state regulations and suspend state statutes, and has the power to redirect state funds to help in an emergency — even funds appropriated by the Legislature for an entirely different purpose. The governor also has the authority to commandeer private property, including hospitals, medical labs, hotels and motels.

Click here to read the full article at the LA Times

‘MaskGate’ and the Unserious Politicians Mocking the People of California

California is in a State of Emergency and is hosting the Super Bowl

Was it another French Laundry moment, or the latest installment of “MaskGate” at Sunday’s NFC Championship game in Los Angeles? Photos on social media brought us images of unmasked California Gov. Gavin Newsom, San Francisco Mayor London Breed and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, posing for pics with Magic Johnson, despite the Los Angeles County mask mandate and SoFi Stadium requirements.

Who can blame them? Wearing a mask everywhere you go, or all day is nauseating. Why can’t they admit this?

While California teens, children and even toddlers are still cruelly being forced to wear masks all day long in government schools throughout the state, and businesses are required to enforce indoor masking, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Mayors and celebrities were seen and photographed at the NFC Championship game looking normal without masks on, among 80,000 screaming fans. In fact, masks were not evident on anyone in the stands. 

The moment should have turned the tide; the mandates should have been lifted. But that’s not what happened.

Instead, our unserious politicians doubled down on stupid.

Rather than apologizing for violating his own statewide mask orders as well as the LA mask orders, Gov. Newsom claimed he’d been wearing it the whole time and only shed his mask for the photo op with Johnson. But there are other photos and video of him maskless.

Claiming to be thoughtful, “You’re correct,” Newsom said when asked about going maskless at SoFi stadium, Deadline reported. “I was very judicious yesterday. Very judicious. You’ll see the photo that I did take, Magic was kind enough, generous enough, to ask me for a photograph and in my left hand’s the mask and I took the photo. The rest of the time I wore it as we all should, um — not when I had a glass of water — and I encourage everybody else to do so. And, uh, that’s it.”

Asked if he should he have reconsidered taking off his mask, given his 2020 incident at the French Laundry, the governor responded, “Yes, of course. I was trying to be gracious. I made a mis — I was trying to be gracious,” Deadline reported. “I took the mask off for a brief second but, no, I encourage people to continue to wear them.”

My BS Meter exploded. He couldn’t even choke out the word “mistake.” Does Gov. Newsom have any humility? Does he think or even care that California residents are not so stupid as to believe his schtick?

Not to be outdone by the governor, Mayor Garcetti was even more of a clown when confronted. Garcetti said he held his breath to take the photo with Magic Johnson and Mayor Breed. Apparently Garcetti believes COVID germs don’t travel when you hold your breath.

“I’ll take personal responsibility,” Garcetti said when asked about the photos, “and if it makes you and everyone else happy — or even the photographs with people where literally I’m holding my breath for two seconds — I won’t even do that.”

It’s a shame Assemblyman James Gallagher wasn’t there. He’s the only one who made sense: “Gavin was judicious, Garcetti held his breath… C’mon man. Stop. They don’t really believe masking is necessary. Nor did any one else around them or anyone in that stadium for that matter. End of story.”

Click here to read the full article at California Globe

With a SoFi Super Bowl Imminent, It’s Not Time To Throw Out Mask Rules, Leaders Say

With the Super Bowl in Inglewood in just two weeks, public health and elected leaders pushed back Wednesday, Feb. 2, on calls to lift Los Angeles County’s masking mandates, citing still high coronavirus transmission rates.

They acknowledged that much will be left to personal responsibility on a Super Bowl mega-stage when such rules cannot be consistently enforced. But that doesn’t mean throw the current rules out, they said.

Not yet, anyway, they said.

Many fans seated at last Sunday’s NFC Championship at SoFi Stadium were seen not wearing masks, sparking calls to do away with masking rules altogether, given that actually fully enforcing the rule is not possible. L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and Gov. Gavin Newsom also stirred social-media heat after photos were posted of them posing maskless with former Lakers great Magic Johnson.

“We’re still in a surge .. .,” said L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer at a news conference at SoFi Stadium, where she joined Garcetti, Supervisor Holly Mitchell, Inglewood Mayor James Butts and NFL officials. “It’s absolutely essential when you’re really experiencing this much community transmission to add in an additional layer of protection. In a large crowd …  putting on this layer is a critically important way to continue to stay focused on getting community transmission down.”

The message came in response to Los Angeles County Supervisors Kathryn Barger, who this week called on local and state officials to reassess the mask mandate. Barger and other critics argue that as the omicron variant wanes, and more become vaccinated, it should be up to the individual whether to wear a mask — especially when there’s spotty compliance at mega events anyway.

“Let’s do away with blanket COVID-19 masking policies — they don’t make a difference when they’re not consistently followed or enforced,” Barger said this week, noting that modern stadiums like SoFi have strong air circulation and all in the house are required to show proof of vaccination or a negative test.

But Barger’s statement baffled Mitchell, who said the masking rules aren’t just for the benefit of fans’ public health. She pointed to concerns from many workers at venues — ticket takers, security workers — across L.A. who she said were concerned about non-mask-wearing patrons.

“That’s my responsibility and obligation, and I will continue to stand and do so,” Mitchell said.

Click here to read the full article at OC Register

White House Frustrated With HHS Chief Becerra Over Handling Of COVID: Report

The appointment of Xavier Becerra as secretary of health and human services has received a second opinion — and the diagnosis is not good.

Biden administration officials are increasingly frustrated with Becerra over his response to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially the Omicron variant, the Washington Post reported Monday.

The paper added that discontent has grown to the point that replacing the former California attorney general as head of HHS has been openly discussed within the White House.

As America enters the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, Becerra has rarely been seen or heard from — while chief White House medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, and White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeffrey Zients have been the faces of the administration’s response.

Some officials who talked to The Post accused Becerra of not pushing the administration’s strategy hard enough, claiming differences of opinion regarding booster shots and isolation guidelines have only caused more confusion.

The paper also reported, citing six people familiar with the matter, that Zients is among those dissatisfied with Becerra’s performance and has blamed the HHS head for not ensuring the White House is fully aware of new guidance coming from agencies like the CDC.

Becerra “is taking too passive a role in what may be the most defining challenge of the administration,” as one senior White House official put it.

Since being sworn into office in March 2021, Becerra has yet to appear on a Sunday morning television program. By contrast, his Trump-era predecessor, Alex Azar, appeared at least a dozen times on various networks during the first year of the pandemic. 

A spokesperson for Becerra denied that the secretary has kept a low profile, saying he has traveled to more than 20 states and has appeared on TV and radio.

Click here to read the full article at NY Post